In today’s pass-happy NFL, more often than not, the starting quarterback is a team’s MVP.
Even if said quarterback isn’t even among the five best players on his own roster, the impact he makes a team is as much, if not more than any one player can make. That’s the case in Cincinnati, where Andy Dalton is by no means the team’s best player.
Not on a roster with A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict. However, Dalton is right there as the fourth or fifth-best player on the roster. And while guys like Green, Atkins and Burfict make a huge impact, they play positions where their impact on a game can boil down to 20 to 30 plays per game.
For Dalton, his impact extends beyond that, whether it’s an actual pass play or simply making pre-snap adjustments to put his teammates in the best position to succeed. That’s why NFL.com’s assessment of the most likely MVP for all 32 NFL teams had Dalton earning the nod for Cincinnati.
MVPs ... of their teams
The guys below are easily the Most Valuable Players on their own teams, yet have neither the insane numbers nor enough talent around them -- at least, as of this writing -- to make much of a mark in this race at this point:
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton was far from the issue in Cincinnati last season. The Bengals clearly missed former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson (the offense dropped from seventh to 24th in points scored), while the Bengals' running game went AWOL. Dalton can't win on stats alone.
While Dalton isn’t among the most elite quarterbacks, what he does excel at is reading defenses and getting the ball out quickly. That’s big for a Bengals team that had offensive line concerns in his first two NFL seasons, and that was a big reason why Cincinnati overcame said issues and went 19-13 with two playoff berths from 2011-2012.
That scenario could play out again this year with two young starting tackles protecting him, as well as a new starting right guard. It will be critical to the Bengals’ success that Dalton put guys like Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi in the best position to win.
And when he is able to drop back, Dalton must continue to perform at the high level we’ve seen in each of the past two seasons. From 2015-2016, we have seen Dalton account for 50 scores and just 20 turnovers.
As long as Dalton can keep playing at that kind of level, the Bengals will remain in contention to have a winning season, make the playoffs and perhaps even make a postseason run.