Bengals' Jeff Driskel latest QB-turned-WR experiment

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  • By Jelani Scott NFL.com
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For now, quarterback Jeff Driskel has a spot on the Cincinnati Bengals roster. It's just not the one he wants.

Tuesday's practice saw Driskel, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick by the 49ers, take the field playing a position he's never competitively played in his life: wide receiver.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at over 230 pounds, Driskel possesses the sort of traits that he and the Bengals coaching staff believe could make him a contributor in more ways than one.

"I'm still competing at quarterback," Driskel said, per The Athletic's Jay Morrison. "That's what I want to be. That's what I think I can be. But I just want to show that I can add value to this team in other ways and show that I want to contribute and can contribute."

According to Morrison, Driskel talked to special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons on Monday night about working out with his unit and, once Tuesday morning came, Driskel was informed by coach Zac Taylor that he'd get practice reps at wideout. Taylor later insisted his decision hasn't ruled Driskel out of the ongoing QB battle.

"Let me make this clear: He is not out of the quarterback competition by any stretch," he said. "He just feels like he can help us and we feel like he can help us on special teams, and you saw him take a couple of reps at receiver. He's a great athlete. He's 232 pounds. He's explosive. He has good hands. Those guys are hard to come by.

"We'll keep giving him a look. But it doesn't change. He goes to quarterback meetings. He goes to quarterback individual (drills). He still takes his reps. That does not cut into that at all."

Even with the way things are looking, there's no guarantee that the Bengals will shift from Driskel, who saw his first regular season action in 2018 as a backup to Andy Dalton, to rookie Ryan Finley. The 2019 fourth-round pick has seen plenty of reps during training camp and early in preseason and has looked solid overall.

In his nine appearances last year, Driskel completed 105 of his 176 passes for 1,003 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He started five of those games after Dalton was placed on injured reserve following Week 12. He also scored two rushing TDs, one of which was a blazing 27-yarder versus the Saints in Week 10.

Still, Finley is set to see more reps Thursday against the Redskins, forcing Driskel to adapt. The last time he tried making this leap at a Bengals practice in 2017, he was placed on IR with a broken arm. And, yet, despite the adversity, the 26-year-old isn't afraid to try again in his fourth year in Cincy.

We've seen QB-turned-WR experiments work around the league (see Saints hybrid Taysom Hill) and we've seen them not work out (see the Patriots opting to end theirs) but Driskel sounds like he possesses another trait that could help him find success in this role: confidence.

"I just wanted to tell the team and show the team I want to contribute," he shared. "I realize that there is a lot to learn in a small amount of time. It's definitely fun and it's encouraging to go out and feel competitive on the first day."

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