Dalton looking to put offseason studying to test

CINCINNATI – Andy Dalton spent a lot of his offseason watching Aaron Rodgers. It was part of the third-year quarterback’s self-assigned homework. Getting his team to the playoffs two years in a row was nice, but Dalton was looking for ways to improve. So out came the videos of Rodgers as well as New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

Dalton gets the chance to see how well he compares to the real thing Sunday when the Bengals host Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium.

Rodgers is coming off a 480-yard passing performance in Green Bay’s 38-20 win against Washington, which equaled a franchise record. Since he became the starter in 2008, Rodgers has led the NFL in passer rating twice (each of the last two seasons) and has qualified to become the league’s highest-rated passer with a 105.6 rating, nearly nine points better than Hall of Famer Steve Young. No one has thrown for more yards in their first five seasons as a starter than Rodgers, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3.79 (178-47) is the best in NFL history. Tom Brady is second at 2.72.

Oh, yeah, he’s also led the Packers to a Super Bowl title.

“He’s one of the best in the game,” said Dalton. “Just to see what’s he doing. What are some of the checks he’s making? What are some of the progressions he’s going through? What route combinations does he like and do they use a lot? How’s he making his plays? He does a really good job of getting outside the pocket, making plays when things aren’t exactly how you want them. Getting outside – his receivers do a good job of working when the play breaks down. Just different things like that.”

If you’re going to study someone, study the best.

“In my mind, he is the best,” said cornerback Leon Hall. “I think he makes throws that nobody in the NFL can make. Obviously you have the Mannings, the Bradys and there are great quarterbacks but I think Rodgers brings an extra element to the game. I think in the pocket he’s just as good as Manning and Brady but the thing that separates him in my opinion is the fact that he can get outside of the pocket and do damage. I think he’s probably more accurate and dangerous on the run.
“When you think of elite quarterbacks you think you want to flush them out of the pocket and get them out of the comfort zone but a lot of time when he gets out of the pocket I think he flourishes. I think he can throw a 50-yard line drive going to his left, and I don’t think anybody can do that.”

The Packers have scored 64 points in the first two weeks against San Francisco and Washington, teams that were in the playoffs last season. They’ve scored nine touchdowns and one field goal on their 24 possessions so far. The Bengals have scored 41 points so far (five touchdowns, two field goals) in their 23 possessions against Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The best defense the Bengals could have in this game is a good offense. It would certainly go a long way to helping the defense which has a banged-up secondary. Cornerbacks Adam Jones, Dre’ Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee all missed practice Wednesday and the Bengals signed free agent Curtis Marsh for help.

“I think there’s going to be a big emphasis on third downs, picking up first downs, keeping the clock going, keeping the ball in our possession and when we get to the red zone, scoring touchdowns instead of field goals,” said Dalton. “When you’re playing an offense like this, you want to take advantage of every chance you get and get points as much as you can.”

The Packers enter each season with high level of expectations. Those expectations have come from years of winning and success. The Bengals have tasted a little bit of success with consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in 30 years, but they are playing for higher stakes with greater expectations this season.

Dalton is not in Rodgers’ class when it comes to quarterbacking. Few are and it’s not a fair comparison for any young player. Dalton was thrown into the starting lineup right away as a rookie without the benefit of an offseason due to the NFL lockout in 2011. He’s learned on the go. Rodgers is a ninth-year player who sat for three seasons behind Brett Favre before getting the ball.

Dalton certainly could’ve chosen worse quarterbacks to study.

“The bar’s been set pretty high around here,” said Rodgers on Wednesday. “I just try and remember that I’m just one of 53 to go out there every week and try and do their job as best they can. Obviously mine gets more attention, more scrutiny, maybe a slightly greater responsibility but it’s a job that I take very seriously and I expect to play well on Sundays.

“That’s because I put a lot of time in during the week, I prepare, I draw on my experience, on my recall from that week when I get in the game and I’ve got coaches who get the most out of me by not allowing me to be complacent, so I just remember I’ve got to do my job, everybody else does as well and when it comes together you can have the kind of success you had on Sunday.”