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Jake Browning stakes his claim to Bengals’ backup quarterback position

Could Trevor Siemian be cut?

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NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Commanders
Jake Browning
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In the immortal words of Bengals’ radio voice Dan Hoard: “Coffin. Nails.”

With a stellar performance Friday evening against the Washington Commanders, Jake Browning left little doubt as to who Joe Burrow’s backup should be - emphasis on the should.

Despite the fact that Browning easily outplayed Trevor Siemian Friday evening and has been the most consistent of the two throughout the preseason, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is keeping things close to the vest.

“I won’t announce it right now,” Taylor said after the game. “But we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

Browning certainly gave Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan something to talk about. In just over one quarter of action, Browning completed all six of his passes for 42 yards and a touchdown and exited with an overall rating of 135.4.

And perhaps Browning’s best pass of the day, a 19-yard strike to tight end Tanner Hudson down the left sideline, was called back by a face-mask penalty on backup center Trey Hill.

“(Veteran safety Mike Thomas) said it before the game, this (preseason) is your resume,” Browning said after the game. “You want to put out good tape for the other teams to see and really show when it’s time to roll, and you’re live, you can play well. I feel like I did. I feel good about it.”

One of the major beneficiaries of Browning’s hot night was sixth-round draft pick Andrei Iosivas. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Princeton product caught a 25-yard, back-shoulder beauty from Browning that moved the Bengals into the red zone on the Bengals’ first possession of the game, then finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown reception at the back of the end zone.

“Jake is always on point,” Iosivas said. “He can extend plays. He makes the right reads. When he trusts you, he throws it in places where you can get it. He knows the game, and he trusts his receivers.”

The battle for the backup quarterback position had been a tight one through the first two games, with neither Browning nor Siemian able to gain much of a footing.

Coming into Friday’s game, Browning had completed 26 of 39 passes (66.7%) for 235 yards (an average of 6.03 yards per attempt) with no touchdowns and an interception. Siemian, on the other hand, had gone 22 of 42 (52.4%) for 183 yards (4.36 per) with no touchdowns and an interception.

Siemian did little to improve his chances Friday after going 14 of 23 (60.9%) for 133 yards (5.8 per), no touchdowns, and an interception, good for an overall rating of 58.8. Siemian has struggled with his accuracy throughout the preseason, and his interception came when he tried to force a throw to Iosivas, who was double-covered at the goal line.

The question now becomes whether Cincinnati should even keep Siemian on the roster or cut him and save over $1 million against the cap. That decision may have become an option after a strong showing by Reid Sinnett, who the Bengals signed at the end of July as not much more than a camp quarterback.

Sinnett, the San Diego product, who spent 10 games on Philadelphia’s active roster in 2021 and played one game for the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas earlier this year, completed 6 of 11 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and nearly led the Bengals to a come-from-behind victory.

“I thought [QB Jake Browning] did a nice job getting us down the field,” Taylor said. “Second possession, we had another big play, got called back. So I thought he had two good drives. I thought [QB] Trevor [Siemian] had some nice drives for us. And [QB] Reid [Sinnett] got in there and did a nice job moving us down the field as well at the end. Had an unfortunate sack there and penalty but thought those three guys gave us some good things.”

The final decision will come soon. Cincinnati’s roster must be cut to 53 players by 4 pm ET on Tuesday, and at least one of these quarterbacks will be destined for the practice squad, or worse.