So far, Andy Dalton looks 'sensational'

CINCINNATI -- Asked Saturday afternoon to sum up Andy Dalton's first few days of training camp, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson used one word.


A little over-dramatic?

Not if you've seen Dalton practice and handle himself around his teammates and reporters the past 10 days.

Seriously, it's like a case of the body snatchers. Since the start of voluntary workouts back in April, I've found myself scratching my head as to who this mystery man now wearing the Bengals' No. 14 jersey was. I know I've mentioned as much here before and others who also cover Dalton and the Bengals on a daily basis have made similar comments, but really, and in all sincerity, the quarterback looks like a completely different person.

Passes that Dalton struggled to deliver last season, he's hitting. Progressions he might have missed or didn't get to before, he's spotting. Personality traits that some thought he lacked, he's suddenly got those, too.

It's like a case of the body snatchers.

So far.

Again, it's important to mention that we're only at the start of training camp and that there are still five months before the Bengals embark on what they hope will be a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Much of the progress myself and others have noticed could fall by the wayside between now and then. But I'll tell you what: If such a drop-off occurs, it doesn't look like it's happening any time soon.

Jackson feels the same way.

"I've been really impressed with him over the last several days," Jackson said. "He's really starting to buy into the urgency, getting the ball out of his hands and he's making great decisions."

Jackson's comments came after he had just watched Dalton have a near flawless day slicing up the Bengals' second-team defense. The quarterback unofficially was 17-for-20 with approximately 200 yards passing, some 120 of those to tight end Tyler Eifert. Dalton also had one touchdown and another potential three that were negated thanks to either questionable pass interference penalties or markdowns from referees who had to spot where they thought players might have been tackled. (The Bengals didn't tackle in Saturday's scrimmage inside Paul Brown Stadium.)

Beyond the sheer statistics, Dalton -- to me -- looked comfortable in the pocket, confident and in full command of everything that was happening in front of him. He looked like the quarterback of his team. He left no doubt about that.

And why would he doubt his status as the starter? After all, team president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis have told both Dalton and reporters that they foresee him directing their offense for years to come. That message has clearly boosted Dalton's confidence and allowed him to focus on playing his best football in the present, even while his contract negotiations continue in the background. If they've been distracting to him, I can't see it. He truly seems to be living what he says when he points out that he isn't worried about what he's going to get or when he's going to get it. Like he told me on Day 1 of camp: "Whatever it is, when it comes, it comes."

So far in camp, Jackson has seen everything I have. He has detected poise from the quarterback.

"Very calm. Very assured of what he's doing and how he's doing it and where he needs to go with the ball," Jackson said. "There's good communication when he comes off. Even when things didn't go right he could tell me why, what he felt. And that's what you've got to look for. A quarterback's got to be poised.

"He's been very in control of when things have gone really good and when things have gone really bad. That's a good sign."

Combine those traits with statistics like the ones above -- stats he's replicated at practices against both the first- and second-team units throughout camp -- then it isn't so hard to believe that the player who for three seasons struggled mightily with consistency really has been "sensational."

... At least, so far.