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Thread: Bengals' Early Season Offensive Success No Fluke - "Andy Dalton is Good"

  1. #1

    Bengals' Early Season Offensive Success No Fluke - "Andy Dalton is Good"

    It was a part of a longer piece at The Ringer:

    https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2018/1...ootball-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.

  2. #2
    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.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by membengal View Post
    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.
    I'm sure it's a combination of things but my belief is that a big part of it is Alex Van Pelt's influence. He's a former NFL QB and he worked with the master of improv, Aaron Rodgers, for a long time. Gotta believe he knew some things, and earned some more in GB...and brought that with him as QB coach here.

  4. #4
    How many were surprised to read QB pressures allowed are up this season despite revamped Oline?

    Cordy Glenn is looking less like the long term answer and more like a guy holding down the spot for the next draft pick.

    Oh, and speaking of draft picks, 1st rounder Billy Price has been exactly what he was when they drafted him. Injured then, injured now. Plus, UDFA Trey Hopkins is outplaying him.

    Bobby Hart? When he blows up it's spectacular and immediate, but when he's on in the run game he opens up massive holes. Is that enough for a guy on a 1-year prove it deal?

    Alex Redmond. For a big strong guy he gets blown back into the QB way too often. You can see the power in the run game but when pass blocking he's mistake prone. Fix the penalties and technique breakdowns and you might have something someday.

    Clint Boling. For an offensive lineman it's kind of amazing how rarely his name gets mentioned.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by membengal View Post
    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.
    Have to give credit....you've been singing the praises of Van Pelt for months.

    Obviously the moving pocket and designed roll outs have helped but I'm guessing there was greater emphasis placed on receivers being more aware and working back to the QB on broken plays. Green and Boyd have been outstanding at it and Mixon just made a spectacular improvised TD catch.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by HOF View Post
    Have to give credit....you've been singing the praises of Van Pelt for months.

    Obviously the moving pocket and designed roll outs have helped but I'm guessing there was greater emphasis placed on receivers being more aware and working back to the QB on broken plays. Green and Boyd have been outstanding at it and Mixon just made a spectacular improvised TD catch.
    There it is on Van Pelt - hobson with a timely article for my thesis, with these 'graphs:

    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.”
    Last edited by membengal; 10-12-2018 at 10:29 AM.

  7. #7
    Like I said in a few other threads over the last few months, I have NO idea why previous qb coaches did not practice this stuff. I had, I guess, assumed that it wasn't something that could be taught or practiced. And yet, here we are. No wonder Rodgers was so pissed that Van Pelt was let go. I would guess Rodgers was tutored on this stuff from the moment he got with Van Pelt, which helps explain some of his ability keeping plays alive and making throws downfield. Super glad that Dalton was been teachable. It makes a difference.

  8. #8
    A lot of improvement on Andy’s part, for sure, and agree that the fact that he’s not only getting coaching, but is successfully applying it... is great to see.

    As that’s been manifesting itself this year, I’ve also been so impressed with Tyler Boyd. I thought he’d kill it in his second year, but he’s a year late... although his play down the stretch, especially in that Baltimore game at the end in 2017, gave him a nice jolt after a pretty awful year overall.

    He seems to have a great feel for the offense, and he and Andy have developed a great connection. His ability to make unscripted plays has been a boon to this offense. He’s got some of TJ’s personality to him... swagger, and he doesn’t shy away from the bright lights. This offense needed more of that, and both Boyd and Mixon are bringing it (in addition to their play).

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by HOF View Post
    How many were surprised to read QB pressures allowed are up this season despite revamped Oline?

    Cordy Glenn is looking less like the long term answer and more like a guy holding down the spot for the next draft pick.

    Oh, and speaking of draft picks, 1st rounder Billy Price has been exactly what he was when they drafted him. Injured then, injured now. Plus, UDFA Trey Hopkins is outplaying him.

    Bobby Hart? When he blows up it's spectacular and immediate, but when he's on in the run game he opens up massive holes. Is that enough for a guy on a 1-year prove it deal?

    Alex Redmond. For a big strong guy he gets blown back into the QB way too often. You can see the power in the run game but when pass blocking he's mistake prone. Fix the penalties and technique breakdowns and you might have something someday.

    Clint Boling. For an offensive lineman it's kind of amazing how rarely his name gets mentioned.
    I think starting out, Glenn was solid but he’s not looked good lately. Speed is giving him trouble. I know he’s got a kneee issue that he’s playing through, which doesn’t help, but he needs to step up for sure.

    I thought Price was pretty good but agree that Tre hasn’t missed a beat in his stead. Given that Price played a lot of G at OSU, wonder if they’d consider keeping Tre at C and moving Price over to G? As you noted, Redmond has been meh, and less than that as a pass blocker - which for a strong guy, surprises me... so maybe the best OL is Glenn-Boling-Hopkins-Price-Hart. Or maybe you just keep Price at C and move Hopkins back over to RG. Either way, I wouldn’t rush Price back... make sure the ligament is fully healed.

    Hart is the one that’s most concerning to me... he makes egregious errors every week, especially in pass pro.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by membengal View Post
    Like I said in a few other threads over the last few months, I have NO idea why previous qb coaches did not practice this stuff. I had, I guess, assumed that it wasn't something that could be taught or practiced. And yet, here we are.
    Just guessing but I think in the past Dalton has been coached to eat the ball and take the sack in some of the very same circumstances where he's now throwing it. In fact, I'll argue that since he was drafted Dalton has been coached to avoid making off balance throws, putting the ball up for grabs, or throwing wobbling floaters to a spot on the field. He's been told repeatedly to not risk throwing an interception to the point that he lost the ability to be aggressive or improvise.

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