The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, led by youngsters A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. Make no mistake -- A.J. Green is safe in Cincinnati for as long as he wants to be.
However, there is a lot of buzz around Cincinnati about whether or not Dalton, the team's quarterback, is on thin ice.
Let's look at the facts. In 32 starts with the Bengals, Dalton has thrown 47 touchdowns to only 29 interceptions. That's a positive.
He's also thrown for over 7,000 yards over those two seasons. Another decent number. So why the speculation?
For one, he has been abysmal in both of his postseason games against Houston. Those two games have seen Dalton throw four interceptions and not even one touchdown. Additionally, this past January, he was only able to muster 127 yards while completing under 50 percent of his passes. Thus, here comes the criticism.
While at TCU, Dalton was a much more mobile quarterback than he is in the NFL, which I'm in favor of. What that means, however, is that Dalton has to rely on his arm more often. After two seasons, Bengals' fans have seen what all the criticism about Dalton's arm was about.
He can't throw the deep ball. He's able to get it downfield which is great—but Green can't chase down all of those passes. Usually, the deep ball out of Dalton's cannon is overthrown or somehow, simply off the mark.
Hence, the Bengals selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the Draft. Dalton is more likely to be successful with passes over the middle of the field for 7-11 yards, not the deep ball for 25+ yards. By adding Eifert, the Bengals' front office has supplied their third-year quarterback with another tool equipped properly for him.
Let's give Dalton a little bit of a break though—he really hasn't had any sort of run game since he came out of TCU. He was originally stuck with an aging Cedric Benson, and last season with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is no doubt talented, but not a guy who can carry the full load. With the addition of Giovani Bernard, it would seem Dalton is going to get more help from the running game.
Still, there are those who believe the Bengals will never amount to anything with Andy Dalton in control of the reins. Some believe there's too much wrong with his game and that he's not a franchise leader.
As of now, I find that criticism to be harsh. The Bengals weren't supposed to be worth anything in 2011, and Dalton led the team to a 9-7 season. In 2012, he upped the game and got to 10-6.
They always say the third time's a charm—does it need to be for Dalton?