Did something happen over the past couple of days with the Bengals that nobody told us about? Was their a catastrophic injury or something of the like that occurred and we didn't hear about it? Over the past few days, there has been a slew of Bengals hate coming from the national pundits. Aside from ESPN's "NFL Live" crew claiming that the Bengals won't make the playoffs in 2012, Evan Silva went on a Twitter tirade against the Bengals, going as far as calling them "overrated".
Now, he's thrown the dreaded "sophomore slump" title towards the Bengals' second-year quarterback, Andy Dalton. He isn't alone either as CBSSports' Ryan Wilson recently proclaimed Dalton a likely candidate to slip in 2012, and that was after Greg Cosell lit up Dalton with a scathing analysis of his abilities and perceived shortcomings a month earlier.
The fact of the matter is that teams have more game tape to study on both Dalton and Newton. So, while things may be easier for both of them because of a full offseason following a successful "trial by fire" rookie season, teams will be better prepared for both players. There's no doubt that Newton has more athleticism and even a higher ceiling than Dalton, but how close was each quarterback to their respective ceilings?
Newton was a highlight reel and put up many statistical records for rookie quarterbacks. It's going to be difficult for him to put up anywhere close to the numbers that he did last season, especially with a roster that didn't improve itself much this offseason. Dalton wasn't anywhere near as flashy, but he won four more games than Newton did and led the team to an improbable playoff berth when the Bengals were predicted to finish as the worst team in the NFL. He also did that without any semblance of a running game or viable receiving options aside from A.J. Green, thanks to injuries and inconsistent play at the position.
But, let's ignore that. Because obviously Silva and others have ignored the fact that Dalton is working diligently on his footwork and overall body strength to improve his game. They have also conveniently ignored that Dalton is growing more comfortable as a team leader and that his teammates notice it and are looking at him as such. It seems like it's another case of "because they're the Bengals".
The truth is that both Newton and Dalton are very susceptible to the "sophomore slump" because of their wildly successful rookie campaigns. High expectations are placed on players after so much early success, it's easy for a player to have their growth stunted in their second year. We (and many in the media) feel that the team has done a nice job the offseason surrounding Dalton with talent around him, be it on the offensive line, at running back or wide receiver. So, while Newton has more raw skill to lean on, Dalton has a better all-around roster to tinker with.