Battle of the Bengals’ back-ups: Ryan Finley vs. Jake Dolegala

Jake Dolegala (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Jake Dolegala (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals’ back-up quarterback battle between Ryan Finley and Jake Dolegala is shaping up to be an intriguing contest.

Nearly every unit on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster has undergone significant change and the quarterback room is no exception. Nine-year veteran Andy Dalton is now in Dallas and Joe Burrow leads the pack in Cincinnati. The options for the back-up signal-caller, however, have remained the same in the Queen City.

Head coach Zac Taylor has made it clear he’s content with the possibilities for the second-string job, Ryan Finley and Jake Dolegala. Opting for the duo of second-year players instead of signing a veteran is a risky move, but one that the organization seems confident in.

The pair showed enough last season to warrant keeping both of them on the 53-man roster. Keeping three quarterbacks is rare but it should offer insight into just how much the coaching staff values their potential.

Heading into the upcoming campaign, there’s no telling if the pair of promising prospects both still have a future in stripes. If it comes down to it, which one wins the back-up job?

What Ryan Finley brings to the table

There’s no denying that Finley looked uninspiring while filling in for Andy Dalton last season. Still, he was unexpectedly thrown into an offense that didn’t match his skillset, leaving him vulnerable to opposing defenses as well as plenty of criticism.

Many have already counted out 25-year-old but his career still has hope. Prior to his chaotic debut, the Bengals traded up for Finley in the draft, a move analyst Todd McShay loved,

"“I think Finley can be an NFL starter. He has very fast eyes and reads the defense better than any of the other quarterbacks in the class. But even if he doesn’t materialize into a franchise guy, this pick was still very good. The worst case here is the Bengals drafted a good backup QB at No. 104 overall.”"

The potential Finley showed throughout the pre-draft process didn’t just disappear. He still possesses good anticipation and fast mental processing, two essential characteristics for an NFL quarterback.

After learning some harsh lessons during his three-game starting stretch, he and the coaching staff had the opportunity to evaluate what he needed to improve on. With any luck, he’s been working on those aspects this offseason and will come back for a stronger sophomore campaign. If he does, the second-string job could be his to lose.

Jake Dolegala’s skillset

Dolegala is on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of attributes when compared to Finley. He’s 6’7 and wields a rocket for an arm. On the other side of the coin, he still needs work on making his way through progressions at the speed of the NFL.

There should be concern that Dolegala didn’t see any regular-season action throughout 2019, especially after Taylor declared the team wanted to evaluate the talent on the roster. That would seem to suggest that the towering signal-caller is far away from being relied on as the primary back-up to Burrow. However, he could always make a big leap and earn the confidence of the coaching staff.

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In terms of physical tools, he offers far more upside than Finley. If Dolegala can get the rest of his game up to par, he could be an X-factor and dangerous back-up.

The Bengals may not be in the best position when it comes to the second-string quarterback options but they do have two players with high potential and unique attributes. They’ll have the luxury of deciding if they want the big arm or the skillful anticipation behind Burrow.