Justin has made only one appearance this year for the 2-8 Bengals, but it was an effective one on Nov. 8 in a 24-11 loss at Jacksonville. He replaced Neil O'Donnell in the fourth quarter and completed 7-of-10 passes for 107 yards for a 138.3 passer rating.
The 30-year-old engineered Cincinnati's only touchdown of the last two games in that contest, a nine-yard throw to Damon Gibson. Justin also ran for the two-point conversion.
"We're looking for a spark on offense, and Paul deserves a chance," said head coach Bruce Coslet. "He's played only briefly, but we had the best spark of the last two games at the time he was in there."
Justin was acquired in a trade with Indianapolis on March 26th and is in the first season of a three-year deal. He started seven of 19 games as a Colt from 1995-97, going 177-of-303 for 2,097 yards with seven TDs and seven interceptions.
O'Donnell won the Bengals' starting job in the middle of training camp over incumbent Jeff Blake and Justin in the NFL's best quarterback contest.
| Paul Justin is going from third-string QB to starter this week. (AP) |
The 32-year-old O'Donnell signed a four-year contract with the Bengals on July 7th, two weeks after he was eleased by the New York Jets. He has completed 62.5 percent of his passes (172-of-275) for 1,843 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions, but the Bengals are tied for the worst record in the conference.
Blake, like O'Donnell a former Jet, has played in six games as a backup this year, completing 12-of-23 passes for 146 yards with a TD and two interceptions. He had started 52 consecutive games for Cincinnati until he was benched last season for Boomer Esiason.
After throwing for 52 touchdowns in 1995 and 1996, Blake had just eight last year in guiding the Bengals to a 3-8 record. With Esiason at the helm, Cincinnati won four of its last five games and finished 7-9. But Esiason retired to accept an offer to work on Monday Night Football.
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