Andy Dalton is a lock to start for the Bengals in 2018, but the backup job is anything but secure. Is Matt Barkley leading the way right now?
The Bengals have a big question mark on the roster at backup quarterback. After AJ McCarron left for the Bills in free agency, the team couldn’t replace him with a similarly talented quarterback. The Bengals drafted Loan Woodside in the seventh round of the draft this year, but he should not challenge for the job. The two best options for backup quarterback behind Andy Dalton are Jeff Driskel and Matf Barkley.
The Bengals signed Barkley off of free agency after the Cardinals opted not to resign him. Driskel missed most of last year after sustaining multiple injuries so his health was uncertain. Therefore, Barkley offered the team some roster security. Barkley is a longtime NFL veteran who has had more in-game experience than either Driskel or Woodside. That by itself might be enough to boost Barkley ahead of them both on the roster.
However, Barkley seems to be making a splash in minicamp, as well. Barkley’s arm strength has popped so far during camp, which is his biggest advantage over Driskel and Woodside. Another important part for a backup quarterback is commanding the playbook. Since new offensive coordinator is entering his first full season, each of the three QBs is essentially starting from square one. Barkley has lots of experience learning new playbooks, and he has it down to a science.
I like to think of the plays and concepts as geometric patterns. You learn to forget and learn terminology. I think it’s an easy way to visualize it. Football in general is a game of angles and geometric patterns. It’s seeing the distance and relationship between players and where they are on the field.
Also, Barkley has a lot of connections to this team. When Barkley was in Philadelphia, Bill Lazor was his quarterbacks coach. He says he feels comfortable in Lazor’s system, and he may be able to leverage that comfort with Lazor into a backup role onto this team. Barkley has also worked out in several offseasons with starter Andy Dalton. Dalton and Barkley seem to be friends, and that relationship may make for a strong quarterback room. If both Dalton and Lazor like Barkley, that will be critical in giving him an advantage on winning the backup job.
I still believe Jeff Driskel is the best choice for backup quarterback, but Barkley has some benefits. He has more experience and is a better pure quarterback. Regardless, the Bengals seem to like Barkley the most right now. If things hold, it looks like Matt Barkley will be the Bengals backup quarterback.