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Andy Dalton must improve under pressure

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Andy Dalton is rarely sacked of even hit, but even hurrying the third-year TCU QB is enough to throw him off his game.

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Andy Lyons

For a defense to throw an opposing quarterback off his game, sometimes it's just a matter of hurrying him. While sacks and hits are the more effective ways of thwarting QBs, 'hurries' are also an effective measure of rendering them ineffective.

Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Bengals, that's been the case with Andy Dalton.

It's worth pointing out that the Bengals offensive line allowed Andy Dalton to be hit a league-low 47 times in 2013. It's impossible to truly gauge how well Dalton fairs when being hit because the Bengals offensive line was so good. That, and Jay Gruden's offense involved a lot of quick throws that made it hard for opposing defenses to touch Dalton.

But it's a different story when it comes to QB hurries. Dalton's worst-graded game from Pro Football Focus in '13 was the playoff loss to the Chargers (-6.6), a game in which he was hurried 14 times.

The only games in which Dalton was hurried more were Week 2 vs. Pittsburgh (15 hurries),  Week 10 vs. Baltimore (18) and Week 9 vs. Miami (20). Those games saw Dalton get -1.9, -1.4 and -5.6 grades respectively.

In all, when Dalton was hurried 14 or more times in a game, the Bengals were 1-3 (including playoffs) and Dalton completed just 110-of-200 passes (55%) with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. One of those TDs was the hail merry to A.J. Green vs. the Ravens.

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If Dalton is to make any kind of significant improvements in Year 4, this needs to be it. Yes, QBs in general hate being pressured, but the good ones learn how to not fold as easily when they are pressured.

Dalton still has some work to do in this area. It's weaknesses like this that are making the Bengals reluctant to sign him to a long-term extension that pays him $15-18 million annually.