The first three days of Cincinnati Bengals training camp looked much like, well, the first days of training camp for QB Andy Dalton. Interceptions, misreads and overthrows littered the lot in most drills for the second-year quarterback.
Dalton didn't expect midseason form and walked away confident the bumps are standard for this time of year. Yet, the miscues come as a reminder that with a crop of receivers lacking any veteran presence -- Brandon Tate and his 24 career receptions represent the most tenured player in the room -- the growing pains will be palpable as the season progresses.
Dalton to Green became a household phrase last season. Dalton to anybody else will take time.
“There's a lot of guys making plays out there,” Dalton said. “It hasn't been perfect, but that's what camp is for -- trying to find the mistakes and correct them. Right now, trying to find that connection and timing.”
Consider the players in the running for the No. 2 WR position opposite A.J. Green. Armons Binns spent last season on the practice squad, so Dalton never threw to him in live practice situations. Tate didn't play a snap at wide receiver as he focused on returning kicks. Mohamed Sanu caught 115 passes -- at Rutgers.
Dalton still finds himself in the process of learning what these receivers are even good at, not to mention how they will react under pressure.
“The more we're out there, the more we see the ability,” Dalton said. “Put a guy in and see what routes they can run.”
The most important route to Dalton this camp will be the those running deep. As a rookie, he struggled to connect on passes beyond 20 yards. In fact, the first move offensive coordinator Jay Gruden made this offseason was splice together 15 errant deep passes that left points on the board. Dalton spent significant time in OTAs working on his footwork and deep-ball precision.
Early on, finding the connection with new receivers only adds to the degree of difficulty in improving the deep pass. Inconsistency has been as prevalent in that area as any on offense. Dalton remains optimistic considering the point he was at one year ago at this time.
“I have an understanding of what my drop needs to be, the trajectory of the ball,” Dalton said. “Last year it was more of making sure I knew what I was doing.”