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Bengals to start Dalton in preseason opener

The Associated Press

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton will start the Cincinnati Bengals’ preseason opener on Friday night in Detroit, his first chance to show he can handle the job.

Coach Marvin Lewis said on Tuesday that Dalton and the other starters will play a little longer than a normal preseason opener as they try to make up for time lost during the NFL lockout. He said the second-round pick has shown a lot of poise while learning the offense in training camp.

“He’s exceptional,” Lewis said.

The move was expected. Owner Mike Brown indicated when camp opened that he wanted Dalton to be the starter.

The last time the Bengals drafted a quarterback was 2003, when they made Carson Palmer the first overall pick. He sat his rookie season behind veteran Jon Kitna, who was more familiar with the offense.

The Bengals went 8-8 behind Kitna that season, Lewis’ first with the Bengals. Palmer took over the next year. Lewis said Dalton will get a chance to start his rookie season because the circumstances are different.

“Had Carson been head-and-shoulders above Jon, he would have been the starting quarterback,” Lewis said. “But at that point, he wasn’t. Andy comes in here in a little different situation.

“The team is put together differently right now. There isn’t a veteran quarterback on this team that has been here and been part of these guys. They are all learning an offense that was different than the past. We are all starting from scratch.”

Palmer decided after a 4-12 season that he wouldn’t return, choosing to retire rather than play out his contract with one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises. The Bengals changed offensive coordinators, bringing in Jay Gruden, and drafted Dalton to take over for Palmer.

Palmer’s younger brother, Jordan, was the No. 2 quarterback last season. He hoped for a chance to compete for the job, but hasn’t gotten many chances to run the offense during training camp. Dalton has gotten the overwhelming majority of the plays, while newcomer Bruce Gradkowski has been groomed as the backup.

Dalton embraced the role of No. 1.

“There’s still a lot of camp left, but it means a lot that they would go ahead and put that up there,” Dalton said. “I think it just shows that I’ve been working hard and hopefully I can keep improving and keep my name up there.

“I think it shows they have confidence in me.”