When the Bengals took quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 draft, expectations for both him and the squad were quite low. Not only was he not considered an elite talent, but he was entering a terrible situation with the Bengals coming off of a disappointing 4-12 season where their previous quarterback quit on the team, and a lockout disabled quite a few practices--which Dalton desperately needed.
But something unexpected happened on the way to the media ranking the Bengals as the worst team in the 2011 preseason--they made the playoffs and Dalton headed to the Pro Bowl. His 47 touchdowns in his first two seasons as an NFL starter places him third behind Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Peyton Manning, while his heading of back-to-back playoff appearances broke a 30-year-old streak.
Still, fans want more from Dalton. In his second year, there were signs of improvement in some statistical areas and there were signs of backsliding in others. This third season is critical for Dalton's career and the future direction of the franchise. Though a top-ten ranking of the quarterback of the team isn't necessarily a bad thing, most would probably agree that they would want their team's face of the franchise within the top three to five players on their roster.
WHY HE RANKED HERE:
As mentioned above, Dalton has quite a few notches in his belt in his first two seasons and many could argue that he has accomplished far more than was expected of him in that time. He, along with a lot of other young talents on the Bengals roster, has been responsible for the uber-quick recovery from the Carson Palmer disaster. He has two playoff trips to his name, a Pro Bowl berth and a Rookie of the Year nomination to his name. And, even with all of the critics about his arm, Dalton has shown the ability to fit the ball in tight windows and display touch from time to time.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T BE RANKED HERE:
As also mentioned above, Dalton has a lot to prove this year. Many fans want him to take over as the official face of the franchise, instead of the star wide receiver or the stout defense. Dalton has proven to be a streaky player in his NFL career, both with good stretches and bad. He needs to improve the deep ball and ability to be less panicky in the face of pressure. Some also credit A.J. Green as the sole reason that Dalton has had success in the NFL.
The Bengals could be much worse off without a quarterback like Dalton, but now that the team has had some success with him, fans may be getting a bit spoiled. Then again, the fear is that Dalton is already around his ceiling as an NFL quarterback and, as a friend of mine has said: "he's perfect for the Bengals--just good enough to keep them competitive and keep his job, but will never win a championship". We'll see--the third year will be a huge barometer to gauge if that statement is accurate or not.