This week, John Fay is getting answers to nine questions the Bengals face heading into the regular season. This is the eighth of the series.
CINCINNATI -- Can Andy Dalton be as good in 2016 as he was in 2015?
First, let’s just say how good Dalton was in ’15. He completed 255 of 386 passes (66.1 percent) for 3,250 yards and 25 touchdowns versus only seven interceptions.
His quarterback rating of 106.3 was the highest in team history, higher than Ken Anderson in his MVP year of 1981 and higher than Boomer Esiason is his MVP year of 1988.
Dalton would have been in the MVP conversation had he not gotten hurt and missed the last three games.
“I wasn’t worried about that,” Dalton said. “I was trying to do everything I could to help the team win games and score points. That wasn’t even in my thought process.”
Dalton ultimately will be judged if he can do what Anderson and Esiason did -- win in the postseason. But if he can play quarterback at the level he did last year, he’ll likely put the Bengals in a position to get to the postseason for the sixth straight season.
Dalton is like Anderson when it comes to talking about himself and swagger. He’ll never be confused for Esiason in other words. But Dalton is sure of himself.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of confidence in my ability and what this offense can do and the guys around me,” Dalton said. “There definitely is a carryover (from last year). It was the best season I’ve had. To me, it’s trying to improve on that.”
Brandon LaFell, the veteran wide receiver the Bengals brought in, has been impressed with Dalton.
“I knew Andy was pretty good,” LaFell said. “But he’s way better than advertised. The first two things that impress you are his ball placement and his accuracy. Then it’s how fast he gets the ball out.”
LaFell played the last two years with Tom Brady. So he knows what a good quarterback looks like.
LaFell and three rookies give Dalton a whole new cast at wide receiver alongside A.J. Green. Also, tight end Tyler Eifert will miss the opener. That’s made it tough for Dalton to do what he did last year.
But he’s anxious to get back to work. As good as 2015 was for Dalton, it ended in disappointment. The broken thumb suffered in the Pittsburgh game meant he was spectator for the last three games and the Wild Card loss.
“For me, missing the last part of the season with injury -- even guys that played at the end of the season -- I think everyone is ready to go, ready to play regular-season games,” he said. “I’m ready to play.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com.
QUESTION 1: How will Bengals fare without Tyler Eifert?
QUESTION 2: Will Alex Erickson shine in regular season?
QUESTION 3: How much will Bengals miss Vontaze Burfict?
QUESTION 6: Can Bengals defensive line be NFL's best?
QUESTION 7: Who will be Bengals No. 2 receiver?