When it’s all said and done, the Cincinnati Bengals will have to prove they can win the big games. They have managed to tie franchise records for winning in the regular season. The 2015 Bengals are on pace with some of the best teams in the history of the organization. They are racking up yards like Pac-Man gobbles pellets. The weapons on offense aren’t new. They’ve just added awesome upgrades and they rock.
The most apparent upgrade is Andy Dalton.
The Bengals organization had more than few reasons to let Dalton go. In his first four years as the starter, he led the team to quality wins during the 16-game season, but continued to fall short in the post season. Bengals fans were rightfully angered and discouraged by the results. The Bengals had given him a six-year contract extension in excess of $115 million. His grasp of the offense seemed to take flight when he was under pressure. Throwing an interception, contracting fumblitis, and taking sacks were par for the course.
Under Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Dalton’s upgrade has been complete. The new Dalton has upgrades that include quick check-downs, faster release times and a cool attitude in the pocket. The Bengals main man has even found his scrambling legs. He’s rushed for two touchdowns so far.
Hue Jackson always had confidence in Dalton. He knew that the Bengals had made a good decision in keeping him at whatever price. Jackson admitted, via ESPN, that he was in charge of Dalton’s progress and knew that he would develop soon.
“I really believe it’s there,” Jackson said. “But the consistency of doing it week in and week out, the pressure of doing it versus some very good football teams week in and week out is the next step for us. I know a lot of people say, ‘Well, how can that be? You’re heading into your fifth year?’ Well, sometimes that’s a process for a quarterback.”
That process now seems to be complete. Dalton has the Bengals primed for another playoff run that may have another outcome.
The Bengals were also without a few other key pieces that have now been added to the new software. The fifth year Dalton had to overcome injuries at key pass-catching positions. In January’s wild-card round playoff loss to the Colts, he was without receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert. The Bengals’ new upgrades include the return of those components.
Tyler Eifert has proven to be a huge upgrade over Jermaine Gresham. Through five games, the Bengals’ tight end has 24 catches for 312 yards and a position-leading five touchdowns. The man he replaced had a season career high of six in 2011. The only other NFL player with more receiving touchdowns is Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
The Bengals were also without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green for parts of the season. Nagging injuries kept the receiver from being a serious threat. Green was one of the main weapons for Dalton. His healthy return has provided more upgrades to a system that keeps getting better.
Marvin Jones had emerged as one of the Bengals’ hidden gems. His speed and willingness to take a hit over the middle were sorely missed when he went down with ankle and foot injuries. The speedsters’ return means teams can no longer place double coverage on Green and not get burned for those efforts.
The list of Bengals 2.0 upgrades is long, extensive, and fun to watch. The Cincinnati Bengals have people talking. Dalton summed it up best when he remembered the thoughts and words of the fans.
“When you hear people talking about you, you don’t want them talking negatively about you. Obviously I’ve had to bear a lot of it. But we’re 5-0 right now. Hopefully at the end of the year they’re still talking the same way.”
[Feature Photo by Rob Carr / Getty Images]