Heading into this year, many football talking heads predicted a down year for the Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton. The red-headed quarterback was enjoying the best season of his life in 2015 — passing for 3,250 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions — before a broken thumb ended it prematurely.
In the offseason, the man pulling the strings of the Bengals’ offense, coordinator Hue Jackson, took the Browns head coaching job. There were questions whether Dalton’s improvement in 2015 would go out the window when Jackson left town.
That hasn’t happened two games in. The Bengals (1-1) are asking Dalton to do more than ever, and so far, he’s mostly delivered. Through Thursday, he ranked first in the NFL in passing yards (732) and third in yards per attempt (8.71). Yes, he’s thrown only two touchdowns versus one interception. But in a season where the Bengals’ rushing attack has been nonexistent and their offensive line looks surprisingly shaky, he, along with his wideouts, are keeping Cincinnati afloat.
The Bengals squeaked out a win over the Jets in Week 1, despite Dalton getting harassed the entire game. New York sacked him seven times. Dalton did well against that pressure, needing only 30 attempts to rack up 366 yards passing. Star wideout A.J. Green feasted on Jets corner Darrelle Revis all game, including this 54-yard bomb.
Cincinnati’s O-line did a better job of keeping Dalton upright in Week 2 against the Steelers. Still, it didn’t create many lanes for running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The two combined for 39 yards on 16 carries, and seemed to get hit as soon as they got their mitts on the ball.
Cincinnati ranks 31st in rushing. Playing one-dimensional offense against a defense like Denver’s will get teams in trouble. The Broncos’ pass rushers could have a field day on Dalton if the Bengals ask him to drop back and throw 54 times, like they did last Sunday. He’s played well this year, but asking him to shoulder the load against Denver’s defense is a recipe for disaster.
The Von Miller oversized glasses matchup to keep an eye on
This week, the spotlight is on the man who often wears those Coke-bottle spectacles.
After painting a masterpiece last weekend against the Colts, Von Miller leads the league with four sacks. He’s burned right tackles this season. And on Sunday, he’ll match up against a right tackle in Cincinnati’s Cedric Ogbuehi who’s only made two NFL starts.
The Bengals took Ogbuehi out of Texas A&M in the first round of the 2015 draft. Ogbuehi and Miller, who also went to Texas A&M, knew each other in college. Ogbuehi was a freshman in Miller’s final season with the Aggies.
“That’s my little brother,” Miller said of Ogbuehi to ESPN earlier this week.
We’ll see if Miller practices the time-tested tradition of beating up on little brother Sunday.
How to watch the game
When: 11 a.m. Sunday
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Bengals 23, Broncos 17
(1-1 on the season)
Sports reporter Christian Clark can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @_ClarkChristian.
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