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Early Season Offensive Success No Fluke - "Dalton is Good"

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Nice piece at The Ringer today - a part of it on Dalton and the Bengals:

https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2018/10/11/17963090/early-season-fantasy-football-trends

Andy Dalton Is Good

The strongest catalyst behind the Bengals’ surprising 4-1 start has been the renaissance from quarterback Andy Dalton, who’s playing better than we’ve seen in years. Dalton leads the NFL with three fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives, he is on pace to set a new career high in yards (4,264) and touchdowns (38), and his 7.7 yards per attempt, 65.8 completion rate, and 94.9 passer rating are all at three-year highs.

That jump can be traced in part to Dalton’s improvement passing under pressure. Despite Cincy’s investments on the offensive line over the offseason, the team’s pressure rate allowed has actually increased slightly (32.7 percent this year vs. 31.3 percent last year), per Pro Football Focus. But Dalton’s been sharper in those situations, completing 48.1 percent of his passes under pressure (up from 45.2) with an 83.3 passer rating, seventh among quarterbacks per PFF. Crucially, Dalton’s taking far fewer drive-killing sacks as well. The Bengals’ signal-caller was sacked 39 times last year on 535 dropbacks, a 7.3 percent sack rate (22nd), and this year, he’s taken just nine sacks on 196 dropbacks, a 4.6 percent rate (ninth). Some of that is smart scheming by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who’s designed route-combinations that give Dalton simpler reads and help him get the ball out on time. But some of it is just old-fashioned quarterbacking: The soon-to-be 31-year-old vet has done an excellent job of stepping up into the pocket and delivering strikes down the field in the face of oncoming pass rushers.

The emergence of wide receiver Tyler Boyd as a security blanket underneath has paid dividends, too, particularly in third- and fourth-down situations. Dalton’s leaned heavily on the third-year receiver when he needs to move the chains: From Week 2 on, Boyd ranks first in the NFL in targets on third and fourth down (16), tied with DeAndre Hopkins and Adam Thielen in first-down conversions (nine) on those downs. The combination of Boyd and A.J. Green gives Dalton a dangerous one-two punch to throw to downfield.

Through five weeks, the Bengals have fielded a top-10 offense by just about every metric. Cincy’s fourth in points per game (30.6), tied for ninth in yards per play (6.0), eighth in first downs per game (23), and sixth in offensive DVOA—and they’ve done all that despite missing starting running back Joe Mixon for two games. Losing tight end Tyler Eifert for the year to a broken ankle is a blow for this team’s upside down the stretch—and some might look at Dalton’s seven picks thus far and start to worry. But context is key: One of those interceptions was a desperation Hail Mary, two were arguably on the receiver taking bad routes, and another two were on tipped balls. Dalton must prove he can rein in the turnovers, but his relatively high interception rate isn’t wildly concerning.

The combination of smart scheming by Lazor, better performance under pressure from Dalton, and a more effective mix of playmakers at receiver make me a believer in Dalton and the Bengals’ skill position players. The early-season success was no fluke.

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Nice to see the stats back up what my eyes have seen - which is that Dalton is doing much better under pressure than the past. Not sure why, Lazor's offense gives him more a chance to bail on plays? Van Pelt's coaching (his eyes sure seem to be more downfield when he moves in the pocket than they used to be)? Simply him growing as a qb as happens with experience? A combo? Dunno, but it has been really easy to notice, and welcome to see.

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Dalton clearly is showing top QB command of the offense.  

I thought he struggled more last year than he got blame but o-line was so horrible too. 

They are definitely clicking.  There was one bad throw that sticks out in Dolphins game and I don’t think his protection is all that reliable this season.

First weeks of the season he has been at the elite/mvp level.

I think o-line has to up their run blocking to a more consistent level so it can take pressure off him. 

It will be hard to sustain an entire season and especially if we go up against a team that can play press/man coverage. 

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Dalton was never the issue...the last time he had a competent OLine he was a leading MVP candidate.  2016 and 2017's oline was so bad that almost no one could have succeeded.  Is the Oline fixed, no but it is better and thus Andy is putting up better stats.

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If you believe the article, the o-line is giving up MORE pressures this year, not less.

But, Dalton is handling it better.  Likely due to several factors: o-coordinator, qb coach, better weapons, etc.

He's also been more willing to throw into tight windows. He's keeping his eyes up when he's pressured and looking for throws when he would give up on plays in previous years.

 

I've never been a Dalton hater, but he's showing growth this year and the o-line isn't the reason why.

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Right. What skyline said. Read the piece i pasted. The pressure has been there just as much this year - even more - and he’s handling it better. Literally, it’s a better version of dalton. That’s what my eyes have seen - when he gets pressure he is still looking to make a play downfield - and has been successful doing so. That IS a new thing for him, frankly. As good as he was in 2015 - pressure was still his Achilles heel. Has been less of an issue this year, for what I am guessing are many reasons. But it’s a better dalton than we have had before, I think. Which is saying something, because he’s been really good at times in the past.

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I love Dalton but get tired of idiotic media. Dalton is NOT at his best, he is on pace to 21 ints this year, his worst ever in career. 2015 is his best. this year is no where close to that. obviously OL is the blame. Dalton doing very wonderful this year along with those OL we have.

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I like Dalton as well. Like, not love.

However, he’s also on pace for the most passing yards in a season and most TD’s in a season. Noting that not all INT’s are his fault, some are, makes his INT pace less concerning from my perspective.

Hope to see his season go well !!!

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Yeah I think he has had around three balls get tipped into picks, and the hail mary to end the Panthers game was meaningless.  The INT rate is misleading.  I think Dalton is at least having his best year since 2015, and behind the current offensive line that may translate to his best year period.

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11 hours ago, skyline said:

If you believe the article, the o-line is giving up MORE pressures this year, not less.

But, Dalton is handling it better.  Likely due to several factors: o-coordinator, qb coach, better weapons, etc.

He's also been more willing to throw into tight windows. He's keeping his eyes up when he's pressured and looking for throws when he would give up on plays in previous years.

 

I've never been a Dalton hater, but he's showing growth this year and the o-line isn't the reason why.

Well... we all watched Russell Bodine.

maybe there are slightly more pressures but they aren’t coming straight down Daltons throat like they were when Bodine was in.  Same thing about RT and LT really... yeah there’s pressure this year but last year shouldn’t be called pressure, it was blown play after blown play by the C, RG, RT, and LT !

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I don’t know how they define or determine pressure.  Last season both edges gave up ground very very quickly.   I don’t watch the all-22 anymore. 

Dalton was bailing early or anticipating a lot more last year.  If there is the same amount of pressure (which I question). Dalton has managed superbly to a mvp level.

Still protection this year seems shaky a lot of times.  

If there’s the same amount of pressure as last year is Pollack a bust? Has slightly better players.  I thought the guy was doing a pretty good job in comparison to last season. 

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I don't think anyone can overlook what Pollack was working with in Dallas and what he has here.
While I think we are on the right path in rebuilding the o-line, we are far off of the quality Pollack was working with in Dallas.

Tyron Smith (1st round)
Connor Williams (2nd round)
Travis Frederick (1st round)
Zack Martin (1st round)
La'el Collins (1st round talent who fell on bogus charge)

The Cowboys drafted each of those guys.  Not trades, not free agents, DRAFTED.
While it's nice to be able to make that kind of investment.  It's equally nice that none have busted out considering the risk.

What have the Bengals done ??

Cordy Glenn (2nd round) came via trade
Clint Boling (4th round)
Billy Price (1st round)
Alex Redmond (undrafted)
Bobby Hart (7th round) came via free agency

Anyone see the glaring difference in approach and what Pollack has to work with ??
Honestly, it's amazing they have done as well as they have to this point.

While I like they at least made a move to get Glenn and draft Price this year, they need to make a greater effort to address the o-line earlier.
The 2019 draft should be no different.  Stop f*cking around and build the o-line.

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I am gonna go ahead and re-focus on Dalton and Van Pelt. As luck would have it, Hobson dropped a timely article this AM that picks up on what I started the thread with. Spoiler alert: it is not my imagination, Dalton has been way better under pressure this year than in the past, and it is because they have actually PRACTICED for it. Who knew? (Apparently not the previous Bengals qb coaches...): Writes Hobson:

https://www.bengals.com/news/dalton-melts-the-pressure

When the Bengals show it down with the Steelers Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12), quarterback Andy Dalton has his team 4-1 while taking a page from Big Ben’s playbook.

For years (14 to be exact), Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has barged his way to Canton by torturing the AFC North with big play after big play roaming out of the pocket away from pressure or literally throwing under pressure with bodies hanging on him like some horror movie. (Remember when he made like Dracula and came out of the crypt in the Wild Card Game after the Bengals’ pressure had seeming driven a stake through his heart?)

But Dalton comes into Sunday, according to profootballfocus.com, as one of the best passers in the league under pressure. Never a big part of his game until quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt arrived this season, Dalton is tied with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers with the second most touchdown passes under pressure (five) and the seventh best passer rating in the NFL at 83.3.

That comes after a season he finished 19th in passer rating (75.9) and threw just six TD passes under the gun for his career high. Dalton points to the bag of disaster drills Van Pelt brought with him from his decade-long career coaching NFL quarterbacks.

“I’m glad he’s here. Good stuff,” Dalton said after Thursday’s practice.

Before Van Pelt, this minister of mayhem, got into coaching he was an NFL back-up quarterback for another decade and lived the pressure. Then he went to Green Bay and helped Aaron Rodgers join Roethlisberger for a Night at the Improv in Canton one day.

“Every quarterback should be able to drop back and throw a 5 route or come-back route in a clean pocket,” Van Pelt said. “Any quarterback should be able to do that. It’s when the body is under duress. That’s my approach. It’s when you have to throw off your back foot or throw when your left foot is behind your right foot and you’re all messed up down below. That’s what we try to emphasize during those individual periods.”

So Van Pelt makes his quarterbacks practice the worst-looking throws this side of a middle-school game. The really great completion to Van Pelt looks more like a Beechmont Avenue fender-bench rather than an Andrew Wyeth painting 50 yards through the seascape. 

“A lot of awkward throws,” Dalton said. “Not being set. Not being in the same spot. Not having your feet in the right spot all the time. What we’ve been doing in practice we’ve been able to apply in a game.”

Exhibit A came last Sunday against the Dolphins. Dalton’s 18-yard touchdown pass with his legs chained in the embrace of Miami defensive end Charles Harris turned the tide of the game when it came moments after the Bengals defense held on third-and-a-foot. The how-did-he-do-that frustration of the Miami defenders when they saw running back Joe Mixon haul it in was palpable and a precursor.

“That was a classic,” Van Pelt said. “Free rusher. Stepped up. Ball security tucking it under his left arm pit to keep it away from the defender. Leaned into the free rusher and broke through. That’s the epitome of what we’re doing.”

But Dalton’s favorite throw of the day may have come earlier in the game. They went play-action and there was more action than play from the Dolphins as they swarmed him.

He moved up in the pocket and ended up no only throwing on the run, but throwing while running forward and not being able to get a thing on the ball. It was a wobbler, but a perfectly thrown wobbler to wide receiver A.J. Green working the right sideline for his longest catch of the day on a 23-yarder.

“Threw it to a spot,” Dalton said. “That was one of my better throws.

“It’s similar what we do in the drills. We don’t have anybody hanging on us (like the TD) and you throw it. But it helps. There were definitely no legs in that throw.”

The throw to Mixon emphasized Van Pelt’s emphasis. But maybe even more indicative of his play against a swarm was his alertness in the pocket in Atlanta when he didn’t give up a strip-sack in the winning drive. “Big teaching points are you have to disconnect you upper and lower body,” Van Pelt said. “Your lower body may be in a different state, but your upper body still has to be able to throw accurately … If you practice the hard stuff, it’s easier in the game. “He’s a good athlete. He can run. I hope it’s helped him. I hoped it’s made him more comfortable.”


Two years ago Van Pelt commandeered Rodgers through a season he led the league passing under pressure with a ridiculous 12 touchdowns against one interception. Dalton has two picks this year under pressure, but the concept is the same. “In practice we’d break down plays so we could use the scramble drill and the receivers would get used to reacting to him out of the pocket,” Van Pelt said. “You get about six to eight plays a game that are unscripted like that and they’re always the potential for big plays.”

Exhibit B: In Carolina, chased out of the pocket against a five-man pressure, Dalton ended up having to throw across his body when he glimpsed wide receiver Tyler Boyd continuing his route across the back of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown. Running to the left? Dalton made it look easy. “You can get big plays against pressure. A lot of times there’s not as many guys in coverage,” Dalton said. “I think it shows our offensive line is picking stuff up and our guys are playing fast.” Meanwhile, the minister of mayhem keeps drilling. “To me, that’s something you have to work on because they’re such big plays,” Van Pelt said. “You can score on them or change field position.”

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Seriously, I am salty as hell that Dalton was never given this coaching and practice on this before this year. I frankly didn't think it was something you could practice, I guess, since no one had ever done that with him. I assumed the ability to move in the pocket while feeling the pressure and keep your eyes downfield was something you had or you didn't. Apparently, it is also something that can be practiced. One of the quietly biggest things that happened last off-season was the Packers letting Alex Van Pelt go (remember how angry Rodgers was about that?). His hire here has unlocked a version of Dalton so far better than what we have seen in the past, even at his best. Even in 2015, handling pressure wasn't a strong point for him. So far, in 2018, it has been. And it is absolutely making a crucial difference. They don't win the Miami game without this version of Dalton.

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One other factor in Andy’s improvement under pressure - the punishment faced by qbs who choose to withstand pressure to make a throw.

Think about what these guys faced when Andy came into the league versus what they face now.  Guys all over the league are breaking out of the pocket, making plays on the run, etc.  8 years ago if you stood too long in the pocket you’d get a serious head injury.  No more, and it’s an improvement.

Think about what happened to a guy like Trent Green.  Basically has his brain wrecked.  QBs don’t have to face that any more.  

Go Andy Dalton, beat the wretched Steelers who can no longer blatantly spear guys and head hunt.

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4 hours ago, membengal said:

I am gonna go ahead and re-focus on Dalton and Van Pelt.

Absolutely.  Especially Van Pelt.
I too, recall how irritated Rodgers was in Green Bay when he learned they let him get away.
While I have always ran hot and cold when it comes to Dalton, I can't say as I've been to either extreme of "Fire him" or "He's the greatest".
I love what Van Pelt has done not only for Dalton to this point, but the whole offense.

Couple that with how they can build moving forward and I think Bengals fans have reason to be optimistic.

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On 10/13/2018 at 2:50 AM, ArmyBengal said:

Absolutely.  Especially Van Pelt.
I too, recall how irritated Rodgers was in Green Bay when he learned they let him get away.
While I have always ran hot and cold when it comes to Dalton, I can't say as I've been to either extreme of "Fire him" or "He's the greatest".
I love what Van Pelt has done not only for Dalton to this point, but the whole offense.

Couple that with how they can build moving forward and I think Bengals fans have reason to be optimistic.

Read that too about Van Pelt.  I think combining him with Lazor for the offseason gave them time to fix what was a broken offense.  Many on this board have asked why Dalton isn’t being more mobile.  He had that ability at TCU but in the pros no one had designed rollouts and etc until this years offense.  The idea of Dalton moving out and hitting receivers running open after routes ended should have been a nobrainer.  One thing to consider is how sturdy the line was when Dalton came in as a rookie.  The emphasis was in him making very quick throws and reads back then.  This year looks much different with his new found mobility. Props to Van Pelt for bringing his Aaron Rodgers training tools here.

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On 10/11/2018 at 3:22 PM, Wraith said:

Dalton was never the issue...the last time he had a competent OLine he was a leading MVP candidate.  2016 and 2017's oline was so bad that almost no one could have succeeded.  Is the Oline fixed, no but it is better and thus Andy is putting up better stats.

Against Carolina, the one playoff caliber team they've played so far outside of maybe the Ravens, he threw 4 INT's and had a 64.8 QB rating.

I just want to see him perform against top competition.  He's absolutely responded to the new coaching this year, like he did in 2015.  Meanwhile I'm still in "wait and see" mode with this team as always.

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he threw 4 INT's

One end of game hail mary. Two balls tipped in air by his wide receivers.

 

But you do you.

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I think it was Daltons 3rd season where I left him for dead.  He was terrible.  He cost the team quite a few games by himself.  

He did rebound and he eventually got to 2015 which was his best year to date and now has started off again this year just as good.

Hey he isn’t Brees Brady or Rodgers but he’s not the loser he was in season 3.  Give him 3 seconds and he usually finds someone open for a gain.

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It's easy to point at the QB of any team and say he is this or he is that.
While Dalton will never be mistaken for one of the all time greats, he is a very good QB.

Anyone needing proof of how it can be for a team to find a QB, you need look no further than the Cleveland Browns.
There are plenty of other teams that have spend much time, energy, and draft picks trying to find a solid QB.
How many teams are starting rookie QB's this season ??  How many of them will be even solid QB's for at least as many years as Dalton ??

I don't know, I just refuse to get super mad at Dalton when Marvin is still f*cking up stuff on the sidelines with wreck less abandon.

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9 minutes ago, ArmyBengal said:

I don't know, I just refuse to get super mad at Dalton when Marvin is still f*cking up stuff on the sidelines with wreck less abandon.

Bingo.  Complaining about Andy Dalton with Marvin still around just seems fundamentally misguided.

He’s been a B or B+ quarterback for most of his career and that ought to be enough with the rest of the talent we’ve seen here.

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NFL media over credit QBs for team accomplishments and overblame QBs for team failures.

Dalton in the past has looked like ass in some national primetime/playoff appearances and that will be his reputation nationally until he does what he has done several times at 1pm  on the national stage since then.

Dalton post 2014 is simply a better QB.  Now the national rep will need to catch up. 

A little more awareness this past Sunday and not snapping the ball so early in the play clock and he’s making the media rounds off the back of another 4th quarter game winning drive. 

 

 

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15 hours ago, AMPHAR said:

NFL media over credit QBs for team accomplishments and overblame QBs for team failures.

Dalton in the past has looked like ass in some national primetime/playoff appearances and that will be his reputation nationally until he does what he has done several times at 1pm  on the national stage since then.

Dalton post 2014 is simply a better QB.  Now the national rep will need to catch up. 

A little more awareness this past Sunday and not snapping the ball so early in the play clock and he’s making the media rounds off the back of another 4th quarter game winning drive. 

 

 

If the defense could play at an average level he would have gotten  it.  

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