Heading into this season, there was some pressure on Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. The longtime coach in Cincinnati had not been given an extension beyond this season and there was a real possibility that at the end of this season, he could be looking for new employment. While that question about a contract extension was still out there, the Bengals were trying to make the playoffs again this season and do something they have not done under Lewis: win a playoff game. With as many pieces that they had returning this season, the Bengals were looking locked and loaded for a return to the playoffs to get that win that has eluded them. After two games this season, those dreams of making the playoffs look like a pipedream at this point. The Bengals have started the season 0-2 and have not even scored a touchdown yet so far. The running game has been iffy in the running game, sitting at 20th in the league at this point. You would think with the running game being bad, the passing game would be better. Well, sad to say, the passing game is siting at 20th in the NFL right now also. The Bengals are looking lost like the Easter Bunny on Christmas on offense and that lost feeling starts with the quarterback of the team, Andy Dalton.
The seventh-year quarterback entered this year with more weapons offensively and a chance to have a great season. After two games, it looks like he has yet to figure out himself. Dalton has traditionally been a quarterback that completes over 60% of his passes while throwing for around 24 touchdowns and having roughly 13 or 14 interceptions. While those are not superstar numbers at quarterback, they are not exactly horrible for a career. You would expect at this point in his career that he would be ready to have a career year to carry the Bengals offense, but something definitely seems amiss this season. Dalton has been off on a lot of throws this season, missing wide-open receivers for touchdowns or big gains. The issue has gotten so bad that Bengals star wide receiver AJ Green spoke of his frustration in the aftermath of the Bengals loss to the Texans this past Thursday night. The words he spoke indicated that he is not happy with the offense and some have even indicated that there may be an issue he has with the quarterback getting him the football. As a result of the slow start for Cincy this season offensively, the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. Even with that firing, that may not help the offense of the Bengals unless the quarterback coach now offensive coordinator Bill Lazor can reach Dalton.
The ugly truth is Dalton has not been the same since Hue Jackson left as offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns job. Lazor may not know the magic words to fix him, but one thing he can try to do is review the mechanics of Dalton. Often times when quarterbacks are missing throws like they are, it could be something as little as not following through on their throws and being on balance when he throws the football. Once Lazor can get Dalton comfortable in his mechanics again, then he can start games by giving him easier throws. Bubble screens to guys like John Ross III and running backs out of the backfield could be essential in helping Dalton build confidence in what he can do. As his confidence grows throughout the game in his arm, those throws that were off-target deep throws will turn into long completions because Dalton would have established a rhythm and with refined mechanics, would be even better with ball placement. That would make receivers like Green and Brandon LaFell happier because Dalton would be getting them the ball and would also help the running game by keeping the safeties back and giving the offensive line less people to account for in the box.
These solutions could happen, but they also could not. Dalton could continue to struggle and that would be something that would hurt the Bengals. With the rumblings already out there that some players on the team reportedly want Dalton benched and want the team to bring in Colin Kaepernick to commandeer the offense, the pressure is on Dalton to perform and perform now. If he does not perform next week, the cries from the players on that team could get louder and louder and you never know if ownership and the coaching staff will hear them and comply. The time is now for Dalton to get it right or else it could be curtains for him in Cincy, especially if they bring another quarterback in and take away his starting position.