Joe Burrow has been so deprived by playing a mere three preseason snaps in his NFL career that he is the game's most accurate passer of all time.
So until the opening weekend of Sept. 7, expect to see plenty of Trevor Siemian and Jake Browning in the bid to be the Bengals' No. 2 quarterback.
"I think those are three he wanted. I don't think they wanted to play him in even those three," Browning said Monday as the Bengals gathered for another week of workouts.
Whoever wins the Burrow Back-up Derby, it's the first time in his four seasons he won't have Brandon Allen as his No. 2. But Siemian's experience of 30 starts and Browning's record-breaking arm give them the confidence they are well covered, as quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher says, "God forbid if we ever needed them to."
"We came out of this thing with what we wanted," Pitcher says. "We feel like we have two guys who are more than capable of being good NFL backups and executing. Now it's just on us to give them that opportunity and I'm sure both of them will do everything they can to take advantage of it."
Pitcher has two guys who not only see the big picture but have been in the big picture. Siemian, 31, started two seasons for the Broncos when he first broke into the league. Browning, 27, became one of the best Pac 12 quarterbacks ever at Washington (he threw one fewer career touchdown pass than Justin Herbert) after he compiled the most prolific prep passing career in California history.
"Jake's a football guy through and through. Very, very smart," Pitcher says. "When his playing days are over, and hopefully that's not for a long time, he'll be an outstanding coach. He's got a long way to go before then."
He says the same thing about Siemian, a guy already thinking about staying in the game after he stops throwing. That's a reason he negotiated his own contract this offseason. While Lamar Jackson brokered his own franchise deal in a blaze of buzz in Baltimore, Siemian quietly got one done last week with Bengals director of pro scouting Steven Radicevic.
"It's something I've been curious about. That side of the game," said Siemian Monday, after being in the building for about an hour. "I plan to be involved in football long after I'm done playing, so I think it's good exposure for me to see that side of the business.
"It's easy to be transparent about everything. No hiding behind any words or anybody. You're able to have candid conversations. That's the part I appreciated. You have to have some self-awareness and you're not totally delusional. I think it's pretty straight forward."
Radicevic says it's the first time he's dealt with a player on a contract and says everything went fine. It didn't surprise him since the team knew about the respect Siemian has from his peers.
"Sharp guy," Radicevic says. "He's up on it. He's aware of the comparable contracts around the league. It went well."
That doesn't mean Siemian wants to be an agent after throwing his last pass ("I don't know about that"), but he was glad he consulted with someone.
"I talked to Jacoby Brissett. He represents himself," Siemian says of the Commanders quarterback. "It was really cool to pick his brain and see what he thinks and what he sees and how it's helped him. And I thought that was pretty cool. 'Sure, I'll give it a try."
Browning, heading into his fifth NFL season looking for his first regular-season snap, has had two full seasons on the practice squads of each the Vikings and now the Bengals and is coming off his most active and impressive preseason. His 64 passing attempts in last season's three games were more than his two preseasons in Minnesota combined. He hit 65.6 percent of his passes for a 91.4 passer rating and 452 yards, which was among the AFC leaders.
"It was nice to play again and get a decent amount of reps where you feel like you get in a rhythm and getting that feeling of playing again," Browning said. "It had been a while since I played that much."
Like since his senior year at Washington in 2018. While Burrow missed much of the preseason following an appendectomy, Browning impressed the coaches with a ton of practice reps no one expected.
"He's a natural thrower," Pitcher says. "His play speed has gotten a lot better. He's improved and been a contributor along the way. Meeting with the DBs on Tuesday. Giving feedback to the defensive coaches. Being an active contributor and an ear during the week and on game day. We expect him to compete for the No. 2 job."
While Browning comes immersed in the Bengals playbook, Siemian brings an array of experiences that they feel is going to enrich Burrow's quarterback room after his stints with such offensive luminaries as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Sean Payton during a nine-year career.
"They're both good guys. You want competition and guys that are fiery from that standpoint," Pitcher says. "But you also want to create an atmosphere in this room where all of us are doing our jobs to support the starting quarterback and we have a collection of guys that understand that."
DRUE PLAY: It is going to be Ohio State-Michigan every day until the Bengals punting competition is decided between incumbent Drue Chrisman (Buckeyes) and sixth-rounder Brad Robbins (Big Blue). They've gone at it twice before, but not since the 2019 Ohio State 56-27 win in which they each had four punts, Chrisman for 182 yards and Robbins for 171.
"It doesn't get better than that. It gives the fans something to look forward to. That's Hollywood," Chrisman said. "Robbins is a great guy … I'm familiar with a lot of punters. It's a small, tight-knit group. Kind of like quarterbacks. Everybody knows each other. There are a few out there that can do it at this high of a level and he's certainly one of those guys. That's why I looked forward to competing with him in college. He's had the upper hand against lately up there at home and in Ann Arbor."
Chrisman is looking to get a leg up and long before the draft he headed to Birmingham, Ala., to work out with his offseason coach, Mike McCabe.: "The punters usually go down there before training camp and a lot of them were on vacation, but I had an itch to get started."
They went to a different gym, though. Tinsley Performance has a lot of pro baseball players and the pitchers caught Chrisman's eye long enough for him to switch up some things and focus a little more on speed and a little less on power.
"The unique arm movements and all the little, tiny muscles you might not think about, they're honed over the years. It's a completely different body part, but the attention to detail during the workouts, you're able to transfer over to punting," Chrisman said.
"I think that helped me try out some new exercises. More than just squat and deadlift… It's obviously a balance between power and speed in achieving the highest velocity and maximum output of power. (The pitchers) aren't in there throwing up 225 (pounds) off the bench. They're in there hitting 135 or 95 pounds but banded. Lower reps and just explosive movement. That's something I think I transferred over to my game as well and how I would train. Try to be more explosive and less strong … More about quickness and speed."
CENTER OF ATTENTION: An item moved across Pro Football Talk this past weekend in which Giants rookie center John Michael Schmitz said he's ready to change his shot-gun snap technique if quarterback Daniel Jones asks. Apparently, Schmitz used what is referred to as "the dead snap" in college. Bengals center Ted Karras says he's not aware of anyone using it in the pros.
Karras describes the dead snap as tipping the ball up on its point and flipping it back with no spin. But he has never done it that way, instead "gripping it like you hold a football," and spinning it back.
"I think Tommy would have kicked me in my butt if I would have tried the dead snap," Karras said of Tom Brady, his quarterback in New England. "But it works for a lot of guys. The advantage of the dead snap is there's not as much training required to get pretty consistent at it, so you can have more guys able to do it. That's why a lot of colleges went to it. I haven't seen it for sure in the NFL."
Rather than float, Karras says the traditional shot-gun snap is designed to shoot to what he calls "The Safe Zone."
"The right pectoral so that Joe can get it and be ready to go," Karras said of Burrow's throwing shoulder. "A lot of times, Joe likes it kind of speedy. So I put it right at his face fast."