Lewis: Bengals can handle rookie QB

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
4:30
PM ET
GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Eight years ago, the Cincinnati Bengals had a rookie No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Carson Palmer. He sat on the bench his entire first season.

This year, the Bengals are about to give rookie second-round pick Andy Dalton his first career start Friday against the Detroit Lions. It's expected to be the first of many starts for Dalton, who was drafted to replace Palmer.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis explained the difference between the two teams. Lewis believes this year's club has a better chance of success with a rookie quarterback than his 2003 team, which finished 8-8 under veteran Jon Kitna.

"The football team that I took over in 2003 couldn't afford to lose games because of the quarterback," Lewis said. "They had a guy who been in the seat and a lot of people were very, very comfortable with. Jon had done some good things, so it was a different situation.

"This football team is put together differently. They're tough, they're physical, they know how to go out there and compete. I didn't know those things coming in 2003. I know what this team is made of now. I know where the leaders are. I didn't know those guys then."

Lewis wouldn't go as far to say Dalton was more NFL ready than Palmer was in 2003. That will be decided by Dalton's play on the field.

The Bengals are expected to give Dalton and the first-team offense more reps than usual Friday because of their new West Coast offense, rookie quarterback and NFL lockout.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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