ANALYSIS: A closer look at Bengals quarterbacks

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

This is the first in a series of pieces breaking down each position group for the Bengals.

Joe Burrow didn’t take the time he probably needed during preseason last year to let his strained calf heal and it impacted his start to the season. By the time he was back in a good rhythm, it was halted completely by a torn ligament in his wrist.

The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback says he has learned the importance of listening to his body and not pushing through pain that comes with returning from an injury, and Burrow hopes that approach will pay big dividends as he looks to get the Bengals back to the top of the AFC North and another deep playoff run after missing the postseason last year.

The fifth-year quarterback is trying to come back from a difficult injury for someone at his position, and he has never made it through a full training camp; however, his focus is on being ready to go Week 1 and preparing himself to still be strong in February.

There’s still a lot of time before then, so let’s take a look back at his 2023 performance and where he is expected to stack up among other quarterbacks in the league this season with help from data by Pro Football Focus, plus a look at the backup options on the roster.


Starter: Joe Burrow

Backup: Jake Browning

Others: Logan Woodside, Rocky Lombardi


2023 stats: 2,309 yards passing, 15 TDs, 6 INTs, 66.8 percent pass completion rate, 91.0 passer rating, 24 sacks, 5-5 record

PFF grades for 2023: Burrow earned an overall offensive grade of 77.9 and ranked 17th of 38 quarterbacks that qualified based on minimum snaps. He also earned a passing grade of 76.1 (ranked 17th best) and 20th in run grade at 68.8.

Where he ranks in 2024: Pro Football Focus ranks Burrow as the third best quarterback, going into 2024 behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and just ahead of Buffalo’s Josh Allen. PFF’s Trevor Sikkema rated Mahomes in a tier of his own with Jackson, Burrow and Allen in the second tier “elite” category.


2023 stats: 1,936 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INTs, 70.4 percent pass completion rate, 98.4 passer rating, 24 sacks, 4-3 record in his seven starts and nine appearances

PFF grades for 2023: Browning had a 79.3 overall offensive grade, just above Burrow’s as the 16th best among qualifying quarterbacks. He had a 74.4 passing grade (19th) and 87.8 run grade (fifth).

No projections for 2024


Despite Burrow’s injury history and this time not knowing how wrist surgery will impact his throwing ability over the long term, he is still believed to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. So far, he hasn’t given reason to doubt he won’t be the same quarterback he’s been in previous comeback attempts. Burrow made some deep throws during offseason workouts, but wasn’t full throttle so much will be learned as he begins to ramp up ahead of the season in training camp.

PFF still rates Burrow highly, noting the passing game as its biggest strength still as Burrow is expected to be back fully healthy and still has weapons like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins at his disposal, plus the addition of rookie Jermaine Burton and last year’s draftees Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas capable of stepping up.

In ranking Burrow the third-best quarterback in the league, PFF analyst Trevor Sikkema wrote:

“Burrow, unfortunately, had an injury-riddled 2023, starting with a calf strain that it appeared he was rushed back from to start the season. He then suffered a torn ligament in his wrist on his throwing hand that ended his season. But I won’t let an injury-affected season take away from what we have seen from Burrow when he is fully healthy: an ice-in-his-veins decision-maker with assassin-like accuracy and MVP-caliber play.”

If something doesn’t go right with Burrow, the Bengals also have one of the best backups in the league – a stunning statement considering where the team was with that competition at this point last year. Cincinnati didn’t know what it had until Browning won the job almost by default out of camp and then stepped into the spotlight after Burrow went down.

Sports Illustrated ranked Browning as the top backup quarterback going into 2024, highlighting how he outdueled Trevor Lawrence on Monday Night Football with 354 passing yards and one touchdown.

“Many assumed Cincinnati would falter from the playoff race after Joe Burrow sustained a season-ending wrist injury with seven games left on the schedule,” SI’s Gilberto Manzana wrote in May. “But the Bengals remained in playoff contention through Week 18 because of Browning’s sensational performances, including a three-game winning streak. He didn’t just keep the team afloat, he elevated the offense by averaging 276.5 passing yards and completing 70.37% of his passes in his seven starts.”

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