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The Make Or Break Year For Andy Dalton

By Chris Morgan

CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.

Andy Dalton - QB - #14
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 220 lbs.
Age: 26
Hometown: Katy, Texas
College: TCU
Experience: 4 years

The primary focal point of pretty much every football team is the quarterback. Some teams have an elite quarterback they want to keep around for as long as possible. They are set at the position, and they don't worry about anything other than injury or retirement. Then, there are the teams that know they have a problem under center. Their quarterback won't cut it, but they have to wait to get the opportunity to improve. There are also the teams with young, unproven quarterbacks that could go either way. Lastly, there are the handful of teams that are in no man's land. They have a solid quarterback. Improving won't be easy, but the guy they have may not be quite good enough for the team to really excel barring a great defense and some luck. This is where the Cincinnati Bengals fall with Andy Dalton.

Dalton has been pretty good ever since entering the NFL out of TCU. He's started every game, thrown for over 11,000 yards, and tossed 80 touchdowns to 49 interceptions. Last season, he had 4,293 yards passing with 33 touchdowns and 20 picks. All three years, the Bengals have gone to the playoffs. For this franchise, that's significant, but fans aren't going to settle for that after a while. Yes, they've made the postseason every year, but they have then proceeded to lose their first playoff game every season as well.

More to the point, Dalton has struggled in the playoffs. He's thrown one touchdown to six interceptions, and he's also fumbled three times. Now, that's a small sample size, and it is unfair to put a bigger onus on those three games than the entirety of his performance. However, in total, after three years Dalton looks like a solid but unspectacular quarterback. He's not terribly physically gifted, at least by the standards of an NFL quarterback. He's 26 now, and there may not be much more growth for him as a player, if any. He's got weapons around him, including elite wide receiver A.J. Green. It is expected that Dalton takes a step forward. If he doesn't, the Bengals will have to reconsider things.

Dalton is not a highly paid quarterback. He's a second round pick on a rookie deal. The Bengals can move on from him if they want. If he doesn't lead Cincinnati to a playoff win this year, fairly or not, it could be the end of him as the Bengals starting quarterback. At the very least, the writing could be on the wall. The Bengals could easily take a quarterback in the second round of next year's NFL Draft. If they want, they could even use a first round pick on a signal caller. That's not cost prohibitive anymore. It's make or break time for Andy Dalton.

Now, Dalton is good enough to stick around the NFL for quite some time. If the Bengals move on, he'll find another team. He'll be the guy the team with a bad quarterback signs in order to make a quick fix of an improvement. At worst, he'll be a backup for a solid decade. Dalton probably wants more than that, though. He wants to be the franchise guy for the Bengals, one would imagine. He could be the guy who gives his team confidence under center. The guy the team has no plans to move away from. He'll have to earn that on the field.

Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports "expert." His work can be found on .

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