Cowboys QB Dalton looking forward to return to Cincinnati

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said he would be surprised if Andy Dalton didn’t come into Sunday’s matchup against his old team with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

Dalton spent the previous nine years as the Bengals’ starting quarterback but will be leading the Dallas Cowboys’ offense on Sunday in his first game back at Paul Brown Stadium as an opponent. The Bengals drafted him in the second round in 2011 and released him in April to move on to Joe Burrow.

The 33-year-old veteran remains the Bengals’ all-time leader in completions (2,757), touchdown passes (204), passer rating (87.5) and 300-yard passing games (28), and his impact on the organization extended to a run of five straight playoff appearances, three times earning him a Pro Bowl invitation.

“He’s a competitor,” Hubbard said. “He’s spent a lot of time here in Cincinnati, done a lot of great things for the Bengals and I would be shocked if he didn’t feel a little extra motivation coming back here.”

Dalton told Dallas-area media that he’s had this game circled on the calendar since he saw the schedule. But at the time, he wouldn’t have known if he would actually be playing. He signed with Cowboys, knowing he would be competing with Dak Prescott for playing time, and the initially meant serving as a backup – something he had only done for three games in Cincinnati last year when Zac Taylor benched him to see what Ryan Finley could do.

Prescott fractured his leg in a Week 5 win against the Giants, and Dalton has made five starts since then, completing 130 of 200 passes for 1,155 yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions over seven games. He also missed games because of a concussion and a bout with COVID-19. Dallas is 3-4 in games he’s played.

The Bengals are expecting the kind of performance he gave upon taking his job back to finish 2019 – his first game back as the starter was the team’s first win under Taylor. Dalton also finished off his Bengals career with a win, beating Cleveland in a home game that he knew likely would be his last in stripes. Cincinnati already had sights on Burrow as the top draft pick.

“It will be different being on the other side of the field, the other locker room and all that kind of stuff,” Dalton told Dallas media. “It’ll kind of feel a little weird being on the other side of it, but it’s because I spent so much time there and everything. I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to getting back and playing in Cincinnati.”

Bengals players say it will be “weird” to see Dalton on the other side as well. Many of them still consider him a good friend, and players on offense, such as Tyler Boyd who had a locker next to Dalton, attribute some of their own success to his leadership and guidance over the years.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously it will be a little weird but hoping for the best,” said running back Giovani Bernard, who spent seven seasons as Dalton’s teammate. “I have talked to him all year. He will be a lifelong friend. He is one of those guys that once he leaves it doesn’t really mean in terms of your relationship with that person. He’s always going to be a dear friend of mine. Just a good guy, man, and a guy that I admire very much for what he has done on the field and off the field, especially, just good people, his whole entire family just good people. Excited to see him on the field and hopefully he can ball out but not ball out too much.”

“…He’s done a lot for this city and a lot of people. You can’t ever forget that. Obviously, there’s football, but there’s obviously a relationship side to it all too. Wish him the best for him, hoping that he comes out of the game healthy and everything. But hoping that we get the dub and he gets the L.”

Taylor said the Bengals discussed with Dalton the idea of being a backup for the team before ultimately deciding it best for him to get an opportunity to go elsewhere. Now they are playing their emergency COVID quarterback with Brandon Allen starting after deciding Finley wasn’t the solution when Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Despite the change in direction Taylor implemented after one year with the team, he still expressed “a ton of respect” for Dalton and praises him as a “tremendous person” who “means a lot to the city.” That’s what makes the matchup so unique, Taylor said, because of Dalton’s impact on the community and the locker room.

Hubbard said Dalton brings a little advantage knowing so much about the Cincinnati defense, so the Bengals will have to adjust accordingly. The Cowboys rank ninth in net offense with 379.3 yards per game.

“He’s very smart,” Hubbard said. “He does a lot of things for the offense. Communication-wise at the line of scrimmage, he can pick up on things and we’ve just got to be smart about what we’re doing, how we communicate because some of our language and stuff, he’s obviously familiar with and he’s gonna be tuned into what we’re doing, so, we just got to be sound.”


Cowboys at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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