Leading up to the start of training camp for the Cincinnati Bengals on July 29, we’re breaking down each position group.
Today’s look is at the quarterbacks (with the year their current contract runs through).
Roster: Andy Dalton (2020), AJ McCarron (2017), Keith Wenning (2016), Joe Licata (2018)
Locks: Andy Dalton, McCarron (2017)
On the bubble: None
The Bengals have carried only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster ever since the Dalton era began in 2011, and there’s no reason to think that will change this year.
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Barring a preseason injury to Dalton or McCarron, they will be the two quarterbacks on the roster when the team opens the season Sept. 11 in New York against the Jets, while Wenning and Licata will battle for what is likely to be one spot on the practice squad.
Here are 7 things to know about Bengals quarterbacks:
The broken thumb that ended Dalton’s record-breaking 2015 season is fully healed as he looks to build on last year’s success and continue to climb some impressive lists in franchise history.
Dalton needs three 300-yard games to pass Ken Anderson (19) for second place on the team’s career list and seven to supplant Boomer Esiason (23) as the franchise record holder.
And Dalton needs 31 touchdown passes to move ahead of Carson Palmer (154) for third place on the team’s career list behind Ken Anderson (197) and Boomer Esiason (187).
ESPN’s Jenna Laine posted a stat Wednesday on Twitter that, judging by many of the replies and retweets, surprised a lot of people.
In wake of the announcement that Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension had been denied, Laine was pointing out how good Brady has been in Weeks 1-4 during his career … but not as good as Dalton.
Since 2001, Dalton leads all quarterbacks in winning percentage in Weeks 1-4 with .737 (14-5), ranking ahead of Brady .736 (39-14), Russell Wilson .667 (10-5) and Aaron Rodgers 20-11 (.645).
And Dalton’s numbers haven’t exactly been the product of an easy schedule. Four of Dalton’s 14 wins have come against quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings, including Rodgers in 2013.
With four touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 99.2 passer rating in his three regular-season starts after Dalton’s thumb injury – not to mention his big-game moxie in rallying the Bengals from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit in the playoff game only to watch the Steelers capitalize on a series of mistakes by his teammates in the final 96 seconds – backup AJ McCaron’s bolstered his value quite a bit during the final month of the season.
The Bengals showed no interest in moving McCarron for extra picks ahead of this year’s draft, figuring his value as an insurance policy is much greater than it is as trade bait.
Advanced analytics site ProFootballFocus.com recently ranked all 32 team’s quarterback situations, and the Bengals came in 10th place.
PFF’s Sam Monson wrote: “Up until last season, Andy Dalton’s career had been characterized as the “Dalton-coaster”—seasons punctuated by massive highs and lows that ultimately jumped and sank to an average overall grade. 2015 saw a change in that; the highs were more consistent, and the lows were far less egregious. In the end, the Bengals ended up in the same place because an injury robbed him of taking his best form into the playoffs, but this version of Dalton was a good starting quarterback. Was this a sign of improvement, or just a good year? “
And as for McCarron, Monson still isn’t sold, writing: “At his best, he is a backup that can come in and win a couple of games before your starter returns, which is still an upgrade over most No. 2 QBs.”
With Dalton throwing a career-low seven interceptions last year and McCarron tossing two – both of which came against Pittsburgh when he was unexpectedly thrust into action after Dalton broke his thumb – the Bengals finished tied for the fifth fewest picks in the NFL, two shy of the league lead.
And that was a big reason why the Bengals finished third in the league and second in the AFC in turnover margin at plus-11
One of the more surprising moves the Bengals made during the offseason was signing University of Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata and cutting Bowling Green product Matt Johnson after Johnson, whom PFF called the best developmental quarterback in the draft, had impressed the coaches during the rookie minicamp.
Licata’s college stats were not nearly as impressive as Johnson’s, but Licata has NFL size at 6-2, 210 pounds, whereas Johnson was 5-11, 180 pounds.
Licata threw for 2,969 yards with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2015. His TD/INT ratio was considerably lower than what he posted during his junior (29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) and sophomore seasons (24 touchdowns, eight interceptions).
According to spotrac.com, Coldwater High School graduate Keith Wenning has made $380,336 in his two season in the NFL – the first with Baltimore in 2014 and last year with the Bengals – despite never taking a snap.
Wenning was on the Ravens practice squad for all 16 games in 2014. After Baltimore released him in May 2015, the Bengals signed him in June. He spent Games 1-13 on the Cincinnati practice squad before being added to the 53-man roster after Dalton broke his thumb, but Wenning never took a snap.
Despite not playing, Wenning served a vital role as McCarron credited him for helping him prepare to take over for Dalton with countless study hours after practices and meetings.