The Cincinnati Bengals had a number of flash and splash plays Thursday night in their 30-27 preseason win against Chicago.
Joe Mixon’s spin move on the way to his touchdown drew oohs, John Ross’ juke that turned a 5-yard out route into a 20-yard gain elicited aahs, and Auden Tate’s leaping grab for the game-winning touchdown produced roars.
But when grading overall bodies of work, one of the most impressive came from third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 140 yards, including the 33-yard scoring strike to Tate.
“For a lot of the second half, we made the plays that were there,” said Driskel, who followed starter Andy Dalton and backup Matt Barkley in the rotation and took every snap after halftime.
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“There were a couple plays that don’t show up on the stats that I’d like to have back, whether it’s communication within the huddle or just game management, but it was a good opportunity to learn from some of those situations. I was pretty happy with the performance and in coming out with the win, coming back in a two-minute drive and winning the game.”
One of the most notable parts of Driskel’s performance was a skill he didn’t show — hit ability to run. And it’s not as though he didn’t have any chances, as the second- and third-string offensive line rarely provided him with a clean pocket.
The fact that he didn’t log a single carry, even though he had plenty of chances to do so, was not by design.
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“I think it was just a good understanding of progressions,” he said. “If No. 1’s not there, go to No. 2, rather than instinctively tucking it. I think having a good understand of route progression and a good sense of timing allowed me to go to No. 2 and No. 3 rather than just taking off.
“But I mean, there’s still going to be times where I’m going to be able to make plays with my feet. That’s not something that I’m just not going to do. That’s definitely part of my game, and it’s a tool that I have.”
Driskel was the team’s fourth-leading rusher in the 2017 preseason with 63 yards, and that was despite only playing eight snaps in the second game and seven in the finale after breaking his thumb.
In the 2017 preseason opener, Driskel led the Bengals in rushing with 34 yards on five carries.
“I hope he’s not taking that part of his game out of it,” Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “I encourage him that if you see it, go. But definitely he’s understanding the system and getting better with progressing through the reads.”
Even though Driskel didn’t tuck and run against the Bears, he still made plenty of plays with his feet, chief among them the game-winning touchdown pass.
On that play, Driskel first looked right and found nothing. Same when he looked left. As the pocket crumbled, he spun away from the pressure, rolled to his left to create space, squared his shoulders, set his feet and delivered a throw that was just out of reach of Chicago corner John Franklin.
The touchdown pass capped a 91-yard scoring drive after the first five possessions of the second half all ended in punts.
“We stalled a bit in the second half for various reasons,” Driskel said. “I felt like we were behind the chains a lot in the second half, but we changed the tempo and put one together. We knew we were going to go out and score a touchdown.”
Driskel entered camp battling Barkley for the backup job. After splitting reps through the first week of camp, Barkley moved ahead of Driskel and was the second quarterback to enter the game Thursday night.
But Driskel’s performance could cause the coaches to re-tool the rotation Saturday in Dallas.
“That’s something we’ll discuss upstairs and coach (Marvin Lewis) will make a decision on that,” Van Pelt said. “But the way he played the other night, he’s probably deserving of a look with the second group.”
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