Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Andy Dalton, Redskins See Model For Successful Rookie Quarterback
ASHBURN – Andy Dalton didn’t have the luxury of an entire offseason to prepare to be the Cincinnati Bengals’ starting quarterback.
As a second-round pick last season, he wasn’t afforded a playbook with the owners’ lockout in place. He also had to live with the uncertainty as to whether Carson Palmer, the starter for the previous eight seasons, would stick to his demand to be traded.
When the preseason began, Dalton got the call. When the regular season began, Dalton remained the starter. And when the playoffs began, it was Dalton leading the Bengals against Houston.
“I felt like going into it, I was given every opportunity to come in and be the starter, and for me, I felt like I was prepared,” said Dalton, whose team will play the Washington Redskins in their home opener at FedEx Field on Sunday. “I felt like my knowledge of the offense [was high] and you know, just the way I carry myself, I felt like I was well-prepared for it.”
Dalton’s situation is only slightly different than that of Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III, who was named the starting quarterback by head coach Mike Shanahan the first weekend in May and had an entire offseason to prepare.
But when it comes to results, the Redskins hope Griffin can have as much of an effect this season as Dalton did in Cincinnati in the last one. The Bengals were 4-12 before Dalton’s arrival and went 9-7, earning a spot in the playoffs as the second wild card.
The Bengals were also aided by a defense that allowed only 316.2 yards a game, good for seventh in the league, and a running game that ranked 19th and averaged 111.1 yards.
That’s the recipe Shanahan has repeatedly outlined as one that will help Griffin and the Redskins achieve success in the quarterback’s first year.
“I felt like the rest of the football team realized where we were and that we really had to do a fine, fine job of defense – limit plays, limit explosive plays, limit the score, get the ball back as often as possible for the offense,” Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis said. “[It also helped to] be able to run the ball effectively to get the pressure off of him.”
Dalton’s numbers at the end of the season weren’t anything spectacular. He ranked 13th amongst starting quarterbacks with 20 touchdown passes, but his 3,398 yards ranked him 16th, his 80.4 quarterback rating left him 20th and his 58.1 completion percentage put him 21st.
What was spectacular was his readiness. A four-year starter at TCU who threw 61 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions in his final three years, Dalton was merely asked to manage the game, take care of the ball and not make mistakes.
Essentially, his directive was to allow defense-oriented TCU a chance to thrive.
“I was fortunate with the way we did things at TCU,” Dalton said. “It really helped me coming into the offense that we’re running here. There’s a lot of similar stuff that we’re doing, so it made the transition a lot easier for me.”
Lewis said the Bengals tried to incorporate some of those similar principles into their offense during the first year to cushion Dalton.
“The quarterback is your offense,” Lewis said. “There was no preconceived offense or anything because we were starting from scratch. He was the offense. … There were really no limits.”
Though Cincinnati lost to the Texans in the wild card round of the playoffs, Dalton believed that run, however brief, validated the team’s decision to support him.
“I think for me personally, we’ve got a little bit of credibility around here now,” Dalton said. “It shows that guys know what they’re gonna get out of me, so I think it definitely helps with that.”