Play Action Passing is Key for the 2019 Bengals
A clearer picture of what Zac Taylor’s Bengals offense will look like is emerging. Andy Dalton’s performance on play action downs will make or break the unit.
Even in late May, we know Zac Taylor wants a run based offense. It is not difficult to connect those dots. Between the draft and free agency, Cincinnati has brought in three new offensive lineman, two rookie running backs, and one of college football’s best blocking tight ends. Running the ball early and often is the only thing these moves foreshadow.
Combine all this with the fact that Joe Mixon was already the AFC’s leading rusher last year, and there is no reason why the Bengals shouldn’t have one of the best rushing offenses in football this year.
Should that happen, the effect on Cincinnati’s passing game is intriguing. Given everything above and the way running the ball kills the clock, it is not hard to imagine Andy Dalton throwing only 15-20 times per game this year.
A good portion of those will be based off of play action fakes setup by an effective run game. However, Andy Dalton has ranked 24th and 26th in play action completion percentage the last two years.
The idea behind play action passing is the defense being frozen for a split second by having to respect the run. This creates open receivers and easier throws for the quarterback. Thus, the completion percentage should be higher than it is on traditional throws.
This is nice in theory. Still, if Dalton can’t complete significantly more than last year’s 63% of play action throws. The run game won’t matter. Teams will simply stack the box to stop it. The good news that if Taylor’s staff can find a way to get that number up near 70%, Cincinnati’s offense should be absolutely lethal.
Even in what figures to be a ground and pound offense, the Bengals success on that side of the ball will begin and end with the quarterback.