Tuesday, October 29, 2013
What has keyed the Bengals rise?
By John McTigue
The Bengals are holding steady at No. 7 in the Week 9 ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings on the heels of a four game winning streak.
Andy Dalton struggled to throw it deep in the first four games ...
The Bengals have gotten strong defensive play the past few seasons, but this win streak has shown the offense may be catching up with the defense.
Andy Dalton has thrown for the third-most passing yards (1,246) and the second-most touchdowns (11) the last four weeks with the second-best Total QBR (83.4). Dalton has also thrown for 300 yards in each of his last three games, the longest streak of his career.
What has led to the improvement in the passing game?
Interestingly enough, Dalton has targeted A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham –- the only two skill position players to play with Dalton since his rookie season –- less frequently during the win streak. The duo has accounted for 38 percent of Dalton’s passes during the streak after accounting for over half of his attempts in the first four games.
Green and Gresham have done nothing to fall out of favor in Cincinnati. Despite fewer targets, Green has gained 100 yards in a career-high three straight games. Gresham has caught 72.3 percent of his targets this season, best among the Bengals’ wide receivers and tight ends.
The drop in targets for Green and Gresham is a result of an improved supporting cast.
But he's been much more effective of late.
In the Bengals’ Week 8 victory over the Jets, Marvin Jones caught four touchdown passes, doubling his career total.
Jones now has seven touchdowns this season (six during the win streak), all of which have come in the red zone. Only Wes Welker (eight) has more red zone touchdown receptions.
Jones has caught all eight of his red zone targets this season, the most targets without an incompletion on such passes. Dalton has completed 11-of-24 passes to all other Bengals inside the red zone with three touchdowns and an interception.
Rookie Giovani Bernard has given the Bengals something they’ve never had under Dalton -- a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Bernard has 26 receptions this season, including 14 during the winning streak. No Bengals running back had caught more than 20 passes from Dalton in a season entering this year.
The real value comes from what Bernard does on those receptions. Bernard is one of seven players this season to average 9.0 yards after the catch (min. 20 receptions).
Entering this season Gresham was the only receiving threat the Bengals had at tight end. Gresham had 120 receptions and 1,333 yards in Dalton’s first two seasons, with the rest of the Bengals’ tight ends combining for 24 receptions and 260 yards.
Rookie Tyler Eifert already has 24 receptions and 293 yards this season, which not only bests the “other” Bengals’ tight ends in the Dalton era, but is right on pace with Gresham (30 receptions, 288 yards).