Last week, new Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell found himself so impressed with his new quarterback that he felt compelled to draw a comparison to his old quarterback. LaFell has spent the past two seasons in New England, so that means that he was comparing Andy Dalton to future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady.
Last season, in 11 games, LaFell only caught 37 passes for 515 yards and no touchdowns, but he had 74 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014, his first with the Patriots after four years with the Panthers.
The Bengals added LaFell after they found their wide receiver room depleted by the free agency defections of Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, two of their top players at the position behind, of course, A.J. Green, whom they drafted in the first round in the same year that Cincinnati also picked up Dalton in round two.
There is no doubt that Dalton made strides last year in 12-plus games prior to his thumb injury, he completed 255 of 386 pass attempts for 3250 yards and 25 touchdowns versus seven interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 106.3.
He missed some of the early portions of the offseason as he rehabbed from the thumb injury that ended his season, but LaFell got in some good work with him toward the close of spring drills, and he told reporters on Wednesday that “Andy could be a similar player” to Brady “if we continue to take the steps we’re taking”.
Having experienced both locker rooms, he was able to provide at least a bit of meaningful insight, saying that “everybody respects [Dalton] just like everybody respects Brady” in each respective locker room. As it currently stands, Brady owns four Super Bowl rings, while Dalton owns zero playoff victories.
One wonders if he might have gotten his first playoff victory this year had he not been lost for the final quarter of the regular season and into the playoffs. It was his success during the first three quarters of the year, after all, that helped them win the AFC North and secure a playoff spot.
“How Brady demanded the best out of everybody”, his new wide receiver said, “Andy’s doing the same here”. He also told reporters that they are “both smart guys” and that “they always have the offense in the right play. They’re always getting the ball to the right person at the right time”.
It is true that that is a major area in which Dalton has improved over the course of the past two seasons. He has developed one of the quickest releases from snap to throw in the league, and in spite of that, he was still near the top of the league averaging 8.4 yards per pass attempt.
That was more than a yard per pass better than his previous best showing, when he averaged 7.3 yards per pass in 2013, throwing a career-best 33 touchdowns. His biggest improvement, however, was likely cutting down the turnovers. But now he will have to maintain that forward progress while adjusting to new wide receivers, including rookie Tyler Boyd.