Saturday, June 12, 2021

Andy Dalton deep dive: Is he the Bears answer?

So Ryan Pace has acquired another QB to lead the Bears into the 2021 Season. We’re going to subject this 10-year NFL veteran to an Andy Dalton Deep Dive! As the latest in a line of none too thrilling gunslingers to lead the Bears over recent years is Andy Dalton the man to finally ignite this franchise and take the team on a playoff run?

Dalton has spent most of his years in the league with the Bengals, leading them to the playoffs in each of his first four years in the league. Despite going 40-23-1 during those seasons, Andy Dalton never lead the Bengals to a playoff game win. In fact he only threw one touchdown total in those four games compared to six interceptions.

ANDY DALTON DEEP DIVE : EARLY SUCCESS

After those heady heights from 2011-2014, our Andy Dalton deep dive finds he is a rather miserable 36-43-1 as a starter, including going 4-5 with a loaded Dallas Cowboys offence in 2020.

Having started all 64 games, plus 4 playoff games in his first four seasons, Dalton has only completed the full slate of games twice in the six years since. Last year in Dallas he started as the backup, but still missed games with concussion.

However, wins and losses aren’t just down to the QB play so what does the Andy Dalton deep dive tell us about his overall standard of play over his career?

While his interceptions have declined, so has his turnover worthy plays according to PFF. This is usually a good sign of a QB making less bad decisions. However, in Dalton’s case it has been accompanied by a drop in big time throw(BTT)%. Now PFF defines a big time throw as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window”.

In his first three years in the league Dalton posted BTT% of 5.4%, 6.0%, and 6.2%. However, in his last two seasons we see a massive drop off to 3.2% in Cincinnati and 3.1% last season in Dallas. If it had just been last year you could argue he didn’t know the offense, or it was being constrained for him, but the fact it happened with the Bengals is a worrying trend.

ANDY DALTON DEEP DIVE: SOMEONE’S GETTING TOO CAUTIOUS

When we try to figure out whether this is something to be concerned about we turn to Average depth of target (ADOT). ADOT is exactly what it sounds like, the average length of a QB’s pass in the air regardless of whether that pass is incomplete. So it doesn’t become shorter merely because deep passes may be incomplete.

In the first four years of his career the Andy Dalton deep dive tells up he posted ADOT of over 9 yards twice. That’s a figure that will put you in the top-ten most years. However, last year in Dallas his average depth of target was just 7.5, the lowest of his career and good for a ranking of 32nd in the NFL out of 42 qualifying passers.

All this combines to tell us we have a QB with a low amount of turnover worthy throws, few big time throws, and a short average depth of throw. In other words an extremely cautious QB that will likely not lose you games, but won’t win you many either.

Now you may be thinking “That’s exactly what the Bears need!” Which in part may be true. But those big games against the likes of the Packers, or once you get into the playoffs, they need to be won more often that not.

So how does Andy Dalton’s 2020 compare with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles?

2020 Comparison Andy DaltonMitchell TrubiskyNick Foles
CMP %64.9%67.0%64.7%
YARDS2,1702,0551,852
TD141610
INT888
TWP%2.83.43.1
BTT%3.13.75.3
ADOT(Yards)7.58.38.3
Time To Throw(secs)2.482.672.39

So what the Andy Dalton deep dive tells us is that Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles were both more aggressive that Dalton in 2020. Despite the amazing weapons at his disposal Dalton also had the lowest completion percentage which is somewhat unusual for a cautious QB.

Dalton also had a decent amount of time to throw, finishing squarely between Trubisky and Foles.

So what has the Andy Dalton deep dive told us? Well he’s a solid choice for not turning the ball over. There will be less mistakes, and more chance for the defense to have a bigger impact at the right end of the field.

Will he be able to put up more points, or make the safeties respect the deep pass is another question. Given his lack of downfield plays last year with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup it’s the big question over the signing of Dalton.

If he can return to his early career form there’s a chance he can lead the Bears back to the playoffs in 2021, but the chances of a long playoff run seem beyond him given those previous appearances.

He will likely be a safe, steady pair of hands while the Bears address the question of who will be the next franchise QB. But truth be told, it looks like another painful year of offensive football in Chicago.

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