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Round Table: Looking at the Bengals backup quarterback situation after Atlanta

The dueling backup quarterbacks were good in their own respects. But how much did Atlanta solidify the competition for backup quarterback?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We continue chatting around the table, shifting topics to the situation at backup quarterback. Josh Johnson looked good. But so did John Skelton. Is the backup situation clear, or did a fourth quarterback performance by Skelton mix things up a little?

Have you seen enough from Josh Johnson to lock him in as the backup quarterback?

Josh Kirkendall: You can't argue what he did, it was an impressive showing. Good throws, and his legs are wheels of thunder!
Andrew Miller: I was pleasantly surprised.
Mickey Mentzer: Some good throws. It seemed that when there was pressure, he was missing bad. Usually at the receivers' feet.
Nick Seuberling: I liked what I saw from him. Led the team down the field during the two minute drill. Was quick in the pocket. Looked to tuck and run more than throw though.

Mickey: That being said, what he was able to do with his legs was impressive. As a backup, he looked good enough to be able to come in and close out a game if needed.
Nick: I also don't think the offensive line did him many favors last night.

Josh: Johnson had six possessions, scored on four, picked up 20 points in essentially two quarters. Granted, most of it was against the twos, but I became a believer.
Andrew: I think we saw enough in terms of the upside that he can bring. Obviously a fraction of one preseason game isn't answering everything, but backups get their opportunities in preseason and that's about it. Johnson certainly showed up on Thursday.

Andrew: I always believed in Johnson's upside, but I feared he might have a lower floor than Skelton, who may play more conservative. As long as his upside keeps trumping any errors he may make in preseason, I say keep Johnson on board.

Mickey: I too am a believer. But, if he had to be the starter and faced a team adept against mobile quarterbacks, it could be ugly. I think if any team is forced to rely on their backup quarterback for an extended time it would be ugly though. After last night, I am more certain that the job is his to lose.
Nick: He is what he is, a backup.
Andrew: Mickey, that may be true if Dalton is out for an extended period of time. It'll be tough for teams to game plan against Johnson if he is plugged in for a partial game or even one week.
Josh: I've maintained since March that if Andy Dalton goes down for any period of time, with the back ups that we have, we're in trouble. Johnson was impressive, but it's not like he was ripping the first-team Falcons defense. He showed good things, but I will laugh at anyone ready to call a quarterback controversy.

Nick: The real question is do they keep two quarterbacks, or three? My guess is just two with Sanu being your emergency quarterback.
Mickey: I can't see them keeping three.
Josh: Me neither. But the risk that you run is not having a third full-time player. Before the Bengals had an option with a practice squad player while only carrying two on the active roster. Unless they sign someone, they won't have that option this year.
Nick: Which leads me to believe they'll be signing one to the practice squad before camp ends. Robinson is no longer eligible.

Josh: Alright. I'll bring it up. Do you give John Skelton a chance to play with the twos? Yes, he played against the bottom quarter of a 90-man preseason roster, but he was also perfect.
Andrew: I do.
Nick: Yeah I think out of fairness to John they should
Mickey: Yes, you have to. You are still attempting to evaluate the guys and Skelton was supposed to be the guy in Arizona before an injury.
Nick: The chances of him not making this team are good, let the guy get some good film with better competition.
Andrew: I'd like to see it. People are quick to bash Skelton over his play in Arizona, but he played behind a depleted offensive line and he had some good games. I think he's underrated especially as a backup. I think he deserves an opportunity with the two's.
Nick: I wouldn't be surprised to see him in there with the two's on Saturday. The week of practice though leading up to it may dictate that though.

Josh: Now you have Johnson doing what he did. Repeat that performance, and Skelton continues to improve and even show promise with the twos, does that force the Bengals to keep three quarterbacks? Maybe even using Johnson during the regular season in packages?
Nick: I would be very surprised to see Johnson on the field in "packages".
Andrew: I'd be surprised to see Johnson in packages as well. I could see it happening maybe as a one-time gimmick play to throw off a random team (i.e. Sanu touchdown pass to A.J. Green in '12). But I don't see him being a constant quarterback being rotated in for read option plays every other game or anything.
Mickey: That is interesting. If Skelton lights it up, you would have Johnson as a weapon. How would that work though, can you have three quarterbacks active on a gameday roster? Wouldn't one have to be designated as the emergency guy?
Josh: Ideally, you wouldn't. You'd have Johnson as your gameday backup, and if Dalton goes down for any period of time, you have Skelton to step in. You're not worrying about finding someone in free agency. You already have him.
Nick: So you have three quarterbacks on the roster rather than two and a practice squad guy.

Josh: Ultimately, I don't see them having a third quarterback. They'll risk it to keep other talented players on their roster.
Nick: But if you keep three quarterbacks, that's one less elsewhere like Josh said.
Josh: Right. Where do you take it from? The defensive backs? No way -- or maybe Brandon Ghee's injury is serious enough that it allows it. But I actually see seven receivers before three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.