The problem is trying to get rookie QB Andy Dalton on the same page with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden without a true offseason. Converting a spread offense quarterback into a West Coast system is hard enough, but to do it with no offseason prep is nearly impossible. Because most of Gruden's time has been spent in Arena football, it's not as if he can buy Dalton time and bring in a veteran who has worked with him in the past. Some believe the Bengals might go for a Jim Sorgi to help out, but is that going to be good enough?
During his excellent analysis in response to John Clayton's premonition that the lockout will affect the Bengals as great if not greater than any other team in the NFL, our own Jason Garrison points out -- in a round about way -- that quarterback play will have to feature the least amount of pressure as possible. In other words, everyone else around the quarterback will have to step up if the Bengals are to be, at least, competitive in 2011. I agree.
What I don't agree with is Clayton's reasoning behind the Bengals being so dramatically affected with the lockout. Why? There's several reasons. If Carson Palmer were to return, I don't believe that he would be that far ahead of Andy Dalton. Jay Gruden is installing a radically new offensive system. It's not like the Bengals are going from a modified version of the offense they've used for Palmer's eight seasons in Cincinnati. It's completely different. Additionally, the wide receivers, who are also being introduced to a new wide receivers coach, are different. And then there's the case that Palmer hasn't really been that effective since the first half of the 2009 season where game-tying and game-winning drives were becoming common place enough to nickname the team The Cardiac Cats.
We do agree that the lockout will hurt the Bengals as much as any team. It would be crazy to believe that with so many new faces, the Bengals could suddenly become a cohesive machine that challenges the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers for dominance in the division. That's not in dispute. A new offensive system and new coaches on offense needs to be learned by the team. Whether that's Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer, it wouldn't have mattered. Do I believe that Palmer would have eased the transition? Probably a little bit and that's only because he has the experience of playing the NFL game, understanding the the game's speed and how much better players are. But we're not talking about a transition for Dalton that would take months. Maybe the first month at most; but this isn't a Super Bowl ready team. There's far too many questions and issues surrounding this team to think anything more than rebuilding in 2011.
I don't the difference between Palmer and Dalton is that significant. One of the primary reasons that Marvin Lewis, Jay Gruden and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese are high on Dalton is his adaptability and ability to learn. They wouldn't have drafted him if they didn't feel he was ready to take the season's first snap. Are the Bengals one of the biggest teams affected by the lockout? Yes. Clayton is right. What we question is whether or not Palmer, who would have been dealing with as many unknowns as Dalton, would have made that any smoother.