Can Driskel Lead The Bengals To The Playoffs?

Evaluating Jeff Driskel’s performance against Cleveland and what it means going forward. 

AP Photo/Gary Landers

Driskel vs Dalton QB ’19?

Haha! It’s Marvin. No.

Well, Andy Dalton is on IR. The bad news is that this hurts our playoff chances severely. The good news is, if somehow in the “so your telling me there’s a chance?” scenario, they make the playoffs, they won’t have Andy Dalton to bungle it. (Don’t get me wrong now, I love good ol’ Andy but at some point this team needs a franchise guy, Right? RIGHT?!)

Now all heads turn to….um, McCarron? Maybe Jason Campbell? Oh fuck, is it Bruce Gradkowski? Nope it’s Jeff Driskel! You might remember him from his breakout performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason of 2017. Ah, who are we kidding, of course you remember him.

For Dalton haters, he was the closest thing to a replacement and now he gets his chance (not really). Before we take a look at how he did and what he will do, let’s see where he came from.

College: Louisiana Tech

College Stats: 7444 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, 967 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns

After transferring from Florida, Driskel finally showed of his true abilities at Louisiana Tech; and if Driskel is one thing, it’s an athlete. He has that duel-threat ability to extend plays with his feet like we saw Sunday. He can carry out a designed run play at the quarterback position, and then can be designed to work outside of the pocket. He has one heck of an arm and his footwork in the pocket keeps him out of trouble with defenders. A deep ball passer combined with the threat of running away from our horrible o-line could be exactly what Cincinnati needs.

However, every quarterback comes with flaws. (Except with Andy of course, Marvin Lewis has never even pressured him with competition so you know he must be Elite.) Although Driskel looked solid against the browns there were a few noticeable flaws.

For one, keep in mind that Cleveland went conservative on both sides of the ball in the 2nd half which contributed to the incomplete comeback. Driskel’s intermediate passing accuracy is flawed. He tends to over throw the receivers and against an attacking defense his decision-making could come into question. This could prove very costly, especially against an experienced and opportunistic defense. Although he has a cannon of an arm, he isn’t always accurate on those long passes and struggles to time the ball well. When pressured in the pocket, he tends to start to abort the pass and loses his target and accuracy goes out the window instead of pulling it down. Overall, Driskel will need an abundance of reps to work on his passing mechanics – but his skill, arm strength, and short passing success will bail him out for now.

Let’s dive into his performance against Cleveland. Driskel was almost able to do the improbable and lead Cincinnati back from the depths of a 35-7 deficit in the 2nd half. But a few (many) false start penalties, inaccurate passes, and bad drops later… that dream fell short at 35-20 and sent Bengals fans home feeling embarrassed after a loss to the Browns at home.

On his first drive, despite it ending in a fantastic touchdown throw to Boyd, he was a little stiff and his inexperience showed. On the lone sack of that drive, there was an opportunity for him to get out of the pocket and either run for the first or wait for the TE to come open (which is a play Andy makes every time). He also would tend to look at one side of the field or just one receiver. Inexperience and perhaps nervousness will do that.

However, he did make good decisions with the ball and the placements with his throws couldn’t have been better. The 2nd drive was much much crisper. Driskel made three accurate throws in contested coverage, two completions and one drop. He made good decisions facing pressure and wasn’t rattled by it. His 3rd drive is where his flaws were most noticeable, despite great ball placement on a few throws and a decent ball on a tough throw for a young QB and WR to connect on, his accuracy was starting to get called into question. He started sailing balls over the heads of Uzomah and Tate which created incompletions and eventually a safety risk for those players to leave their ribs exposed while going up to make the play.

Although no one was really winning their one-on-one battles against man coverage, Driskel could have tucked it and ran the ball instead of a risky throw with a safety coming over the top. Driskel’s 4th and final drive was impressive from a young QB. His decision making and situational awareness were only display and perhaps his best play of the day came from the hail mary connection that didn’t count. Driskel did an amazing job at eluding the sack from Myles Garrett and rolling out of the pocket (while still being chased) he makes a strong-armed throw for his best receiver on the field. He made moves to avoid the pressure and extended the play, throwing it up to give his receiver a shot at it.

Overall, it was a good debut from Driskel. Solid from a backup called off the bench. He did cause a few penalties/false starts plus not getting set at the line issues are expected when a new QB takes over (due to a different cadence then the team is used to). Jeff will have to work on his decision making and accuracy in the weeks to come. If he can keep the mistakes to a minimum, the offense shouldn’t lose that much of a step. With AJ Green coming back (he can make the worst QB in the world look Elite) and leaning on Joe Mixon, the Bengals can win the games that their defense keeps them in.

For 2019, Andy Dalton should and will most likely be the starting quarterback for the Bengals. As exciting as it is to have a change at QB, even temporary, Dalton is still miles ahead of Driskel. This team is not complete yet. There are obvious holes that need to be filled. Neither Andy or Driskel are the type of quarterbacks to lead or elevate a team with not much around them; they need a great supporting cast. But Andy is the right option as of now and gives us the best option to win until our team is set and we could grab a franchise guy.

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