A.J. McCarron was a championship-caliber quarterback at Alabama, but he doesn’t need to be that for the Bengals.
Before this season started, popular thought was that Andy Dalton would hold this Bengals team back from reaching its true potential. In retrospective, it seems as though almost everyone was wrong on that. Dalton has been an MVP-caliber quarterback in 2015. The Bengals have been winning because of Andy Dalton, not despite him.
Now he’s sidelined with a fractured thumb, and the Bengals have turned to A.J. McCarron. So what else has changed? Not much. That’s why Bengals fans shouldn’t feel too worried going into Denver on Monday. The Bengals don’t need A.J. McCarron to be 2015 Andy Dalton. They need him to be 2011 Andy Dalton–and McCarron is very capable of that.
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Everyone loves the backup quarterback.
. He brings a winning attitude to this team, after leading the Alabama Crimson Tide to two National Championships (although he was a member of a third National Champion squad) and leaving Alabama as the school’s all-time pass leader. It’s that confidence and experience that are encouraging to see in a backup quarterback.
McCarron has the weapons around him, but it will be up to him to trust his arm and his read to make the right throws against an elite Denver Broncos defense. The quarterback won’t need to “wow” anyone with his arm; he just needs to be smart and limit mistakes on Monday night.
When Dalton went down with the thumb injury, many people thought that Hue Jackson would place a heavy emphasis on the run. Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator, however, showed confidence in McCarron, calling a pass-oriented game plan against San Francisco–partially because McCarron needs the confidence and partially because the Bengals’ run game has been stagnant as of late. Hue Jackson won’t ask A.J. to win this game by torching Denver’s vaunted secondary; rather, the offensive coordinator will likely tailor a game plan that requires him to be a distributor and game manager.
Monday Night Football will be a huge game with a lot at stake. Fortunately for Bengal fans, A.J. McCarron is used to the spotlight. He might not throw for 500 yards and five touchdowns, but there’s plenty of reasons why one should expect him to lead this team to victory, an AFC North championship, and a first round bye in the playoffs. Contrary to popular belief, Cincinnati’s Monday night matchup in Denver is a very winnable game. And if Cincinnati manages to win, the Bengals will essentially have a two-week bye, with Week 17’s matchup with the Ravens becoming a totally meaningless game if the Bengals win this week.