Last week we touched on the subject of the Cincinnati Bengals’ fanbase sticking with Andy Dalton for the coming season. This week, let’s take a look at the coaching staff and determine how much patience they should have with the third-year quarterback.
It is obvious that the Bengals will be sticking with Dalton in 2013 even after he struggled late in the 2012 season.
His 2012 stats were very decent overall for a second-year quarterback. Dalton completed 329 of 528 passes (62.3 percent) for 3,669 yards, 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions for a passer rating of 87.4.
Every one of these numbers (aside from total interceptions) was an improvement over his rookie season.
Dalton started the 2012 campaign on fire as 23 of his 27 touchdown passes came in the first 11 weeks of the season. However, changes in the offense was, in part, due to Dalton's late-season slump.
With that being said, first let's take a look at what the coaching staff needs to accomplish in order to allow Dalton to succeed.
The Bengals and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had trouble finding an identity for the offense over 2012. In the first half of the year, this was a pass-first offense. Dalton only threw for less than 230 yards twice in that span. The second half of the season featured a run-oriented offense in which Dalton only hit the 230-yard passing mark twice.
This kind of identity crisis does not bode well for a young quarterback. Dalton did regress in a couple of areas, but the way the offense was being implemented differently each week hurt his rhythm.
Chances are that Gruden and quarterback coach Ken Zampese will both be back in Cincinnati for the 2013 campaign. It will be their responsibility to allow Dalton to develop under a consistent scheme and utilize his strengths.
With the constant switching of offensive game plans, the offensive line had to focus on run-blocking as opposed to pass protection, and this resulted in Dalton almost doubling the amount of sacks taken from his rookie season.
This type of offensive behavior could potentially throw off even the best NFL quarterbacks.
So, the first part of this conundrum is getting the offense headed in the right direction and allowing Dalton the opportunities to be successful.
If that is indeed accomplished, Dalton will have to solidify his game during this offseason in several areas.
One troublesome thing about Dalton is that he does not seem to have a good mental clock when it comes to pressure. He will sometimes force a ball early to his first read, causing an incompletion.
On the other hand, Dalton will sometimes hold on to the ball for far too long as he looks for a perfect throw downfield. This is one of the causes for the large amount of sacks that he took late in the season.
Dalton has great footwork and a quick release. He is a smart quarterback and knows his offense very well. This is something that can be easily coached and we should see an improvement next season.
But another lingering issue with Dalton is his deep-ball accuracy. Arm strength is not a concern for Dalton as some thought early in the 2012 season; instead, it is Dalton’s placement of the ball when he lets one loose.
He struggles to keep the ball in play on deep sideline routes and needs to focus on giving his receivers a chance to make the catch.
Finally, Dalton needs to work on his cadence at the line of scrimmage. He has not been mixing it up enough over the course of a game and this gives opposing pass-rushers a chance to beat his offensive line.
These three things are the largest concerns for Dalton as he heads into next year. The third season for a starting quarterback is the most important, as the coaching staff expects significant strides.
So, how much patience should the Bengals have with Dalton in 2013?
Expect the coaching staff to groom Dalton over the offseason and implement an offense that will work well with his strengths.
If this is done and Dalton shows improvement in the system, we could be looking at a franchise quarterback before the year is over.
On the other hand, if Dalton does not make the adjustments mentioned above and continues to post sub-par numbers, the Bengals could very well go back to the drawing board in the 2014 draft.
Cincinnati will certainly allow Dalton to start for the entire season in 2013, which will allow him plenty of time to prove that his is the quarterback they all thought he was when he was drafted out of TCU in 2011.
Expect a fair amount of leeway for Dalton early on in the season as the coaches will be closely monitoring his progress.
2013 will be a very telling year for this young quarterback, and the Bengals have made it well known that they believe he is the right guy to have under center in the future.
We should not expect patience to wear thin for Dalton in the coming season.
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