By STEPHEN WHYNO AP Sports Writer
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Jake Browning knows it’s not his job to name himself Joe Burrow’s backup — or potentially the Week 1 starter if the Cincinnati Bengals’ franchise quarterback is not ready
Coach Zac Taylor won’t do so yet either. But it’s pretty clear Browning strengthened his case for the job with his play in Cincinnati’s preseason finale, going 6 of 6 for 42 yards and a touchdown pass to Andre Iosivas in the first half of the Bengals’ 21-19 loss at the Washington Commanders on Saturday night.
“You’re never going to play perfect, but I feel pretty good about what I put on tape and all that and practices have been going well,” Browning said. “We’ll see how this thing shakes out.”
Journeyman Trevor Siemian, who has been competing with Browning for the No. 2 job behind Burrow, had a solid performance marred by an interception late in the first half. Siemian finished 14 of 23 for 133 yards, playing into the fourth quarter before Reid Sinnett took over.
Burrow strained his right calf in practice in late July. Taylor has refused to answer questions about Burrow’s progress other than to say the 26-year-old looks as good as he ever has.
Browning’s next regular-season NFL snap will be his first, but the Bengals (0-2-1) don’t seem worried about that given his extensive exhibition and practice experience.
“Sometimes guys just need game reps,” Taylor said. “I think Jake’s one of those guys that he needed the NFL game experience. That’s what he’s gotten here the last couple years.”
There’s no QB drama for the Commanders, who already announced Sam Howell as their starter, with veteran Jacoby Brissett set to back up. Brissett played the first three series, completing 10 of 15 passes for 96 yards with a 39-yard touchdown completion to Mitchell Tinsley, an undrafted free agent receiver who had three catches for 89 yards and may have earned a spot on Washington’s 53-man roster.
“I thought Tinsley really showed really well, and obviously he made a couple plays for us,” coach Ron Rivera said.
Jake Fromm played the majority of the game and threw for 144 yards and two TDs to wrap up a 3-0 preseason for the Commanders. It’s the first time Washington finished exhibition play undefeated since 2013.
“Winning begets winning,” Rivera said. “It creates a good atmosphere, it creates a positive vibe and we’re going to grow from it. Does it mean we’re going to win in the regular season? Don’t know, but I hope it does. I hope it’s something that we can draw from, something we can relate to, something that can help us as we go forward.”
Nearly every starter for either team sat out to avoid the risk of injuries. The Commanders already lost a top player to a preseason injury when Terry McLaurin sprained a toe on his right foot late in the first half Monday against Baltimore, and now the No. 1 receiver’s status for Week 1 is uncertain.
The only expected starters who got onto the field for Washington were interior linemen Saahdiq Charles, Nick Gates and Sam Cosmi. They played the opening drive before giving way to reserves.
With Joe Mixon among the Bengals players not uniform, rookie Chase Brown got the start at running back. The fifth-round pick ran for 39 yards on 11 carries.
“I like what we saw from Chase,” Taylor said. “When he got his hands on the ball in the run game, I thought he provided value there. He did a good job (getting) yards after contact. He gave us some ugly yards.”
Among the highlights for Cincinnati, kicker Evan McPherson was good from 58 and 35 yards to improve to 8 of 8 on field goals this preseason.
Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai left the game in the first quarter with a right ankle injury and was declared out before halftime. Taylor said he wasn’t sure how severe it might be, adding, “It could be a sprain.”
Backup offensive tackle D’Ante Smith injured his left shoulder in the second quarter.
Bengals: Open the regular season Sept. 10 at AFC North Division-rival Cleveland.
Commanders: Host the Arizona Cardinals in their season opener Sept. 10.