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Marvin Lewis, Bengals behind QB Dalton

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PHOENIX — The Cincinnati Bengals are going to bring in more competition at the quarterback spot, but it will not be in an attempt to unseat starter Andy Dalton.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis echoed the support for Dalton on Wednesday that owner Mike Brown laid the groundwork for at the NFL owners meetings the previous day.

“We feel Andy Dalton is our quarterback,” Lewis told reporters in Phoenix. “Yes, we do. We do.”

Dalton owns an 0-4 career playoff record with four consecutive first-round exits. Lewis pointed to the need for improved play around Dalton, including from a defense that struggled in a 26-10 wild card loss at the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 4.

The team signed Dalton to a six-year, $96 million contract extension last August. It can become a two-year, $25 million deal without much of a cap hit if the Bengals decide to part ways with Dalton after 2015, but Lewis appears committed to him — at least for now.

“We signed Andy long-term. We committed ourselves to Andy long term and now we feel really good about him and he will continue to get better with the pieces around Andy,” Lewis said. “Andy has done a lot of things not a lot of people have done. We have to keep playing better around him and that will be helpful to Andy.”

The question remaining is who will be Dalton’s backup. Jason Campbell is a free agent, while second-year player A.J. McCarron, who did not play as a rookie as he rehabbed from a shoulder injury, is the only other quarterback under contract. Whether it’s re-signing Campbell, bringing in another veteran and/or adding a rookie through the draft, McCarron will face competition for the backup job.

“We don’t have the experience but we really feel that although we didn’t get an opportunity to get as far down the road as we would have liked that A.J. McCarron has everything that you want in a quarterback, a successful quarterback in the NFL,” Lewis said. “We’ll have some additions to the position that A.J. will compete with and we just have to go forward that way.”

–While the Bengals will not likely be in the market for a running back in the early rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft after adding Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard the past two years, Lewis is impressed with the talent pool at the position this year.

NFLDraftScout.com has two running backs currently rated as first round prospects – Georgia’s Todd Gurley (No. 18 overall) and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, with 10 running backs rated within the top 100 overall.

Gurley continues to recover from ACL surgery, and the bulk of his pre-draft process has been focused on the strength of the knee.

“He’s going to spend a lot of time jumping through hoops but the ACL injury is one that is not as career-ending or career-threatening as it used to be,” Lewis said. “The way our medical operations are today guys come back depending on the severity of it. He’ll have to do all of those things in order to prove and at some point somebody will think he’s right for the value at that pick.”


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