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Veteran experience makes Matt Barkley a real contender to win Bengals’ backup quarterback role

For most of the Andy Dalton era, the backup quarterback hasn’t had much experience. Could Matt Barkley change that?

NFL: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton has never had much competition for the Bengals’ starting quarterback job.

That hasn’t changed for the 2018 season either by any means, but the Bengals may be looking to give him a backup quarterback who is capable of helping and working with him as a quarterback with experience around the NFL.

The Bengals signed Matt Barkley this offseason to a two-year deal and he’s expected to compete with Jeff Driskel and rookie Logan Woodside for the backup quarterback role in Cincinnati. He is one season removed from a year in which he started six games for the Bears. He also has bounced around plenty with different offensive systems as the Bengals will be his fifth NFL team.

Still, the two-year contract wasn’t the only attractive part of coming to Cincinnati for Barkley, according to Dan Hoard of Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was a big part of the equation as he was Barkley’s first NFL quarterback’s coach when the former USC quarterback was drafted by the Eagles in 2013.

“(Coach Lazor) is one of the reasons why I was attracted to sign here. I’ve so far loved my time being with him – he’s a guy that shoots you straight and isn’t going to sugarcoat things,” Barkley said. “He’s not a ‘yes’ man and I don’t like coaches like that. I like someone who will spur you on and goad you when they need to motivate you.”

It is true that Barkley’s familiarity with Lazor could be invaluable to not only himself, but to Andy Dalton as well. Dalton is learning a completely new system for the first time since joining the Bengals, and having a source to rely on adds another depth of value to having Barkley on the roster.

“I’ve enjoyed having him around,” Dalton said of Barkley. “He’s been in several different systems, been around the league a little bit, and been on different teams so he can pull on past experiences. And he’s played too. It’s cool when you get a guy that you’ve gotten to know over the years to come join your group.

This offseason wasn’t the first time Barkley and Dalton met.

“I’ve known Andy for four or five years now,” Barkley said. “We’ve trained together in the offseason and done a bunch of different events over the years. I knew it would be a good QB room and a system that would fit me well.”

Both quarterbacks have also worked with quarterbacks coach Tom House in the offseason.

Having a guy who has played in the NFL for a little while now that knows a good portion of the new offense already who also gets along with your starting quarterback is a fairly rare find.

Still, Barkley is very much in a competition for the backup spot. Driskel has been an infatuation for the Bengals for a couple of seasons now. He is no longer waiting in AJ McCarron’s shadow, and his mobility and throwing ability could make him a hard player to pass on.

The team also drafted Woodside in the seventh round, but unless he completely blows everyone away, he will likely end up on the practice squad this season.

How has Barkley done so far before training camp?

“He’s a veteran guy who has had some starting experience. His arm strength is good, he threw the ball well (in minicamp), and we’re just getting him more in tune with the footwork and timing of the routes that we have in this system. But that’s coming,” Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said.

It seems Barkley had a little bit of a running start to the quarterback competition based on his value and experience around the league. It is still very early in the competition, though, and we may not know who will win the Bengals’ backup quarterback job until the final roster cuts are announced in early September.