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Eric Goska column: Dalton's arm prolific, if not elite, for Cincy

Sep. 21, 2013
 
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has passed for 7,067 yards in his first two seasons. / Getty Images
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The 4-Milers

The five quarterbacks who threw for 7,040 or more yards (the equivalent of 4 miles) in their first two seasons in the NFL:

YdsPlayerTeam Years
7,920Cam NewtonPanthers2011-12
7,874Peyton ManningColts1998-99
7,294Dan MarinoDolphins1983-84
7,067Andy DaltonBengals2011-12
7,049Drew BledsoePatriots1993-94

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Quick! Name three NFL quarterbacks.

Was Andy Dalton one of them? Andy who?

Dalton is not the most well-known quarterback. The 25-year-old out of Texas Christian University is likely not even first or second in line when discussing his draft class.

But the third-year pro is reliable and has begun to make a name for himself. He hasnít missed a start for the Bengals since they selected him 35th overall in the 2011 draft that included quarterbacks Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick.

Daltonís dependability has served him well. By reporting for work week after week, he has produced some numbers that place him among select company.

But does he belong in such heady circles?

Dalton has been responsible for 1,122 of the Bengalsí 1,153 regular-season pass attempts (97.3 percent) since 2011. Thatís a higher percentage than the Packersí Aaron Rodgers (95.3 percent) over that span.

In 2011, Dalton passed for 3,398 yards with a completion percentage of 58.1. That yardage total is the sixth highest by a rookie in NFL history.

Last season, he improved in both areas. He threw for 3,669 yards and completed 62.3 percent.

Thatís 7,067 yards passing. Only Newton (7,920), Peyton Manning (7,874) and Dan Marino (7,294) had more in their first two seasons in the league.

In addition, Dalton threw 47 touchdown passes. According to the Bengalsí media guide, only Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52) had more in their first two years.

But Dalton also has thrown a few interceptions. With 31, including two this season, he is one of nine quarterbacks with more than 30 since the start of the 2011 season.

Dalton played in the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He is the only quarterback to lead Cincinnati to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.

He was 9-7 as a starter in 2011, and the Bengals clinched the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. Last year, Cincinnati went 10-6 and again was seeded sixth.

The Bengals were eliminated in the wild-card game both times. The Houston Texans bounced them 31-10 in 2011 and 19-13 a year later.

Daltonís passer ratings have been modest. He compiled 80.4 points as a rookie (20th), then improved to 87.4 (13th) last season. This year, he has a rating of 88.7 to rank 18th.

Dalton has some weapons at his disposal. A.J. Green, a big body at 6-feet-4, has been his favorite target. The wide receiver has caught 177 passes for 2,610 yards (14.7-yard average) and 20 touchdowns since being selected fourth overall in the same draft that brought Dalton to Cincinnati.

The Bengalsí tight ends have size as well. Jermaine Gresham (6-5, 260 pounds) is a four-year veteran who finished second to Green with 64 receptions in 2012. Tyler Eifert (6-6, 250) is a rookie out of Notre Dame whose 61-yard grab against the Steelers last week is the teamís longest reception this season.

Although Dalton has played in just 34 regular-season games, a couple of interesting trends have emerged. He is better in the first quarter (98.7 rating) than in the fourth quarter (76.5). Heís solid in the red zone (101.2), where he has fired 36 TD passes without an interception.

So, yes, Dalton has played some good football, but itís far too early to label the redhead from Texas an elite quarterback. That said, Green Bay cannot take him lightly.

The Packers already have allowed two passers ó Kaepernick (129.4) and Robert Griffin III (104.2) ó to compile 100-plus-point ratings. Dalton is undefeated at home (6-0) when he earns a rating of 100 or more.

Regular-season series

Overall: Bengals lead 6-5.

At Paul Brown Stadium: Cincinnati leads 1-0.

Starting QBs

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (53-27 overall; 0-1 vs. Cincinnati).

Bengals: Andy Dalton (20-14; 0-0 vs. Green Bay).

Once a Bengal, now a Packer

There are no former Bengals on the Packersí roster.

Once a Packer, now a Bengal

There are no former Packers on the Bengalsí roster.

ó aegoska@sbcglobal.net

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