Count ESPN NFL analyst Cris Carter among those who still believe Andy Dalton has something to prove.
The former Minnesota Vikings receiver said during a pre-game broadcast of ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" show that Dalton's play in this past January's Pro Bowl "altered [his] opinion" on the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback. Carter had previously believed the angst directed toward Dalton’s play was misguided. He apparently now understands where it is coming from.
Carter was speaking about Dalton during a segment from Bristol that ran just before Monday night's preseason game at Raymond James Stadium between the Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was during last year's Pro Bowl that Carter served as Dalton's coach in a game that pitted "Team Carter" versus "Team [Michael] Irvin."
"We need to get one first down. Five yards. And, hmm," Carter said. "It altered my opinion of what I thought of Andy because he wasn't that comfortable like the other Pro Bowl quarterbacks."
Dalton actually completed two first-down passes.
Dalton also was the last quarterback Carter used in the game. He was 9-for-20 on 69 yards passing, and was sacked once. The Bengals quarterback entered late in the third quarter, and played the entire fourth, even helping engineer a drive that nearly got Team Carter a come-from-behind win.
Team Carter ultimately lost the game, 32-28, when Dalton's 19-yard heave on fourth down fell incomplete. It was the fourth consecutive incomplete pass he had on that drive. Another one of his incompletions was directed at Bengals receiver A.J. Green.
"There's not a bunch of pressure at the Pro Bowl," Carter continued. "But I think he's done a good job in the regular season. But when he gets to the playoffs, I want a different personality. I want more fire, I want more leadership, and I think that he can get them over the hump. But right now, they're a good quarterback away from being a great football team."
Cincinnati has been to four straight playoffs, but lost each of those first-round games. Dalton was its quarterback. The franchise itself hasn’t won a postseason game since the 1990 season.
Bengals coaches have said since the spring that Dalton has grown as a leader. He demonstrated it a couple of times in training camp when he berated teammates who continued to have errors. Earlier this month, coach Marvin Lewis said the team's leadership baton had been passed to Dalton from 10-year veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth.