|The Bengals could use a little bit more of Ben Roethlisberger's scramble game from QB Andy Dalton. (AP Images)|
History indicates no problem dooms a young quarterback like hanging on to the ball too long. The speed of the game overwhelms maturing QBs who can't make a decision fast enough to throw the ball before the pass rush avalanches around them.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton never experienced that problem. Decision-making and quick release are as a part of his reputation as red hair and Horned Frogs.
The interesting development with Dalton this season has been that he's actually not holding on to the ball long enough.
“Sometimes he is,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “You don't have to be Michael Vick or Robert Griffin III. But Drew Brees and a lot of these great quarterbacks buy time in the pocket. He's just got to do a better job of that. Comes with time. He's still in his second year. He's programmed in to being such a great rhythm, timing quarterback, but sometimes defenses here they can take away initial reads. He's going to have to wait for somebody else.”
This will be the next stage in Dalton's development. He entered mature beyond his years as a rookie and avoided the standard pitfalls by snapping the ball to receivers. Now, he must learn when to wait for the elusive second window to open while not letting the alarm clock in his head force an early pass.
“There's times I wish I would have held on to it for a half second longer (against Pittsburgh), but a big part of my game is getting the ball out quick, getting the ball to our guys,” Dalton said. “So, it's finding the balance of when you can hold on to it for a little bit longer and when you let it go.”
Nobody illustrated mastery of the art more than Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday in Cincinnati -- or really any Sunday during his pro career. Finding chunk, unscripted plays represents the missing element of the Bengals' scuffling offense. The only way to produce those is to allow the script to be tossed aside more often. Coaches believe that will come for Dalton. For the sake of this season on a team among the bottom quadrant in third-down conversions, coaches also need Dalton's development to come sooner rather than later.
“Hard to coach that,” Gruden said. “You can coach scramble drills, but every scramble drill is different. Ben is the master at keeping plays a live on third down. See it all the time. I don't know if we will ever get to that point. We are not asking Andy to be Ben, but we do need to ask him to take third down very seriously -- and to run if something is not there initially, make something happen with your legs.”
Once Dalton does use his legs, looking for big hits instead of dump offs can be the difference between discussing yards after the catch instead of fair catches. What's clear to this point is that finding the balance will take time.
“It just depends on what the defense is doing and the play that is called, stuff like that,” Dalton said. “Sometimes there are times when you can't throw it right on time. You gotta sit and move around a little bit. You just have to have a feel for what's going on.”
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter at @CBSBengals.