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Andy Dalton Attempts to Take the Next Step

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There really is no question who the Bengals’ quarterback will be this season. The question is whether or not he can lead the team to the elusive playoff win

Andy Dalton has become the most debated Bengals player in recent history. Outsiders may find this surprising considering he has started every game during which he has been on the team and never missed the post-season. In fact, he joins a pretty elite group of quarterbacks who have led their teams to the post-season in their first four years. If Dalton can lead the team to the post-season again this year, he would join Baltimore’s Joe Flacco as the only two quarterbacks to accomplish the feat of leading their teams to five consecutive playoff appearances in their first five seasons in the league.

The debate rages on whether or not Dalton is the right man for the starting quarterback job in Cincinnati. Supporters point to one of the most successful stretches in the team’s history. A second round pick forced into the starting role and finding success on a team that almost had an aversion to it.

Naysayers call out interception totals, questionable arm strength and lack of leadership on the big stage. I am not here to pull to one side or the other, just present some facts and opinions around the starting quarterback for the Bengals this season. Make no mistake, this is Dalton’s team as long as he performs up to the standards he has.

Dalton is not a quarterback that saves a team. He is however a guy who can be successful in the right scheme. While people clamor to call him inaccurate, the numbers show he ranks in the top half of the league statistically The Bengals need to understand the part of the game that he is successful at and build an offense around that. I believe as the team enters the second year in the Hue Jackson-called offense, we will see more of what makes Dalton successful. High percentage passes and an emphasis on the run.

Sometimes success comes with continuity and this is something the Bengals have struggled to maintain by losing assistant coaches to head coaching gigs. Behind Dalton is a question mark in AJ McCarron. There is a saying that the most popular player on a team when the QB struggles is the backup and McCarron is feeling some of this love. I question the logic of people ready to turn the reigns over to a guy who came into the league with a similar skillset as the current Bengals quarterback but has not proven anything to this point. There has to be a reason so many teams passed over McCarron multiple times in the draft. I don't have the confidence that the young quarterback out of Alabama could fill the shoes left by Dalton if the need arises.

So why would we expect something different this season from the Bengals other than a first round playoff exit. If we look at what the Bengals have this season compared to last, there is reason to get excited. The quarterback play is important, but we can lessen that importance by adding more weapons to his arsenal. Dalton has that in Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones. Both are outstanding players and were sorely missed last season. Don’t forget that A.J. Green was also MIA at a few points last season including the playoff loss. Continuity on the line and a strong running game also takes the pressure off a guy looking to take the next step.

Two seasons ago, Dalton had a pretty good season on the stat sheets. With a healthy supporting cast he was able to top 4,200 yards passing and completed 33 touchdown passes. His 88.8 quarterback rating on the season marked the highest in his career.

There will be doubters, and honestly, there should be. Andy Dalton has failed on the big stage. Sure, it’s not all his fault, but his uninspiring play left the door open for people to choose their scapegoat. This season will be telling as the Bengals look to be near full strength on the offense. They don’t necessarily need a field general, but they don’t want to see a Gomer Pyle.