After a less then promising Thursday night outing, the Cincinnati Bengals fired Ken Zampese, their second year offensive coordinator. Cincinnati has failed to reach the endzone after 118 plays with Zampese at the helm this season. Andy Dalton, who had a rough opening week, played much better on Thursday night than the fan outrage would lead one to believe.
In Week 2 against the Texans, Dalton threw the ball 35 times completing 57.1% of his passes. This completion percentage is better then what Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, and even Tom Brady put up in their games in Week 1. He also didn’t throw one interception, despite a strong pass rush in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and some shots deep down the field. The top issue with Dalton this season, obviously, is the lack of touchdowns through two games.
Let’s start with one of Dalton’s early, positive plays, in which he found A.J. Green deep down the field in double coverage. It’s a three receiver play where Dalton had to decide quickly where to put the ball. Green was Dalton’s first read, and he gave Green a shot on this one by throwing it before the receiver broke on his route. The Texans were trying to double Green, and the cornerback on the other side even read Dalton’s eyes and dropped deep to help cover Green. This was a solid throw, giving Green a chance to make a play against a weaker secondary, and the star receiver delivered.
Later, Dalton faced a third down needing three yards to move the sticks. Houston rushed four and Dalton’s first read was Brandon LaFell. LaFell stuck the cornerback with a great stop and go move, and found a bubble in the secondary since the safety was watching the underneath route. Dalton overthrew LaFell on this route and had he not it would have been a huge gain. But, If Dalton waited and gave the play more time to develop, he would had made the safety choose between the underneath route or LaFell, and would have had the crossing receiver for 10 to 15 yards and a first down.
It wouldn’t have been the big play fans wanted, but it would have continued the drive and given the Bengals a chance to put together a better drive instead of punting. The cornerback and safety on the near side of the field were covering Green who had a stop and go route, leaving the crossing receiver plenty of space to make the catch in stride and get some yards on a run.
On the final play we’ll look at, Dalton was strapped for time, and the offense needed to push the ball down the field to put points on the board. Dalton stood in the pocket despite the pass rush, cycled through his progression and tossed a perfectly timed pass over the linebacker to Tyler Eifert. Eifert caught the pass in stride and took a hit, brining the Bengals across midfield. This throw is exactly what the Bengals look for on plays like this, as Green again drew the deeper safety over toward his side of the field, giving Eifert just enough space to make the grab.
This was one of Dalton’s better throws on the night, and was one Cincinnati could have came back to as Houston’s secondary got hurt and worn out. The line did a great job of giving Dalton just enough time to deliver the ball, and the timing between Dalton and Eifert was great. With all the pass-catching weapons the Bengals possess, Dalton and the offense could stand to try more shots down the field like this to give players like Cody Core, Alex Erickson and John Ross the opportunity to make some plays against weaker members of opposing secondaries.
When Bill Lazor takes over takes over the offense this week, I anticipate him looking to get the offensive weapons involved deeper down the field. To execute this, the offensive line has to give Dalton time to deliver the ball, and Dalton has to keep passes from sailing over the head of receivers. On Thursday night, Dalton proved he was capable of this, supplying Eifert and Green the ball on the above mentioned plays. With that said, Dalton does have a lot of room to improve and missed a handful of throws to open receivers that could have changed the outcome of the game. The Bengals lost and failed to make it to the endzone, but still, the Texans won by only four points.