Andy Dalton Already Benefitting from Hue Jackson
Sep 7, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) drops back to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
While the Bengals edged out the Ravens for their first win of the season, Andy Dalton managed to earn his first career win at M&T Bank Stadium. A solid effort by the defense (holding Baltimore to only 16 points, albeit all in the second half) was largely the difference in the win, but Dalton’s effort cannot be discounted and he has his new offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, to thank for much of it.
Hue Jackson set out this season to take some of the load off of Dalton and to put him in a better position to succeed within his offense. This required changing the scheme and the tempo at which the offense operates. Judging by how the team executed yesterday, it looks like Jackson’s plan is working for Dalton (an expected outcome as Jackson’s style is in direct contrast to former OC Jay Gruden’s). He utilized multiple formations to make this offense more dynamic while utilizing its plethora of weapons, which allowed Dalton easier reads and more open space in the defense to work with; Jackson did an excellent job keeping the Ravens guessing, at one point even using a formation that surprised just about everyone.
But this wasn’t the only benefit Dalton enjoyed via his new coordinator. Jackson has encouraged Dalton to realize that sometimes you just have to say “uncle.”
"“I think Andy’s going to learn that there’s a time in the National Football League where you have to say uncle and just throw the ball away.”"
It’s apparent that Jackson understands the strength of this team is its defense and relying on it at times isn’t a bad thing if you allow the team a punt in lieu of a turnover. Far to often last year the Bengals turned the ball over within their own half of the field putting the defense in very difficult situations (by my calculation Dalton threw 12 of his 20 interceptions in Bengals territory, I did a piece on how the defense dealt with this during the off-season). Yesterday was the first time Dalton has come away from a game in Baltimore having avoided throwing an interception; a necessary achievement considering whoever wins the turnover battle during these games often comes away with the “W.” Dalton used the field well and often placed his throws where only his receivers could catch it. More importantly, Dalton made the smart reads and said “uncle” when it was time to. As an aside, hopefully Dalton understands how talented his punter is because Kevin Huber has been great over the past couple of years and yesterday had another solid outing having pinned the Ravens inside their 20 on three of his four punts. Dalton finished the day 25/38 (65.8%) for 301 yards and one TD (a 77 yard completion to A.J. Green), which is a solid outing by any measurement.
Jackson has been unwavering in his support of Dalton throughout his brief time as the team’s coordinator. Jackson had this to say regarding his relationship with Dalton to Michael Silver, an NFL columnist.
"“We are tethered together. And I’ll jump off a building with this guy because I believe in the things he’s trying to accomplish with his career, and I think I can help him.”"
Any quarterback would benefit from this kind of confidence and support. Jackson’s unwavering confidence clearly is having an impact on Dalton and yesterday’s huge win was great evidence of this. It may only be week one and a lot can change as Dalton has struggled with consistency in the past, but the importance of a divisional, road win cannot be understated. Dalton looked crisp and confident while helping his team to the win. If he and the offense could’ve finished a drive or two more with a touchdown (versus a field goal), this game could’ve been won by a significantly larger margin. Although there’s room for improvement, Dalton and Jackson’s “marriage,” as coach Marvin Lewis puts it, is off to a strong start.