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Saturday, February 22, 2014
Bengals won't pass if right QB available

By Coley Harvey

INDIANAPOLIS -- Andy Dalton already has help, but he could soon be getting more.

If the right quarterback is available when the Cincinnati Bengals start making their draft selections later this May, they'll take him, according to new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

"If there's a good one on the board that the organization feels good about, then I think we will draft [him]," Jackson said in an interview session with Bengals media at the NFL combine on Saturday.

Andy Dalton
If the Bengals draft a QB, it's not because the team has lost confidence in starter Andy Dalton, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said.
The comment comes after previous speculation that the Bengals would use a draft pick on a quarterback only if he were the best available player. With an inconsistent starter who is nearing the end of his rookie contract, and with a pair of backup quarterbacks who haven't had many opportunities to play, there are good reasons for the Bengals to explore shoring up the position.

Likely targets for the Bengals would include third- to fifth-round projections. Georgia's Aaron Murray, San Jose State's David Fales and Alabama's AJ McCarron could be quarterbacks to slip to that portion of the draft.

Although he was asked, Jackson declined to discuss how drafting a quarterback might affect Dalton's psyche. By bringing in another signal-caller, the Bengals could be viewed as sending a message to Dalton that they think he deserves more competition in an effort to get him to play better. Dalton certainly could view it that way, too.

"I'm not as worried about that as I would be about making sure whoever that guy is, or if we decided to [draft a quarterback], is the right fit or the right person for us," Jackson said. "It's that we put a quarterback on this football team and we believe that he has the makeup and the characteristics that we're looking for that could make us better.

"I don't think you can ever worry about the competition factor because at the end of the day, this is what this business is about. It's a performance-based business and guys have to play. Normally if you play really well, you have an opportunity to get paid. Everybody understands that. That's just the nature of our business."

Some have questioned Dalton's role in Jackson's system, following the coordinator's insistence that the offense will be more physical under his watch. More physical sounds like more running. More running would, in turn, lead to less passing. Jackson, who was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator last month after Jay Gruden's departure to Washington, said that Dalton's passing numbers shouldn't decrease this coming season. If anything, he believes they'll be even better.

"We'll throw it as good as anybody in the league," Jackson said. "We did it last year and I don't suspect we'll do anything different than that as far as throwing it with that kind of efficiency. To me, we'll just throw it better. That's my goal for our offense; to throw it better than we have."

Dalton passed for nearly 4,300 yards as a third-year player in 2013. He also led the Bengals to their third straight playoff appearance. Like the two previous postseason trips, though, he failed to capture a win last month when San Diego bounced the Bengals with a 27-10 wild-card round win. While Dalton had the highest passer rating and QBR marks of his career last year, increasing his efficiency still seems to be Jackson's chief concern. To help it come out, don't be surprised if the increased emphasis on running leads to more play-action opportunities for Dalton in the passing game.

Even as the Bengals grapple with the backup quarterback issue, Jackson remains convinced that Dalton needs to be the Bengals' starter.

"After doing self-scouting, evaluating everything that I've seen this offseason," Jackson said, "there's one thing I can be very sure about -- he's the right man for the job."