Posted: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013
By Anthony Cosenza
Ah, the backup quarterback in the NFL. Sometimes they are nothing more than an insurance policy behind an entrenched starter, while others they are the most popular guy on the team if that starter falters. Either way, every NFL team needs one and the Cincinnati Bengals are no different.
Fortunately for the boys in orange and black, they are in a better state than some other franchises out there. Though Andy Dalton has his critics, he is a playoff-caliber quarterback who has had a lot more early success than quarterbacks in the past. It's the guys behind him that bring a sense of uneasiness amongst the team's faithful.
Since taking over the offensive coordinator job in 2011, Jay Gruden has brought in quarterbacks that he is familiar with. For the first two years, journeyman Bruce Gradkowski backed up Dalton here in Cincinnati before he bolted to the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason. He did have a moment of brilliance in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns in 2011, but was mostly relegated to mop-up duty after that.
In their decision to overhaul that group, Gruden brought in another familiar face from his time with his brother and the Buccaneers in Josh Johnson. Mobile and athletic, Gruden likes Johnson because of his familiarity with his system. Still, there are issues that come with Johnson and that's why he hasn't found a job as an NFL starter in his five seasons.
They also grabbed John Skelton off of waivers this offseason to compete for the job. Skelton is the anti-Johnson, in that he is in the mold of former Bengals quarterback, Carson Palmer. Big-armed, immobile and having great height, Skelton has a winning record as an NFL starter, but seems to be more of the type of quarterback to fit the past Bob Bratkowski system.
There are a few traits that a quarterback needs to embody while running Gruden's scheme. Let's examine each to get a better grasp.
I'm not sure that I'm sold on either at this point. I suppose that given his familiarity in the system and the ability to make plays with his legs, that Johnson would be a better fit. We're not adding Zac Robinson in this discussion because he hasn't made it off of the Practice Squad in two seasons and appears to be headed for the PUP List. Still, Skelton's ability to fling the ball with his arm strength could win the day.
Regardless, don't be surprised if the team looks at wiaver wire options after final cuts. They have added players to their final roster at that time in the past and if a decent guy is out there, they may spring for him. After all, some of these teams with unsettled starting quarterback issues have been hoarding a glut of guys and some will need to be shed off of their rosters.