Cam Newton has been a great story this season, a first overall pick performing even better than expected and putting up huge numbers for the Panthers. But don’t be too quick to coronate Newton as this year’s best rookie quarterback.
Andy Dalton of the Bengals has, like Newton, started every game this season. But unlike Newton, Dalton is putting up good numbers while his team is winning games.
On Sunday against the Colts, Dalton completed 25 of 32 passes for 264 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions, for a passer rating of 111.5 on the day. It was the third time in six starts that Dalton has had a passer rating above 100, and his passer rating on the season is a solid 84.3. Newton’s passer rating is 78.3.
In terms of fantasy football numbers, Dalton can’t compare to Newton: Newton has 500 more passing yards than Dalton, and Newton also has six rushing touchdowns to Dalton’s one. But Dalton and Newton have the same number of passing touchdowns (seven apiece), and Newton has thrown nine interceptions to Dalton’s five. Dalton’s completion percentage is better than Newton’s as well.
And, of course, there’s the little matter of Dalton leading his team to a 4-2 record, making the Bengals one of the pleasant surprises of the season. Newton has racked up a lot of his big numbers while trying unsuccessfully to bring the 1-5 Panthers back while they were trailing in the second half.
Dalton has only had one really bad game, his two-interception effort in a loss to the 49ers. But aside from the fourth quarter and overtime against Tony Romo, the 49ers’ defense has made every quarterback look bad this season. There’s no shame in struggling against San Francisco.
Dalton’s stats also compare favorably to the stats Sam Bradford put up last season while winning the offensive rookie of the year award in St. Louis. And Dalton’s stats compare favorably to the 2010 numbers of Benglas quarterback Carson Palmer, too.
Obviously, Dalton isn’t doing it all himself. The Bengals’ 1-2 punch at wide receiver this year, A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson, has been an improvement over last year’s combination of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. And offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are playing very well — they shut down the Colts’ pass-rush combination of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
But Whitworth pointed to Dalton after the game when asked what the difference is for this year’s Bengals.
“And this guy right here made the plays,” Whitworth said. “Dalton had a heck of a day. It’s all on him. It’s Andre and I’s job to keep people off him. He executed and he did what he had to do and that’s what he continues to. He comes in with a game plan and if things don’t go exactly right he stays with the game plan.”
Dalton has been following the game plan all year. And his production has been even better than the Bengals could have planned.