A big question mark after the Bengals traded up for quarterback Ryan Finley in the draft, was what were the Bengals going to do with Jeff Driskel. Would the team try and keep three quarterbacks on their roster, or would they cut ties with the veteran backup?
Well, it seemed as though Finley’s early struggles in the spring made it more likely Cincinnati would keep Driskel to be their second quarterback, but after the rookie showed off during the first week of the preseason by throwing for over 100 yards, it now appears the Bengals may be trying to find a way to justify keeping Driskel, even if it doesn’t mean he will be the backup quarterback.
It seems head coach Zac Taylor plans on trying Driskel out at other positions aside from quarterback.
“I think tomorrow, we’re going to take a look at Driskel on special teams as well,” Turner told Jay Morrison of the Athletic. “He’s a weapon. He’s got good size. He’s got great speed, the athleticism. So don’t be surprised tomorrow if you see him kind of wrinkled in there a little bit in some other phases.”
Bengals fans will likely have flashbacks to the time Driskel broke his arm during practice while lining him up at wide receiver. That was emphasized when the team also lost AJ McCarron that offseason, which left Dalton as the only healthy quarterback on the roster heading into the spring.
The only way this decision doesn’t look as bad as it did back then is if the coaches already view Finley as their backup quarterback heading into the season. That wouldn’t be surprising considering the team did trade up in the fourth round to add the quarterback.
It also appears that Taylor is limiting playing Driskel just on special teams. He also saw run at receiver during Tuesday’s practice.
This move makes sense if Driskel is viewed as the third quarterback, because having three quarterbacks on a 53-man roster is a luxury, and it really could end up causing a team to cut a roster-worthy player at another position. So if Driskel can contribute a few gadget plays that makes it easier to justify having him.
This concept isn’t new. In fact Bengals fans saw it up close and personal when they played the Saints in Week 9. New Orleans ran several plays with quarterback Taysom Hill that resulted in 24 rushing yards on four carries. He also had threw and incompletion and didn’t catch his only target of the day.
Driskel could be used in a similar way to Hill. He can be lined up anywhere, and he has the speed to make teams pay for not playing him properly. Even if they threw him in at quarterback for a play, a read option play with Driskel is more threatening than with Andy Dalton (even though Dalton is mobile).
“His athleticism shows up more and more, so why not figure out ways to utilize that?” Taylor said. “We’ll see how it goes. Certainly, you just want to maximize everyone’s value. I think that’s something he’s on board with, so we’ll take a peek at him.”
If this is done right, Driskel could be a player who keeps defenses and special teams on their toes for the whole game. Even if he only ends up creating a handful of game changing plays throughout the season that could mean the difference between a few wins and losses.
It is just a matter if he can do it well enough to make the team.