Several NFL quarterbacks had down Week 1 performances, but Andy Dalton was in a class all of his own. The beleaguered Bengal had five turnovers against Baltimore, as Cincinnati was shut out, 20-0, at home against one if its fiercest rivals.
“It set the bar in terms of how bad it can be,” Bleacher Report NFL writer Brad Gagnon said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It can’t get much worse than that at the professional level. It was one game, (but) we do have to look at performances like these.”
Dalton threw for a career-low 18 touchdowns last season, and the Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“Andy Dalton is a guy who really struggled down the stretch last year and had a bad year when they expected him to step it up,” Gagnon said. “Yeah, he didn’t have A.J. Green, but he had a good offensive line. They haven’t supported him at all by essentially letting two stud offensive linemen – Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth – walk in the offseason. Now he’s got pass-protection issues, he’s got issues in terms of having a clear-cut No. 1 running back, receivers beyond A.J. Green, and that defense isn’t even what it used to be.”
In other words, the Bengals’ window is closing.
“The Bengals are in a weird spot where they’re a team that’s trying to cling to something, even though it’s pretty obvious at this point that Baltimore is a much better team, Pittsburgh is an even better team, and Cleveland’s catching up pretty quickly,” Gagnon said. “So I think it’s only a matter of time before Dalton and the Bengals are once again the basement-dwellers in that division, and I think they are in complete denial regarding that reality and the lack of trajectory they have right now.”
In fact, Gagnon wouldn’t be surprised to see A.J. McCarron supplant Dalton as the starter.
“I think that that could become a legitimate conversation point this season,” Gagnon said. “There’s a reason why they refuse to (move) him. There’s a reason they’re holding on to McCarron, so if they want to get something out of him before he hits free agency, this could be the year. Will we see it changed by the time we get to November and December? Especially if Cincinnati’s out off it, which it looks like they’re probably going to be by the time we reach that point in the season.”
The Bengals (0-1) host the Texans (0-1) Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET before hitting the road for games at Green Bay and Cleveland in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively.