While the Miami Dolphins won’t make a decision on their starting quarterback until Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals are clear they are sticking with Brandon Allen for a second straight week.
The former emergency quarterback is hopeful a second week of practice with the first-team offense helps shake off the rust he showed in his debut, as Allen and the Bengals (2-8-1) seek to bounce back at Miami (7-4) on Sunday.
The Dolphins won’t make a decision between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tua Taglovailoa until Sunday, as Taglovailoa continues to work back from a thumb injury this week, but coach Brian Flores has said Taglovailoa is the team’s starter when he’s fully healthy.
Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor was trying to avoid tipping his hand last week when he declined to publicly name a starting quarterback after choosing Allen over Ryan Finley to replace injured Joe Burrow. Despite the offense managing just 155 yards in a 19-17 loss to the Giants, Allen gets another chance this week.
“We support him,” Taylor said. “It’s not always easy, and we know that we didn’t play well enough around him, too. There are things he could have done better. There are things everybody could do better. We expect a better performance from our team this week and he’s only going to get better as his reps increase and he gets more reps with these receivers and what we want with the protections. We expect everybody to play better this week.”
The Bengals announced Thursday that Burrow underwent “successful surgery” on his left knee Wednesday, and the procedure went as planned. He’s expected to make a complete recovery.
For now, the offense is in Allen’s hands. Allen said after watching the film from Sunday, he saw a lot of things he could improve, including going through his reads quicker, getting the ball out of his hands faster and protecting the football better. Allen fumbled on the first play of the final drive, after a long punt return by Alex Erickson made it so the offense needed just 15 yards to get into field goal range for a potential game-winner.
Last week was his first on the active roster after Burrow suffered his season-ending injury, but Allen said he will feel more comfortable as he gets more practice time with the offense.
“It’ll help a lot in terms of timing with the receivers, getting all our routes down and getting a feel for how they run certain routes and things like that,” said Allen, who made his fourth career start Sunday after getting three starts with Denver in 2019. “I think any time you can get more practice reps, more throws to those guys that are going to be in the game, you’re only going to get better from that.”
Allen was at an even greater disadvantage last week getting thrown into the mix after having limited contact with the other players while the team was trying to keep him separate in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Normally even a third-string quarterback gets a lot of reps in training camp and preseason, but that wasn’t the case for Allen as most of his work came in individual drills or after practice. Allen had never even been in the stadium for a gameday before Sunday.
“I think, if anything, it was more of just being able to be around the guys,” Allen said. “Usually, throughout the season, at practice you can get around everyone, possibly even get some throws with certain guys. I think it was difficult with COVID because we were trying to be as safe as possible and space out as much as possible. Obviously, especially keep our quarterbacks separated from each other in case a Denver situation happened like that (where all of the quarterbacks were exposed).”
Allen said he learned from watching Burrow, even from afar, because it was easy to see how well-prepared he came into games and his leadership of the offense.
Tight end Drew Sample said Allen has good control of the huddle and appears calm as well. This week he seems even more comfortable.
“I think we’ve done a good job so far in practice and virtual meetings just trying to iron out as much as we can as quickly as we can,” Sample said. “Especially this week I think we’ll able to take a big step forward. Guys know that’s important we’re continuing to work on that every day.”
Allen and the Cincinnati offense will be tested by a Miami defense that ranks first in third-down percentage and second in scoring. The Bengals converted just three of 10 third downs last week but found themselves in too many third-and-long situations with the running game producing just 40 yards for the offense.
Miami cornerback Xavien Howard leads the league with seven interceptions and currently is the AFC’s top cornerback in the Pro Bowl voting. Opposite him is Byron Jones, a sixth-year veteran who played for Dallas his first five years in the league.
“Honestly, two really, really good corners,” Allen said. “You know I think they are able to bring a lot of pressure because of the trust they have in those guys to not make any mistakes. They do a good job of locking down a lot of good receivers, keeping things in front of them and making plays on the ball. So obviously, you pay them that kind of money, they have a lot of trust in them to do their job, and they’re performing, both of them at a really high level right now. It’s a challenge.”
Bengals at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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