Bengals’ A.J. McCarron: A Player to Watch


May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron (5) throws the ball during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Second-year quarterback A.J. McCarron is having a nice offseason.  After missing nearly the entirety of his rookie season due to shoulder issues, the Alabama product is rising fast.  According to NFL pundit Albert Breer, McCarron is a player to watch as the offseason rolls on.

"“While he’s still afflicted by some rookie mistakes, the coaches there now believe he’s fully capable of becoming a starting-quality player. And with his shoulder healed, McCarron is throwing the ball better than he ever has, showcases top-notch pocket presence and — as you would expect from a guy who led Alabama to back-to-back national championships — is displaying that the NFL stage isn’t too big for him.”"

This is a resounding endorsement of A.J. McCarron and the sentiment will continue to be music to the ears of many Cincinnati Bengals fans.  Because he missed nearly all of the 2014 season, it’s to be expected that McCarron would be “afflicted by some rookie mistakes”, so the organization and fans aren’t likely to be concerned with such errors.

Meanwhile, all Bengals stakeholders are sure to be pleased with Breer’s assessment that A.J. McCarron is “throwing the ball better than he ever has.”  They’ll also be excited by the prospect of his apparently impressive pocket presence and poise while dealing with NFL defenses.  It’s this type of pocket presence and poise that starting quarterback Andy Dalton seems to lack at times.  It’s also the first thing many fans point to when comparing McCarron to Dalton.

It seems like a universal truth at this point that McCarron’s stock is on the rise, as just about everything written about him recently suggests this. Despite Andy Dalton remaining a lock to be the organization’s starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, A.J. McCarron’s offseason is something to be both lauded and excited about.  His work ethic, regardless of his position on the depth chart, is already paying off as McCarron seems to be the team’s number two quarterback at this point.  He also ensures the Bengals have something to be excited about at quarterback going forward.

The investment in A.J. McCarron looks like it will pay off for the Bengals in the coming years.  If Andy Dalton continues to falter when the playoffs roll around, the team will have another option to turn to at quarterback.  Yet if Dalton finds a way to improve during these big moments and becomes the quarterback the Bengals believe him to be, McCarron’s addition can still pay off.

Having a young and prepared backup is great insurance for any team.  And if Dalton succeeds and McCarron gets antsy for his “shot” in the future, the team could always look to trade him.  After using only a fifth-round selection on him, it’s reasonable to think that McCarron, if he continues to impress, could intrigue a quarterback-needy team to use a fourth-round pick (or higher) to acquire him.  In any case, A.J. McCarron’s stock is on the rise, and it should pay dividends for the Bengals at some point in the future.

Next: Is A.J. McCarron Destined to Be the Bengals Backup Quarterback?