The Bengals’ quarterback position is a pretty frequent point of contention among fans. There are plenty of people content with the work Andy Dalton has done, but there are still plenty of doubters who think that Cincinnati could do better.
In ESPN’s most recent Quarterback Confidence Index, the Bengals rank slightly above average at that position. The Bengals rank 15th overall, and it seems like they could do a lot worse. Dan Graziano of ESPN shared this outlook as he has high confidence in their short-term plan with Dalton:
Short-term confidence: HIGH. Yeah, you laugh when we say Andy Dalton, but through Week 6 he was top five in touchdown passes and top 10 in Total QBR, and the Bengals were 4-2 and tied for first place with the Ravens, a team they beat. You could do worse.
It’s probably not fair to judge the Bengals on their past 62 minutes. The Steelers ripped their hearts out (again) in Week 6, and then Sunday night they got smoked by the nearly unstoppable Chiefs. But overall, Dalton and the Bengals’ offense have a nice thing going this year. Jeff Driskel is the backup, but that’s not likely to matter as long as Dalton doesn’t have to tackle anyone.
The one thing I’ll add to what Graziano said is that so many people forget that Dalton led a touchdown drive before the Steelers broke their hearts. Many will criticize him for scoring too quickly, but there were many years that the Bengals would’ve struggled to even get a first down on a drive like that.
Dalton and the Bengals as a whole struggled immensely on Sunday Night Football against the Chiefs. That also included Dalton’s worst throw of the season that ended up being a pick six. How he and the rest of the offense respond this upcoming week against the Buccaneers should give us an idea of where this team is going the rest of the way. There are plenty of winnable games after their bye week, but this team has suffered two soul crushing losses in a row, and it isn’t always a certainty that teams can bounce back from that.
Dalton will be a huge key to that. He needs to get back to making the right decisions quickly and spreading the ball around to the rest of his weapons more.
Graziano’s view of the long-term confidence at the quarterback position isn’t as high though as he explains the lack of certainty beyond Dalton’s current contract:
Long-term confidence: MEDIUM. Dalton turns 31 next week and is signed for two more years at less than $17 million a year. As long as they keep the roster strong around him (and the way the Bengals draft, they should), there’s not a lot of reason to worry.
31 isn’t old for a quarterback nowadays, but the Bengals are getting to the point where they may want to start grooming a young quarterback to possibly take Dalton’s place one day. We may have been closer to that than we thought as the Steelers reportedly were worried about the Bengals drafting Mason Rudolph in this past draft, so they traded up in front of them to draft him. Whether there was any truth to that or not, the idea makes sense given the value of the pick.
Either way it will be interesting to see how much longer Dalton will remain as the team’s sole prospect at quarterback. It may take a coaching change in order to bring in a future replacement or even an actual competition at the position, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe on that for obvious reasons. Luckily Dalton hasn’t given us many reasons to doubt him so far this season.