Brandon Allen came to the Cincinnati Bengals a year ago as the “COVID quarterback” - the emergency quarterback, just in case. He spent 10 weeks on the practice squad before finally being called up when Joe Burrow went down with a knee injury.
Despite the rust, Allen ended up averaging over 185 passing yards per game in his five starts after the Burrow injury, including a 371-yard effort in a 37-31 win over the Houston Texans. And he has gotten plenty of work in training camp as Burrow eases back into the fray.
“I’m obviously getting a much better feel for the guys around me, for the offense, for all the things that go into playing quarterback like the timing of routes,” Allen said in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer recently. “I’m getting a much better jump.”
Allen started and played the entire first half, and looked like he belonged.
On Cincinnati’s first possession, Allen drove the Bengals from their own 43-yard line to the Tampa Bay 20, before a fumble by Samaje Perine gave the ball back to the Bucs.
On the very next possession, Allen once again started at his own 43-yard line and drove the Bengals all the way down to the Tampa Bay 18, where another fumble, this time by backup wide receiver Mike Thomas, put a halt to things.
Allen followed those possessions with his only interception, but he got a chance to make amends almost immediately. Tampa Bay safety Javon Hagan jumped a short route to Thomas at the Cincinnati 42 for an interception, but Thomas punched the ball out during the return and recovered at the Bengals’ 31.
Given another chance, Allen directed Cincinnati on a 10-play, 69-yard scoring, capped off by a one-yard run by rookie running back Chris Evans for the Bengals’ only touchdown of the day.
Allen was finished by halftime after completing 7 of 10 passes for 77 yards and the lone interception. He also had a 13-yard scramble for a first down. He showed good command of the offense and, in the process, erased any doubts that he was one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
“Having time to go back and look at what you did well last season and what you can work off of that you did well, there’s a lot of that,” Allen said. “And then there’s a little bit of us having new talent in that offense and maybe tailoring some things to what they do well. That’s just working with what you have and trying to find the strengths of every part of your offense.”
Allen is off to a good start. Hopefully, all he will ever have to be is a good backup quarterback. But, if he is called upon once again, he will be ready.
“Now he gets a chance to jump back into a system he’s comfortable in,” Taylor said. “He gets a ton of reps. When he gets into a rhythm he’s really good. I think he’s really comfortable with what we ask him to do and those guys have a lot of confidence in him when he’s at the helm as well. That’s what you want from your backup.”