Ken Zampese’s 18-game tenure as Bengals offensive coordinator effectively ended late Thursday night, when star wide receiver A.J. Green went off about the unit’s rather staggering ineptitude so far this season.
Zampese was fired Friday afternoon, just two games into the 2017 season. It’s hard to tell, as CBS’s Amy Trask noted over the weekend, whether the Bengals knew for a while that Zampese was a problem—if so, Trask said, “that’s a problem”—or if they simply needed somebody’s head to roll after Green spoke up. Whatever the reason, something had to be done. Per Peter King, the Bengals’ offense has failed to score a touchdown in its last 29 drives (including Week 3 of the preseason), and its inability to make use of weapons like Green, Tyler Eifert, and rookies John Ross and Joe Mixon was too obvious to ignore. Andy Dalton is one of the problems new OC Bill Lazor needs to address, but there are plenty more, too.
Dalton has posted a passer rating of 47.2 through the Bengals’ first two games, but not all his troubles can all be pinned on Zampese. Take a look at how Dalton fared with previous coordinators Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson:
Those are pretty similar numbers! It doesn’t help that the Bengals let two of the league’s better offensive linemen—left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler—walk in free agency this offseason. A lot of quarterbacks aren’t very good when pressured, but this is especially true of Dalton: Per ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, Dalton’s career Total QBR entering this season was 70.0 when he wasn’t pressured—a number that tumbled all the way to 9.9 when he was.
This year, playing behind an inferior line, Dalton has been true to form: He’s seen pressure on 26 of his 75 dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus, and on those throws his passer rating—which runs higher than Total QBR—is a paltry 55.4. Somehow, in Thursday’s loss to the Texans, Dalton was worse when he had a clean pocket: His passer rating was 33.9.
Dalton threw four interceptions in Week 1's loss to the Ravens, and even though he was pick-free against the Texans, he frequently committed crimes against football like this:
As King wrote, Dalton has as many TDs (10) as interceptions in his last 11 games, a span in which the Bengals have three wins. And now comes a Pro Football Talk report that says “the feeling within the locker room ... is that the leash isn’t quite so long, and that if the struggles continue under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the next one to go could be Dalton.”
Cincinnati has a few other issues on offense beyond the quarterback. Second-year wideout Tyler Boyd, who caught 54 passes as the Bengals’ primary slot receiver last year, was inactive for Thursday’s game; head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters Boyd’s absence was not health-related. Ross acted as Boyd’s replacement, but played only five snaps and was benched after a first-quarter fumble. As a result, Alex Erickson played 37 snaps against Houston, nearly half his total for all of last season. Zampese had approached the ground game with a committee of running backs, which is why Mixon has just 17 carries and has only been targeted four times. Oh, and now Eifert might be hurt:
Dalton has always had issues with accuracy and getting rid of the ball too soon when he senses even the slightest bit of pressure. Lately, he hasn’t been able to hide those deficiencies. It’s not clear if a new coordinator can help him do it.