Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley has been impressive so far this preseason.
In the team’s first preseason game, Finley went 13 of 18 for 109 yards along with a touchdown and an interception. After moving up to the second unit for Week 2’s matchup against the Redskins, he went 20 of 26 for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Let’s take a look at some of the highs and lows or Finley’s performance in Washington starting with his first drive.
Finely started off strong with a 12-play, 93-yard touchdown drive in which he completed eight straight passes. After running the ball on first and second down the team found itself in 3rd-and-five on their own 12-yard line.
A strong rush off of the left edge challenged O’Shea Dugas and forced Finley to step up in the pocket. He kept his eyes down field and delivered a strike to wide receiver Cody Core for a 14-yard gain. Finley showed great poise in the pocket under both physical and situational pressure.
Finley’s 1st pass of the night pic.twitter.com/OdITtFbv2d— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 16, 2019
Finley followed that up with a swing pass that Jordan Ellis for a loss of a yard. The offense then came out in empty with Ellis split out at receiver, and Finley made the correct read, throwing Ellis a hitch for a gain of five yards.
This put the Bengals in third-and-six at their own 30-yard line. Finley was pressured from both sides and, once more, stepped up in the pocket and delivered a bullet; this time to a tightly covered Alex Erickson. This tight window throw picked up 12 yards and moved the chains.
Ellis ran the ball once again, and the Bengals found themselves in second-and-six on their own 46-yard line. After a token play action fake, Finley whipped around and threw a 10-yard completion to wide receiver Damion Willis. The ball was a little low, but Willis was able to haul it in.
This brought the Bengals into Redskins territory.
On the next play, Finley dealt with pressure from the middle as Ellis and center Billy Price struggled to pick up Washington’s blitz. Finley sidestepped the blitzer and found Core down the field for a 16-yard completion. Finley showed great pocket presence and vision on this conversion.
That led the Bengals to 1st and 10 on the Redskins 28-yard line. Finley threw as short pass to tight end Mason Schreck in the flat. The ball was thrown behind Schreck, but he is able to adjust, make the catch, and turn it up field to gain 18 yards.
Ellis ran the ball for five yards on the next play which put the Bengals in a second-and-goal situation from the five yard line. Finley once again threw to the tight end in the flat. This time, it is Drew Sample, who made the catch and took it in for a touchdown.
Finley showed great poise and pocket presence on this drive. He completed every pass he attempted and converted two third downs.
Although all of his passes were completed on this drive, his passes aren’t always right on target. Too often, he throws behind receivers, forcing them to adjust. This can make it difficult for the receiver to gain additional yardage if he is able to make the catch.
Later in the game, Finley threw this ball to behind Josh Malone in the flat. This put Malone in a bad position, and not only did he drop the ball he took a shot to the head from Redskins defender Deion Harris.
Finley put Malone in a bad spot here pic.twitter.com/No2wgkevko— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 16, 2019
Time management is another concern. Ultimately, the responsibility for time management falls on the head coach, but the quarterback has to understand the situation and distribute the ball appropriately.
At the end of the first half the Bengals got the ball on their own 24-yard line with 46 seconds to play and only one timeout.
In this situation, the ball can be completed to the inside because they have a first down, but if they should make using the timeout worth it by completing a deep pass. Finley’s first two completions to Quinton Flowers and Willis gained a total of seven yards and took 25 seconds off the clock before they burned their timeout. Given the situation, Finley would have been better off throwing the ball away on both downs.
On the next play, Finley completed this pass 19 yards down the field. Once again, Willis was the recipient in the middle of the field.
This got the team to the 50-yard line, but with no timeouts and the clock ticking, Finley had to get the offense up to the line of scrimmage quickly to spike the ball. This left the Bengals with only enough time to attempt a Hail Mary.
That was a good play but bad timing. If this play had started the drive or if the previous plays were to the sideline (or incomplete), the Bengals would have had a chance to get into field goal range.
Finley has looked impressive in his first two preseason games, but he is a rookie and has a long way to go. His ability to move in the pocket is his most notable quality and will come in handy if he is thrust into action during the regular season.