Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton might not be off to the best start in his NFL career this season, but there's a Bills pass rusher that has a healthy respect for the Bengals signal caller. The respect Jerry Hughes has for Dalton is rooted in seeing the quarterback perform day in and day out in the three years they spent together as college teammates.
Part of the same recruiting class at TCU, Dalton was the leader on offense while Hughes was the chief playmaker on the Horned Frogs' top flight defense. TCU was a national title contender and top five team in the years the two future NFL players were on the roster.
"He was one of the main reasons why we started to win," said Hughes of Dalton. "The offense really picked up once he was able to take control on that side of the ball. We've always had a great defense at TCU, but anytime they could score points like they did it was always helpful."
In the three years Dalton quarterbacked the Horned Frogs they finished 7th, 6th and 2nd in the nation in the AP Poll.
Part of a defense that was ranked number one in the country for three straight years, Hughes wasn't convinced that Dalton had what it took to play in the NFL until a big prime time game against Utah in 2009.
"It was a sold out crowd," Hughes told Buffalobills.com. "The way he managed the offense, being a college kid and anytime you have a sold out crowd you might try to work beyond your means, but he played within himself, stayed with the game plan and got everybody involved, shared the ball and we ended up blowing them out 55-28. It was just the way he did it, just the way he orchestrates things. He's surgical. He's a very competitive guy. He wants to go out and win games so he's going to do whatever it takes."
Playing with the number one defense in the country, Dalton was one of the few college quarterbacks that didn't get the lion's share of the credit most of the time. But Hughes said it never bothered him.
"He might not have gotten the recognition he deserved, but he still went out and performed every Saturday," said Hughes. "He's doing the same thing now in the league. I'm happy for him."
Dalton helped to lead Cincinnati to an AFC North division title in 2012 and a pair of playoff berths in his first two NFL seasons. He also has a Pro Bowl on his short NFL resume.
So how do you keep Dalton and his offensive teammates out of sync?
"We've just got to do our best to disguise our looks to cause some confusion with him and do our best getting back there," said Hughes. "Our back seven are going to cover, so us up front we've got to do our part, create some pressure get him to move his feet and force some bad throws."
Dalton sounds like he knows what might be coming.
"With all the different looks they do, the personnel and stuff, they try to disguise things and also with their front. They've got a good pass rush. That's kind of what they pride themselves on," said Dalton. "We've just got to be prepared for all the different personnel groups that they have in. We've got to be ready for all of it."