Time for Andy Dalton to be the leader Bengals need

Jun 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) runs drills during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) runs drills during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

This is the year it has to happen. The Bengals need Andy Dalton to jump to the next level. The expectations for success are on his shoulders.

The stage is set. The motivation is there and everything is leaning towards another season of surprises. But, there’s one thing that has to happen for the Bengals to get the respect they want. Andy Dalton has to step up and take the leadership mantle on his shoulders. It’s been said before and won’t cease until it’s evident. This Bengals team is Dalton’s. But, he has to move them to the next level.

Last season was a disastrous nightmare that freaked out Bengals fans and analysts. After coming so close to getting over the hump in 2015, the following year was supposed to be the charm. Most of the players were returning, with the exception of The Trinity. Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson and Marvin Jones were lost in free agency. But, the core was intact and the drive was there. Dalton was healthy and looking decent. But, the football gods had other plans for the Bengals.

Dalton managed to stay healthy. But, this time it was A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill and Tyler Eifert missing from the lineup. The defensive play was suspect without Vontaze Burfict in the mix. Paul Guenther’s unit didn’t get the memo until the second half of the season. But, amidst the chaos of defense, a new offensive coordinator and injured players, Dalton, quietly, had a good year.

But, having a good year and finishing 6-9-1 doesn’t go well together. Even the sound of it rolling off your tongue is hard to endure.

No Time Like The Present

Dalton isn’t satisfied. Looking at his laid back demeanor and listening to his tone of voice won’t give it away. But, the words tell a story. He hasn’t been involved in a losing season for some time. Frankly, he’s not digging what happened to the Bengals last year. 

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"“We need to get back to what we were doing and win when it matters.”"

There’s not more to be said about that issue. The Bengals have to reaffirm that they are contenders and not pretenders. Winning the important games–whether they’re primetime or just must win–is a huge part of the agenda for Dalton and Cincinnati.

"“Regardless of what type of season you have, you always want to get better,” Dalton offered, via Bengals.com. “It’s about looking at the little details, the little things that hurt us last year, and trying to correct those things. Find different phases that we can improve upon, like how we struggled in the red zone last year. What can we do different that can increase our chances down there and make our production better?”"

What comes along with the attitude adjustment? A heaping dose of leadership. Dalton will have to take the role seriously and understand it’s his motivation that will drive the team.

Lewis On The Matter

Head Coach Marvin Lewis likes what he sees out of Dalton. He’s watched him mature over the years and is confident he can take the leadership role in stride. With the departure of Andrew Whitworth, the torch is passed to Andy. Big Whit had stepped down for Dalton the past two seasons. Now, it’s all on The Ginger.

"“Those guys want to be led, and he’s done a good job of that,” Lewis explained. “They’re happy and pleased with him that way, and they continually encourage him to let him know they want to be led. He knows that.”"

Lewis also understands that it was a process Dalton had to complete. Since his rookie season, there was an amount of respect that was given to him.

"“The rest of the football team knew how talented he was when they watched him practice. He was a rookie, and No. 18 (A.J. Green) was a rookie. Everybody had to get behind him and believe in him. And he’s grown immensely through those times.”"

A Familiar Situation

This Bengals team has the chance to do what the 2011 squad did in Dalton’s rookie season. No one expected much from them. The same aura is being hung on the 2017 unit.

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"“If you look at the expectations everybody put on us that year, no one was really expecting us to win any games,” Dalton remembered. “To be able to go 9-7 and make it to the playoffs is obviously overachieving from a lot of standpoints. But we didn’t know anything different when we got here. So that’s the expectation. Our goal now is to get back to playing at high level and playing into January.”"

Most Bengals fans will accept playing into January and beyond. If Dalton leads the way, it just might happen.