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The Bengals are a good example of the evolution in how teams handle quarterbacks. During their 24-year stretch without a winning record from 1991-04, they drafted quarterbacks from very different styles -- David Klingler prospered in the run-and-shoot at Houston, Akili Smith scrambled a lot at Oregon -- and tried to change them into drop-back passers.
By contrast, Dalton was able to make the switch smoothly even though his offseason was wiped out by the NFL lockout. The reason? The Bengals picked him in the second round because they knew their current offense fit him.
"When I first sat down with the playbook, I was like, `We did that, we did that, we did that,'" Dalton said. "All that was new was the words."
The league's nature probably plays into the youth movement as well. Dalton and Cam Newton both made the Pro Bowl as rookies last season, an unprecedented success story that makes other teams less reluctant to go young.
For example, the Colts took Luck out of Stanford with the first overall pick last April and installed him as the replacement for Peyton Manning, a huge burden for such a young player.
"Everyone knows when you go with a rookie quarterback, it's difficult," owner Jim Irsay said. "But there have been some cases like Andrew Dalton last year played pretty well."
Everyone has noticed.
"It's such an instant-gratification league," Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said. "They see one team do it and then every team wants to do it -- the copycat league. Look at Cincinnati in particular. He changed Cincinnati into a playoff team in one year.
"Did he have help? Absolutely. But your gunslinger is taking you to the playoffs from being low in your own division. Aaron Rodgers had the pleasure of sitting behind Brett Favre, but in this day and age you don't have too much of that."
There's also the cyclical nature of the game. Each draft tends to have a concentration of good players at a certain position. For the last couple of years, there's been an abundance of quarterbacks available to a league eager to build franchises around them.
"I think if you look back at the drafts, there may have been a period of a couple years there where the quality of quarterbacks and the quantity of quarterbacks maybe wasn't as good," Gruden said. "Maybe there were a couple down years, and those are cycles sometimes."
Right now, it's a boom cycle.
"It's maybe a little coincidence with the situation a lot of teams happen to be in, too," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "I don't know if this has ever happened before, this many young guys at the same time breaking in. But I guess it's good for the league to see how these guys develop."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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