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Andy Dalton has led the life that almost every kid growing up in Texas dreams of having. He was a star quarterback in high school and led his team to the state championship his senior year. He had an impressive touchdown to interception ratio of 52 to 17 and completed 52% of his passes for more than 3,500 yards.
After high school he committed to TCU and helped bring the program back into national relevance. He lead the team to two of their best season in school history going 12-1 in 2009 and in 2010, his senior season the Frogs were 13-0. The 2010 season culminated with the Frogs beating the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl and finishing #2 in the final standings.
It seemed like Dalton’s charmed run had finally finished when the Bengals drafted him in the second round. The Bengals may have been one of the worst situations for a young quarterback to come into in the league. The team had finished 4-12 the previous season which pretty accurately displayed the lack of talent on the team, however what was even more troubling about the Bengals quarterback situation was the current quarterback of the Bengals.
Carson Palmer, who had been drafted number one overall in 2003, had played excellently through the beginning of his career but a devastating knee injury almost ruined everything for him. He was knocked out of his first playoff game on the first pass play by a former teammate, Kimo Van Oelhoffen. He, almost miraculously, recovered in time for the next season and actually had a very good season which sent him to his second consecutive Pro Bowl.
// It all started to unravel for him in 2009 when he had an elbow injury. Some believed that he should have had Tommy John Surgery but Palmer elected to rest his arm and his relationship with the team has struggled ever since. This culminated in Palmer demanding to be traded or released in the offseason.
The Bengals elected to hold on to Palmer rather than allow the player to demand his release. This left a very uncomfortable situation for Dalton who became the starter by default. Dalton stepped into this situation and handled it with class.
The expectations for a rookie quarterback are relatively low regardless but they were exceptionally low for Dalton who was a second round pick coming into a total mess. However, Dalton has led the Bengals to a 9-7 record and a playoff berth.
This has been in large part due to the fact that the Bengals drafted A.J. Green with the number four overall pick in last year’s draft. Green has been a fantastic pick for the team. He has 1,057 yards on 65 receptions and seven touchdowns. This sets up a unique dynamic where there are two possible offensive rookies of the year on the same team. They may both lose out to Cam Newton but the fact that they are even in the conversation is special.
The two rookie stars have had a truly symbiotic relationship which has given both of them much more confidence. Dalton’s faith in Green was displayed on a couple of occasions when the Texans played against the Bengals. Dalton simply chucked the ball deep to Green, despite the fact that Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph had good coverage and Green did Dalton a favor by coming up with a couple of big catches.
Dalton will need Green and his tight-end Jermaine Gresham to both step up and help him as he faces the third ranked pass defense in an extremely hostile environment. This would have been an even bigger challenge for Dalton if he were not facing another rookie quarterback in T.J. Yates.
The Bengals will need to depend on their defense to keep the game within striking distance and they will need their rookie duo to continue their growth from an exceptional season to an exceptional postseason. This is where legends are made but so far everywhere Dalton has been he has become a legend and if he wants to continue that streak Saturday afternoon will be a big step in that direction.