When a new coaching staff takes over, fans can expect plenty of changes in the coming seasons to the roster, and most of the turnover occurs in regards to pivotal backup spots. The Bengals are no exception to this, and Jeff Driskel fits the bill of a player who’s days may be numbered in a transitional period.
Driskel has been the primary backup quarterback since AJ McCarron left, but he was very highly touted by the organization as they even had him as the third quarterback for a short time while McCarron was still around.
The big question is if he can defend his spot as the backup to Andy Dalton.
College: Louisiana Tech (transferred from Florida)
Hometown: Oviedo, FL
Experience: Entering his fourth season
Driskel is in the final year of his rookie contract, which was inherited by the Bengals when they claimed him off waivers. He is set to make $720,000 in base salary and have the same amount as a cap hit in 2019, according to Spotrac.
Driskel joined the Bengals when he was waived by the 49ers after the team drafted him in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL draft. He has spent the past two offseasons with the Bengals. Last year he beat out Matt Barkley for the backup job behind Dalton.
In 2018, he got his first shot to play meaningful time in the regular season. He saw all of it come in the final six games after Dalton went down against the Browns with a season ending injury.
Driskel threw for just over 1,000 yards with about a 60 percent completion percentage. Driskel also finished with six passing touchdowns to two interceptions. He also added 130 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns (he had a 35 yard touchdown earlier in the season during garbage time against the Saints).
Driskel finished the season only pulling out one win, but the Bengals were within one score against the Steelers, Browns and Chargers, which isn’t too bad when you consider he didn’t have A.J. Green for most of those games.
Driskel’s season will largely be decided in the remainder of the preseason. He will have to beat out rookies Ryan Finley, who the Bengals traded up to take in the fourth-round and has had an impressive showing in training camp and the preseason thus far.
In fact, Finley has played well enough that Driskel is now playing wide receiver and on special teams in hopes of solidifying his spot on the 53-man roster, even if it is as a third quarterback.
For the Bengals’ sake, we have to hope that even if Driskel remains on the roster we only see him if the coaches want to preserve their starters, because they are winning by a healthy margin. If we see Driskel for a meaningful amount of time again in 2019, then it probably won’t be a very happy season for Bengals fans.
It is doubtful Cincinnati will part ways with Finely, so Driskel has his work cut out for him the rest of the way to securing his spot. If it’s a close battle with Finley for the backup spot, the Bengals may give it to Finely anyhow and cut Driskel to keep an extra receiver or defensive lineman.
Who knows, maybe Zac Taylor likes the idea of keeping three quarterbacks already since Driskel does have actual game experience to lean on now. If Dalton were to go down, the coaching staff may feel more comfortable trotting out Driskel over Finely.
That is all if Finley starts struggling and makes it clear Driskel should be the first man up if Dalton goes down. Driskel’s best hope is that he plays extremely well, and that Finely struggles enough to waiver the confidence of the coaching staff.
Even then, it could come down to a numbers game, and Driskel could be left on the outside looking in. This will easily be one of, if not the toughest decision to make come cutdown day.
Roster odds: 50 percent