The Cincinnati Bengals had a remarkable run in the organization’s history beginning in 2011, the year that they added the duo of wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton through their first two selections in the draft. They went to the postseason in five consecutive seasons, the only time they have ever done that.
Though they didn’t manage to win any of those postseason games, and they have missed the playoffs for the past two years, they are optimistic that things are swinging back in a positive direction after doing some tinkering, both with personnel and scheme, on the offensive side of the ball.
The goal is to re-design the offense to make it as well-suited to Dalton’s strengths as possible, relying upon the wisdom of new full-time offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, whom Aaron Rodgers was not happy to see leave the Green Bay Packers.
Lazor was originally hired by the Bengals in 2016 to take over as their quarterbacks coach after their previous quarterbacks coach, Ken Zampese was promoted to offensive coordinator, a move necessitated with Hue Jackson moving on to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Zampese was fired two games into the 2017 season, with Lazor promoted to head coach. They liked how he worked with the offense enough that they retained him in that post and set him up with the task of rebuilding the offense, and he has been doing that with a new quarterbacks coach, as well as a new offensive line coach.
Dalton has been most successful in his career when the Bengals’ line has been able to provide him with a clean pocket, thus allowing him to make quick decisions and fire off quick passes. He had the shortest time the throw during the 2015 season, the last time they went to the playoffs.
In part because of key departures along the offensive line and because of an offensive scheme less apt to playing to his strengths, the former second-round pick has not had nearly the success that he previously did. He looked to be turning a corner right up to his thumb injury in 2015, but the past two seasons have left behind nary a hint of that.
While Lazor has been focused on making him as comfortable as possible, Van Pelt has taken on the opposite task, drilling him in less comfortable scenarios. “You have to train the stuff that’s the hardest. The hard plays are the ones I’m trying to train these guys to make”, he said.
Even so, the quarterbacks coach said that Dalton has been tough to shake. Even in digesting the new offense, he hasn’t been able to catch the quarterback off his game yet this offseason, a credit to the amount of homework he is willing to put in.