Andy Dalton quietly had a sound year, while the Bengals season spun out of control. Blaming The Red Rifle is convenient. But, was it his fault?
The Bengals were primed to have that breakout year. Things started well for Cincinnati but quickly turned into an all-out tailspin. Fans were once again pulled into the dream, with the Week 1 win over the New York Jets. In the midst of the worst season since 2010, Andy Dalton endured the usual insanity. Bengals faithful wanted a change. Would it be so bad to see AJ McCarron under center? It’s wasn’t happening. The money is invested in Dalton. But, was the season failure his fault?
True. Cincinnati fans have been at odds when it comes to who should be running the offense. But, this year wasn’t about a quarterback controversy. In fact, Dalton had a sound year. Yes, The Ginger was better than your average signal-caller. His INT ratio was down and his rating was a respectable 91.8. But, the Bengals still ended the year at 6-9-1 and out of the playoffs. Sadly, when a team doesn’t perform, it’s always the quarterback’s fault. This year, there was more to the collapse than Dalton.
Dalton Doesn’t Control The Running Game
If you believe that, then there’s a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. Yes, Dalton has the ability to audible from certain plays. But, doing that consistently also depends on the offensive coordinator. Plays are determined by formation and tendency. So, what Dalton does is also controlled by what Ken Zampese sees and feels.
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For some strange reason, the running game just never seemed to make much impact this year. Unfortunately, that reason may have been Jeremy Hill. Since his rookie campaign in 2014, Hill hasn’t been the same back that caused trouble for defensive fronts. His decline has nothing to do with Dalton. Speculation has gone from the O-line to play calling. Surprisingly, Rex Burkhead ran behind the same patchwork offensive line and gained 119 yards on New Year’s Day.
When the running game is clicking, that takes a ton of pressure off the QB. In fact, with the sudden discovery of Burkhead, Dalton was able to make use of play action…and it worked.
Sunday’s victory also saw consistent production from The Red Rifle. Finishing the day with 226 yards on 18-of-28 passing and one TD, Dalton was more than enough. There was no need for him to do what Joe Flacco was forced into. The Ravens signal-caller dropped back 49 times.
Andy Isn’t A Kicker
Fans finally felt like their cries were heard, when longtime kicker Mike Nugent was released. The Bengals left tons of points on the field that could have made the difference in many of the losses. For that matter, Randy Bullock effectively doused Dalton’s chance at heroics in Week 16. After engineering what was the potential winning drive, The Rifle saw a last-second victory blown by Bullock. If you’re a Bengals fan, you don’t need the gory reminders. Three points were again left on the field…along with another W.
Reputation and performance are big in the NFL. But, when indirect circumstances cause things to go haywire, it’s all on the quarterback.
Field goal attempts sailed wide or hit the uprights in games that were decided by a few points. Nugent owned up to his mistakes but that wasn’t going to chance his stats. By the time he was cut, the 34-year-old was connecting on 79.3 percent of his extra point attempts and field goals (23-29).
Unless he was performing David Blaine illusions and changing uniforms, Dalton’s foot had nothing to do with the subpar kicking game.
The Greatest Show On Turf…Almost
Ken Zampese’s offense made the grade, as far as yardage. The Bengals ended the year ranked in the top 20. With a slew of injuries and questionable play calling, Cincinnati landed in the No. 13 spot. The numbers are similar to what was produced last season. What was the big difference? A huge drop in scoring (from 26.2 to 20.3). Barely scoring over 19 points isn’t going to intimidate most defenses.
Towards the end of the season. Dalton and Zampese seemed to get on the same wavelength. In his six years under center, Andy has endured three offensive coordinators. Let’s put that into perspective. Math is usually the same set of numbers. But, when it’s taught by three different teachers, there are going to be variations in the way problems get solved. Dalton is still getting used to his new professor.
The Ginger was able to pass for 4,206 yards in his first pairing with Zampese. Not bad, for a first date. This season wasn’t what Bengals fans expected. But, the blame doesn’t sit on Dalton’s shoulders.