DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Through his first two regular season games as an NFL quarterback, Andy Dalton hasn't played the position the way that a rookie is supposed to. He's been poised, made good decisions and has done everything necessary to get his team in a position to win both games. Most importantly, in six quarters of play, Dalton has yet to turn the ball over. A rookie isn't supposed to play like that, right?
While fellow rookie quarterback Cam Newton's play has gained more national attention, it's Dalton's play that's been far more steady and reliable. One of the compliments that the Bengals coaches had for Dalton after they drafted him was that they felt he was the most polished quarterback in the draft.
They gushed about how they felt that Dalton could step in right away and start--which was a necessity, given the team's quarterback situation at the time. Right now he has the eighth-highest passer rating in the NFL and has his team off to a relatively surprising 1-1 start.
Offensive tackle and team leader, Andrew Whitworth, recently told Geoff Hobson of bengals.com that Dalton's teammates have begun to realize that this Bengals squad is now officially Andy Dalton's team.
""I don’t know how many times we’ve looked at each other on the sidelines and said, ‘Man, that dude is yelling at us and screaming at us,' " left tackle Andrew Whitworth said with a laugh before practice this week. "It was awesome to see him care that much and not have one ounce of fear in his eyes. He’s not scared. At first he was quiet in the preseason, but he’s really jumped out of his shell," Whitworth said. "The biggest thing for Andy right now is that he’s playing the game all in, heart on his sleeve. Passionate. That’s awesome. That’s something this team needs and it’s kind of something new for us. Offensively having a guy that fired up and that passionate while he’s playing is neat."
This is, in a word, huge. Everyone knows that Whitworth and former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer were close friends. But, Whitworth has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind to the media about his current and former teammates--even about Palmer. This quote not only shows that this team has begun to rally around Dalton and believe in him, but also gives a subtle jab to Dalton's predecessor. It seems that the team is seeing something in Dalton that they wished they had seen from Palmer the last few years.
It was evident in the game last week against the Broncos. With the Bengals down 17-3, Dalton took the team on his shoulders and led the second half charge. Once he got the offense moving, we saw clips of him firing up his teammates, giving high fives and praise to them. Given the results, his teammates responded.
Dalton seems to be enjoying himself on the field and is showing his competitive nature more and more every week. To quote Whitworth, "it's something that this team needs".