Once you peak behind Andy Dalton at the huddle of orange jerseys, there's an otherwise uninspiring group of quarterbacks challenging each other for the backup job. Josh Johnson, unemployed until the final weekend of the year last season and John Skelton, claimed off waivers during the offseason, headline a trio of quarterbacks searching for a home in Cincinnati. The third, Zac Robinson, remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Johnson appears to be having the stronger camp, showing off a strong arm that's been accurate underneath with all of the risks of throwing deep. Skelton has been working with the third team unit and is currently listed as such on the team's depth chart.
"I was a Johnson fan a few years ago because of his speed-arm package," Football Outsiders told us over the weekend. "If a team committed to some spread-option stuff to get him through a spot start, it would probably be feasible, but I think we are dealing with an inaccurate thrower who cannot pivot on his potential."
Johnson has been in the NFL since 2008 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in the fifth round, the final year that the Gruden brothers were on the team's coaching staff. There's familiarity and the prospects of an offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden to expand the team's playbook. Even for a spot snap. After starting five games in four seasons with the Buccaneers, Johnson didn't return. Instead he became a free agent and found a home in Cleveland, who were inescapably watching injured quarterbacks drop late in the season.
"I look at Johnson and Skelton and say I would use Johnson to finish a game but Skelton to get through three or four games," the crew at Football Outsiders expands. "It's not that bad a backup situation, in that both players have a recent track record. A team like the Giants could turn to their bench and have no idea whether David Carr's arm rusted shut. And Tyrod Taylor in Baltimore is a poor man's Josh Johnson."
For more on the Bengals this year, pick up this year's copy of the Football Outsiders Almanac today.