RENTON — Admit it. When you first saw the Seahawks 2011 schedule, you saw the Cincinnati Bengals and penciled this weekend’s game in as a victory.
But now, six games into the season, the Bengals are anything but pushovers. Coming off a 4-12 season, and led by a rookie quarterback, Cincinnati
, so far anyway, is one of the biggest surprises of this NFL season with a 4-2 record.
Back in August and early September, the Bengals were a team many though would contend for the worst record in the league, but instead they’re contenders in the tough AFC North.
How have the Bengals gone so quickly from pushovers to a team that is favored on the road this weekend? Well, the biggest reason for their resurgence has been the defense, which ranks second in the league in yards allowed, and fourth in terms of points surrendered.
However, it’s the Bengals’ offense, not the defense, that will be in the spotlight in Seattle. With rookie quarterback Andy Dalton running the offense, Cincinnati represents the road not taken for the Seahawks.
Quarterback was a position of need for Seattle heading into last year’s draft, and lot of people expected the Seahawks to look for their future quarterback with their first-round pick. Dalton was available when the Seahawks were on the board at pick No. 25, and Seattle’s front office had done its homework on the TCU standout, and liked what it saw.
“We really liked him,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We liked everything about him. We did an extensive study on him. We had the individual personal interviews with him to make sure we would have a really good sense for him. We thought he was a great pick.”
The Seahawks liked Dalton, but they didn’t pick him. Instead, the Seahawks drafted tackle James Carpenter in the hopes of solidifying an offensive line that has long been an issue for the team.
Carroll said fixing the line was part of the team’s “long-haul plan,” which is why the Seahawks passed on Dalton. Yet because the Seahawks still haven’t addressed their long-term need at quarterback, and since Dalton had been there for the taking, it always will be hard for Seahawks fans to avoid wondering what might have been.
“We felt like we were so far off and we would be able to compensate with the moves that we could make to get a quarterback in position, but without the guys up front we wouldn’t have a chance,” Carroll said. “We had to take that step to do that and I’m pleased about the way that went.
“We’ll see that more so in the future than we have to this point, but there was no question that Andy would have been a great pick and he’s proven that already.”
After the Seahawks and nine more teams passed on Dalton, the Bengals grabbed him with the third pick of the second round. Dalton won the starting job before the start of the season, and while he has not been as spectacular as No. 1 pick Cam Newton, Dalton has been very solid, and more importantly, his team is winning.
Dalton’s quarterback rating of 84.3 ranks 14th in the league — ahead of both Seattle quarterbacks, by the way — and with a strong defense, that has been more than enough for the Bengals to become a winning team.
“He’s doing very well,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said on a conference call. “He continues to play within himself, (which is) what we kind of expected. Each and every week he does the things that you want him to do — taking care of the football and giving us an opportunity to win the football game.”
So, does that mean the Seahawks will end up regretting passing on Dalton? Not necessarily.
Perhaps the Seahawks will find their quarterback of the future in next year’s draft, and that player will thrive because they rebuilt their offensive line first. Or maybe Dalton won’t ever develop into an elite quarterback. But for now, it will be hard to watch the Bengals without wondering how the Seahawks might look with Dalton running the offense.
Even Carroll admits the Seahawks can’t help but keep an eye on the player they considered drafting with their first-round pick.
“We knew him so well,” he said. “I know John (Schneider) studied the heck out of him and all the guys did on the personnel side of things, that we feel like we have a real close relationship with his kind of upbringing and all that. So we will watch him, yeah.”
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) was limited in practice again Thursday with backup Charlie Whitehurst getting most of the work. The news was better on the other injured offensive players, however. Center Max Unger (foot), tight end Zach Miller (head/neck) and running back Marshawn Lynch (back) all practiced fully after being limited a day earlier. Safeties Jeron Johnson (ankle) and Atari Bigby (hamstring) were new to the injury report, and did not practice.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog