The Cincinnati Bengals had a horrible offensive production last season. Can Andy Dalton thrive under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s new offense in 2018?
The Cincinnati Bengals had one of the worst offensive productions in the NFL last season. If we are going off yards per game, they did have the worst offense in the league. Plenty went wrong including poor offensive line play, offensive coordinator stepping in after week two, quarterback Andy Dalton was inconsistent, the run game couldn’t get going, and injuries to top players.
The Bengals offense has not changed much in recent years so a new scheme and look could help Dalton. Suiting it more around Dalton’s strengths is likely what offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is building. Dalton had his second-worst completion percentage of his career last season (59.9), but with a change in how the offense operates and getting weapons back, we could see that increase in 2018.
Cincinnati has done a great job this offseason bolstering the offensive line. Bringing in offensive line coach Frank Pollack has been one of the center points of this offseason. The Bengals front office gave him some weapons to work with this offseason by trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn, signing right tackle Bobby Hart, and drafting first-round pick center Billy Price. There’s no doubt that the line production will improve this season, but how much can Frank Pollack do in one offseason?
Dalton will also have one of his biggest playmakers back at the start of the season in tight end Tyler Eifert. After only playing in ten games the last two seasons, Cincinnati is being very cautious about letting Eifert contribute in OTA’s. There will also be wide receiver John Ross coming back from injuries last season as he looks to bounce back and put his rookie season behind him. Both of these players can be huge upgrades to last year’s offense.
While we have a very vague outlook on what Bill Lazor’s offense will look like, we can only guess. Lazor will customize this offense around the strengths of Andy Dalton. Meaning, we could see more quick read plays in 2018. One thing that Dalton is good at is getting the ball out of his hands quickly and making good decisions in a fast tempo offense that isn’t asking him to throw the ball down the field on a consistent basis. He’s not Ben Roethlisberger.
During the final two weeks of the season, the offense ran these fast tempo and shotgun formats that worked exceptionally well for Dalton and the offense. Not only the passing game but the running game improved as well. Lazor was Dalton’s quarterback coach before he became offensive coordinator mid-season in 2017, so he knows what Dalton’s strengths and weaknesses are.
Something that Geoff Hobson pointed out that I thought was interesting was comparing Dalton to that of Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback and Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles. Both quarterbacks are good at working in a fast tempo offense and making quick decisions. I noticed this especially once the Eagles made it to the playoffs.
When Foles stepped in for injured quarterback Carson Wentz last season, it was an ugly end to the season. While Foles wasn’t playing horrible, you could tell he was not comfortable in the offense. During the bye week before the Divisional Playoff Game, head coach Doug Pederson went over the playbook and crafted it more to Foles’ strengths. Philadelphia then started using these fast tempo plays and more play action to suit Foles.
Looking at the comparison that Hobson brought up now, I agree with him. If the offense looks a lot like what we saw in the final two weeks of the season, I believe that we will see Dalton play closer to his 2015 performance than his 2017. Not to mention he had a better offensive line in 2015 than the last two seasons. Hopefully, Dalton will have more time to make decisions in the pocket this year with the new additions.