Like any offense with a rookie quarterback, the 2011 Bengals offense revolved around what Andy Dalton could and couldn't do. Dalton, however, was surprisingly good, especially given his draft status as the 35th overall pick and the complete lack of any offseason activities.
Dalton actually placed himself among several eyebrow-raising rookie records, etching his name into history right beside Peyton Manning and Dan Marino. He had one of the best statistical seasons ever for a rookie, especially in passing yards and touchdowns. The fact that Dalton played so well was only overshadowed by the record-breaking yardage and touchdown totals of Cam Newton, though I'm sure a good number of you saw Cam fall flat on his face in the Pro Bowl and get outshined by Dalton.
But, early on I felt like Dalton really wasn't asked to do a whole lot in the big scheme of things. At that time, it seemed that the team was forced to turn to Dalton when passing plays were the only logical option. Late in the year, Dalton put the team on his back with an inefficient Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott averaging only 3.34 yards/carry in the last 4 games. In fact, the number of rushing attempts from Benson/Scott declined from week 15 to the wild card game: 29-26-19-13.
Dalton's responsibility grew as the year went on, and Dalton expects that trend to continue in the future. In fact, he's embracing it.
Going into next year, they're going to put more on me and that's what I want," said Dalton, who was at the Super Bowl to promote the Panini Pop Warner Bowl.
“We were going into a new system so everyone had to learn,” Dalton said of the challenges from last season. “For the rookies, we didn’t know anything different. It’ll be nice to know the schedule this year.”
Hearing such eagerness from a young quarterback that was asked to throw only 9 passes in an entire half of a Pro Bowl is exciting to me. It shows that Dalton wants to prove himself to his coaches and to the world, and has a lot of confidence in himself. That message is part of Dalton's personality that we fans normally don't see and is reserved for the privacy of the locker room. Dalton, like his rookie partner A.J. Green, keeps to himself and doesn't say much of anything outside of the huddle.
Dalton must have extreme confidence moving forward from his impressive rookie season. It is the can't-fail attitude that made Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees what they are. If Dalton can take this offseason excruciatingly seriously and improve in the areas where he is lacking (and the Bengals find a little help on the offensive side of the ball), there's no telling where Dalton and the Bengals will go from there.