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Andy Dalton is a better deep ball passer than you realize

Andy Dalton may have regressed last season throwing the deep ball, but he still finished higher than you’d expect in Pro Football Focus’s deep passer rating stat.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It is often Andy Dalton’s second biggest criticism that he can’t throw the ball deep. The biggest is obviously he’s been unable to win the big games.

While there is some merit to the biggest concern, it seems like it is time to end the deep ball critique.

Recently, Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus tallied up the deep pass rating for quarterbacks. He compared their 2017 score to their score from 2007-2016 (the Pro Football Focus era). He ended up making a chart to show who improved the most/who had the biggest outlier seasons.

For the purposes of Bengals fans, this list actually shows that while Dalton has never been the best deep passer in the league, but he has been far from terrible.

Dalton’s 2017 deep passer rating clocked in at a 90. That may not register as impressive or not until I tell you that only seven quarterbacks had better ratings in 2017 than Dalton. Ben Roethlisberger only had a 68.8, and Joe Flacco also only had a 54.7. Dalton even beat out Tom Brady who had a deep passer rating of 88.5.

In 2017, Dalton attempted 56 deep passes (passes that go farther than 20 yards), which ranks near the bottom of the 2017 quarterbacks, but he is really mixed in there with plenty of guys who threw anywhere from 53 to 64.

As far as how Dalton’s 2017 deep passer rating rank from his 2006-2016 deep passer rating, it shows a little bit of a regression. His past deep passer rating was a 95.3, which should be shocking for fans who badmouthed him that whole time. Only nine current quarterbacks had a better deep passer rating over that same span, including Roethlisberger who beat him by 0.5.

Dalton has benefited from having A.J. Green to throw it to his entire career. He has also had Tyler Eifert here and there as well. The only other receiver of note who could’ve helped with that stat was really having Marvin Jones. You think about that, and you realize he only had Green to throw it to for most of 2017. Yet, he still managed to post up a respectable deep passer rating.

This is actually quite the revelation. Of the seven quarterbacks who had a higher 2017 deep passer rating than Dalton, only three of those seven (Drew Brees, Russel Wilson and Kirk Cousins) also had a higher deep passer rating during the 2006-2016 span. Just a note that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t involved with this list because he didn’t have the minimum amount of attempts in 2017 to qualify.

Again, this post isn’t to paint Dalton as the best deep passer in the NFL, but it does show the criticism he receives is unfair and unwarranted. Dalton isn’t a gunslinger, but he chooses the ideal times to throw the ball down field. He doesn’t make the huge mistakes when throwing the ball down field, and there is real value in that.