About a year ago, I wrote a fan post about why I believe Andy Dalton has a low ceiling as an NFL QB. (Here's the link http://www.cincyjungle.com/2012/1/13/2706498/andy-dalton-has-a-low-ceiling). He's had some highs and lows in his career thus far, and it's safe to say the verdict on his ranking among NFL QBs is yet to be determined. Andy Dalton is perplexing to me, so as a diehard fan of the Bengals and of the game of football, I thought I'd share my observations about his game.
1. Andy Dalton has a big time clutch gene. I don't have any real tangible numbers here to back this claim, other than the fact that the Red Rifle has never thrown an interception in the red zone in his two year career. He rarely seems to make the big mistake that costs the team the game. Something seems to click in the last few minutes of the half or of the 4th Quarter. All of a sudden he becomes more accurate and more poised. Take yesterday's Ravens game as an example. The offense had been sputtering all game and Dalton couldn't seem to make the right connections with his receivers until the last drive before the half, when he started zipping in bullets to AJ Green and Marvin Jones to lead the Bengals down the field for a touchdown. I think the same goes for the hurry up offense. He seems to do better in the hurry up/high-adrenaline situations, and I'd like to see the Bengals do more of it.
2. Andy Dalton plays significantly worse in cold weather. As I said earlier, I don't have many numbers to back these claims, they are merely observations from years of watching the Bengals. Dalton doesn't seem right in cold weather. That doesn't mean he's a machine in warm weather (San Diego game!), but I think he generally plays better in it. After all, he is from Texas. I don't think this explains everything about the "slump" he seems to have undergone in the second half of the season, but it's impossible to argue his numbers were better in the first half of the season when the sun was still out.
3. Andy Dalton struggles with the deep ball. I think this is something every Bengals fan already knows. Carson Palmer thrived on the deep ball, and Andy Dalton just seems to be a different kind of QB. His arm strength has improved significantly, but his accuracy down the field still seems the same. The best deep ball I have ever seen him thrown was the TD to AJ in the Seattle game, and I haven’t seen it sense (maybe from Mohammed Sanu, but not Andy). I know AJ Green would never say it, but I would assume he gets frustrated by the limitations of his QB. Just give AJ a chance to catch the ball! Andy often leads AJ too far out of bounds or just plain overthrows him. Carson and Chad thrived on the play action bomb. It looks like Andy and AJ will not. Fortunately for AJ, I think the Bengals run enough short yardage plays to him and red zone targets to keep him satisfied.
4. Andy Dalton is becoming more inaccurate as a thrower. I have no explanation for this one, it's just something I've noticed as the season has progressed. Coming out of college, Dalton was the most accurate QB in his class; that was probably his biggest attribute. But lately, his throws have been all over the place. Even on completions, he is often behind the receiver, throws it too high, or leads them too much. It's something I didn't see much from Dalton in his rookie season and it is beginning to worry me. Perhaps it’s some sloppy mechanics, but I hope it’s not fixable problem and not a long term trend.
5. Andy Dalton is a winner. Try to disprove this one...I dare you. 42 wins in four years as a starter at TCU, including a Rose Bowl victory. So far, 19-13 as a Bengal with two playoff appearances. Not too shabby. Bottom line, despite all of the above mentioned deficiencies, he's somebody you want on your team. He's a leader, he's a player, and he's a winner. He does what counts when it matters most and protects the football. He isn't going to be the next Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, but maybe the next Kurt Warner or Mark Brunnell. Not the most gifted QBs, but guys who just flat out won football games. And hey, with this stellar Bengals defense, I think we can all be happy with that. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with a great defense, surely Andy Dalton can do it before his career is over.