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Panthers’ Andy Dalton still sees himself as NFL starter: ‘I don’t think there are 32 guys better than me’

It’s been a whirlwind few years for Panthers QB Andy Dalton.

The former Pro Bowler enjoyed considerable amounts of success in Cincinnati, hitting the 25-touchdown plateau on four different occasions while leading the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances. Diminishing returns, coupled with the emergence of a certain LSU quarterback prospect, brought an end to his time in the Queen City.

Although the 35-year old understands his current standing in the franchise’s QB hierarchy, that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on his dream to recapture his starting status.

“I view myself as a starter in this league,” Dalton said recently, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I don’t think there are 32 guys better than me. …

“But this is the situation I am in, and I understand that. As soon as I don’t think I’m one of the best 32, or a little lower, I’ll be watching football on TV.”

His statement might not be completely asinine. Dalton threw for 2,871 yards and 18 touchdowns to just nine interceptions in 14 starts last campaign. All but one of his adjusted passing numbers sat above league average, per Pro Football Reference.

Since Dalton’s Cincy exit, his NFL passport has earned a few more stamps. He’s had stints in Dallas, Chicago and New Orleans in the years since, failing to cement himself as anything more than a solid-to-decent option for teams in desperate need of proficient QB play.

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Dalton’s footballing voyage now takes him to the candied streets of Charlotte; he’s serving as No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young’s backup with the Panthers.

Still, perception is reality. The prevailing notion is that Dalton is on the downswing, a bridesmaid rather than a bride. He hasn’t contributed to a playoff team since the Obama Administration. Although there have been a bevy of bright moments — a three-touchdown performance against the Rams last season when he completed 84 percent of his passes the most recent — it seems the league is moving away from the likes of the “Red Rifle.” Dual-threat QBs like Young are all the rage, threatening to carve up defenses in a variety of ways, a mold which Dalton doesn’t fit.

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Dalton understands this. And he feels he has a lot to offer the youth, even if he’s not doing it in a starter’s spot in the (other) Queen City. Part of that comes down to Carolina’s new-look coaching staff. Dalton said that played a factor in him deciding to sign on the dotted line with the franchise.

“I am in a really, really good situation here; Frank Reich played til he was 38. He was a career backup,” Dalton said. “He understands the continuity you want in a (quarterback) room. Josh McCown played until he was 40. Josh was my friend for the last 10 years, and now he’s my coach.”

In all, Dalton is hoping to contribute to the Cats in any way he can. With gobs of experience and a fountain of confidence, the 13-year veteran expects to make an impact — from the field or the sideline.

“I look back at the last couple of years and some of the situations didn’t turn out the way I would have liked,” Dalton said. “Last year, I felt personally I felt I played good football, but we didn’t win as many games and that is the most important thing.

“I have confidence in who I am as a player. Not a lot of people can say, ‘This is Year 13 in the NFL’ I feel good about where I am. It’s fun to be in this position, to help the next generation of quarterbacks.”

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