Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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Over the last two and a half seasons, there is no doubt that Cincinnati Bengals fans have had something to cheer about. A core group of young talent has lead the Bengals to back-to-back playoff appearances for the second time in franchise history and even though they lost in the first round both times, the Bengals and their fans were still hopeful. Speaking of that core group, there is one man in particular that all eyes were locked on as the 2013 season began, and that man was Andy Dalton.
Dalton was the Bengals’ second round pick out of Texas Christian University in 2011 and along side fellow 2011 draftee, A.J. Green, they have become quite the duo along the Ohio River. As good as Dalton has been (7,067 passing yards and 47 touchdowns in his first two seasons), everybody was wondering when or if he was going to take that next step. There have been many quarterbacks throughout the history of the NFL that could get their team to the playoffs year after year, but could never get them past the first round. For the longest time Peyton Manning was in that conversation, but look what he has done now. Currently in that conversation is Dalton because of his perceived inability to take over a game like those of Brady, Manning or Brees. Some have said that he doesn’t have a strong enough arm and others have even mentioned that he may just not be good enough to take the Bengals to the Super Bowl. But after what he has done these last three games, I think it is safe to say that Dalton has joined a different quarterback conversation altogether.
In the Bengals last three games against the Bills, Lions and Jets; Dalton has thrown for 1,034 yard, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Even his 98.9 QBR (Quarterback Rating) against the Jets was the highest that he had ever posted in his young career. As much as I loved Dalton, I definitely had my doubts, especially at the beginning of the season. We all knew that 2013 was going to show how good Dalton really was, and after starting the season off 2-2 with losses to the Bears and the Browns, I will admit that I still wasn’t sure if Dalton was the man for the future. Well it is pretty obvious that Dalton has proven me wrong and in all honesty, the Dalton we are seeing now is the one that we were hoping for coming into 2013.
Dalton has done it in different ways as well. The game against Buffalo was closer than it needed to be, but Dalton toughed it out and got the win in overtime. In the next two weeks, Dalton out-dueled Matt Stafford and made the Jets defense look like a Pop Warner team. Dalton is using his two tight end set with Eifert and Gresham to his advantage and is spreading the ball around to more than just A.J. Green. Dalton is quickly becoming a star quarterback in this league and if you put that along side the Bengals’ stout defense, a trip to the Super Bowl could be very possible for the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals.
I am not saying that Dalton belongs in the category of Brady, Manning or Brees, but what I am saying is that the questions have been answered. Dalton has been putting on a show and in year three of his career, Dalton is having his coming out party. Bengals fan or not, we all know now what Andy Dalton is capable of in this league, and if he continues to progress at this rate, the future could be shining bright for a very long time in Cincinnati.