In his first three seasons as an NFL quarterback, Andy Dalton had Jay Gruden running the offense. Now the two face off as opponents for the first time Sunday in London.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden should have a good idea about the challenge involved with facing Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton Sunday in London. After all, Gruden developed Dalton.
In 2011, both Gruden and Dalton were embarking on a new journey together – Gruden as the Bengals offensive coordinator and Dalton as the team's rookie quarterback. The partnership worked out quite well as Dalton became just the fifth rookie ever to throw for 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Bengals made the playoffs.
"Yeah, he was great," Dalton said of his former coordinator Wednesday. "A big reason why I'm in Cincinnati now is because of Jay. He was a great coordinator here. We had a lot of success with him and it's the reason he was able to get that job in Washington. He's a great coach and I'm sure the guys love to play for him. He was a lot of fun to have around."
The duo's numbers only improved each season. The Bengals finished 11-5 in Gruden and Dalton's final season together as the Bengals' quarterback finished with career highs in yards (4,293) and touchdowns (33). Gruden accepted the Redskins head coaching job in the ensuing offseason, but Dalton has continued to improve. He set new career highs last season in touchdown-to-interception ratio, yards per attempt and quarterback rating.
"Jay taught me a lot and he gave me a lot of freedom at the line of scrimmage," Dalton said. "You know, through the preparation that we had, if I get certain looks, he allowed me to change plays and get into plays that were better suited for the defenses that we were getting and so it taught me a lot just through the preparation of it. I feel like he's got a big part in the reason I've been playing the way I have here recently and he's got me to be the player I am today."
Most quarterbacks that lead their teams to the playoffs in each of their first five seasons – something neither Tom Brady nor Peyton Manning did – would be considered among the best. However, Dalton, who has yet to win a playoff game, remains an enigma. There's no doubt he's one of the most effective passers in the game, but the lack postseason win sets him apart, and not in the way he'd like.
This season Dalton and the Bengals have been up and down, currently sitting at 3-4 with losses to four of the best teams in the NFL: Pittsburgh, Denver, Dallas and New England. Dalton ranks fourth in yards and seventh in completion percentage. Gruden likely has some ideas on how to slow down his former pupil, but he didn't share much of them with the media Wednesday.
"Well, I think what makes every quarterback uncomfortable is pressure and putting them in tough situations – third down and long – that's the key," Gruden said. "I think if they have some weakness this year it's been their third down conversion rate. So I think to get them in third down and long will be important. And try to get pressure on them and that's the intent of every offense that we play, not just Andy. But he does a great job of keeping himself out of those situations. Their first down and second down conversion rate is pretty darn good. They're averaging I think eight yards a play and he's throwing for a ton of yards."
The Redskins defense has been stingy of late to say the least. Washington has allowed an average of just 200 total passing yards per game over the past month and currently rank fifth in passing defense for the entire season. However, it remains to be seen if the Redskins' secondary will be at full strength as cornerbacks Josh Norman (concussion) and Bashaud Breeland (ankle) were both limited at practice Wednesday.