Andy Dalton is an interesting talent. He is not that tall. He doesn't have that great of arm strength. But he has all of the intangibles of a winning quarterback: a leader with energy that his teammates feed off; instinctively feels the pass rush; good eyesight and ability to read the field - according to scouting reports he rarely threw into double coverage; good pump fake; throws well while scrambling; productive as a four year starter in college; and is a proven winner. These intagibles are something the fans probably haven't seen in stripes since Boomer.
The problem with Andy Dalton, which he probably does not understand yet, is that he was drafted by Mike Brown; a man with out a plan. Since the early 2000's, there has not been a serious commitment to investing in players that will allow an offense to dominate the line of scrimmage. Not only does this help provide a staunch running game, but it serves as the catalyst for a typical NFL QB to excel at the game. Unfortunately, it is the situation that Mike Brown has created from failing to address the team's real needs for at least the past four off seasons that led to Palmer's demise and will lead to Dalton's downfall as well.
In the NFL, a franchise QB typically takes a year or two to develop. Tom Brady took two - one on the bench and then became the starter after an injury to Bledsoe in his second season. Carson took two years – one on the bench behind Kitna and then one as a starter. Both Brady and Palmer benefited from having the opportunity to develop behind solid OL's that were built by a number of successful drafts prior to their arrival. For instance, consider the line Carson developed behind:
LT - Jones (1st round)
LG - Steinbach (2nd round)
C - Braham (3rd Round)
RG - Williams (2nd round)
RT - Anderson (1st round)
In his second season as the starter, 2005 was Palmer's break out season with a QB rating of 101.1 following a slow start the previous season with a QB rating of 77.3. As the line fell apart due to age, injuries, and free agency, Palmer's QB rating followed falling to its lowest at 69.0 in 2008. Slowly the Bengals reinvested in their OL with the loss of Jones and Anderson, and in 2009 the line showed some promise again. However, the present line is still a work in progress being patched together with irrational or mid round picks.
Now, compare the 2005 OL with what Dalton is going to have to learn behind on-the-fly:
LT - Whitworth (2nd round)
LG - ??? Possibly Livings (CFA)
C - Cook (CFA)
RG - Williams (2nd round but is now beyond his prime)
RT - Smith (1st round but has never finished a complete game)/ Collins (4th round)
The current OL has nothing but big question marks, except for two spots: C & LT. Our 1st round RT may or may not show up in shape, which is actually looking promising for once, but that doesn't mean he won't proceed to re-break his foot again from carrying too much weight on his frame. The RG is in his final year of his contract and is way beyond his prime. The Bengals do not even have a LG with a signed contract on the roster. Livings is a tendered restricted free agent and Mathis (former 3rd rounder) is unrestricted and according to this twitter exchange is not coming back. The rookie, Boling was drafted to replace Williams at RG in 2012, but may be forced into the starting position if they do not add a veteran bodies through free agency.
(On a side note I never got the Mathis not starting issue, the guy was an obvious upgrade to Livings, and it will be a shame when they bring Livings back and not Mathis. We here at WDR feel your pain Mathis, and wish you the best of luck.)
Once free agency begins within the next month, there are some good guards available: Carl Nicks (NO); Logan Mankins (NE); Davin Joseph (TB); and Daryn Colledge (GB). Unfortunately, Mike Brown has repeatedly proven time and again that he is not willing to spend money on an interior lineman, Steinbach being the most recent example. So we can almost guarantee that they will not go after one of the top guards in free agency. They most likely take their typical approach and look for the player with the best value - meaning they grab a former 3rd, 4th or 5th round guard from the scrap heap, shine him up and type up a Who Dey Perspective calling it a major move.
Addressing your needs
Prior to the Bengals drafting Dalton with the third pick of the second round, the Patroits and Seahawks had the opportunity to either select Dalton or trade down to allow someone to move ahead of the Bengals. As it turned out, no one moved up for Dalton even though everyone in the league knew he was coming off the board at the number three spot.
It is especially intriguing with the case of Seattle, a team that desperately needs a QB. According to Seattle's GM, they discussed taking him off the board one pick before the Bengals. Schneider explained the decision on a Seattle radio show.
"We debated with Andy Dalton, there's no question about it. But I think we all felt like we were at a point in our development where we couldn't pass on a starting tackle right now," he said. "Quite honestly, we'd like to have a guy, especially a rookie, be more of a developmental type and a guy more like Aaron Rodgers and sit for a year or two. So that was really the only point in the draft where there was a guy where we were like, 'There he is, that's a very viable option.'
"My personal opinion is that (Dalton) could go in and play right away. It's just been my experience that true development and ideal development is for a guy to come and sit for a year or two," he said. "I think by choosing Carpenter (OT) that we were helping our team immediately, whereas with Andy we would have wanted a veteran in there with him anyway."
So Seattle selected to invest in controlling the line of scrimmage even though their starting QB is Charlie Whitehurst. In essence, they followed the proven formula that a good offense needs a good OL, and they probably made the right choice.
Mike Brown continues to exert his influence in the draft championing the Art Model strategy - draft guys that put on a show - even though it has been proven time and again it does not succeed. Ozzie Newsome pulled a coup d'eta in his first draft as GM in 1996 with the infamous selection of 9-time Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden over Model's highly desired pick, Nebraska's Lawrence Phillips. The end result set the tone for the franchise for more than a decade for the team. Since the coup, the franchise has experienced continued successes following Newsome's "ground up" strategy. Yet, here we are in 2011 and it still feels like Cincinnati is stuck in 1991.