The Cincinnati Bengals – who were already struggling as an overall unit at 2-7-1 – took a crushing blow when rookie quarterback and first overall pick Joe Burrow had a devastating season-ending knee injury. Despite having to deal with a quite poor offensive line, Burrow had played quite well and been the primary reason the Bengals were even in any of their games. With him now out for at least the rest of 2020, the initial expectation was that Ryan Finley would be the starter going forward – after all, he came in relief of Burrow on Sunday and also played for them last year. However, the Bengals have announced that after promoting Brandon Allen from the practice squad, they will be starting Allen instead. This is actually the better move for multiple reasons.
Cincinnati Bengals Will Start Brandon Allen
Meet Brandon Allen
Some more casual Bengals viewers may not recognize that name. However, he started a few games for the Denver Broncos in 2019. Allen was a sixth-round pick in 2016, but got passed around a couple of teams and didn’t get a chance until Joe Flacco suffered an injury and then-rookie Drew Lock was still on injured reserve.
Allen started three games with mixed results. The first one (against the Cleveland Browns) actually was pretty good, as he passed for two touchdowns with no turnovers in a win. The next game was a mixed bag, as he helped the Broncos jump out to a 23-0 lead over the Minnesota Vikings – a lead which they ultimately blew and Allen finished 17-for-39. The third game (against the Buffalo Bills) was not very good at all, as he finished with only 85 passing yards and one interception. At that point, Lock was finally healthy and they had no incentive to keep playing Allen. Still, there was some level of promise seen that made him a viable backup to have, though the Broncos ultimately didn’t keep him.
Why Allen Over Finley?
With all of that in mind, why play him over Ryan Finley? The thing is, Finley also started three games last year for the Bengals. And in that time, he never showed as much promise. In three games, he only had 474 yards, two touchdown passes, and two interceptions. And ultimately, after going 0-3 in his three games, he got benched again for Andy Dalton at a point when the Bengals seemed to be tanking – which is not a good sign. His appearance after Burrow’s injury wasn’t promising either, as he went 3-for-10 with an interception.
Granted, Allen’s numbers are only marginally better. But he still has ultimately shown more potential. And it’s not like the Bengals have much reason to tank at this point. They already have their franchise quarterback. They don’t even look that bad in terms of weapons on offense. Their primary need right now is the offensive line. And furthermore, head coach Zac Taylor may be playing for his job at this point.
And let’s not forget; Burrow tore his ACL and MCL, along with having further structural damage. Despite optimism from some doctors, there’s no guarantee he will be ready for Week 1 of the 2021 season. At this point, the Bengals should be trying to see if they have anything in their backups since there’s a chance they’ll need one to start the season next year. While neither of them may sound promising to some, Allen would seem to give them the better chance to win at this point. If he plays poorly, they can always go back to Finley before the end of the season and see if he has anything.
All things considered, there may not be a lot of hope for the Bengals avoiding a top-five pick. But as previously stated, they don’t have much reason to tank either unlike most of the other teams in that group. And given the possibility of needing a backup at the start of next season, going with the quarterback with more apparent upside makes sense, even if Finley was the initial backup (probably due to having team experience). Maybe Allen doesn’t work out, but then at least they’ll know ahead of time going into the off-season. In the meantime, Allen’s got a nice second opportunity here that wasn’t particularly expected, so we’ll see if he takes advantage of it.
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