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Thursday, February 27, 2014
Combine countdown rewind: Bengals QBs

By Coley Harvey

Last week, in the days leading up to the start of on-field workouts at the NFL combine, we counted down five of the top position needs for a Cincinnati Bengals team that will go into May's draft looking to build depth instead of trying to find immediate starters.

As part of the countdown, I listed three players from each position who I said I would have my eyes on during the interview and testing portions of the event. Now that the combine has ended, I figured this would be a good time to go back and look at the numbers posted by the players who were part of the countdown. Each day this week, we've been doing a rewind of the countdown, analyzing how well the players who were in it worked out.

After running backsoffensive linemen and defensive linemen, we turn now to: Quarterbacks

In the days since the pre-combine "quarterbacks" version of our countdown ran, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson admitted that if the right quarterback was available at the right time in the draft, he'd want to claim him. It's a sign the Bengals are indeed thinking about shaking up their backup quarterback ranks. While their intentions may not match those of many fans', their hope is that another backup would give them another option to go with in the event they needed to replace starter Andy Dalton for some reason. Currently Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson are on the 53-man roster, and neither has had an opportunity to play all that significantly. Robinson is coming off a season spent on the physically unable to perform list. Both, like Dalton, are entering the final year on their contracts.

While coaches may just be looking for another backup, a number of fans want a quarterback who might turn on the competition with Dalton in practices and light a spark underneath him. The theory that a highly valued, young quarterback playing below Dalton will get him to play more inspired and with the type of mean streak that is necessary for the Bengals to finally win a postseason game.

I can tell you right now, whichever quarterback the Bengals draft to serve as an additional backup will not be unseating Dalton anytime soon. The mid-round quarterbacks of this draft class just aren't good enough to take over for a third-year starter who has been to three straight playoffs and who has the public backing of his head coach. Still, the task is to find a more than competent backup. With AJ McCarron's (Alabama) emergence at the combine, as well as Derek Carr's (Fresno State) strong numbers in various drills, the quarterback field seems fairly open for the Bengals in Rounds 3-6. The three players with mid-round projections who we looked at last week, though, are: Aaron Murray (Georgia), David Fales (San Jose State) and Tom Savage (Pittsburgh).

Here are numbers (per NFL.com) from the trio's combine workouts:

Aaron Murray (Georgia)
40-yard dash: N/A
Bench: N/A
Vertical: N/A
Broad jump: N/A
3-cone drill: N/A

-- Still recovering from an ACL injury suffered late last season, Murray wasn't able to test at the combine. For that reason, it will be difficult comparing his athletic ability to other draft-hopeful quarterbacks. Noted for his toughness and ability to play through pain, Murray could give the quarterback position the blue-collar shakeup it arguably needs. He's also a former Bulldog. No school has more drafted Bengals under coach Marvin Lewis' 11-year watch than Georgia. Murray's former college teammates A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Clint Boling, Orson Charles and Shawn Williams are currently on the team.

David Fales (San Jose State)
40-yard dash: 4.99 seconds
Vertical: 28 inches
Broad jump: 103 inches
3-cone drill: 7.55 seconds

-- Fales didn't impress much in the speed and agility portions of the combine, but his size has teams drooling, as does his film from college. He and Carr were the only quarterbacks at the combine who passed for more than 4,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. And while the Bengals aren't trying to much emphasize the pass under Jackson's guidance, having an efficient passer still remains important.

Tom Savage (Pittsburgh)
40-yard dash: 4.97 seconds
Vertical: 27 inches
Broad jump: 105 inches
3-cone drill: 7.33 seconds

-- Like Fales, Savage didn't impress on the agility and speed side of things, and wasn't really expected to. He's not the most mobile quarterback, which could be an issue for Jackson's new scheme. Still, also like Fales, his arm strength and accuracy are solid check marks for him. His size also checks out well, with him standing just over 6-foot-4.