It’s become a running joke over the course of the past five years or so whenever the Baltimore Ravens have referred to their quarterback, Joe Flacco, in “elite” terms, as, the only time that he has ever reflected elite ability, or at least elite production, was during the team’s improbable 2012 postseason run.
Our fearless leader, Dave Bryan, certainly likes to poke fun at Flacco when he plays, referring to “elite interceptions” and things of that nature. The one elite trait that he does have, admittedly, is his financial compensation, though even that is being reduced in comparison to newer contracts quarterbacks have signed.
Well, Flacco and the Ravens had better make way for the next ‘elite’ quarterback in the AFC North. No, I’m not talking about Ben Roethlisberger’s successor, or anybody that the Cleveland Browns end up signing or drafting. I’m talking about the Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton, who is entering his eighth NFL season in 2018.
During the 2017 season, Dalton led his team to a 7-9 record, completing 59.9 percent of his passes while averaging 6.7 yards per attempt, throwing for 3320 yards with 25 touchdowns to 12 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 86.6.
The 2018 season will be different in some notable ways, however. It will be the first full season under Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator. It is also the first season with Alex Van Pelt as his quarterbacks coach, who spent the past four years coaching Aaron Rodgers. Van Pelt played quarterback at Pitt and was even drafted by the Steelers in 1993, but he did not make the team.
He relayed recently during a press conference in front of the Cincinnati media that he recently went over the past two seasons of work from Dalton, saying, “the more tape I watched, the more excited I got” about Dalton.
“I think this guy has potential to be an elite player in the league”, he said. “It’s our job to challenge him to get to that next level”. Dalton has actually been to the Pro Bowl three times in his career, most recently in 2016. He threw only 18 touchdowns to eight interceptions in a 6-9-1 season that year.
It’s fair to say that Dalton regressed last season in comparison to the two seasons before, turning the ball over at a higher frequency, though his touchdown pass percentage was greater this past season than in 2016.
If the Bengals have any hope of posting a winning record and returning to the postseason, perhaps even winning a game in the playoffs, then it is imperative that they get the highest possible quality of play out of Dalton that they can manage. Much of that assignment will be left up to Van Pelt.