After stumbling in historic fashion, can Andy Dalton recover after last week’s debacle against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Andy Dalton’s season has become a familiar one recently. After starting 2014 in reasonable fashion, Dalton’s performance has taken a turn for the worse once more. He’s as inconsistent as ever and has been responsible for countless mistakes and possibly a couple of losses this season. And though I think it’s incredibly unfair to blame losses on a single player, leadership does come from the top and, with that in mind, it seems more than coincidence that the offense also looks incredibly inconsistent at times. But regardless of whether fans like it or not, Andy Dalton is this team’s quarterback for better or worse this season and likely the next couple.
The truth is no one expects Andy Dalton to be an incredible quarterback. The Bengals themselves don’t want to lean on Dalton to win games for them. No team expects a quarterback to be a superstar nor carry the offense if they choose to decrease his workload. This reality actually makes Dalton’s situation all the more concerning. The Bengals have done as much as possible to keep Dalton’s workload to a minimum–his passing attempts/game this year are the lowest of his career–while doing all they can to keep the pressure to a minimum. They’ve added a talented backfield. The offensive line is amongst the best in the NFL, especially within passing situations. The Bengals have given him a plethora of receiving weapons that would make most other quarterbacks jealous. And the Bengals have brought aboard coordinator Hue Jackson who favors the run more than his predecessor Jay Gruden. Yes, the Bengals have done their part.
Sunday is a chance for Andy Dalton to accept some accountability; that’s what this team needs to be about going forward, accountability. The underperforming and plays that take this team out of games must end.
The Saints’ porous secondary provides Dalton with an opportunity to begin to turn things around. The Saints have allowed opposing teams to rack up 259 passing yards/game (ninth most in the NFL) and 7.8 yards/attempt (sixth most) against them. This while the Saints have only produced six interceptions on the year (T-21st).
Andy Dalton will need to take advantage of this weakness because the Saints’ defense is simultaneously the league’s 11th best rush defense (106.8 yards/game). The Bengals should still be able to run on the Saints, but this should be Dalton’s chance to start playing better when it matters most. After today, the Bengals begin a three-game road trip that’ll take them to Houston and Tampa Bay. This stretch of games may make-or-break the Bengals season, so the pressure is only mounting.
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After signing a contract extension that’ll likely keep Dalton around for at least a couple more years, this isn’t going to be his last season in Cincinnati. But Dalton is losing the faith of fans quickly (if not already), so missing the playoffs this year would be a disaster. If Andy Dalton wants to be supported at all going forward, he must do better today. He must do better down the stretch of this season. He must start to give back to a team that has shown him unrelenting support that was probably underserved at times.
Andy Dalton is at a tipping point right now. His performance hit an all-time low for himself last week.
If he wants to be considered this team’s quarterback by more than name only, he needs to respond to the adversity with something more than just the usual. If not, Dalton may stamp his reputation of a lame duck quarterback permanently.