Jason Henry

Bengals Need Sharper Dalton To Get Past First-Round Hurdle

Created on May. 11, 2013 7:33 AM EST

As soon as the Cincinnati Bengals wrapped their 2013 draft, QB Andy Dalton started to feel the pressure. The Bengals drafted the best tight end available and picked up a pretty good running back soon thereafter.

The future had arrived in Cincinnati, and Dalton knew it.

“With the players we already have and adding these guys is just going to make the offense better," Dalton told ESPN. "So I expect us to take the next step. I expect us to improve from where we were last year.”

The Bengals muscled their way into the playoffs in 2011, made it back last year and are expected to make some noise again this season. For the last two years, they’ve met the Houston Texans in the wildcard round and lost both times. In last season’s meeting, Dalton threw for just 157 yards, unable to get into a rhythm against the Texans’ vaunted defense. In fact, he has thrown zero touchdowns against four interceptions in two career playoff games.

Those results won’t fly for much longer.

Because he’s in Cincinnati where the spotlight isn’t as bright as it is in other places, he’s had and will continue to have more time to develop. But that doesn’t mean the Bengals aren’t expecting immediate results. With so many certifiable weapons on the team now – like rookie first-round TE Tyler Eifert and second-round RB Giovani Bernard – is Dalton the right guy to move the Bengals forward?

Let’s take a look at Dalton’s stats to get a general idea of where he stands as a quarterback.

Last season, Dalton was 12th in percentage of passes completed, 14th in passes attempted and 16th in yards through the air. With those rankings, it’s safe to say he’s just a middle-of-the-road quarterback, no? He’s not an explosive passer, won’t “wow” the masses with his ability to put together “chunk plays” and doesn’t seem to have any star power.

While those things won’t bring a team a championship, it does aid in attracting free agents. With Dalton, the Bengals have a young quarterback who will make his fair share of mistakes, but won’t destroy his team’s chances of winning a game with an errant throw.

Against some of the Bengals toughest competition last year – like the Broncos, Ravens, and Steelers – he struggled. In two games against division rival Pittsburgh, he completed only 55 percent of his passes and threw for just one touchdown.

His stats against the Ravens are a bit skewed because they played Baltimore to open and close the season. Dalton’s stats would suggest that he was a little rusty to start the season (221 yards on 37 attempts) and only played the first half of the second game as both teams’ playoff fortunes had already been determined.

Dalton has also proven to be a bit streaky in his two-year career. He went through a short stretch in 2012 where he had nine touchdowns and no interceptions over a three-game stretch. Dalton then committed two turnovers in three of the next four games. The TCU product will have to become a more consistent player if the Bengals are to take the next step in the playoffs.

Dalton has an opportunity to lead Cincinnati to a division title and a deep postseason run. Yet if the Bengals are serious about making their first Super Bowl in 25 years, they’ll need him to make the same kind of improvement in his game that management made with his supporting cast.

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