Dalton has thrown for 1,831 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 87.7 quarterback rating through seven games. The numbers are average, at best, and the Bengals have suffered as a result.
After a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football in Week 7, head coach Marvin Lewis gave Dalton a vote of confidence in a postgame interview and moved some of the blame onto those around the quarterback (via Joe Reedy of Sporting News):
Andy has continued to progress. We need to continue to play well around Andy. It was another game where he did not force the ball, and that’s what we want to make sure of...We have to make sure we get to the right spots for him so he can deliver the football. The break down in protection at times threw him off and he had to move and adjust.
A breakdown in protection has been a common theme for the Bengals in 2012, and Lewis' comments bring up the question of whether Dalton has kept good form in and out of the pocket so far this season.
Let's break down Dalton's form, so far, in 2012 and diagnose the exact issues he is experiencing in his sophomore campaign.
Form under Pressure
In Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns the Bengals were defeated 34-24, in large part, thanks to Dalton's three interceptions. For example, in the third quarter up four points, Dalton found himself under pressure after the pocket broke down, as seen below.
As you can see, Dalton is scrambling away from pressure and elects to make a last-ditch throw down the field on third down, despite being deep in enemy territory. Dalton's form is horrendous, as he throws off his back foot while on the run.
The pass is lofty and too high for the intended target, A.J. Green. It is promptly intercepted by cornerback Joe Haden as seen above. Dalton's form was bad, but so was his decision-making. Knowing he was going to sloppily throw on the run, he should have simply thrown the ball out of bounds, allowing his team to punt and play a game of field position.
Form with No Pressure
Week 4, the Bengals found themselves victorious over the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-10, and Dalton's stellar play was a major reason why Cincinnati was able to notch a road win. Early in the fourth quarter, Dalton was granted a perfect pocket, despite Jacksonville rushing six defenders, and delivered a pass with perfect form as a result.
Thanks to Dalton's outstanding form, with his feet set and driving through the throwing motion, he was able to find Green for a touchdown that all but sealed the deal in Jacksonville. While perfect protection helped, Dalton's great form allowed him to place the ball perfectly to beat the coverage.
This, more often than not, has been the story for Dalton, so far, in 2012. He's had great form when actually given time, but he's had serious issues with decision making.
As hinted at, Dalton's form is nowhere near his biggest issue in 2012. It's an issue at times when protection breaks down, but the real story of his struggles, so far, has been his horrendous decision-making and inability to progress through his reads consistently.
Bleacher Report's very own Andrea Hangst perfectly illustrated Dalton's issues recently, and form was not a major concern among them.
Dalton is having issues reading defenses and habitually stares down one receiver rather than diagnosing a defense and making the correct decision. He hasn't had the best supporting cast, thus far, but most of the blame falls directly on his shoulders.
So far, Dalton's form has not been an issue except under pressure. Expect that to remain the same, as form and mechanics have never been a problem for Dalton. The fundamentals are out of the way, but the rest of Dalton's development is going to take some time.