From top to bottom, the Cincinnati Bengals may have the most talented and balanced roster in the NFL. But if there’s one weakness on their team, it’s probably the quarterback position, where Andy Dalton has become more of a liability than an asset over the past month, and has actually held the team back instead of developing into a quarterback capable of leading his team deep into the postseason. If the Bengals had better and more consistent play at the quarterback position they would unquestionably be among the NFL’s elite and a Super Bowl favorite in the AFC on par with the Denver Broncos; however, with Dalton as their quarterback, they are a second tier team in a mediocre conference.
Ever since Dalton threw for five touchdowns in a 40-point win over the New York Jets, he’s been a disaster. Over the last three games, Dalton has thrown eight interceptions, most of them costly, while barely completing 50% of his passes. Despite throwing three touchdown passes against Cleveland, Dalton threw for less than 100 yards, and had it not been for touchdowns scored by Cincinnati’s defense and special teams, the Bengals may not have been able to overcome Dalton’s early interceptions and lackluster performance and put a stop to their losing streak before it reached three games.
Even earlier in the season, Dalton’s performance was unsteady. He’s had just two games this season in which he hasn’t thrown an interception, and he’s on pace for a career-high in interceptions, as well as fumbles. In his third pro season, he should be coming into his own as a quarterback; instead, Dalton has failed to take off and hit a wall in his development. He’s made an effort to assert himself as a top-10 caliber quarterback, but it hasn’t worked out; in fact, it’s only led to more mistakes and exposed him as a quarterback that isn’t capable of playing at a championship level, despite one of the strongest rosters in football as his supporting cast.
For his struggles this season, Dalton has no one to blame except himself. Even though Cincinnati returned all 11 starters on offense from last year, the Bengals used their first two draft picks on offensive skill players in support of Dalton. Cincinnati now has two productive running backs, two big and versatile tight ends, and three viable wide receivers, including one of the best receivers in the NFL in A.J. Green. That collection of skill players should be enough for any quarterback to play at an elite level, but that hasn’t been the case with Dalton, even with a top-10 defense that allows fewer than 20 points per game and rarely puts a game solely on his shoulders.
Despite having a contingent of skill position players that would make a vast majority of the quarterbacks in the NFL jealous, Dalton has failed to perform at a high level this season. He should be slinging the ball all over the field and making the Bengals a favorite to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, his development has stalled and he’s preventing the Bengals from reaching their full potential. With a better quarterback at the helm, there would be less than a handful of teams that would even have a chance of standing in Cincinnati’s way of accomplishing something great this season. But Dalton’s average skill set and mediocre performance this season is getting in the way, and there doesn’t seem to be anything the Bengals can do to change that, which is why the Bengals will make the playoffs this year but remain exactly one quarterback away from greatness.
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