So why does he so often look so underwhelming?
Dalton's 127-yard, one-interception performance in the Bengals' 19-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday was not a huge surprise to anyone who has watched him over the second half of the season. The Bengals were winning despite Dalton, and his struggles have to concern the organization long-term.
It's not a question of if Dalton is any good. It's obvious he's capable. It's if he has the potential to be great.
Dalton has limitations as a thrower and struggled with accuracy. It was discouraging to see him truly take a step back in his second season mentally. He often seemed hesitant to make a throw, even when it was there. Too many passes went out of bounds. The game hasn't slowed down for him.
Saturday's game was a perfect example. A.J. Green beat the defense deep three times in the second half. Dalton hit Green only once. Dalton also put way too much air under a ball on a throw into the end zone, allowing Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph to recover on the play. Dalton also overthrew Green on Cincinnati's last drive for a would-be go-ahead touchdown. With the season on the line, Dalton didn't give his offense's best player a chance.
It has become a bit of a trend. Green was one-on-one in the red zone in the third quarter, and Dalton threw the ball out of bounds. He finished the season with four touchdown passes and six picks in his last six games. He didn't average over 7 yards per attempt once in that stretch.
It might seem like we're being overly harsh, but it's not like the Bengals don't know these problems. There are very real quarterback traits that Dalton struggles with. As Mark Sanchez shows, you can't judge a quarterback's promise simply on early playoff appearances.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.