Jeff Driskel high-stepped it into the end zone Friday.
How good was third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel in his Bengals debut when he engineered the 23-12 victory over Tampa Bay in Friday's pre-season opener at Paul Brown Stadium with 17 second-half points? After watching him run a zone read for an 18-yard touchdown straight out of the Best of Tim Tebow, first-string quarterback Andy Dalton wasn't quite sure if everyone realized what had just taken place. Including Driskel.
"I haven't seen a run like that from a quarterback in this league in forever. I don't even think he realized what he did until after the fact," Dalton said. "I think everybody around here knows he has it in him. To make two guys run into each other and fall down, it's pretty special."
Bucs defensive end Channing Ward pin-balled one of his DBs after Driskel spun away on the sidelines four minutes into the second half to give the Bengals the lead for good at 13-9. Everyone knows Driskel can run. He ran for 14 TDs at Florida and he was a good enough high school center-fielder to get drafted three years after he last picked up a baseball. But how about completing all but one of his nine passes and throwing his first NFL TD pass on third-and-goal from the 8 to rookie wide receiver Josh Malone? How about a 148.6 passer rating in his Bengals' debut?
"He did a good job managing (the game), and he's done a great job thus far in camp," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "So his first time getting out in a game, (it was) good exposure for him."
What didn't Driskel do? On the do or die play to Malone, he patiently waited for him get behind the Tampa safeties inching up in the box and he threw it high enough where only the 6-3 Malone could haul it in running across the back line of the end zone. On third-and-eight late in the game he saw the body language of the slot corner and read blitz, knowing that slant could burn it because of how high the DBs were playing. That's what rookie wide receiver Kermit Whitfield ran for a 15-yard gain that set up the final points, Randy Bullock's 49-yard field goal with 2:48 left to seal it.
As for the run, Driskel said he's been running that version of the zone read since pee wees.
"They have to decide what they want to do," Driskel said of poor defensive ends like Ward. "They have to decide if they want to take the (running) back or the quarterback. On the first couple of plays we called it, they crashed down, so I pulled (the handoff). And after that they're making somebody beat them. It's just something defenses have to be leery of when I'm in there."
Poor Andy Dalton. He doesn't even have to do anything to stoke the trade rumors. Driskel played so well there's going to be a school of thought that says they should trade McCarron because Driskel showed he can be a competent No. 2. It's only one game, but after waiting 50 weeks to finally play for the team that claimed him on waivers just after last preseason, Driskel looked both relieved and confident.
"Getting reps is golden," Driskel said. "I just want to take advantage of every opportunity I get. You can't really simulate playing the game. It's just a lot of fun out there."
Cincinnati Bengals host Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Paul Brown Stadium in week 1 of the preseason 8/11/2017