Rookie Watch: Dalton learning quickly
With every rookie signal-caller, there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road.
Week 8 in Seattle was far from perfect for Andy Dalton, but he did his job and left a hostile environment with a win. And his Bengals are looking quite good right now.
Overall, Dalton has clearly exceeded expectations, especially my own. When he came out of TCU, I saw a cerebral quarterback with a very weak arm who was lacking the physical qualities to really excel at this level. Although he still has yet to prove to me that he can drive the ball through the elements he will face in the area of the country and division in which he plays, Dalton so far has thrown the football with better velocity at the NFL level than I envisioned.
And although fellow rookie A.J. Green is obviously a terrific deep threat, the Bengals' coaching staff has managed Dalton extremely well -- playing to his strengths and taking only a few calculated shots deep per game.
Dalton's strengths are evident, though. He is an excellent anticipatory passer who is quick to decipher information while getting the ball to the correct target on time and accurately. That is a lot more than many quarterbacks in this league can say for themselves.
|Ranking||Player, position (draft position)||Last week|
|Cam Newton, Panthers QB (first round, No. 1)
The offensive rookie of the year award is Newton's. It is done. Over. And he is obviously amazing. But I think too many overlook the fact that Newton is a very questionable overall decision-maker at this point.
|Von Miller, Broncos LB (first round, No. 2)
What an awful game for the Broncos against Detroit. This team is in shambles right now, although Miller did continue to play well. But the time has come to put Newton in the top spot.
|A.J. Green, Bengals WR (first round, No. 4)
Green led the Bengals in targets by a substantial margin in Seattle -- as he should. And the phenom wideout came through once again with 63 receiving yards and a touchdown. There will be much bigger statistical days on the horizon, though.
|Aldon Smith, 49ers LB (first round, No. 7)
Smith notched yet another sack in Week 8, bringing his total for the season up to 6½ despite playing very little early in the season. He is an instrumental member of one of the very best defenses in the NFL. He is pushing Miller for defensive rookie of the year honors at this point.
|Marcell Dareus, Bills DT (first round, No. 3)
Dareus had 2½ of the Bills' nine sacks against Washington -- yes, nine sacks! He was also a major force in the run game. Dareus played a lot more nose tackle instead of defensive end in this matchup. And it obviously agreed with him. Right now, I see a bit of a drop-off after the top five rookies.
|Jabaal Sheard, Browns DE (second round, No. 37)
Sheard had another solid showing in San Francisco in Week 8. He didn't get to QB Alex Smith, but the 49ers displayed a predominantly run-first offense. This week the Browns travel to Houston, where Sheard will often do battle with Eric Winston, one of the better right tackles in the league.
|Andy Dalton, Bengals QB (second round, No. 35)
Dalton's Bengals got a win on the road in a tough environment, but the game was much closer than the final score would indicate. And Dalton had his ups and downs in Seattle. But these things happen to rookie signal-callers, and in the grand scheme of things, Dalton's maturity is extremely impressive.
|Christian Ponder, Vikings QB (first round, No. 12)
Like Dalton, Ponder led his team to a road victory. Of course, things could have been different if Carolina's Olindo Mare could have nailed a short field goal to send it to overtime, but that was out of Ponder's hands. Ponder was especially impressive on third downs. I am actually higher on Ponder than Dalton, but Dalton's body of work this season is superior.
|Adrian Clayborn, Buccaneers DE (first round, No. 20)
The Bucs were off last week, but Clayborn could be poised for a big game against the Saints. New Orleans' offensive tackles had a very long day in their defeat to St. Louis. Keep an eye on Clayborn and his fellow defensive ends in their collective pursuit of Drew Brees.
|Tyron Smith, Cowboys OT (first round, No. 9)
Like the rest of his Dallas teammates, Smith struggled against the Eagles on the road. He isn't playing as well as he did early in the season, but for now, he is narrowly hanging on to staying on this list. Offensive tackle is a very difficult position to succeed at as a rookie.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.