The Bengals decided to start a rookie quarterback in 2011 for the first time since rookie Greg Cook started for them in 1969. Andy Dalton, the team's second-round pick, has started in all six of the Bengals regular-season games and has led them to a 4-2 record heading into the bye week.
Here's a statistical breakdown of his six games so far in 2011.
Week 1: Dalton completed 10 of 15 passes 81 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions for a 102.4 passer rating. He only played in the first half of the game before he was pulled out with an injury to his forearm. Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski came into the game after halftime and led the Bengals to a come-from-behind victory over the Browns. The Bengals won 27-17.
Week 2: Dalton completed 27 of 41 passes for 332 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 107 passer rating. He played the entire game against the Broncos in Denver but the Bengals lost by a score of 24-22. The offense couldn't do much in the first half and the defense looked bad, especially against Willis McGahee, but in the second half Dalton and the offense picked things up. It was just too little too late.
Week 3: Dalton completed 17 of 32 passes for 157 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 40.8 passer rating. Dalton and the offense couldn't find their way into the end zone against the 49ers. When they got a chance to drive down the field in the fourth quarter to try and win the game, Dalton threw two interceptions in two consecutive drives ending the Bengals' come-back hopes.
Week 4: The Bengals bounced back against the Buffalo Bills, winning the game by a score of 23-20. Dalton completed 18 of 36 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 64.4 passer rating. He also added one touchdown on the ground. Dalton threw his first pick-six against the Bills but finished the game by leading the Bengals to score the last 10 points in the game in the fourth quarter.
Week 5: Dalton completed 21 of 33 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 85.3 passer rating against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. This was his third straight game with at least one interception but he threw two touchdown passes and led his team, with the help of the defense, over the Jaguars to give them a 3-2 record heading into Week 6.
Week 6: Dalton completed 25 of 32 passes for 264 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a season high 111.5 passer rating. For the first time the Bengals were favored to win and win they did. Again the defense helped out by adding a last-minute touchdown for the second week in a row but Dalton had his best game yet, especially considering the running game was pretty much non existant.
Overall Dalton has been impressive. He has completed 118 of 189 passes for 1,311 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions so far for a passer rating of 84.3. Even though his stats are solid, the most impressive thing about Dalton has been his composure, poise and leadership. He looks like he was born to lead an NFL team to victory and perhaps the most impressive part about his early-season success is that he's led the Bengals to a 4-2 record without much support at all from the running game.
Dalton has been the main component of the team's offense in 2011. Who knew that coming out of a lockout with a rookie quarterback that the Bengals would be able to find the success that they have so far this season.
Grade -- B+: If it were any other quarterback, they wouldn't be getting as high of a grade but because Dalton is a rookie and came into the 2011 season with the odds stacked against him, I think he deserves a B+. He had done what the coaches have asked him to do and even though he doesn't put up the numbers that Cam Newton does, he doesn't turn the ball over as much and he has all the intangible qualities of leadership and poise. Dalton certainly does look like the quarterback of the future and there's no question that part of the reason that Mike Brown decided to trade Carson Palmer was because he was comfortable with the thought of Andy Dalton as his replacement as the new franchise quarterback.
What grade do you give Andy Dalton?