Andy Dalton has a friend in Hue Jackson, the Bengals' new offensive coordinator who plans on getting the most out of third-year quarterback. Jackson, who replaced Jay Gruden this offseason after Gruden took the Redskins coaching job, has maintained all along that Dalton, despite the skeptics, will continue to improve. And part of that improvement includes a balanced offense, specifically the running game.
"You have to have the threat of running the ball and the threat of being a physical unit in order to last for the duration of the season," Jackson said during an appearance Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
A season ago, veteran BenJarvus Green Ellis and rookie Gio Bernard combined for 1,451 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Bengals ran the ball 43 percent of the time last season, but that number could approch 50 percent under Jackson, who was known for his commitment to the run when he was with the Raiders.
Ultimately, though, any success the Bengals have will be because Dalton becomes a more consistent passer.
"He's on the cusp of something really good," Jackson said. ... "The key to being a quarterback in the National Football League No. 1 is winning, and he has that trait. No. 2 is being able to win the big games. Obviously, that's the hump that we're trying to get over. The guy has the makeup to do it.
"What I've got to do is just continue to push, prod, pull, motivate, support him and the rest of this offensive unit, and then we've got to pick up the pieces everywhere else to give him a chance to do his job. If we do that, this young man will be right where he needs to be."
Bengals owner Mike Brown said last month that a new contract for Dalton (his rookie deal expires after the 2014 season) would create something of a dilemma for the rest of the roster.
"Do you have a high-priced quarterback and less elsewhere or do you try to have as many guys as you can have and maybe a quarterback that is young and not so highly paid?" Brown asked at the time.
Days later, coach Marvin Lewis offered Dalton his unwavering support, and the hope that a new deal could be worked out soon so everybody could focus on the season.
"Andy's done a fine job for us," Lewis said. "We all want to be better. Once he does that, all of that will go away. He's being compared with Drew Brees, he's being compared with [Aaron] Rodgers, guys who didn't get a chance to play right away. They sat and watched. We threw Andy in right away. He's done a really good job. ...
"We are hopeful we can get a deal done that works and Andy can put it behind him," the coach continued. "He can get back to focusing on football. ... Let's get something that works for everyone and enables us to keep tackles in front of you, receivers on the outside, guys on the other side of the football so it works for everybody."