Andy Dalton Has Not Silenced His Arm Strength Critics

August 16, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Arm Strength. It's often looked at as the most appealing attribute a quarterback can posses. It seems like most of our childhood heroes had cannon arms. Elway, Favre, Marino, Kelly, Moon and Esiason were the ones who could rocket tight spirals that seemed to fly across the field with ease. I think that leaves an imprint on everyone. It's almost super hero status among NFL quarterbacks. In reality, Montana, Manning, Brady and even Brees are the signal-callers of my life that are thought of as the best. They could make every throw, but none of them sported missile launchers attached to their shoulders.

As fans, we'll defend out guy until the end. And, our quarterback is Andy Dalton. Known for being on the smaller side and not having the strongest arm, Dalton has added muscle in an effort to improve his arm strength this offseason. After two preseason games, particularly last week's game in Atlanta, Dalton has shown some improvements in this area, but has he silenced critics? No.

What is "Arm Strength"? - Do we measure it by how far a QB can throw the ball? That seems to be the easiest way for people to quantify arm strength, but there's SO MUCH more to it. How far a player can throw a football may be the LEAST important part of the Total Arm Strength equation. If there was an arm strength equation, it would probably include such things as: Velocity, Spin, Intermediate Accuracy, Deep Accuracy and Distance. All five attributes combine to determine which quarterbacks have the stronger arms. Here's a look at each attribute and how Andy Dalton grades out.

Velocity - This is the speed in which the ball travels to the targeted receiver. This is easily the most important aspect to a quarterback's arm strength. You would like hard, fast and accurate throws on those 10-yard outs and 15 to 20-yard post routes. You'll hear analysts call those stick throws; the QB steps into the pocket and hits his target on a 15-yard in route between two defenders. Just as the receiver breaks into his route, the QB should be throwing the ball to the open area in anticipation of the receiver getting open. Even with good coverage by the cornerback, a high velocity throw won't give the defender a chance to break up the completion. Dalton's Velocity: 7.5/10

Spin - Having a nice, tight spiral will make the quarterback more accurate, allow the ball to cut through the wind, and give the receiver an easier ball to catch. You'll see a floppy ball (Duck) usually when the QB is trying to put more into his pass than normal, when the quarterback can't step into the pocket or set his feet, it affects his accuracy and velocity. Stronger armed quarterback's won't see much of a difference in these situations and can still make an accurate throw with good spin on the ball. It's the weaker armed passers that need good throwing conditions in order to keep their strength. Dalton's Spin: 7.5/10

Intermediate Accuracy - These are throws between 10 and 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. This is where you'd like to see the bulk of an offense's passes on the field. A QB that can remain accurate on these throws will keep defenses honest and open the field for the offense. A team that relies on shorter throws will see a condensed defense and tighter windows to throw into. Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL in this category. He is just as accurate from this distance as he is on short throws. Dalton's Intermediate Accuracy: 7.5/10

Deep Accuracy - Accuracy on throws over 25-yards downfield is more important than distance because most NFL passers can throw it far, accuracy is what sets them apart and scares defensive coordinators. What do we hear Mike Zimmer harping on? "Chunk Plays" -- plays over 20-yards. The treat of scoring on any play is enough to make defenses change their scheme but consistently connecting on these deep throws will make the best offenses in the league also the most dangerous. The ability to remain accurate at long distances is a sign of arm strength. Dalton's Deep Accuracy: 6.5/10

Distance - Here's where the confusion starts. This is what most think of when it comes to arm strength. Throwing balls 60-yards in the air may be beautiful, but most QBs can throw it that far. Andy Dalton did have something to improve in this category from last year, and he did. It's noticeable already. That touchdown to A.J. Green was a perfect 40-yarder (from scrimmage to catch). With a clean pocket, I have no doubts that Dalton can throw it 70-yards in the air. I wouldn't have said the same thing last year. He has definitely improved. Dalton's Distance: 8.5/10

Total Arm Strength: 7.5 (average)

After looking at each attribute, you can see the areas where Dalton needs to improve his total arm strength. He's still in the bottom of the league when compared to the other starting Quarterbacks. But, how much can he actually improve those areas? It's hard to improve arm strength. Drew Brees and Tom Brady have done it, but we're talking about two greats of our generation. That's where the upside question comes in. Without drastically improving Dalton's only flaw, how much better can he get? It's a fair question but does it need to be asked? I hope I don't sound like a Dalton-basher. I've never been a supporter of his arm strength and I'm still not buying that it's now fixed. Here's the thing; what Dalton lacks in arm strength, he more than makes up for it with accuracy, anticipation, intelligence, leadership, decision-making and the ability to throw from the pocket. That's why I like the Drew Brees comparisons for Dalton. Brees still doesn't have a very strong arm, but he's the best QB in the NFL when it comes to pocket maneuvering and manipulation, anticipation and accuracy. Those are the important attributes that set quarterbacks apart. That's why I think Andy Dalton is on his way to becoming a very good NFL quarterback despite his arm limitations; he has every other important trait you look for in a franchise QB.

A look at every Andy Dalton pass this preseason


The arch represents the difference between short and intermediate passes to the harder/deeper passes.

Notice how most passes are within 10-yards from scrimmage. Dalton was 10 of 13 on these short throws.

On passes 10 to 20-yards, Dalton was 1 of 6 and had one pass deflected by a defender.

On passes 25-yards or deeper, Dalton was 1 of 4 with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Green.

The problem, and why critics are questioning Dalton, is the fact that this will probably limit the Bengals offense. It did last season. How they overcome? The Bengals and Jay Gruden aren't dumb, they know Dalton's strengths. They also recognize that A.J. Green is a freak and when it doubt, throw it up to him and you'll have a good chance to come down with it. Of Dalton's four deep attempts, three were targeted at Green. This throw-it-up attitude will keep defense honest and allow the Bengals short attack to remain open underneath.

So, did Andy Dalton really silence his arm strength critics? Not at all, but he may have silenced his "limited potential" critics like myself because he's improved in the more important areas. The only real way to quiet the naysayers is by winning, and with the fact that Dalton has improved during his first NFL offseason and he'll be paired with A.J. Green, the future looks bright. Even without a rocket-laser-arm.

Ranking NFL's Quarterbacks Using Total Arm Strength

  1. Aaron Rodgers - 9.4
  2. Tom Brady - 9.4
  3. Jay Cutler - 8.9
  4. Matt Stafford - 8.8
  5. Cam Newton - 8.8
  6. Drew Brees - 8.8
  7. Joe Flacco - 8.5
  8. Big Ben - 8.4
  9. Ryan Mallett - 8.4
  10. Michael Vick - 8.4
  11. Tony Romo - 8.4
  12. Jake Locker - 8.3
  13. Robert Griffin III - 8.3
  14. Eli Manning - 8.3
  15. Ryan Tannehill - 8.3
  16. Andrew Luck - 8.3
  17. Travaris Jackson - 8.1
  18. Matt Ryan - 8.1
  19. Josh Freeman - 8.0
  20. Carson Palmer - 8.0
  21. Peyton Manning - 8.0
  22. Phillip Rivers - 8.0
  23. Matt Flynn - 8.0
  24. Russell Wilson - 8.0
  25. John Skelton - 7.8
  26. Brandon Weeden - 7.8
  27. Christian Ponder - 7.8
  28. Blaine Gabbert - 7.7
  29. Matt Schaub - 7.7
  30. Chad Henne - 7.7
  31. Jason Campbell - 7.7
  32. Kyle Orton - 7.7
  33. Sam Bradford - 7.6
  34. Andy Dalton - 7.5
  35. Joe Webb - 7.4
  36. Vince Young - 7.4
  37. Mark Sanchez - 7.4
  38. Alex Smith - 7.3
  39. Matt Hasselbeck - 7.2
  40. Matt Cassel - 7.1
  41. Bruce Gradkowski - 7.1
  42. Ryan Fitzpatrick - 6.9
  43. Colt McCoy - 6.9
  44. Kevin Kolb - 6.8
  45. Tim Tebow - 6.2
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