I have been a pretty staunch supporter of Dalton over his 2+ years in Cincinnati and preached patience amongst Bengals fans. Many fans forget just how good his numbers have been in his first 2 years (1 of only 3 QBs with 20+ TDs in his first 2 seasons – Marino and Manning), just how far he has taken this team (first back-to-back playoff appearances since Ken Anderson – 1981-82; something Boomer never did; including a playoff appearance in 2011 with a team some picked to go 0-16), and just how young he is (3rd year and 25 years old).
With that being said, it is getting more and more difficult to defend him when the progression just doesn’t seem to be there. While Dalton was not the sole reason for the Bengals 2 losses, he was a big contributor (with poor decisions and turnovers), and in each loss, he had the opportunity to win the game and failed miserably. Worse yet, the reason the Pittsburgh and GB games were as close as they were is because of Dalton’s poor play at the start of the games.
If not for the Steelers fumble and the defense returning a fumble for a TD last week, we might be sitting here talking about an 0-4 team. The sad part is, Dalton has more than enough weapons in Green, Gresham, Eifert and Bernard. Other QBs would kill for those weapons. Green is a top 5 WR that catches everything in his zip code and Dalton managed to complete just 7 of his 15 passes to Green on Sunday. Given the weapons he has, Dalton should not have to be just a “game manager,” but if he could simply “manage the game” and not turn the ball over, this defense is good enough to win games for Dalton.
Unfortunately, Dalton has not been able to do that. In 2013, Dalton now has more turnovers (6 – 4 INTs, 2 fumbles) than TDs (5). He is on pace for 20 TDs, 15 INTs and 8 fumbles. That is not good and I don’t by the “it’s early” argument. It may only be 4 games, but 4 games in the NFL is ¼ of the season. That is the equivalent of 40 games in baseball. And after ¼ of the season, the Bengals sit at 2-2, tied for the division lead (but down a tie-breaker to Cleveland) and 2 losses behind the leading WC candidate (KC).
I am not ready to pull the plug just yet on Dalton, but I am also not willing to resign him for big money either. The defense is playing lights out and the offense has the weapons to be dynamic, but without Dalton playing at a respectable level, this is what you get – close games and losses to teams you have no business losing to.