After three straight playoff appearances and three straight first round playoff exits, Andy Dalton is being more criticized than ever, and rightfully so. After last Sunday’s 27-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers in the wild card round of the playoffs, many are questioning whether or not Andy Dalton can get this team over their playoff win drought.
There’s good Andy and then there is bad Andy. When good Andy comes to play, the Bengals easily soar their way to victory, being proficient on offense and the defense can always be counted on to contain their opponent.
When bad Andy shows up on game day, it is much harder for the Bengals to get the win. He had a career-high 20 interceptions this season, and in his third year that is not the kind of back tracking you want to see in your team’s quarterback. In the playoff loss to the Chargers, he turned the ball over three times, but each time the defense did a good job of containing the Chargers and keeping them out of the end zone. The offense was never able to get back on the field and get a solid drive going without stalling or turning the ball over.
When a team loses, it is easy to point fingers at the quarterback and blame the loss on him. When you look at the case of Sunday’s game, one of Dalton’s interceptions came because he was being pressured and threw it awkwardly off his back foot. His offensive line struggled to protect him in the loss and when a quarterback is being pressured constantly it makes it hard for them to be able to make smart decisions. I think if Dalton realizes that one of his main problems is his decision making process when under pressure, and really works to make better decisions, his game will improve immensely. He can’t control when his line will pick up the blitz and keep the pressure off of him, but he needs to be better prepared for when they aren’t able to stop the opponent’s defense.
Dalton’s playoff performance is very alarming. In three games, he has combined for one touchdown and six interceptions. It’s easy to forget that Dalton is only in his third year. He’s still young. The playoffs are the biggest stage in the NFL, and Dalton is still maturing and learning how to win these games. If he was a fifth year starter and had still failed to get a playoff win with the superb talent he has surrounding him, then it would be time to look for a new quarterback. But because he is still young and learning, I think Cincinnati needs to give him a couple more chances.
Dalton should benefit from new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Jackson believes that the key to any offense is being physical, so he’ll look to expand the power of the running backs. If the running backs get more touches and are able to grow under Jackson, that takes less pressure off of Dalton. If defenses are worried about defending the run, it will be easier for Dalton to have better games and become more consistent. Defenses will have a tougher time covering the Bengals’ offense.
Give Dalton another year or two, and if he still shows no growth, it is time for the Bengals to say goodbye. I think they need to get a quarterback now that would be able to replace Dalton if it comes down to it in a year or two and he still has yet to win a playoff game or show improvement in his game. A couple more years to learn under a new coordinator should do Dalton some good.
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