The 2013 Cincinnati Bengals training camp was supposed to begin with an Andy Dalton news conference, but the quarterback was late getting to the interview room because he was still on the field putting in extra work after the morning walkthrough.
That’s when wide receiver A.J. Green, who is gracious but not normally loquacious when it comes to interviews, agreed to step into the big room for the first time since he was drafted and field questions until Dalton was ready.
And it didn’t take long before Green made it clear that he believes Dalton is, indeed, ready.
“This is his team, his offense,” Green said. “He knows it now. I don’t think he’s going to ever be that guy to get in your face, but when he talks he’s firm. He don’t have to yell because he doesn’t talk that much. When he does say something, he is serious about it.”
Dalton, like Green, is entering his third year in the league after directing the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. But lackluster performances in a pair of Wild Card losses to the Houston Texans have some questioning whether he is the right guy to take the franchise to the next level.
Dalton, like Green, insists that he is.
“Now that I’ve played a couple of years, I’ve got some notches on my belt, so I feel like everybody knows that they can trust me,” Dalton said. “I feel like I’m able to be a really good leader for this, not only offensively, but for everybody as a whole. The older you get and the more that you play, that’s how it should be.”
The sting of January’s 19-13 Wild Card loss to Houston has stayed with Dalton through the offseason, but he made sure he didn’t have that game film on permanent loop.
“I’ve gone back and watched every game a couple of times,” he said. “You find the areas you want to improve. There are some things with some footwork that I’d like to get better at, that would help me with the deeper throws. So there are little things that will help me get better. I feel like I was able to do a lot of stuff to improve during the offseason, and I expect to keep getting better as training camp goes on.”
The key, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said, is for everyone in the offense to keep getting better. And the addition of a pair of impact rookies in first-round tight end Tyler Eifert and second-round running back Giovani Bernard can only help.
“I think we all need to do better, myself included, to take the next step, not just Andy,” Gruden said. “Andy gets a lot of pressure because he’s the quarterback, and deservedly so. But I think we need to get better around him. I think we’ve addressed that with Eifert, Giovani and more experience with (the) young receiving group that we have.”
Dalton’s leadership ability ultimately will be measured in wins, specifically in January. But more immediately it will be on display on the HBO series Hard Knocks.
He said he’s ready for that, and ready for everything else.
“A quarterback has got to take control, and I feel like I’ve done a good job with that,” Dalton said. “Not just what we’re doing offensively, but in the locker room getting to know guys and hanging out with guys. All of that is going to make you a better team.
“I understand how all of it works. I understand how the media works. I understand what it takes to play the position and what it takes to win at this position. I’m trying to get better all the time. I’m confident in my abilities, and I’m confident in what I do. I’m ready to get going.”
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