Bengals’ Dalton more comfortable being leader

If a receiver runs the wrong route, Andy Dalton isn’t shy about

taking him aside and correcting the problem.

The quarterback is more comfortable with his role as a leader

entering his second season with the Cincinnati Bengals, taking more

responsibility on his inexperienced shoulders. He was so concerned

about learning the play book as a rookie last season that he left a

lot of things up to his coaches and teammates.

There was a clear difference during the Bengals’ three-day

minicamp that ended Thursday.

”I think he’s just more comfortable or confident,” offensive

tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ”He’s not walking into a situation

where who knows if the other starter’s coming back, if he’s going

to have to play and all these other things he had to have in the

back of his mind.

”Now he knows it’s his team and we’re rallying behind him and

we’ll go as far as he takes us. He has that feeling.”

The second-round pick from TCU took the Bengals to the playoffs

last season, where they lost to Houston in the first round. That

was big stuff around Cincinnati, which has had only three winning

records since 1991.

Both Dalton and rookie receiver A.J. Green – Cincinnati’s

first-round pick – made the Pro Bowl.

It was more impressive because Dalton had so little time to

learn the offense. The NFL lockout prevented him from working with

coaches after the draft. A year ago this week, the Bengals were

holding voluntary workouts at a soccer complex in the suburbs and

at the University of Cincinnati, with second-string quarterback

Jordan Palmer running the offense.

When the league and the players reached a new labor deal, Dalton

wasn’t sure if he would be the starter or whether starting

quarterback Carson Palmer would relent on his threat to sit out if

he wasn’t traded.

The entire offense was learning a new system, coordinator Jay

Gruden’s West Coast style passing attack. There was little time

with a lot to do.

Correct a teammate for making a mistake? Not a priority.

”I was trying to get the next play or trying to do things like

that, and I let the coaches handle it,” Dalton said. ”Right now,

I feel like I can go over there and say something because the next

play is second nature.

”I think I’ve done a better job this spring. If a guy runs a

route a little differently, instead of letting a coach do it, I’m

going to go over there and talk to him. Things like that, where we

make sure we’re on the same page.”

Dalton threw for 3,398 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13

interceptions last season, including a 332-yard game at Denver that

set a Bengals passing record for a rookie. His 80.4 passer rating

was the best by an AFC rookie.

He became only the fifth rookie quarterback in NFL history to

throw for 3,000 yards. Game by game, he convinced the Bengals he

was their quarterback of the future – one of the factors in owner

Mike Brown’s decision to trade Carson Palmer to Oakland at

midseason.

”I feel like everybody on this team understands and knows what

they’re going to get out of me,” Dalton said. ”This year I am

able to step out a little bit more. I was able to prove myself a

little bit last year, and now everyone knows and understands we’re

going to be on the same page, and I can voice that a little bit

more.

”I probably should have done a little better job last year, but

there were a lot of other things that were on my mind. But this

year, I’m comfortable with everybody that we’ve got.”

They’ve noticed.

”Andy has looked good,” Green said. ”He’s more comfortable

out there. He knows it’s his team this year.”

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay