Andy Dalton enjoyed one of the top rookie seasons in the history of the NFL last year. The Pro Bowl QB became the first rookie in NFL history to starts as many as eight wins and throw as many as 20 TD passes. He also was the first rookie QB not selected in the first round to start all 16 games and lead the his team into the postseason. He finished with 3,398 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while leading four fourth-quarter comeback wins.
The question surrounding Dalton and the Bengals this season that Pete Prisco broached Wednesday was, Can he duplicate or improve on that success in Year 2?
While many of his accomplishments were unprecedented, successful rookie seasons were not. In fact, since 1980, eight players who poured in extended rookie seasons finished with a QB rating better than 80. Dalton's 80.4 and Carolina's Cam Newton (84.5) added to the list in 2011. When attempting to predict sophomore success, let's take a look at the previous six rookie seasons and how the second years stacked up.
- Marc Bulger, St. Louis, 2002 -- QB rating: 101.5; completion percentage: 64.5; TDs: 14; INTs: 6; Two-year stats: 81.4/63.2/22/22
- Joe Flacco, Baltimore, 2008 -- QB rating: 80.3; completion percentage: 60.0; TDs: 14; INTs: 12; Two-year stats: 88.9/63.1/21/12
- Charlie Batch, Detroit, 1998 -- QB rating: 83.5; completion percentage: 57.1; TDs: 11; INTs: 6; Two-year stats: 84.1/55.9/13/7
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta, 2008 -- QB rating: 87.7; completion percentage: 61.1; TDs: 16; INTs: 11; Two-year stats: 80.9/58.3/22/14
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, 2004 -- QB rating: 98.1; completion percentage: 66.4; TDs: 17; INTs: 11; Two-year stats: 98.6/62.7/17/9
- Dan Marino, Miami, 1983 -- QB rating: 96.0; completion percentage: 58.4; TDs: 20; INTs: 6; Two-year stats: 108.9/64.2/48/17
What do we learn from these numbers?
1. Don't expect a significant drop off. Of all six, only Batch's numbers took anything resembling a significant hit. His rating dropped nearly 20 points, but he threw eight more touchdowns the following year. Of the other five, only Ryan's rating dropped and he still threw six more touchdowns to only three extra interceptions. Perhaps that would qualify as a sophomore slump, but the numbers only dipped slightly. By the way, that year Ryan still went 9-5 as a starter missing three games with an injury.
2. Expecting more touchdowns would make sense. Nobody tossed fewer touchdowns the second year in the system. Perhaps that comes with coordinators showing more confidence in second-year quarterbacks to make decisions in the red zone or maybe they just threw more passes in general but the production speaks for itself. On average the number of touchdown passes thrown rose from 15.3 to 23.8 from Year 1 to Year 2. Now, take out Marino's unprecedented jump and the increase comes at a more manageable jump from 14.4 to 19.0.
3. Should that hold for Dalton, he would throw 25 touchdown passes. For the most part, completion percentage stays on a similar course. Logic would indicate that a second year in the system would lead to better decisions and more completions, but likely a more aggressive attitude with the gained confidence adds more shots down the field and fewer completions. Only Flacco and Marino saw their completion percentage jump more than a point. Dalton desires to jump his completion percentage over 60 percent from last year's 58.1. The number is attainable, but far from a likely guarantee.
Bottom line: Dalton's rookie season serves as a strong indicator of what his second year will resemble. Any significant drop off in production would be relatively unparalleled, but it's correct to expect a bump particularly in touchdown passes.
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for updates from Bengals training camp on Twitter at @CBSSportsNFLCIN.