Most coaches are strong proponents of discipline and structure, but Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson admitted he’s not only loosened his grip but completely handed over the reins to quarterback Andy Dalton.
And the freewheeling, freelancing Dalton has the Bengals ranked No. 2 in the league in total offense behind New England.
“This is Andy’s offense,” Jackson said. “I’ve given him carte blanche to do within what we plan to do as much latitude as I’ve ever given any quarterback, just because I think he’s very, very good at what he does that way.”
Dalton’s ability to not only change the play before the snap but improvise after it led to a number of big plays Sunday in the 28-24 win at Baltimore that kept the Bengals (3-0) undefeated.
His 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter came in a scramble situation after he couldn’t find an open receiver. On the second play of the game-winning drive, Dalton used his feet again and extended the play to find Giovani Bernard for a 23-yard gain. And he made something out of nothing on the fourth-and-1 play that appeared to be a touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert before it was overturned by replay.
“As you guys can see, our offense has a little backyard element to it,” Jackson said. “It’s not just go back three steps, take the snap, hitch and throw. The defense won’t let you do that anymore. The real good defenses, they’re going to force the quarterback to move around and make plays outside the pocket, which he did.”
Dalton has thrown eight touchdown passes and one interception through the first three games and is ranked second in the NFL in passer rating (121.), third-down passer rating (123.5) and fourth-quarter passer rating (147.5) entering Monday night.
Sunday marked the fifth consecutive regular season game Dalton has thrown multiple touchdown passes, the longest such streak in the league.
“He’s taken himself to another level, and I think the real great players in this league, that’s what they do,” Jackson said. “Not that he deserves that kind of praise yet. We’ve got a lot of games to win in order for him to reach that.”
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