The Bengals lost AJ McCarron this offseason to free agency, leaving them without their backup quarter of the past four seasons.
They did end up signing Matt Barkley to a small deal, but there is already a quarterback on the roster who’s been in the system for multiple years behind Dalton: Jeff Driskel.
Is this the year Driskel rises up and shows he can be a No. 2 quarterback in this league?
College: Louisiana Tech (after transferring from Florida)
Hometown: Oviedo, FL
Experience: Third season
When the Bengals claimed Driskel off waivers in 2016, they inherited the four-year contract he signed with the 49ers. He is going into the third year of the deal, which is worth a total of $2.45 million with averages of $613,135 a year. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Injuries have helped keep the former Louisiana Tech star from appearing in an NFL game thus far, though he’s had some promising preseason outings. A former sixth-round pick of the 49ers in the 2016 NFL Draft, Driskel is entering his third NFL season, and it may be his last with the Bengals if he doesn’t have a good showing in training camp and the preseason.
When healthy, Driskel has many the measurables and traits you want in a quarterback for today’s NFL. He measured in at 6’4” and 234 lbs at the combine, and was praised for his ideal build and athleticism, plus he has a quick release, good football IQ and decent arm strength.
Driskel is also a good runner that’s able to extend plays or take off for big chunks on the ground. However, he doesn’t have much accuracy on anything beyond short tosses, and he likes to run a little too much if his initial read isn’t open.
To be fair, he usually ends up playing when practice squad and worse wide receivers are his targets. He’s rarely gotten reps with actual starting and backup-caliber receivers in the game, so it would be interesting to see what he can do with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert to throw to.
Another thing hurting Driskel is his durability. Driskel broke his arm in the final week of practice in the 2017 regular season while lining up at receiver during practice. He injured his non-throwing arm to the extent that surgery was required to fix the damage. That came after Driskel opened the season on injured reserve after breaking two fingers during the Bengals’ preseason finale.
Driskel should be 100-percent healthy when training camp opens, but he did miss some offseason workouts, which allowed guys like Barkley to get more reps.
The Bengals have spent two years with Driskel and hope this is the year he puts it all together and wins the backup job. Part of that is also do to Barely being very underwhelming in offseason workouts, and he’s struggled to be just a competent backup for much of his pro career.
There’s no guarantee the Bengals will keep three quarterbacks this year, so Driskel may have to beat out Barkley just to retain his spot on the final 53-man roster. The Bengals also spent a seventh-round pick on Toledo’s Logan Woodside this year, though he’s a project who already has a DUI arrest this offseason, so it’s hard to see him being a real threat for the 53-man roster.
In the end, the backup spot comes down to Barkley vs Driskel, and for now, I’m giving Driskel the very slight edge.
Roster odds: 40 percent