- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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CINCINNATI -- In Andy Dalton's rookie season, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback had to cram to learn the offense in training camp because there were no offseason workouts as a result of the NFL lockout. In his second season, Dalton handed off to a new starting running back and had no idea which rookie would step up to be the team's No. 2 wide receiver.
Now, in Year 3, Dalton is more confident than he's ever been in training camp primarily because of a comfort zone. The Bengals return every starter from an offense that ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring.
"Having everybody back, there's a consistency out there," Dalton said Monday. "You know how the center plays and how the centers make the calls. You know how the receivers run routes. You know what the back is going to be doing. All of that is just going to make us better."
As far as skill position players, Dalton has had two years with top target A.J. Green, slot receiver Andrew Hawkins and tight end Jermaine Gresham. Dalton also has had a full season with two players competing for the No. 2 spot, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones.
Green showed his support for Dalton earlier in camp, saying, "This is his team and his offense. He knows it now." Dalton, though, feels everyone on the offense is ready to take that next step.
The Bengals were the 20th-ranked passing offense in Dalton's rookie year, averaging 209 yards per game. They finished 17th last season with 224 yards passing per game. How much of an improvement can Cincinnati make this year?
"I expect to be better this year than I was last year," Dalton said. "I expect this team to be better than we were last year."
The Bengals went 10-6 last year and made the playoffs as a wild card, falling to the Texans 19-13 in the wild-card round.
Dalton added: "For most of the guys that I've been playing with the last couple of years, everybody is confident in what we're doing. It's not learning new stuff. We're working on the different little things with technique. Guys are playing with a lot of confidence. That's what you want to do. You want to be able to go out there and know your assignment and be able to play fast. When you're able to do that, that's when you're at your best."
Even though the Bengals' offense returns every starter, they still added a couple of playmakers in the draft. Cincinnati selected tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round and running back Giovani Bernard in the second.
"There's a lot of potential right now," Dalton said. "We still have to go out and perform. But from what we've seen so far in training camp, our guys are making plays. Right now, we're just trying to get better."