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ESPN not confident about Bengals’ quarterback situation

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Between Andy Dalton’s struggles and AJ McCarron set to leave in free agency, ESPN isn’t high on the Bengals’ situation at the most important position.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals already have their franchise quarterback, but the rest of the NFL isn’t exactly a big believer in Andy Dalton.

And no one is exactly sure what the Bengals have in Jeff Driskel, who is set to be Cincinnati’s backup with AJ McCarron now an unrestricted free agent.

That was a big factor in Cincinnati’s spot in ESPN’s QB confidence Index, a ranking of all 32 teams’ quarterback situation.

To be clear, this is not a ranking based on ‘just’ starters, but instead, a ranking of NFL teams in order of their confidence in the overall quarterback situation. That includes the starter, the backup, and their age and health among other factors.

When it came to the Bengals, they checked in at No. 17.

17. Cincinnati Bengals

QBs under contract: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel

Dalton in 2017 saw his completion percentage dip (barely) under 60 for the first time since his rookie season, and his Total QBR of 42.0 was the lowest of his career. He’s only 30, so there’s no reason to think he’s in decline, but at his best he has been the king of the NFL’s “just fine” quarterback tier. Backup AJ McCarron was recently declared an unrestricted free agent, so the team might have to do some work on that front.

Between Driskel never logging a regular-season snap at quarterback and being injury prone in his first two years, it’s probably safe to assume ESPN didn’t count him as much of anything in this ranking. He’s just too big of an unknown to have any confidence in as even a backup, so that’s probably why the Bengals come in the middle of this ranking.

But it doesn’t help that Dalton is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro, finishing with a career-low 42.0 QBR. He was also Pro Football Focus’ 18th-best quarterback in 2017.