CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals want quarterback Andy Dalton to be more of a leader in their quest for an elusive playoff win. So far, no complaints.
Dalton has thrown for more yards and touchdowns in a season than any other Bengal, has never missed a start in four seasons, and ranks with Joe Flacco as the only quarterbacks to lead their team to the playoffs in their first four seasons.
He’s also 0-4 in the playoffs, a mark that defines him more than any other. The Bengals are challenging him to take the team farther this season by taking more control of it.
“He’s become the leader of the football team,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “He continually takes steps all the time. It’s important to do that. He’s embraced that, and it’s been fun to see.”
Dalton has played some of his worst games in the postseason. His receiving corps was depleted by injuries for a 26-10 loss at Indianapolis last season, another first-round flameout.
“We were able to accomplish a lot, but we didn’t win the Super Bowl,” Dalton said on Friday, the first day of practice at training camp. “Until that happens, I think we’re going to be disappointed. We were able to overcome a lot last year, but we didn’t finish like we wanted to.”
The Bengals played the Colts without wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham. They played the entire season without wide receiver Marvin Jones, who had 10 touchdown receptions in 2013, while tight end Tyler Eifert played just eight snaps in the season opener before suffering a season-ending elbow injury.
Gresham signed with Arizona as a free agent, but Green, Jones and Eifert all practiced Friday.
“It was back to normal,” Dalton said.
Dalton is in his second season with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. The Bengals offense emphasized running the ball more in 2014 with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Dalton completed a career-high 64.2 percent of his passes, but he also attempted fewer passes and threw the fewest number of touchdowns (19) in his career.
The idea was to take some of the pressure off Dalton and the passing game.
“I’m not concerned with Andy as much as everybody else is,” Jackson said. “I understand that we haven’t won a playoff game and that falls at his feet — and mine, too, and the rest of the offensive staff and players, as well. But he’s done everything – and I mean this – he’s invested everything that that he can into preparing himself to be the best he can be for this season.
“And I’m totally behind him 100 percent, and I think he’s going to have a great year – not a good year, a great year.”
Notes: Former San Diego head coach Al Saunders is working training camp as a volunteer senior offensive assistant. Saunders was the offensive coordinator in Oakland in 2011 when Jackson was the Raiders’ head coach. LB Vontaze Burfict, who had knee surgery in the offseason, was the only injured player who didn’t work out with trainers on a side field Friday. There’s no estimate when he might be able to return.
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