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Bengals backup quarterback competition to heat up during intrasquad scrimmage

“I like them both. I think they’re very good quarterbacks. I think they’re competing very hard,” Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said of Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best annual days at Bengals training camp is the intrasquad scrimmage pitting the first team offense against the second team defense and first team defense against the second team offense.

It’s also a great opportunity for the quarterbacks on the roster to go out and show what they can do. Andy Dalton is the undisputed starter in Cincinnati, but beyond him are three guys, two of whom have a legitimate shot at being his backup.

Those two guys are Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel. The fourth quarterback on the roster is seventh round rookie Logan Woodside who has an undisclosed injury that’s kept him out of practice for several days now. As he falls behind in the competition, it seems inevitable he ends up on the practice squad, an injury list or cut this year.

“It’s disappointing for him obviously,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said via Local 12. “We’d sneak him in there and get him some reps, or he’d work with the 3’s on the other field. So he’s missing those reps. But ultimately he’s going to get healthy.”

Dalton likely won’t play for the entirety of Saturday’s scrimmage — he typically plays half or less of the game — so it’ll be a great opportunity for Barkley and Driskel to compete.

“Every practice is important. Every period is important. Every rep is important,” Driskel said. “I’m just looking to Saturday because I think it will be a fun atmosphere, but it’s just as important as any other day. It’s a chance for us to get out there with the coaches off the field and more of a game-like atmosphere, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Van Pelt sees the scrimmage as something that could add some stress to the competition, but he’s not concerned about how his quarterbacks will handle it.

“The stress of being in the stadium in front of fans for young guys can obviously bring a little more anxiety with more of a game situation, but I feel like the quarterbacks are going to treat it as a normal practice,” Van Pelt said. “I like them both. I think they’re very good quarterbacks. I think they’re competing very hard.”

Barkley has veteran experience, though, it’s nothing to write home about. Barkley signed with the Bengals this offseason after spending time with the Eagles, Cardinals and Bears in past seasons. He’s played in 11 games with 6 starts and compiled 159 completions on 266 passing attempts (59.8%) for 1,911 yards, 8 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. That amounts to an overall quarterback rating of 63.7. Not good, my friends.

“Matt’s been there, he’s done it before, so he’s got some savvy to him,” Van Pelt said.

Driskel has no regular-season NFL experience but he’s been on the Bengals’ roster for two seasons now. Last year in the preseason he went 14/21 (66.7%) for 164 yards and 1 touchdown, good for a 106.1 quarterback rating. It was just the preseason, but it was promising.

“Jeff’s just knocking the rust off in the pass game,” Van Pelt said. “It’s just getting him more reps, more live reps, getting him into the team drills, getting him acclimated to the people around him again. But both are progressing well. I’m very happy.”

As for offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, he seems to be giving Barkley the edge.

“I think having NFL live snaps in regular-season games that factors in your development,” said Lazor. “There is no other way to grow so quickly than to be thrown out there and have to do it. Once guys have played in games they just come away with a better sense of what real game speed is and what it really feels like out there and that’s part of Matt’s makeup now. I think they’re both really good players. You’re talking about a little different experience level, but their whole lives they’ve been recognized as guys who can throw the football. They’re talented guys, mentally, physically; they’re tough guys and leaders.”

Saturday’s scrimmage should offer the best look at the quarterbacks we’ve seen yet this offseason. Practice begins at 12:00 p.m. ET.