If everything goes as planned, the Cincinnati Bengals offense will head to Chicago with mostly the same lineup that they had last year. The biggest difference is the infusion of rookie talent from Tyler Eifert to Giovani Bernard. Beyond that, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, and the offensive line all return for another postseason run.
In fact, since his rookie season in 2011, Dalton has only lost Jerome Simpson, Cedric Benson, and Bobbie Williams, but acquired an arsenal of young receivers, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (a far more positive influence), Kevin Zeitler, and the aforementioned rookies. Look at it this way. The departures have turned into shadows of what they were in Cincinnati while the younger players currently playing the Bengals are up-arrow fanatics.
And Dalton likes that.
"Having everybody back, there's a consistency out there,"Dalton told ESPN. "You know how the center plays and how the centers make the calls. You know how the receivers run routes. You know what the back is going to be doing. All of that is just going to make us better."
It's a significantly different picture that's facing Dalton, compared to the quarterback's rookie season as Jamison Hensley points out.
In Andy Dalton's rookie season, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback had to cram to learn the offense in training camp because there were no offseason workouts as a result of the NFL lockout. In his second season, Dalton handed off to a new starting running back and had no idea which rookie would step up to be the team's No. 2 wide receiver.
Now as Bengals fans, we can get back to shaking our fists with "this is his year" shouts battling "make or break season" jeers. Great taste!