The fiery-haired Dalton says he’s up to the challenge.
“We’re leaders of our unit,” Dalton said Wednesday, in a video posted at Bengals.com. “And for Rey, he’s leader of the defense. I’m the leader of the offense. So I mean it’s a challenge for us. [Lewis] believes in us. Nothing that he’s doubting us or anything like that. It’s a challenge. We’re where we are. Nothing we can do about it right now. We’ll just improve and get better.”
As to whether the coach’s comments give Dalton a green light to be a jerk, Dalton said with a laugh, “Maybe I should have staged a fight today or something. That would have been good.”
He’s joking, but maybe he shouldn’t have been. Lewis is looking for something specific and tangible and jarring. Something that will get the attention of other players, making it clear that they are accountable to their on-field leaders.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Dalton said. “What it comes down to is me being me, and hopefully doing enough that it’s gonna satisfy him.”
But isn’t Lewis saying that Dalton being Dalton isn’t enough? That it’s time for him to step up and be something more?
In fairness to Dalton, he realizes that it’s time to change. “It’s the natural progression of it,” Dalton said. “As a rookie, you come in, you’re meeting new people. Now in the second year, it’s your offense. It’s your team. And that’s how I’ve got to treat it.”
Here’s the problem. Through seven games, the Bengals are 3-4, including an ongoing three-game winning streak. And if Dalton is looking for a good example of what it means to step up and take over a team as a non-rookie, he needs to pay very close attention to what Peyton Manning does when the Broncos come to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.