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What Matt Barkley’s injury means for the Bengals

It seems like the Bengals’ roster battle for the No. 2 QB spot has been decided by injury.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With 10:58 remaining in the first quarter of the Bengals’ preseason finale against the Colts on Thursday night, quarterback Matt Barkley threw a pass to wide receiver Kermit Whitfield. The second-year receiver failed to catch the ball, partially because Barkley was hit while making the throw by Robenson Therezie. The Colts cornerback was penalized with a roughing the passer call, but the damage was done.

Barkley left the game with a knee injury and was ruled out moments later.

Did the injury decide the Bengals’ battle for the No. 2 quarterback job behind starter Andy Dalton? It likely did.

Jeff Driskel took over and played through the end of the first half, going 14/20 for 116 yards and 1 touchdown, good for a 101.2 passer rating. Barkley was 0/3 in his very limited playing time.

Driskel deserved to win the backup job. He played better than Barkley all preseason. But the Bengals’ coaches like veteran backups at the quarterback position and being an experienced quarterback could have been enough to gift Barkley the job prior to his injury.

After the game, head coach Marvin Lewis said, sometimes injuries “make it easier” to determine the winner of a position battle and added, “We have been pleased with Jeff (Driskel), what he has done and his poise.”

Prior to Thursday, Lewis said the quarterback battle was still being evaluated.

Lewis also added — directly after the game — that there was no update on Barkley’s injury.

When the Bengals’ roster is formulated on Saturday, Driskel is likely to be on it. And maybe Barkley will be, too. You have to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible to return from Injured/Reserve. So if the Bengals want to consider using that designation on Barkley around the mid-way point of the season — if his injury isn’t season ending — that could be an option. If that happens, Barkley would then be placed on IR on Sunday or Monday.

You may remember the Bengals did that with Driskel last year. He was injured in the Bengals’ 2017 preseason finale, was on the initial 53-man roster, was placed on IR the following Monday, and eventually was brought back with one of the Bengals’ two IR-return designations.

“It was a bummer to see Matt Barkley go down early in the game,” Driskel said after the Bengals’ loss. “But that’s part of it. I hope he’s well.”

Right now, we don’t know how serious Barkley’s injury is; we’ll find that out in the coming days. But this injury gives the Bengals one less decision to make as it now seems Driskel will be Dalton’s backup come Saturday.

“I was ready to go from the moment Matt got hurt; my helmet was on,” Driskel added.

There will be a slew of quarterbacks cut this weekend who the Bengals could consider adding to the roster. AJ McCarron might be among them and if he’s cut by the Bills, it would be a easy choice for the Bengals to get him back in Cincinnati. The Bills also may try to trade McCarron. Imagine him landing back in Cincinnati after all the drama he’s been through this offseason with his arbitration case, free agency and shoulder injury.

Only time will tell, but the Bengals will need to craft a 53-man roster by Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET and you’d have to think Driskel will be on it.