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Bengals mailbag 1: Dalton to break out?

Good first Saturday morning, everyone. Yes, "first," as in the first Saturday of the regular season. In one more day, football as we know it and respect it returns for 30 teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, the preseason was fun and it taught us a little about this year's teams. But now the real fun begins. The wins and losses that matter are mere hours away. Ahead of Cincinnati's season opener at Baltimore, here are a few questions from this week's Bengals mailbag. Don't worry, if your question didn't get asked down below, you may find it Sunday.

@ColeyHarvey: For starters, Joel, the game is being carried on CBS. Spero Dedes and former Bengal Solomon Wilcots will be on the call. As for the meat and potatoes of your question, I'm going to respond with a question of my own. Hasn't Andy Dalton already had a breakout performance? Sure, his challenges have been duly noted and I'm not going to use this tiny space to get into them all, but I'd venture to say that he also has had his share of successes in spite of the largely turnover-induced failures. So it's hard to fully answer your question. What I believe you're referring to is Dalton under new offensive coordinator. Do I believe the quarterback will stun a few people under this new coordinator regime this fall, beginning this week? I do. The fact he's facing a 3-4 defense -- the same defensive scheme he saw four weeks in the preseason -- will help. The attention the Bengals will place on their ballcarriers will ease Dalton's pressure, too. So yes, I'm bracing for a head-turning performance from Dalton in the opener.

@ColeyHarvey: As strange as this is going to sound, Cody, I'm going with right offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. I suppose if I had to pick a player on defense, I probably would pick outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur because of the impact he ought to have in coverage as the team's nickel linebacker. His season-long injury last year hurt the Bengals early. It'll be good for them to have his presence from Week 1 as they attempt negotiating a full season with covering tight ends and occasional running backs. He certainly has the size to match up with the gauntlet of good tight ends the Bengals will face this year. As for Zeitler, he's my X-Factor because he has quietly had a really impressive preseason. He seemed beyond adequate in taking care of his preseason duties and enters this year as an important piece of Cincinnati's expanded rushing attack. The Bengals want to be more physical, and Zeitler could help them do just that.

@ColeyHarvey: It'll be noticeable, Chuck, but I'm not thinking it'll hurt. The reason is because Marvin Jones barely had a chance to practice this preseason anyway. Less than a week after returning to training camp from an ankle injury that slowed him in July and August, Jones was lost for several weeks with the foot injury that now has him sidelined. He's expected back Week 5 at New England, and he could provide a big boost when he does return. As it is, the Bengals went through the entire preseason using A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu as their primary receivers. I seem to recall the first-team offense and Andy Dalton were 8-for-8 in a half against the Jets in Week 2 of the preseason and didn't turn the ball over once in any of the preseason games they played. I have to think the Bengals will be fine without Jones.

@ColeyHarvey: I'm going to take a gamble and take the over here. The rookie running back will be more productive than BenJarvus Green-Ellis who had just 778 all-purpose yards last year because he caught only four passes. Jeremy Hill will have more opportunities to break longer runs, and he'll be used much more exclusively in the passing game. Although he is a physical back similar to Green-Ellis, Hill has a youthful explosiveness to him that Green-Ellis simply didn't have last season. Hill's legs are fresher, and the ground game will be more prolific. Along with Hill going over 900 yards, second-year back Giovani Bernard will hover around the 1,100-1,200-yard mark. He had just more than 1,200 all-purpose yards last year and could rival that figure since he will be used a bit more than he was last season. The two backs could easily amass about 2,300 yards of offense between them.

@ColeyHarvey: It all depends upon what director of Bengals player personnel Duke Tobin and his family want and whether he's happy in Cincinnati or not. I do believe he'll get offers to go elsewhere, and I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't had several make informal passes in the past. Having said that, it appears he has found a nice niche with the Bengals, and he has clearly worked well with coach Marvin Lewis to identify, scout and study talent. Tobin of course has a former GM close by. His father, Bill Tobin, currently works as a consultant for the Bengals' scouting department following a successful run as the general manager of the Colts.