It's interesting that this topic hasn't been discussed much. Most of the articles that I've come across concerning a "sophomore slump" are usually about Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Of course, this makes a lot of sense considering the season that Newton had.
But there was another rookie quarterback that also started in 2011: Andy Dalton.
Dalton ended up having a great rookie season in 2011. He threw for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns. In addition, he had a passer rating of 80.4 and led the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs. But as we head into the 2012 season, a particular question arises: Can Dalton do it again?
Based on what Dalton had to deal with in 2011—as in, the quarterback situation he found himself in—and also what he'll have to face next season, I believe that Dalton can do it again.
In other words, the so-called "red rifle" won't have a "sophomore slump."
Perhaps what makes Dalton's performance in 2011 so impressive was the situation the Bengals were in back in 2010. During that season, the Bengals had Carson Palmer as their quarterback and receivers like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. With such big names, one might argue the Bengals—at that time—were expected to do big things, but they didn't. They ended their 2010 season with a dismal 4-12 record.
The Bengals started off their 2011 season without Palmer, Ochocinco and Owens. Instead, they had Dalton, Jerome Simpson and A.J. Green. But after the first few games, the Bengals weren't too worried about their offense anymore
But, besides the situation that Dalton stepped into, there's another reason why his performance was so impressive: Dalton didn't have an offseason in 2012.
Dalton will have the chance to work on his mechanics, accuracy and his ability to read a defense during this whole offseason. This is an opportunity he did not have last season.
Head coach Marvin Lewis only had a few weeks to work with Dalton and the rest of the team. And I'd say that was a real productive few weeks. In my opinion, this just goes to show that, not only is Lewis a great coach, but Dalton is no one-hit wonder; he may in fact be the Bengals' long-term answer.
And finally, the last reason why Dalton's season was so impressive and why he'll have a great season in 2012 is because the Bengals are in the AFC North. Which means, Dalton will play well because he has to play well.
Though this may be the case for most quarterbacks, it's even more true for the Bengals' quarterback. Every team in the AFC North has to play extremely well for a chance at the playoffs. In the same division as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, competition is steep, but Dalton was up for the challenge in 2011, and I expect him to be up for it again in 2012.
Now, one might argue that because the Bengals are in such a difficult division, Dalton is more likely to have a sophomore slump. But I disagree. The fact that the Bengals are in the AFC North and Dalton played well just goes to show what kind of an athlete Dalton is.
He's an athlete that won't have a sophomore slump, he's an athlete that will get even better.
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