After Friday's last practice of the week, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor didn't name a starting quarterback for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Fox 19) against the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium.
But he did indicate there is going to be a fourth straight different starting offensive line when right tackle Bobby Hart begins the game against his old team. Hart, who hurt his knee against Cleveland Oct. 25, returned to the field last week when he replaced rookie Hakeem Adeniji in the third quarter. Adeniji, Quinton Spain and Fred Johnson all started in place of Hart.
And there could be another change involving Spain, a guy who arrived Oct. 30 with most of his 66 NFL starts at left guard. That's one of the positions he hasn't started since he's been here, but Taylor said Spain would play against the Giants.
Although Taylor didn't specify which side, he did say they have options at guard and noted that Spain has played a lifetime at left guard while also starting for the Bengals the past two weeks at right tackle and right guard, respectively. In his Bengals debut on Nov. 1, Spain played all but the first series in place of ill left guard Michael Jordan in a win over the Titans in which Joe Burrow didn't get sacked or hit.
Taylor may be looking at making a change at left guard after Michael Jordan struggled there last week. According to Pro Football Focus, Jordan allowed a sack, five hits and three pressures that included the hit that took out Burrow for the season.
"We need to get consistent play from our guys across the board," Taylor said. "The second half was really not good enough."
Spain played for right guard Alex Redmond last week after Redmond spent the week battling a bicep injury, but Redmond didn't appear on the injury report this week. Hart, a seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2015, made 21 starts in New York.
Taylor says he's mulling starting Ryan Finley or Brandon Allen to replace Burrow. Reports said as early as Wednesday he's going to give Allen the nod and make him the Bengals' fifth different starting quarterback in the last 14 PBS games.
Allen, 28, is a fourth-year player who started his first three NFL games last season for the Broncos and came out it with a win at home over Cleveland and road losses to the Bills and Vikings. He completed 46 percent of his passes and had three touchdowns and two interceptions. Taylor worked with Allen for two seasons in Los Angeles and then saw film of him last season in a similar offense with the Broncos.
"(He) always had a great approach. My first exposure to him was he was always on the practice squad," Taylor said earlier this week. "You'd see him taking reps of stuff that wasn't necessarily in our system, but you could see some of the timing and the anticipation he threw with it. He's just always had that 'it' factor to him, I think that he's probably carried throughout his entire life as a baseball player and as a quarterback."
Taylor turned to Finley, a 2019 fourth-rounder, last season for three starts and went to him last Sunday off the bench in Washington, where Finley completed three of ten passes and had an interception. He appeared to be the undisputed backup until the Allen reports surfaced this week, but Taylor said the club's view of Finley hasn't changed.
"I think Ryan's approach has been excellent. All of our backup quarterbacks did not benefit from lack of preseason and training camp," Taylor said. "They've had to be creative in how they get their reps and how we continue to develop those guys. I think that whole quarterback room, led by (position coach) Dan Pitcher, has done a good job of getting in their work and staying prepared."
EASON, JACKSON OUT: For the third straight game the Bengals are going to be without multiple defensive assistants for COVID-related reasons when defensive line coach Nick Eason and cornerbacks coach Steven Jackson don't attend Sunday. Assistant defensive line coach Gerald Chatman takes over for Eason and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo for Jackson.
MIXON UPDATE: Running back Joe Mixon, who hasn't practiced since injuring his foot Oct. 18 in Indianapolis, heads into his second week on injured reserve and Taylor said Friday that they sidelined Mixon to save him from himself as much as anything. Taylor indicated Mixon doesn't need surgery, but rest.
"Joe wants to play more than anything right now. We just have to make sure his foot is fully healthy before we put him out there again," Taylor said. "The thing he needs is rest. We put him on IR so he can get off that foot and so he does not feel like he has to keep trying to get back. Protect him from himself, almost."
Mixon is eligible to return for the Dec. 13 PBS game against the Cowboys, but it is unclear if they'll play him the rest of the way.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Even though running back Giovani Bernard is listed as questionable with a concussion, he practiced in full Friday and Taylor said he feels good about having him play Sunday. He said Bernard began to feel it in the aftermath of Sunday's game …
Right guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, who broke his ankle in the opener, has been practicing and is expected to be activated from IR next week …
Taylor said he's comfortable using kicker Randy Bullock after Sunday's rough ride in Washington, where he hit the right upright on a 34-yard field goal try, missed an extra point and miss hit a kickoff. But he did hit a 53-yarder and nearly snuck in a franchise 58-yarder that hit the right upright. Kicker Austin Seibert has been inactive for all nine games he's been on the roster …
Taylor doesn't expect wide receiver Mike Thomas (hamstring) to play for the second straight game …