Countdown To Training Camp: Can Dalton Return To Form?

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton throws during an NFL football training camp, Monday, July 31, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Bengals fans will have numerous opportunities to watch Taylor’s first public practices as Bengals Training Camp, presented by Fifth Third Bank, kicks off on Saturday, July 27 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton comes into his ninth season with some pretty heady numbers since he came into the NFL.

Only Matthew Stafford has more fourth-quarterback comebacks. He's got more wins than Cam Newton, Joe Flacco and Phillip Rivers, more passing yards than Russell Wilson and a better passer rating than Nick Foles. And with his tenth touchdown pass this season he'll pass Bengals legend Ken Anderson's club-record 197.

But it's been a grind for Dalton since he broke his throwing thumb late in 2015, when his winning percentage stood at .649. Since then, he broke the right thumb again, didn't have wide receiver A.J. Green for 10 games and tight end Tyler Eifert for 29 while adjusting to a carousel offensive line during three seasons he won just .429.

Plus, with two years left on his deal, the club has made it known they're watching closely how he responds to new head coach Zac Taylor's offense.

But by all accounts, the 31-year-old Dalton looks to be revived under Taylor in a scheme crafted by a 36-year-old former college quarterback that came straight from coaching Rams quarterback Jared Goff in a Super Bowl season. Dalton seemed refreshed right from the first day of the offseason.

"Just to understand the position he's in, conversations are easy, just the little bit I've been able to be around him," Dalton said. "I felt like from day one he was easy to talk to. I think it may be an age thing, it may be that we both played quarterback, whatever it is -- it's been easy from Day 1."

Browse through the top photos of Andy Dalton during the 2018 season.

Since then, Dalton has been spotted hanging out in Taylor's office in an effort to cement the most important relationship on the team. The new man says it's working.

"It's important the quarterback believes in what we're doing and understands what we're doing," Taylor said a week before camp. "He's just a coach on the field. Andy has gone above and beyond making sure he understands the intent of everything that we're doing. He puts in his own two cents. A guy with his experience, you want to hear what he says."

And maybe, just maybe, this passer's renaissance is on the ground and not the air. The key to getting back to his old stats may be hidden the dizzying charts of Go back to 2017, when Dalton played the entire year and threw more play-action passes than anybody but Tom Brady. His 99.4 passer rating on those throws was nearly 18 points higher than on non-play-action. And consider he did it with the fourth fewest rush attempts per game in the NFL.

Maybe the guy with the best handle on how Taylor's thirst to run the ball and use play action is going to revitalize Dalton is a guy that both protected Dalton and the Taylor-coached Goff.

Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

"In this offense, the running game needs to be efficient and you've got a good big back there (Joe Mixon) and, shoot, Gio (Bernard) is good enough to be a No. 1 back, but with another guy he can do so many other things. If you've got an efficient running game, this offense is deadly," Whitworth said back in April.

"It's a timing and rhythm offense and historically Andy has done well in that style of football," Whitworth said. "Obviously Zac is going to have his own wrinkles and they'll have their own deal. But I would think it would be similar to (the Rams) and Andy has done really well with play-action, getting the ball out and getting the ball down the field. I think he's a guy that can do really well in it."

Note: When Dalton had an MVP-type season in 2015, the Bengals had the seventh most rushes per game in the league.

As long as we're talking numbers.

About Training Camp

Bengals fans will have numerous opportunities to watch Taylor's first public practices as Bengals Training Camp, presented by Fifth Third Bank, kicks off on Saturday, July 27 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton. The team will hold a series of open practices in Cincinnati from July 28-Aug. 12.