AFC North: Ricky Stanzi
November, 27, 2013
By Coley Harvey | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiThe Cincinnati Bengals are counting on Andy Dalton to return to the form that helped lead the team to a 4-1 record in October.CINCINNATI -- Earlier this week, Cincinnati Bengals players like cornerback Chris Crocker were adamant in pointing out the urgency they need to play with throughout the month of December.
"It's all about winning in December," Crocker said. "Let's win out and see where the chips lay. Why can't we win out? I don't see why we can't."
If you ask some Bengals fans and most NFL analysts, they'll give you one big reason why they don't believe Cincinnati will be able to go 5-0 to close out the regular season: No. 14.
That's right. To some, the primary obstacle in the way of end-of-season perfection for the Bengals is Andy Dalton, the player who has quarterbacked the franchise into the playoffs each of the past two seasons, and who constantly is trying to prove himself to those who consider him just another member of a mostly failed 2011 quarterback draft class.
For that reason, as the Bengals gear up for a stretch run that could give them a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs, an important question has to be asked.
Can December Andy mimic October Andy?
As we've written countless times in the past month, October Andy was indeed a dandy. Through the first four games of that month, Dalton threw for 1,243 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also completed 67.9 percent of his passes, won four games, had a passer rating higher than 116.0 and a QBR above 83.0. He was, quite simply, brilliant. His play was so sharp back then that on the final day of the month, hours before the Bengals were set to take on the Dolphins in a road Thursday night game, he was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month.
And, yes, even though, comparatively speaking, he didn't look as good overall against the Dolphins and ended up taking the game-winning sack for a safety in overtime, Dalton still had a rather special performance in the 22-20 loss. Aside from not completing a touchdown pass and getting intercepted three times, he threw for 338 yards, marking the fourth straight game he had gone over the 300-yard passing mark.
Overall, October Andy was Good Andy.
But now here comes December with all of its postseason potency. If Cincinnati hopes to set itself up for the type of playoff seeding Crocker believes it deserves, then it will have to play its best ball across the next five weeks. That's especially the case for Dalton and a Bengals offense that has looked rather anemic in the past three games.
One look at Dalton's previous December stats and it doesn't appear the third-year star should have any problem showcasing even a sliver of the success that made him and his team so good about two months ago.
After a rocky December as a rookie in 2011, Dalton was among the difference-makers last season when the desperate Bengals were in need of a strong final month just to secure a playoff berth. One year after going 2-2 in the month, Dalton went 4-1 during December 2012. The lone loss came after the Dallas Cowboys made a field goal in the final seconds to win 20-19.
While the level of desperation may be different this December, the Bengals are looking for Dalton to thrive under similar pressure-packed moments during this one. This time around, the pressure on Dalton mainly stems from the fact that so many are fed up with his play from the past three games. In them, he's thrown eight interceptions and been sacked 10 times. Across the latter two of those games, he's completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and hasn't posted a QBR higher than 18.0.
Weather factored heavily in Dalton's inability to move the ball in those two games. Windy conditions at Baltimore and windy and rainy conditions against the Browns sent some of his passes sailing and forced others into the hands of defensive backs.
Although weather shouldn't be a concern this weekend in San Diego (the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a delightful high of 71 degrees Sunday), it could be the rest of the season. Farmer's Almanac projects cold, damp conditions for all of December in the Ohio Valley. It should be noted that after Sunday's game, the Bengals are home three of the next four weeks. Their only remaining road game is at Pittsburgh.
Throughout his career, Dalton has performed better in warmer games. In games with temperatures 50 degrees or higher, he has a 20-14 record, an 85.1 passer rating and a 52.5 QBR. In games with temperatures at 49 and lower, he has a 5-5 record, a 75.4 passer rating and a 32.9 QBR. Dalton's last three sub-49-degree wins came last December, though; a sign that perhaps he's turning a corner in cold-weather contests.
Whatever the conditions and whomever their opponents are, when it comes to the next five weeks, the Bengals can only hope that Dalton turns into the same man who torched through this October.
April, 29, 2011
By James Walker | ESPN.com
The Cincinnati Bengals landed one of the draft's most dynamic offensive players in former Georgia receiver A.J. Green in the first round.
Now Cincinnati needs to find someone to throw Green the football in 2011.
Following Carson Palmer's offseason trade demands and threats to retire, the Bengals are in desperate need for a quarterback in this draft. A first-round run at the position has left the Bengals with two main options in Friday's second round: TCU's Andy Dalton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.
The Bengals have done extensive research on Dalton and Mallett and have been linked to both quarterbacks. Cincinnati holds the No. 35 overall pick, which is the third selection of the second round.
There are two teams are ahead of the Bengals today, which is where things could get interesting.
The New England Patriots are at the top at No. 33, and although they have reigning NFL MVP in Tom Brady, they have been researching this year's quarterback class. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Patriots draft their eventual quarterback of the future or trade the pick to another team more desperate at that position. New England often is one of the league's biggest traders on draft day.
At No. 34 is the Buffalo Bills, who also have a need at quarterback. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick had a decent season in 2010 but is not the long-term solution in Buffalo. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert was projected to be a target for the Bills at No. 3, but they got good value in Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus in the first round. Now they can explore drafting a second-tier quarterback to sit for a year or two and learn behind Fitzpatrick.
If both quarterbacks go off the board with the first two picks Friday, the Bengals could be in trouble.
After Mallett and Dalton, the remaining quarterbacks, such as Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, do not appear NFL ready. And the Bengals need a polished rookie who can immediately compete for the starting quarterback job this season.
March, 30, 2011
By James Walker | ESPN.com
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North:
- Several members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including coach Mike Tomlin, were on hand for the University of Texas pro day this week.
- The Cleveland Browns held a private workout for Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
- The Baltimore Ravens also have taken a closer look at Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi.
- Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones is auditioning to become the voice of the Aflac duck.
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