Bengals OC Gruden sees big future for rookie QB Dalton

Time will tell if the Cincinnati Bengals really found their next franchise quarterback in Andy Dalton. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden seems quite certain of it, though.

Gruden, who's in his first year with the Bengals, is raving about his new quarterback, whom he believes will be a perfect fit in the team's West Coast offense.

The coach spoke with the Bengals' official team website this week, breaking down game tape to show the attributes that led to Dalton becoming the 35th overall pick in last month's NFL draft.

Gruden said one of the tapes that sold him on the quarterback was TCU's 45-10 dismantling of Baylor in September.

"I had to go back and look at this one because I didn't remember the ball hitting the ground," Gruden said of Dalton, who went 21-of-23 passing for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the game. "Last time I checked, Baylor went to a bowl."

With incumbent quarterback Carson Palmer demanding a trade and threatening to retire, the door is wide open for Dalton to quickly contribute in Cincinnati. Dalton said he's determined to compete for the starting job.

Coach Marvin Lewistold the Bengals' website last week that the team will mull its options at the position, but he's confident that Dalton could handle being under center next season.

"I don't think there's an exact need," Lewis said. "I feel really good about the guy we were able to draft. If he ends up being the starter as a rookie, I think he can do that."

Knocks on Dalton-- including a perceived lack of arm strength, athleticism and size -- don't faze Gruden. The coach looks at Dalton's "functional" speed, footwork and mechanics, and sees an NFL quarterback.

"What impresses me is the location of the throws. He gives his guy a chance to run after the catch," Gruden said. "That's very important throwing to backs, throwing to (tight end Jermaine) Gresham, throwing to (rookie wide receiver) A.J. Green. A big part of these guys' strength is the ability to run after the catch. This offense, if we do throw shorter passes, 4, 5 yards, we're throwing it to a location so they can catch and run. I think this guy does the best job of anybody in the draft, in my opinion, of doing that.

"I'm not saying nobody else can't. I just thought he was the best one at it."

The Bengals should consider themselves lucky that Dalton was on the board in the second round. The Seattle Seahawksdiscussed drafting Dalton with the 25th overall pick in the first round before deciding on Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter.

"We debated with Andy Dalton, there's no question about it," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Wednesday on KIRO-AM. "But I think we all felt like we were at a point in our development where we couldn't pass on a starting tackle right now."

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