If you think the Bengals offense may not always look in sync, you're not alone.
Head coach Marvin Lewis is concerned that Andy Dalton and his receivers aren't always on the same page when Dalton fires a pass toward his receiver. This happened again on several occasions Sunday night in a painfully close loss to the Cardinals in which receivers either didn't expect a pass to come their way, or didn't fight hard enough to make sure they pulled in the ball if it did come their way.
As Lewis told ESPN's Coley Harvey, that simply can't happen if this offense is going to reach its ultimate goals.
"The receivers always have to trust that he's coming to them all the time," Lewis said Monday. "They disappointed us a couple of times because they don't think they're getting it and then here it comes. They always have to have the edge to where 'I'm getting the ball.'"
These issues seem to be popping up more this year than in year's past. A reason why that may be the case is actually the improvement of Dalton. For much of his first four years as the Bengals' starting quarterback, Dalton would often fire passes for his No. 1 read on plays, which more often than not was A.J. Green.
But this year, Dalton has been much better at coming off his first read and looking for guys who may be the second or even third option in a play. That would help explain why certain receivers aren't always expecting passes to come their way. There have been times when receivers seem almost surprised when the ball comes their way.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson hinted at that as well while stressing everyone who is a possible pass-catcher on a play must be ready to catch the ball.
"There are times every now and then you [as a receiver] think the quarterback is looking in a different spot, all of a sudden maybe you don't run as fast as you can," Jackson said. "But our players understand it, and we talk about it all the time: anybody can get the ball on any given play."
The most obvious case of this happening came in the fourth quarter when Dalton fired a pass for Bernard that he flat-out dropped, but didn't look like he was expecting.
Bernard makes that catch nine out of 10 times, and that proved to be a costly drop as Dalton would eventually be strip-sacked on that drive, which led to a Cardinals field goal.
Another example of a receiver either not expecting a pass and/or not fighting hard enough to catch the ball came late in the fourth quarter on a pass to Green.
The way Green comes out of his break and not hard enough toward the ball raises the question of whether he was the No. 1 read on this play, or if it was Eifert running toward the sideline. Either way, Green has to be expecting passes and be ready to fight for the pass more than he did in this instance, as it allowed Jerrod Powers to bat it away. Green needs to have that 'I'm getting the ball' mentality and not the 'I may be getting the ball' effort he appears to show.
This can be fixed with time, repetition, better effort, and simply having a heightened awareness during games.