"Trust is everything". It's a cliche used ad nauseum in the NFL, especially when speaking about the needed synchronicity between a quarterback and his receivers. Phrases like "throwing to a spot" and "the ball is out before the receiver makes his break" are commonplace in an NFL offense and one can see examples of it weekly.
Though Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton broke franchise passing records last season, many believe that it's the finer points of the position that need honing. True to the form of a "franchise quarterback", Dalton hosted his receiver group down in Texas in the time between minicamp and Training Camp to not only help on-field timing, but build camaraderie. By early indications, the extra time has paid off, as Dalton has looked sharp during the early portion of Training Camp.
Now, fresh off of a huge contract extension, the pressure is on the fourth-year signal-caller. ESPN's Coley Harvey notes that this solid receiving corps is one of the reasons that the team felt compelled to sign him to the six-year deal that could be worth up to $115 million.
Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said it best Monday afternoon when he remarked that the time Dalton has spent with his receivers the last three years has meant "everything."
"It's hard to just slap a couple of guys together and coach some routes and think it's all going to happen," Zampese said. "These guys have done it in the heat of it together. They grew up together here with us and this verbiage."
"When you see the ball hit a guy in the face, you've probably seen the ball do that more now than in the three years that we've been working with this group of guys," Zampese said.
"Coach Jackson's brought an urgency to the group and it's been beneficial to all of us. Especially Andy," Zampese said.
What else has been beneficial to Dalton? "Trust," Zampese said.
"We're quickening up his drop and getting the ball out sooner so they're not as far down the field when he is releasing it, and we're trusting," Zampese added. "We're trusting that the receiver will be there. Throw it early."
The tweaks to Dalton's technique and to the Bengals offense as a whole are ones that we expected to be ushered in by Jackson. The hope/expectation is that an emphasis will be placed on balance and that will allow Dalton to continue to improve in his fourth season. It's going to need to take place if the Bengals want to take a bigger bite out of the division and the postseason.
Jason Campbell, the man tasked with backing up Dalton, notes the importance of cohesion:
"You can look across the field and say, 'Hey, I've been throwing to this guy for three years or this guy for four years.' Then you get into the middle of a game and you see something in the chemistry of playing together," said Campbell, a veteran who is in his fifth locker room. "Things just happen. If you don't know a guy, he doesn't know what you're going to do."
It all sounds great, doesn't it? However, as has been noted numerous times before, the proof will be in the playoff pudding. Maybe that can become an adage that is frequently used as well.