Carolina quarterback Cam Newton gets all of the headlines among rookies - as well he should - but the Cincinnati Bengals have themselves a pretty good rookie quarterback, as well. Though the Bengals are just 1-2, Andy Dalton has played some good football, sporting a quarterback rating of 82.1 through Week 3.
Dalton was solid in Week 1 against Cleveland, but he left that game early due to injury, and Bruce Gradkowski led the Bengals back from a deficit. Dalton rebounded in Week 2 visiting Denver, where he posted 332 passing yards and two touchdowns in his second professional start.
"Jay Gruden, the Bengals offensive coordinator, has been careful easing Dalton along into a simplified version of the west coast offense that’s heavy with slants, hitches and verticals," explains Josh Kirkendall of CincyJungle.com. "Each week Gruden gives Dalton a little more to work with, and the one time they opened the playbook this season, Dalton posted 280 yards passing in the second half against the Broncos."
Things got much more difficult for Dalton in his home debut last week, when San Francisco held him to just 157 yards and picked him off twice in a 13-8 loss.
"Even though they only recorded one quarterback sack, San Francisco had a good pass rush keeping Dalton under constant pressure," said Kirkendall. "He seemed very uncomfortable and every bit the rookie. On multiple occasions, Dalton rolled out of the pocket, forced to throw on the run, which isn’t one of his strengths."
Though the Buffalo Bills haven't done a great job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks this season - they're currently dead last in the NFL with just two sacks, both of which were recorded in Week 1 against Matt Cassel and Kansas City - Kirkendall expects the Bengals to protect Dalton in Week 4 with heavy doses of Cedric Benson.
"It wouldn’t be surprising if the Bengals try to pound the football early with Benson against the Bills this weekend, if for anything, reducing the pressure on the rookie."