The Cincinnati Bengals will be one of only 18 NFL teams who return the quarterback who took the majority of snaps for them during 2011. That kind of stability is welcome to any team, especially one who a year ago was facing tremendous uncertainty at the position.
Travel back to one year ago, and the Bengals quarterback situation was a mess. Andy Dalton had been drafted in the second round, but most were skeptical as to how successful he would be as a starter. Carson Palmer had announced his plans never to play for the Bengals again, leaving his brother Jordan as the only returning quarterback as the team faced an off season lockout.
14 other NFL teams are looking at similar circumstances as they race during mini-camps and OTAs to get acclimated to new quarterbacks on the roster. For some, that's a welcome change like with Peyton Manning in Denver. For others, it's the beginning of what will most likely be a tumultuous controversy over who gets the snaps, like in Miami and Cleveland.
Dalton will return to try to follow up on his Pro Bowl rookie season with another successful year. Backup Bruce Gradkowski is also primed to resume his role. His presence as an emergency backup who can come in and win games is vital, as witnessed last year in the season's first game in Cleveland when Dalton was knocked out in the second half.
Zac Robinson is also back to compete for the third spot and get some experience. The team also signed Tyler Hansen from Colorado as an undrafted free agent, so he'll be in camp as well.
The Bengals hope that this stability, which they never quite got from Carson Palmer because of injuries, will be the start of a trend of dependable quarterbacking that the Bengals haven't really had since the Boomer Esiason era.
Since Esiason left to go to New York as a free agent in 1992, the Bengals have had seven different players lead the team in passing. That's seven different quarterbacks in 20 years. By comparison, the previous 20 years saw only two quarterbacks lead the team in passing, Esiason and Ken Anderson.
Not coincidentally, the Bengals had an overall winning record under Anderson and Esiason at 160-156 with each taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl. The record since then has been 116-187 without a victory in the playoffs.
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