CINCINNATI -- Nine organized team activities and one minicamp session has new Bengals receiver Brandon LaFell thinking that Andy Dalton could one day be on par with another quarterback he once caught passes from: Tom Brady.
"If we continue to take the steps we're making, Andy could be a similar player like that," LaFell said Wednesday.
Signed by the Bengals in April after two seasons in New England, LaFell has been around Dalton for only about eight weeks. But within those eight weeks he says he has witnessed up close more leadership, accuracy and passion from Dalton than the Bengals signal-caller is often given credit for having.
There's no debate that Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion and 11-time Pro Bowler, has all three of those qualities. There's also no debate that he'll be heading to the Hall of Fame once his career is over. But Dalton?
"Everybody respects him just like everybody respects Brady," LaFell said of Dalton's influence in the Bengals' locker room. "How Brady demanded the best out of everybody, Andy's doing the same thing here.
"Both of those guys are smart guys. They always have the offense in the right play. They're always getting the ball to the right person at the right time. They're two different offenses, but both of those guys are winners."
Dalton has led the Bengals to 50 wins in 77 regular-season starts in his career. But unlike Brady, he has not been part of a playoff win. Despite leading the Bengals to five straight postseasons, Dalton is 0-4 in playoff games he's started. The other game, January's wild-card game against Pittsburgh, also resulted in a loss.
LaFell, who has also played with Cam Newton, was a key contributor his first season in New England, drawing 116 targets from Brady in 2014. Only Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman (both with 130) had more. LaFell's 13 playoffs catches played a major role in getting the Patriots to the Super Bowl that year. One of those 13 receptions was an 11-yarder that got New England on the scoreboard first in its eventual 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks.
For as well as LaFell played that year, a foot injury forced him into a dramatically reduced role in 2015. After a stint on the physically unable to perform list, LaFell had just 37 catches on 71 targets and no touchdowns for the Patriots last season. He's hoping for much better numbers in Cincinnati this season, and he believes Dalton can help him do that.
LaFell's first realization of Dalton's arm strength and accuracy came during a practice earlier this spring while he ran a deep post route. After getting downfield and losing the ball momentarily, LaFell just threw his hands up. The ball landed right in them a split-second later. When LaFell watched film of that practice later, he noticed that Dalton had heavy pressure in his face when he delivered the throw, too.
"Being around a good quarterback makes everybody else on the field job that much easier," LaFell said. "With them having so much knowledge of the game, knowledge of the offense and playing with a high level of confidence, it kind of slows the game down for everybody else. And for me coming in learning the playbook, he's helping me out in the huddle, helping me out off the field. It's making me go out there and know the offense now and just going out there and playing fast and not worrying about anything else because he's so good."