The Cincinnati Bengals came into this season with middling expectations. While Joe Mixon and A.J. Green are getting a majority of the credit, Andy Dalton has been crucial in the team’s early success.
The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the surprises of the early NFL season. They beat two teams with playoff aspirations in the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. Even though they’re one of seven remaining undefeated teams, they found themselves ranked 13th on ESPN’s latest power rankings.
Beyond the disrespect to the team as a whole, the Bengals quarterback will never get the respect he deserves. Andy Dalton has never been considered an above-average quarterback. There were times where that made sense. He’s not putting up Tom Brady numbers, however he has been a playoff quarterback in five of his seven seasons. We don’t need to get into his playoff record (it’s as bad as possible), but the fact that he makes it there says something.
This season, he’s been very good. He’s tied for third in touchdown passes with six, ranks sixth in QB rating with 108.5 (ahead of names like Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Cam Newton), and only threw one interception.
However, we’ve seen this version of Dalton before. He has stretches where one must think “everything will be different this time.” Then, it never is. He goes into a hole, and seemingly forgets how to play the quarterback position.
Last year, it seemed like the beginning of the end for the Red Rocket in Cincinnati. He started the season with a five-turnover performance against the Ravens and never really recovered. He missed the playoffs for the second straight season, and it looked like he was going to get a new coach for the first time in his career.
Then, Marvin Lewis came back after reports he was already fired. The Bengals decided to give this regime one more chance to get it right. After two weeks, Bengals fans don’t want to get too excited, because they’ve been here before, but they should at least feel like this season could be different. Maybe not “beat someone good in the playoffs” different, but possibly “surprise winner of the AFC North” different.
The Bengals look good, and it’s in part thanks to Dalton. If he was the same player he was last year, the Bengals are likely 0-2. They played two teams who looked very capable in their games not against the Bengals. Meanwhile, Dalton went nuts against the opposing defenses.
Still, we need to temper our expectations for Dalton. He’s going to continue to throw for a decent amount of yards, but not near the top of the league. Dalton will go for somewhere near league-average when it comes to touchdowns, but will protect the ball and have great ratios.
As long as Dalton can get hot at the end of the year instead of the beginning of the year, then this could be a special season. If not, we continue to question the future of Dalton in Cincinnati.