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Backup quarterbacks making solid arguments for the Bengals

Josh Johnson and John Skelton each submitted a scoring drive against the Titans on Saturday. How does that impact the overall 53-man roster projection?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

One of the joys that we're having watching the preseason this year, is the intriguing production being established by Josh Johnson and John Skelton; two players vying for the vacant backup quarterback job. These aren't boring possessions being conducted by Jordan Palmer or Bruce Gradkowski. They're better. Perhaps they're assisted by the improved roster of receivers and tight ends, or perhaps they're just simply better quarterbacks. It doesn't even matter.

If the league hadn't changed rules several years ago that allowed a third-string emergency quarterback on the game-day roster, the Bengals quarterback roster would have been set with the winner of the preseason competition settling his argument on the depth chart -- not for a job. Alright, that might be arguable considering that the impact such a move would have at other positions stacked with talent that's already making final cuts a difficult exercise.

Both backup players performed admirably enough against the Tennessee Titans Saturday.

Skelton entered the game early in the second quarter, playing out the first half with most of the first-team offense. He completed a beautiful 25-yard pass to Tyler Eifert on a seam route and added a 10-yard slant earlier on the drive to Brandon Tate, which led to a Mike Nugent field goal and a 17-3 lead.

"Whoever you are in there with as a quarterback you have to make the offense move," Skelton told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "You can't use any excuses. At the same time it's good to be in there with the ones and with some guys you know are going to start some games."

Unfortunately the second and third possession that Skelton quarterbacked, led to only one combined first down and two punts (one after a three-and-out possession). Of the three Bengals quarterbacks that played Saturday, Skelton was the only one without a passer rating above 100 (68.3).

Josh Johnson entered the game with over ten minutes remaining in the third quarter and closed out the second half by scoring on two of four possessions, including a beautiful 92-yard touchdown drive highlighted by Dan Herron's 40-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately Johnson lost a fumble on a naked bootleg inside the Titans red zone. Johnson completed five of seven passes for 73 yards passing against Tennessee's bubble players, adding another 27 yards on the ground. Johnson nearly scored on an 18-yard scramble with under six minutes remaining in the game, but collided with tight end Richard Quinn at the three.

How have the quarterbacks looked this preseason?

When Johnson is in the game, the Bengals have scored on 60 percent of their possessions with three touchdowns and three field goals on 10 drives. As the quarterback, his offense has generated 443 yards of offense while the offense led by Dalton and Skelton have only combined for 378.

A breakdown by drives.

Possessions 5 10 5
Touchdowns 2 3 1
Field Goals 0 3 1
Scores 2 6 2
Turnovers 1 1 0
Punts 2 2 2
Plays 34 69 37
Yards 180 443 198
Avg. Yard/Play 5.3 6.4 5.4
First Downs 13 21 12
Red Zone 2 4 1