The NFL’s benchmark is three years for a player. That’s three years for a team to decide if what they are doing is working.
For the Bengals, the player they will be keeping close tabs on is Andy Dalton. As their quarterback, he needs to show the coaching staff that he can take all the weapons that he has been given, and use them effectively.
That’s what everyone inside Cincinnati is saying, hoping, and praying. However, what exactly does Dalton need to do to prove himself in year three?
While there’s a lot of intangibles like leadership involved, what it boils down to is statistics. You can argue intangibles, but number don’t lie.
From year one to year two, Dalton went from throwing 3398 yards to throwing 3669. That’s a difference of 271 yards. With the additions of Bernard in the backfield and Eifert at TE (plus the fact that other receivers will only get better), it’s a realistic goal to set the yardage mark at 4000 for Dalton in 2013. That would give him 250 yards a game, which is a very respectable number.
It’s also one that I think is in reach with his abilities.
His touchdown number increased dramatically from 20 to 27 last year. If he can just maintain that number around the margin of 24-28, I think that would suffice. However, his ratio of touchdown to interception has to drop. Last year, he had trouble early on with turning the ball over, and it had a negative impact on the Bengals organization as a whole.
Wherever his touchdown number falls, I would like to see Dalton with at least a 2:1 ratio compared to his interceptions. If he throws 26 touchdowns, I don’t want to see more than 13 interceptions.
Again, both realistic, and synonymous with the growth that he has already experienced.
His pass attempts didn’t experience a major change, but the percentage of passes he completed increased by a good deal, going from 58.1% to 62.3%. If Dalton can stay above 62% for 2013, I’ll be satisfied. Anywhere near the mid 60’s would be icing on the cake.
Another thing is that his sacks can’t eclipse 35. That’s a lenient number, because I understand that sometimes, it isn’t his fault. However, Dalton went from getting sacked 24 times in his first year to a terrible 46 times in 2012. That can’t happen, especially not with the formidable offensive line that he has protecting him.
Now, one last number – one that really isn’t a statistic.
I want to see at least a “1” under the category that says “playoff wins.”
That, right there, will be the factor that determines Dalton’s future with the Bengals.
We’ve been there twice, and we’ve had two early exits. There’s no reason we can’t change that in 2013.