Andy Dalton is locked in as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback ahead of training camp, but the race to back him up is far from settled.
Backup quarterback is a position no NFL team wants to use, but every team wants/needs a guy they can trust to win games in that spot.
For the Bengals, that situation seemed fairly straightforward after the draft. Fourth round pick Ryan Finley appeared set to battle it out with incumbent Jeff Driskel. Driskel was okay, but nothing special in five starts late last year after Dalton went down. He posted six touchdown passes to just two interceptions, but he completed less than 60% of his throws and the team went 1-4.
The franchise has only gone so far with Dalton at the helm and new head coach Zac Taylor has a strong quarterback background. So, drafting Finley to add a fresh young face to the mix made sense. A Driskel vs. Finley scenario may still be what ends up happening. However, undrafted rookie free agent Jake Dolegala is the unexpected wild card in the mix.
We are still in the part of the offseason where very few people outside of the Bengals coaching staff can take anything meaningful out of watching these guys throw. Still, everything out there about Dolegala’s performance thus far is positive. The exact opposite can be said of Finley.
The numbers game is also at play here. The NFL typically only allows a team to have two quarterbacks active on game day. Dalton is not going anywhere for now. Even if the Bengals stash a third quarterback on the roster or practice squad, one of the other three guys has to go before too long.
Dolegala started out a longshot, but seems to be increasing his chances. Being a rookie fourth round pick, you would think Finley is safe no matter what, but you never know. Driskel showed flashes of good things last year as well.
When you add everything together, backup quarterback may be the most heated position battle of Cincinnati’s preseason. Like any other team, the Bengals hope it winds up not mattering, but they better get it right… Just in case.