There were many things to like about Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in 2011. His boss was most impressed by something unrelated to arm strength or accuracy or size or smarts.
“I think all along just his demeanor,” coach Marvin Lewis said Friday at the Scouting Combine. “As a couple people said to me, ‘He has it.’ You felt that about him. Nothing seemed too big. He seems to take almost everything in stride. His personality is one that’s very unassuming yet a very quiet demeanor, quiet determination and a resolve that he can do whatever it is.”
Dalton took the Bengals to the playoffs and won a spot in the Pro Bowl without the benefit of an offseason training program. This year, Dalton will get a full opportunity to prepare — and Lewis wants to see him make the most of it.
“I think it’s going to be a huge thing for Andy to have,” Lewis said. “Not only the offseason, but a resume of work. Something he can improve upon and build upon with the rest of our players. He spoke so much about that. That he can’t wait to get the opportunity to get back to work and to be able to look at the different concepts and the things we do offensively. We need to continue to build on this and get better at this, and so forth. I think it was a great experience for our young guys to have the opportunity to learn from these veteran players. I just told them, ‘Suck the knowledge out of them and come back.’ I think that’s important.”
And so that experience and knowledge could help the Bengals close the gap in the AFC North. Although Lewis seemed to bristle a little at the question of whether a gap even exists.
“We won the division three years ago and it’s not worth anything,” Lewis said. “We have to compete and win against our division teams. We know Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh get better every year.”
Well, Baltimore and Pittsburgh get better every year. And the Bengals will need to get a lot better in order to leapfrog the Steelers and Ravens in 2012.