Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Pat Yasinskas' QB Watch
By Pat Yasinskas
While his numbers aren't off the charts, Andy Dalton has helped lead his team to a 4-2 start.
With Carolina’s Cam Newton, there’s been shock, awe and a lot of losing. With “the other’’ rookie quarterback that’s been starting all season, there simply has been a lot of winning.
That’s Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, who, very quietly, has his team off to a 4-2 start. Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert was tossed into the starting role after opening the season on the bench, and the same is about to happen with Minnesota’s Christian Ponder.
Newton’s had 400-yard passing games and turned heads with his feet. That’s great, but the only rookie quarterback who is winning regularly so far is the guy who was drafted in the second round. Dalton was taken with the 35th overall pick at a time when it still looked as if Carson Palmer might return and the rookie could develop slowly behind him.
Instead, Palmer stuck to his demand to be traded or released and stayed away from the Bengals. That cleared the way for Dalton to be the No. 1 quarterback right away. The numbers haven’t been quite Newtonesque, but Dalton has had games where he threw for 332 and 298 yards and the Bengals have won their past three games.
Year of the Quarterback
ESPN has dedicated 2011 to examining one of the most crucial positions in all of sports -- the quarterback. Year of the QB »
It’s not like Dalton was thrown in as a game manager and the Bengals are winning in spite of him. This was a team that couldn’t win with Palmer last season and Dalton has come in and made an immediate difference.
“The quarterback, he is our centerpiece, and we develop offense through Andy,’’ Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. “Everything we do comes through Andy. People asked me, ‘How are you going to be with a young quarterback?’ Well, a young quarterback is going to be our offense and he is going to be what our offense is. You can see what we do and we do it through him. That’s why we felt so good about this guy.”
What Dalton did at Texas Christian was throw accurate passes and win. After an 8-5 record as a freshman, Dalton was 34-3 the next three seasons.
It’s been more of the same since Dalton took over the Bengals. He’s completing 62.4 percent of his passes. Tight end Jermaine Gresham and rookie receiver A.J. Green have made Dalton look good by catching some passes that weren’t exactly where they were supposed to be. But there haven’t been off-target throws.
But the best thing the Bengals might have done for Dalton was to pair him with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. A longtime Arena Football League coach, Gruden puts an emphasis on getting rid of the ball quickly.
That helps limit the pressure on Dalton and eliminates room for potential mistakes, and Dalton’s only getting better. In the past two games, he’s thrown just one interception and been sacked twice. In Sunday’s victory against Indianapolis, Dalton completed a season-high 78.1 percent of his passes and he’s singing the praises of Gruden.
“There is a lot of give and take,’’ Dalton said. “We don’t know anything different. With he and I coming here at the same time, we were both going to have new people around us. It has been great. He’s done a great job calling plays.”
It’s all worked out so well with the arrival of Dalton and Gruden that the Bengals finally put Palmer in their past. They traded Palmer to Oakland on Tuesday because they already had moved on so nicely without him.
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 10/23 at MIN
Those comments Brett Favre made about being surprised it took Rodgers so long to win a Super Bowl might be the best thing that could have happened. Rodgers is a guy who seems to thrive on external motivation, and it sure looks like he's on a mission to do what Favre never could -- win a second Super Bowl. Just look at what Rodgers has done in the past three games. He's thrown nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
Quarterback | Oakland Raiders ... Next Game: 10/23 vs. KC
In the end, Palmer won his standoff with Bengals owner Mike Brown, but Brown got a potential draft bonanza in return. But this is a great opportunity for Palmer to get his career back on track after it was stalled for several years. He's going to a team that's winning and he's got positive history with Hue Jackson. The Raiders are relying heavily on the run right now and, once Palmer gets settled in, he should be able to make a big impact as a play-action passer.
Quarterback | Washington Redskins... Next Game: 10/23 vs. CAR
Early on, Grossman was starting and the Redskins were winning because he wasn't turning the ball over. But Grossman has thrown six interceptions in the past two games, including four against Philadelphia on Sunday. After the fourth, Grossman was benched in favor of John Beck. When you're getting benched in favor of Beck, that's not a good sign for your career.
Quarterback | Buffalo Bills ... Next Game: 10/30 vs. WAS
His stock is still pretty high because the Bills are 4-2. But Fitzpatrick has cooled a bit after a stunning start. In his past three games (two of them losses), he's topped the 200-yard passing mark only once and he's thrown for three touchdowns and three interceptions and his final passing attempt with a chance to beat the Giants on Sunday was batted down. Cinderella stories are nice, but they don't go on forever.