CINCINNATI (AP) — When receiver Cobi Hamilton dropped a sideline pass during a training camp practice, quarterback Andy Dalton sought him out and gave the rookie an encouraging and emphatic slap on the helmet.
Cincinnati's young quarterback is acting more like a leader.
The Bengals made him a team captain last year after coach Marvin Lewis challenged him to be more assertive. Dalton was forced to spend much of his first two seasons just learning the offense and making sure he was doing everything right.
Now, he's making sure everyone around him is doing the right thing, too.
"I feel like I'm not just leading by example out there, I'm also being vocal out there," Dalton said. "Now that I've played a couple of years, I've got some notches on my belt, so I feel like everybody knows that they can trust me. They know how hard I work and how much I study to get prepared for these games.
"I feel like I'm able to be a really good leader for this, not only offensively, but for everybody as a whole."
If the Bengals are going to end one of the longest playoff victory droughts in NFL history, Dalton is going to have to lead the way.
The second-round pick from TCU is the only Bengals quarterback to reach the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. He has thrown 47 touchdown passes, trailing only Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52) for most in the first two seasons.
His biggest shortcoming has been two subpar playoff performances resulting in losses at Houston, leaving Cincinnati without a playoff victory since the 1990 season. Dalton overthrew an open A.J. Green in the end zone in the closing minutes of the loss at Houston last season.
He has spent a lot of time working on his footwork in the offseason, helping him become more accurate on deep throws. He's also more focused on making sure everyone follows the script, which is one of the next steps that coach Marvin Lewis wants to see.
"It's not about Andy, but let's make sure these other 10 guys are exact," Lewis said. "We have a lot of comfort in Andy to get us in the right spots and where we want to go. The other guys now have to adjust and move forward. To me, that's the thing."