Dalton, Green seek to regain comfort zone
APR 15, 2013 5:37p ET
The way the offense played the final six games left Dalton and everyone else associated with that side of the ball grasping for answers.
As the Bengals opened up their 2013 offseason conditioning program on Monday at Paul Brown Stadium, Dalton had one thought.
“I’m ready to get back playing again,” said Dalton, sitting on a stool in front of his locker.
That first game is still more than four and a half months away but Dalton’s anxiousness to get started is understandable. There’s no better way to get the bad taste of a loss or poor performance out of the mouth than to get back on the field as soon as possible.
Over the final six games, Dalton completed 106 of 184 passes for 1,027 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions which translates into a 67.0 passer rating. Through the first 11 games of the season, Dalton’s passer rating was 94.0 after completing 63.4 percent of his passes (237 of 374) for 2,769 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Dalton has spent the offseason watching and studying video of not just his own play but of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees of New Orleans. The two former MVPs and Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are of similar stature as the 6-foot-2 Dalton (Rodgers is also 6-2, while Brees is 6-0) and the schemes utilized by Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden are similar to those run by the Packers and Saints.
“Those are two of the best quarterbacks in the league so you try to take things that they’re doing. I think it will help me out,” said Dalton. “I’d love for my career to end up like those guys careers have ended up. You want to study those guys and see what they’re doing right. Not only them with mechanics-wise, footwork and whatever else it is but also offensively, what are they doing? What scheme are they running? Where are they going with the ball in certain looks?
“The offenses are similar. We’re doing a lot of the same stuff that they’re doing. It’s just how they’re putting points up on the board.”
Points on the board were tough to come by for the offense those final 24 quarters. The Bengals managed just seven offensive touchdowns in the last six games, three of which came against Philadelphia in a game where the Eagles turned the ball over five times and repeatedly gave the Bengals short fields.
The 19-13 loss at Houston in the playoffs was particularly disappointing. The lone Cincinnati touchdown came when cornerback Leon Hall returned an interception 21 yards in the second quarter to give the Bengals a 7-6 lead. It was the second time in the last three games that the offense failed to get into the end zone.
Wide receiver A.J. Green had just one touchdown reception over the final seven games of the season after scoring 10 touchdowns in the first 10 games. He was still averaging 13.7 yards a catch over those final seven games, with 38 receptions for 519 yards, but defenses forced Dalton to look away from the Pro Bowl receiver.
Green had all five of his catches for 80 yards against Houston in the second half of the game after not being targeted in the first half. The pair missed on a couple of end zone throws in the fourth quarter that could have given the Bengals a lead, one that was knocked away by the Texans’ defense and the other a Dalton overthrow with Green behind the coverage.
“We've just got to get better together. There is stuff we need to work on. Missed some stuff on the deep ball so we both have to work on that,” said Green. “This team is still young. A lot of people were surprised we made it last year. Even the first year. We just have to go out and prove it. We all can get better together.”
Dalton admits he might have thrown the ball Green’s way more as a rookie no matter what coverage was being played. Learning when to take chances and when not to force things is part of his maturation process.
“With a guy like A.J., the term “open” is different. There’s times going back and looking at the film I still probably could have thrown it to him on certain routes and different things where I tried to work somewhere else but it comes down to being smart with the ball,” said Dalton. “That’s the fight out there. When you have a guy like him you want to get him the ball but you don’t want to be forcing things, you don’t want to be making stupid decisions.”
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