As many long-time NFL fans have learned, we often take the preseason far too seriously. Many misguided football devotees unfairly criticize this act, but it’s only natural: football has finally returned.
Having said that, however, watching the vanilla schemes and one-on-one matchups can still give indications of what lies in the season ahead. With that in mind, these are the most important takeaways from the Bengals’ offense this preseason.
Is 2013 the Year that Andy Dalton Blossoms?
On the one hand, I’ll be the first to confess Andy Dalton’s physical limitations. He’s on the shorter side, has adequate-but-not-threatening mobility, and below-average arm strength.
On the other hand, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees faced the same criticisms. Sure, Dalton may not be quite as cerebral, although the potential is there, but his ceiling may be more of Chad Pennington before his rotator cuff disintegrated.
But I was always a fan of Pennington, just like I am of Dalton. And during the preseason, Dalton has shown signs of becoming, maybe not elite, but at least the focal point of Jay Gruden’s offense.
While last season I became critical of Dalton for getting cabin fever in a dirty pocket, or failing to anticipate throwing lanes, not just in the secondary, but also at the line of scrimmage. But these warm-up games have shown Dalton standing tall and confidently in the pocket and creating throwing lanes that extend from the line into the secondary.
Against Dallas, Dalton ran a crisp offense and was highly efficient, despite a few excellent plays from an outstanding cornerback in Brandon Carr. And a beautiful fade thrown to A.J. Green in the corner could have easily drawn a flag for pass interference.
Still, there was one glaring play that highlighted the arm strength that Dalton will always lack. When intercepted by B.W. Webb, Dalton saw Marvin Jones down the seam, over the top of Webb but with a safety lurking nearby. Dalton tried to rip it with all of his might, but overextended himself, causing a wobbly duck of a ball. He could have put some air under the ball and trusted Jones to use his superior size to position himself against the safety, but the preseason is all about trial and error. Overall, Dalton looked to be more comfortable playing within himself.