Roster Projections is a series that’ll look to break down and discuss each of the Cincinnati Bengals’ position groups, then project how they’ll look at the end of the 2018 offseason. In this series, we’ll look at players’ 2017 seasons, analyze them as they currently are, and predict how they’ll spend 2018 with the Bengals. The first edition of this series will cover the Bengals’ quarterbacks.
Mediocre. Static. Uninspired. Those words could be accurately used to describe the Bengals’ quarterback play in 2017. Andy Dalton continued his run of extremely average play – punctuated with occasional below-average play – as a starter last season. He developed a particularly bad habit of panicking and throwing the ball away early instead of attempting to extend plays. Yes, the offensive line was an issue, but Dalton’s poor performance wasn’t merely a product of theirs. If the Bengals want to be playoff contenders in 2018, Dalton has to perform better.
Dalton won’t lose his starting job with the Bengals as long as Marvin Lewis is their head coach, but both may find themselves on the hot seat if Dalton doesn’t play well in 2018. With the improvements that the Bengals have made along the offensive line, he’ll likely find that a little easier. Turning the clock back to 2015, when he threw for 3,250 yards and 25 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions, shouldn’t be out of the question. Dalton has shown himself to be a smart, precise passer for the Bengals before – he needs to again this season. If he doesn’t – again – the hot seat will find him quickly.
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Regardless, Dalton’s spot as the 2018 starter is entrenched. The backup situation is where questions begin – longtime backup A.J. McCarron is competing for a starting job in Buffalo. McCarron’s long been thought of as a reliable backup quarterback – which is still a valuable position in the NFL. The Bengals brought in veteran journeyman Matt Barkley, who didn’t play in 2017, to presumably be the new primary backup. Barkley most recently played for the Chicago Bears in 2016, throwing 8 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over seven games. He shouldn’t instill Cincinnati with confidence, but he shouldn’t have much trouble holding down the backup job.
Two quarterbacks will battle it out to be the third quarterback on the roster (if there is one): Jeff Driskel and rookie Logan Woodside. Driskel has been the Bengals’ third quarterback since his acquisition in 2016 but could be cut in training camp. He’s looked impressive as an athlete in preseason snaps, but his passing ability has left much to be desired. Woodside, a seventh-round pick from Toledo, lacks Driskel’s size or athleticism but is a far more polished passer. Still, a DUI arrest on June 9th isn’t how Woodside should’ve opened this offseason. Look for Driskel to turn that early lead into securing the third quarterback spot.