Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will finally take his first snaps as an NFL quarterback during game conditions Friday night. Granted it's not the regular season and some will ask why anyone should care about fake preseason games, given that the games themselves are meaningless on the grande scale of things.
Yet preseason games builds towards the overall development of a younger player like Dalton; a process that could be both painful to watch, yet immensely beneficial. With four preseason games and the remainder of training camp to prepare for his NFL debut, Dalton will deal with adversity along the way. Perhaps he throws a pick-six tonight. His ability to process that, learn from it and then set it aside when he returns onto the field is another step that's building his overall development.
What's Dalton's expectations tonight?
"Just to do what I have been coached to do," Dalton said. "And not make mental mistakes and not turn the ball over."
In other words, manage the game; a completely reasonable task for a rookie quarterback making his first preseason start. Let Dalton manage the game, with high percentage passes that not only develops his understanding of the National Football League, it enhances his confidence down the road. Fact of the matter is, this is how we expect Dalton to play in 2011. Manage the game. Don't turn the ball over and with the rushing offense's help, sustain drives to put the team in scoring position. Are we expecting Dalton to unleash rockets 50 yards downfield? No (although that would be totally badass). This isn't a well-oiled machine. The components are still being built and it will take time for the team's chemistry to cohesively gel into that machine.