Is Bengals’ Andy Dalton Finally Ready to Be Efficient Game Manager?


Jun 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Andy Dalton conversation will continue in 2015.  Fans will continue to wonder heading into the season whether Dalton can act as the Cincinnati Bengals‘ quarterback while the team finds success in the playoffs.  His play has been erratic and inconsistent to date and it has often felt like the team was winning in spite of him, though Dalton has made nice plays periodically throughout his career.

Jun 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2015 will be Andy Dalton’s second year with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.  The goal for the offense in Jackson’s first year was to create balance within the offense by asking Dalton to throw the ball less than he was asked to under previous coordinator Jay Gruden.  Jackson also offered a game plan that put less pressure on Dalton by requiring him to make simpler and quicker throws.  These plays often asked the playmakers to create yards after the catch rather than ask Dalton to throw the ball down field, and when he threw it down field, Dalton was often asked to make basic reads.

The team’s 2014 plan will continue in 2015, as the Bengals look to establish themselves as one of the league’s premier running teams.  Employing such an approach will force defenses to account for Jeremy Hill and Co., which, theoretically, would open up the field for Andy Dalton.  It’s a tactic that should make things easier for the team’s fifth-year leader, especially as he enters the year with a season of Jackson under his belt.

Hue Jackson has always maintained confidence in his quarterback.  He has spoken about being “tethered” to Dalton as he maintained his belief in his guy.  This year, Jackson continues to focus on decreasing the offense’s turnover numbers as Dalton continues to make strides according to the second-year coordinator.

"“I think our quarterback has done an outstanding job this offseason of taking the group and making them understand what we have to get done. He is more vocal. He understands what his agenda is now more so than ever. We’ll ride with him. I think he’s going to lead this team where it has to go.”"

Despite all the changes intended to bring balance to the offense and help avoid turnovers, Andy Dalton threw 17 (third most in the NFL; 18 was the most) interceptions in 2014.  For a player receiving so much aid, and for an offense asking its quarterback to be nothing more than a game manager, this amount of errors is simply too much.  If the team hopes to take the next step towards greater success, Dalton will need to cut down on such mistakes.

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Andy Dalton’s problem has always been a lack of consistency and ability to play big in significant moments.  With the goal being to decrease the number of these moments, Dalton may not face as much pressure in the coming season.  The unintended consequence here is that Dalton may face more situations where games remain close in the fourth quarter, and hence, he may have to make big throws down the stretch of games.

Teams who rely on the running game and defense rarely run away with games come the fourth quarter.  Can the Bengals maintain leads late in the game and allow Dalton to remain a game manager?  Despite the team’s public expression of confidence time and time again, fans’ opinion of Dalton won’t change until he can play his role effectively, and even then, we have yet to find out if this role is enough to help this team do more than simply qualify for the playoffs.

Next: Will Jake Fisher Prove to Be Valuable in the Red Zone?