During the first quarter of the NFL season, we have seen the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees dominate the game from the quarterback position. However, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has regressed.
After a dismal 23 completions on 42 attempts for 206 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 58.2 against the Cleveland Browns, more unanswered questions remain regarding the third-year quarterback. After all, this is supposed to be the season in which Dalton finally breaks out and leads this team deep into the postseason, right?
First thing's first.
Through four games, Dalton has now completed 94 passes on 148 attempts for 1,003 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 83.2. He is on pace to take a major step back in most categories from his 2012 campaign.
One thing to take away from those projections is the increased amount of attempts from Dalton this season. Instead of keeping a balanced offensive attack, the coaching staff is relying heavily on Dalton's arm.
Perhaps Marvin Lewis and Co. should look back at their quarterback's 2012 numbers. Over the six games in which Dalton posted a passer rating over 100 last season, he never attempted more than 31 passes. Less is more.
Despite being asked to do more in 2013, something has to be the main cause of Dalton's drop-off in production. Looking back over his 42 attempts against the Browns on Sunday, a familiar deficiency reared its ugly head. He continues to hold on to the ball far too long.
This is something that Dalton has struggled with since entering the NFL in 2011. However, in his third year, he should be showing signs of improvement. He's not.
Take this second-quarter play from Sunday's game for example. The design here is to confuse the defense by crossing tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver A.J. Green deep down the field in an effort to spring one of them open for a big gain:
As the play takes shape, Dalton notices that both Green and Gresham are double covered. However, with the safety shadowing Green, Gresham could find himself open in a hole in the coverage:
Just as the play was drawn up, Green's presence allows Gresham to find the soft spot in the defense. Both linebackers have allowed him to get behind them and have their eyes focused on Dalton. If Dalton pulls the trigger now, it will result in a huge gain:
He doesn't. Instead, Dalton holds on to the ball and continues to roll to his right. By the time he finally releases the ball, four defenders are now sitting back in coverage watching his every move:
By the time the ball gets to Gresham, the defense has closed in, making a reception virtually impossible:
Now, watch the play in its entirety:
Whether it's a trust issue with his offensive weapons or an uncertainty about his own abilities, Dalton must overcome whatever it is that is causing him to hesitate. Not only does holding on to the ball for an extended period of time force bad throws, but also increases the chances for a sack as well.
This West Coast offense relies heavily on a quick release—which Dalton has. However, that will not do him any good if he continues to hesitate in this manner.
All screen shots courtesy of NFL Game Rewind.