AFC North

It’s the Bengals’ Time

Andy Dalton will never be mentioned in the same class as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees. He may not even be mentioned in the same group as Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, or Joe Flacco. And when it comes to the up-and-coming young star QB’s in the game – Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton – he is often an afterthought. But is he good enough to win and take his team deep into the postseason? Absolutely.

Dalton has two major strengths: He is accurate and smart. He may never make the great throws that the elite quarterbacks do on a consistent basis, but if he is surrounded by the right personnel, he has the tools to make his team contend.

Say what you want about the Bengals and their history over the past two decades; player arrests, bad draft picks, cheap ownership etc… But this front office has designed the current installment of the Bengals in an intelligent way. We already know they have one of the best defenses in the league led by stars like defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall. They’ve also developed what some coaches have called one of the best offensive lines in football. But it’s at the skill positions where things get interesting.

The Bengals have surrounded Dalton with playmakers who all compliment his skill set. First off, they drafted and have developed a star receiver in A.J. Green, who is not only a deep threat, but also a guy who can take a short pass and turn it into huge chunks of yardage.  

Cincinnati also drafted Mohamed Sanu in 2012, yet another guy who can catch and run. This plays to Dalton’s strengths because he is highly efficient at hitting receivers in stride where they have paths to run away from defenders. Dalton excels at making quick reads and quick, accurate throws to receivers. Also, don’t forget other speedsters like Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones.

However, the icing on the cake might be what the Bengals have done with their tight ends and running backs. Jermaine Gresham has been around for a few years now, but the Bengals still went out and selected tight end Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame in the first round of this year’s draft. If you watched Eifert in South Bend, you know that he catches everything and is difficult to bring down. We saw this in week one against the Bears. Eifert (6’6”, 250 LBS) and Gresham (6’5” 260 LBS) were both able to catch short passes and break tackles for larger gains. This is just another example of how Dalton now has multiple playmakers that blend well with his strengths. But there’s more.

Right now he is in a platoon with power back BenJarvus Green-Elis, but Giovani Bernard might be a star by the time 2013 is finished. Where he could be truly special is catching passes out of the backfield. We saw flashed of this in the preseason, as Bernard was able to elude defenders with his speed and running ability after the catch.

Andy Dalton now has pass catchers all around him who can make plays at every level of the field. There are simply no excuses for not taking a step forward with this offense. With a deep threat in Green, a speedy run-after-catch number-2 receiver in Sanu, two beast pass-catching tight ends who excel at breaking tackles, and a running back who can turn a check down or swing pass into a huge play, there are good things ahead for the Bengals. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have dominated this division for years, but that is about to change.

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