There's much being made about rookie quarterback Andy Dalton resting the Cincinnati Bengals on top of his broad kingly shoulders, commanding an army of 52. Only fools would fail to acknowledge (and appreciate) his cool demeanor, leading the offense late in the game during possessions that matter the most, routinely putting this team in a position to win. As the season has progressed this season, more and more are starting to side with Andy Dalton as the possible NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Dalton has been nominated for five rookie of the week awards, winning one with the results of last week's nomination coming out on Friday.
As Yoda says, in regards to rookie of the year discussions, "there is another."
First NFL Network's Albert Breer makes the argument for Dalton:
That's not to denigrate what Newton's done, which is show everyone what kind of transcendent, mold-changing player he can be. It's more a testament to Dalton. Three quarterbacks drafted in front of him are now starting (Newton, Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert and Minnesota's Christian Ponder), and they've combined to win six of their 25 starts. The Bengals rookie has won seven of his 11, and done it compiling a slightly higher quarterback rating than Newton (81.8 to 81.1) and significantly better TD-INT ratio (16-12 to 12-14).
Cincinnati can double its 2010 win total by beating Pittsburgh on Sunday, and while it's not solely because of Dalton, it's not in spite of him either.
Yet my head-nodding moment came Thursday night, driving in my car down the southbound lanes of 75 coming from Dayton. During the excellent Bengals Roundtable with Lance McAlister and former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton, Thornton said that Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is more deserved of the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award than both Dalton and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
"I think A.J. is the best player offensively. I know that Andy is the quarterback, but A.J. is the guy that makes this thing go. They didn't win without him when he got hurt. They didn't beat Pittsburgh. Almost did and Andy threw the interception. In the Baltimore game, he didn't play. Threw the interceptions. It was like he needs him to be successful and I think A.J. Green would be successful with anybody. He makes Andy look really good. If you look at a lot of those balls last week, under-thrown on the fade route, A.J. Green got behind a corner and he came back in front of him to catch it. And a lot of balls that Andy throws down the field are like that. They go all over the place, it's not like he's pinpointing so a lot of the big plays are all A.J. Green."
Thornton went on to praise Dalton as a good quarterback, obviously playing well. In terms of "big play" ability that's helping Cincinnati wins games, it's Green's performances that could be cementing his argument for Rookie of the Year discussions.
Of players with 40 receptions or more, A.J. Green's 16.9 yards/reception is ranked sixth in the NFL.
Our own Dave Wellman, during last night's Real Football Talk with CincyJungle.com, sponsored by Arts of Smiles Dentistry, made a similar argument during a discussion for rookie of the year.
"The guy I'd like to stick up for in this conversation is A.J. Green, because, let's face it, if Andy Dalton didn't have A.J. Green, he wouldn't be the Andy Dalton we're talking about right now. I don't think Andy Dalton would be in the conversation for rookie of the year. That's not to say that Dalton would be a worse player, but Green has bailed him out with so many spectacular catches this year and with such spectacular play. He has probably been the main force in pushing Andy Dalton into the rookie of the year conversation. And I agree, given the position that he plays, as Anthony (Cosenza) said, that he's probably on the outside looking in when you have two quarterbacks battling it out for this. If life were a bit more fair, I think this would be a three-way tie heading into the last few weeks in terms of who's going to win it, but I think the one guy who is probably going to fall to the wayside is A.J. Green and that's too bad because he's having a marvelous rookie season."
Look at the evidence.
A 41-yard touchdown reception to win the game against the Cleveland Browns in the regular season opener (though anyone could have scored on that play). A 58-yard reception against the Buffalo Bills on a possession -- that would later result in an Andy Dalton interception and a two-yard Fred Jackson touchdown run to give the Bills a 14-point lead in the second quarter. Later in the game Green posted a 40-yard reception early in the third quarter that resulted in a chip-shot Mike Nugent field goal.
A.J. Green has posted five receptions of 40 yards or more -- only two receivers have more in the NFL.
Green hauled in a 37-yard touchdown reception to tie the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter, an 11-yard touchdown to take a seven-point lead over the Colts and a 43-yard touchdown reception to take a two-touchdown lead over the Seahawks. In the fourth quarter Green fought two Titan defenders to haul in a 20-yard reception on third-and-18 to Titans seven-yard line. The Bengals would later score on a five-yard Andre Caldwell touchdown to give the Bengals a 21-17 lead that eventually won the game. An amazing 36-yard touchdown reception against the Steelers halted Pittsburgh's early first quarter domination that eventually led to Cincinnati's near comeback win late in the fourth quarter.
|Green ranked amongst rookies|
|44 (2nd)||745 (1st)||6 (1st)|
And if not for Green, who caught three passes against the Browns on separate possessions lead to a combined 17 points, the Bengals probably don't beat the Browns last week.
To me both present strong arguments for rookie of the year. One obvious argument could be that while Green is the receiver, it's Dalton getting him the football. I can accept that as much as I can accept that without Green making the stunning receptions that he does make, Dalton doesn't show up nearly as impressive as he has been. Is that a result of talent? No. Do you trust Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson, Andrew Hawkins, Ryan Whalen or Brandon Tate enough to believe that Dalton's performances would remain rather stationary without Green? No.
Are we saying that Green is better than Dalton? No. What we are saying is that now is the time to bring A.J. Green into Rookie of the Year discussions.