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ESPN is pessimistic about Bengals’ QB depth

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Dalton has struggled in recent years, and he no longer has a proven backup behind him.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals already have their franchise quarterback, but there’s not much to be confident about after Andy Dalton.

Dalton will be the team’s quarterback for the foreseeable future, but if he goes down, the Bengals could be in a world of hurt. No one knows what exactly the Bengals have in Jeff Driskel or Logan Woodside.

There is a veteran in Matt Barkley, who is set to be Cincinnati’s backup as AJ McCarron is now with the Bills. Still, Barkley is a career backup who’s struggled in his limited starting opportunities, and it’s safe to think he’s a downgrade from McCarron.

All of this was a big factor in the Bengals’ 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 only starters. It’s 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. 18.

18. Cincinnati Bengals

Here’s where we get into the distinction we made in the intro to this column. The teams that follow Cincinnati on this list surely feel more excited about the prospects of their QB situation than the Bengals do. But Andy Dalton is more proven as a starter than the guys who start for those teams, and in the three years prior to 2017, he completed 64.9 percent of his passes. His 2017 decline is troubling, but a midseason offensive coordinator change is never easy. If he doesn’t bounce back, Cincinnati slides down this list and could find itself moving on from Dalton before long. AJ McCarron’s departure also leaves the backup situation shaky, as it’s now in the hands of Matt Barkley or Jeff Driskel.

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.

That’s also true of Woodside, the teams seventh-round pick that is by no means a lock to even make the final roster. If he does, he’ll probably be a gameday inactive for most, if not all of his rookie season.

Barkley, the slight favorite for the No. 2 spot behind Dalton, also hasn’t proven he can keep a team afloat if he’s thrust into a starting role like McCarron did.

It also 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. While this ranking factors in all the quarterbacks on roster, it’s heavily weighted toward how good the starter is.

Depending on who you ask, Dalton is ranked as the 15-20th best quarterback in the NFL, so it only makes sense for this ranking to be reflective of that.