Zac Taylor is expected to bring parts of the Rams offense to Cincinnati. However, there is one element of the Bengals previous offense that absolutely needs to stay the same. That would be Andy Dalton’s quick release leading to domination in the red zone.
Pointing out Dalton’s quick release is not a new thing. It has always been a strength. We have compiled some data that shows that in the area of the field where the windows shrink and the formations are tighter, The “Red Rifle” appears to give his team a competitive advantage.
For nearly the entire Dalton/Green era, if the Bengals get within 20 yards of the end zone, more often than not, they are getting in. The following chart includes data from footballoutsiders.com for touchdowns per red zone appearance, team passing touchdown percentage is provided by teamrankings.com, and team red zone pass percentage is provided by sharpfootballstats.com.
The simple take away from this data is that when the team relies more heavily on the passing game in the red zone, they have more frequent success. The green columns show that the majority of red zone touchdowns for the Bengals are coming through the air. Also, any season where the team decided to run more and take the ball out of Dalton’s hands, correlates with a lower touchdown rate.
From 2007 to 2010, the Bengals experienced a less than or equal to .500 touchdown rate in the red zone. During Dalton’s time, the Bengals have only experienced a sub 50% red zone touchdown rate during his rookie season. Since then, the Bengals have scored a touchdown on over half of their red zone possessions with Dalton at the controls. Peak rankings appeared in 2013, 2015, and 2018.
Joe Mixon is possibly the best talent at running back the Bengals have ever had. Thus, pointing out that the team has had more success when passing the ball in the red zone is not suggesting that the team not utilize Mixon in close. However, considering one of the major weaknesses of this team is the offensive line, it might be best to use Mixon’s past catching ability near the goal line
There is reason to believe the Bengals could be a very dangerous red zone offense this year. They can continue to use Dalton’s ability to quickly distribute the ball near the goal line. Having their best running back of the past two decades does not hurt either.
If Taylor can get them to the red zone more frequently, these players have already proven that they can get the ball over the goal line. If that is the case, Dalton will once again be listed like he is above as one of the better red zone quarterbacks in the NFL.