What to Expect in Andy Dalton's Sophomore Season
The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback was one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season when he became the first second-round pick to start all 16 games of his rookie season and lead his team to the playoffs. Statistically, he played like a veteran, completing 58 percent of his passes for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions.
It’s natural to expect Dalton to take a step back in his sophomore season now that opposing defenses have had a chance to watch 17 games worth of film.
But a study of past quarterbacks’ second-year performances shows that this simply will not be the case.
Three of Dalton’s predecessors as franchise quarterback for the Bengals took major steps forward in their second year. And most of Dalton’s contemporaries showed marked improvements in nearly every statistical category in year two.
Dalton’s immediate predecessor, Carson Palmer, had arguably his best season in his second year. After sitting out his entire rookie season, Palmer had a respectable first year as a starter, but his numbers of 2,897 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions weren’t as good as Dalton’s.
Palmer exploded in his second year as a starter, nearly approaching 4,000 yards with 32 touchdowns, 12 picks and a sparkling 67.8 completion percentage, the best of his career.
Ken Anderson also busted out in his second year as a starter with 2,667 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 64.9 completion percentage that season was second to only his MVP season of 1981.
Boomer Esiason’s second year saw him pass for 3,959 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, better than his MVP season in 1988.
But it isn’t only former Bengal quarterbacks that got better in year two.
Joe Flacco’s yards, touchdowns and completion percentage all went up in year two with Baltimore while his interceptions stayed the same. Vince Young saw improvements in every area expect touchdowns and picks, but his completion percentage went up 11 percent.
Ben Roethlisberger actually took a step back in his second year, but Big Ben still had a 17-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and his completion percentage was still an impressive 62.7 percentage.
One of the common denominators of all of these quarterbacks is that they were high draft picks who took over bad teams in year one. And they all got better in year two.
Neither Esiason nor Anderson were first rounders and like Dalton, they were selected as much for the brains as they were for their physical abilities. Without a training camp then playing with a rookie wide receiver and a rookie offensive coordinator, Dalton stepped in and looked like a seasoned veteran from day one.
Dalton is already hard at work in an attempt to improve on his rookie season. He told Bengals.com that he felt like he needed to add weight in the offseason and that a point of emphasis will be on his footwork.
“Throwing the football is all footwork. If your feet aren’t right it’s a lot tougher to throw,” Dalton told the website. “If you’re finding yourself under-throwing guys, that’s when you’re not getting everything into it and it’s all upper body, all arm.”
It is that kind of clinical dedication to his craft and an unwavering desire to get better that will serve Dalton well.
There are many who felt he was the best quarterback in last year’s draft and he didn’t disappoint with an impressive rookie year. There is a good chance that an even better second season will solidify that perception of Dalton as one of the budding stars of the NFL.
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