|Who ya got for Rookie of the Year: Dalton or Newton? (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
You probably wouldn't get much argument if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ends up winning the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year. Without the benefit of minicamps and OTAs, the first overall pick, with just six weeks of practice and facing intense scrutiny, has played like a veteran, pretty much from the moment he stepped on the field in Week 1. He threw for 854 yards in his first two games, and his otherwordly talents coupled with poise beyond his years made him a natural candidate for the award.
Despite the marked upgrade at quarterback, the Panthers are just a three-win outfit with five games remaining. A year ago, with overmatched rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen under center, Carolina managed to go 2-14. We bring this up not as a knock on Newton's accomplishments to date, but to point out that he's not the only quarterback in the Rookie-of-the-Year running.
Andy Dalton, the Bengals' second-round pick out of TCU and who we've taken to calling Ginger Power (nobody's asked Dalton's his thoughts on it but it has to be better than Red Rifle), has been more important to his team's success this season than Newton. Cincy began the year 6-2, and even after losses to the Steelers and Ravens in recent weeks, at 7-4 they're currently the AFC's No. 6 team. That's good for the final playoff spot.
There's more than a month to go in the regular season, including rematches against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but given how far the Bengals have come in just a short period (they were 4-12 a year ago before dumping Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, and eventually trading Carson Palmer to the Raiders), Dalton deserves to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
Looking at passer ratings over the first 11 games and there's little difference between Dalton and Newton. According to Football Outsiders' QB efficiency metrics, Dalton currently ranks 10th. Newton is 18th. Compare their numbers below.
And we're not the only folks beating that drum. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on board, too.
“The things that he does that you just see or expect from rookie quarterbacks," Big Ben said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Anticipating throws. There were a couple of throws last time we played them, and I was on the sideline and I told the story of when, but we’ve got a guy right in his face, the receiver is still running a route, he throws an out route and the guy breaks right to the ball and its perfect. Some of the things he did were really impressive. Right now I think, and I don’t know how the talk is, but he’s rookie of the year. I think he’s that good of a quarterback.”
This Sunday, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Heinz field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they take a look at this matchup. Watch the game on CBS at 1 PM ET.
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