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Despite offensive struggles, Andy Dalton is having a great season

A player who was once criticized for needing his teammates to make him look good is repaying the favor this year.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After significant turnover in the offseason and some very poor coaching during the season, it has been a rough season for Andy Dalton and the Bengals. The team sits at 3-5-1 after 10 weeks and a big part of the problem has been the offense’s inability to maintain momentum in the endzone, as exemplified by Dalton being ranked only 20th in the NFL in terms of touchdown passes this year (10).

But, don’t put too much of the blame on Dalton’s shoulders, because that is the only problem with his game this year. He currently ranks sixth in passing yards (2,553). Among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 200 passes this season, he ranks seventh in completion percentage (65.9) and eighth in quarterback rating (95.8).

For quarterbacks who have thrown at least 10 touchdowns, only Derek Carr (three) Tyrod Taylor (three), Dak Prescott (two), Sam Bradford (two), Russell Wilson (two), and Tom Brady (one) have thrown less interceptions. To top it all off, his total yards per pass (8.1) ranks second in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 200 passes thrown behind only Matt Ryan (9.4).

By nearly every category other than scoring, Dalton has performed as a top 10 quarterback in the NFL this year. Other than A.J. Green, Dalton is also the only player on the offense who has consistently performed at a high level. Without the contributions of these two, the Bengals may not have won any games at all yet, as opposed to being a game and a half out of first place in the AFC North.

That said, Green has been shut down in a couple of games this year, as teams know if they stop him it can greatly impact the matchup. The Bengals’ offensive line has given up 28 sacks this year, and that trend doesn’t seem to be subsiding in the least. The sheer fact that Dalton has managed to play as well as he has in the face of all of that pressure probably makes him worthy of a Pro Bowl selection alone. That said, I know many Bengals fans probably never want to hear the words ‘Pro Bowl’ again after last season’s game ended with Tyler Eifert injured.

Dalton is carrying this offense. The addition of Eifert a few weeks ago was supposed to help with the red zone and scoring problems. But, he has only managed to find the endzone once in three games. In fact, save for a great game in London and one great 71-yard catch against the Giants, his overall stats since returning have been pedestrian.

As of right now, Dalton is actually on pace to put up similar numbers to what he put up last year, save for the extremely reduced touchdown count. At the moment, he is looking like he is going to throw the least number of touchdowns of any season of his career. But, his overall production is still at a very high level, despite currently facing the highest sack percentage of his career (8.1 percent).

The fact that Dalton is continuing to play extremely well after taking ‘the next step’ last year (255/386 for 3,250 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions in only 12 14 games) can either be encouraging or frustrating, depending on your perspective. Fans who were hoping for a repeat of 2015, but with a healthy franchise quarterback the whole way, will be sorely disappointed to see Dalton’s talents being wasted on a team that simply can’t help him win important games.

However, those who feel the Bengals are in a bit of a mini-rebuilding phase at the moment should be encouraged that the sheer talent and production of the quarterback is enough to keep the team’s head somewhat above water while the rest of the unit is repaired. If the rest of the offense can start playing anywhere close to his level, the Bengals would have one of the most potent offensive attacks in the NFL.