Each week, we will dissect the play of quarterback Andy Dalton. On Friday, the Bengals’ signal-caller faced the New York Giants in the preseason opener for both teams, a 23-10 victory for Cincinnati. For highlights and analysis of Dalton’s performance in that game, see the following video:
Dalton was 3/3 passing, for 31 yards and a three-yard touchdown to Mohamed Sanu, good for a QB rating of 149.3. He also rushed once for six yards. Dalton would not see the field after the Bengals' first series on offense.
As it was the first preseason game, head coach Marvin Lewis did not keep his quarterback in the game very long. But it was enough to make a strong impression. Dalton’s passes were crisp and his timing with his receivers was impeccable. Particularly impressive was a 15-yard completion to A.J. Green along the right sideline that Dalton made on the run off his back foot. In previous years, to say he struggled completing such passes would be a massive understatement. Apparently, Tom House’s tutoring has made an impact.
Dalton’s three passes were spread between Sanu, Green and tight end Tyler Eifert. This was a good sign for a couple of reasons: 1) Dalton did not target a running back. This after a year in which two of Cincinnati’s top five pass catchers were running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. 2) Dalton reminded us that he’s excellent at taking advantage of the weapons he is given. That’s huge, considering the return of guys like Eifert and receiver Marvin Jones. Friday’s game gave fans hope that Dalton and the passing game will be able to put up points in 2015.
Dalton and the Bengals get a 10 day break before facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night in a nationally broadcast game. While the team and the quarterback are notorious for their poor performances in primetime games, that shouldn’t be the case this time, both due to the lack of intensity in preseason games and due to the caliber of opponent. The Bucs finished 2-14 last year and only 28th against the pass. They’ve also lost their biggest defensive signing from last year, defensive end Michael Johnson, who will be lined up on the other side of the ball on Monday. You can expect Dalton and the passing game to continue to soar and to quiet some of the doubters (such as my longtime friend and co-host, Dr. Hodgie E. Smodgie) just a tiny bit.
Upward. Before you deduct points for the quality of opponent or nature of the game, remember that Josh Johnson was far less effective against the Giants, even when targeting Eifert and receiver Marvin Jones or going against New York’s second-stringers. Yes, Dalton needs a lot of playmakers to be effective. But he has them now. This seemed to be the first glimpse of what should be a big year for the fifth-year pro.