AJ McCarron finally gets his chance to prove he’s NFL ready. McCarron became the first quarterback to win back-to-back consensus National Championships in the BCS era, the seventh quarterback in history to win back-to-back titles in some form and the first quarterback since Nebraska Cornhuskers’ quarterback Tommie Frazier (1994 and 1995). In addition, since his freshman-redshirt year, McCarron has been associated with three national title teams under coach Nick Saban (2009, 2011, and 2012).
Very safe to say McCarron knows how to win and manage a team of superstars. The difference is now, he’s facing teams that are just as good or even better in the NFL. Yes, the South Eastern Conference (SEC) was the elite of the elite but let’s be frank, maybe six teams were worth mentioning in the SEC when McCarron played. The biggest adjustment he has to make is not getting that practice game where he get to play the Georgia State Panthers or Walmart University. Also, if he loses, the talk won’t be about your prestige coach, it’s all about McCarron.
On the offensive side of the ball, he has the advantage of playing with great talent. The Bengals’ offensive line is rated in the top five in the NFL. Going into week 16, the Bengals are the only team in the NFL ranked in the top six in rushing and passing, with most of the credit for that success going to the line. He’s protected by an effective running game with Jeremy Hill and even a safety valve in Geovoni Benard coming out the backfield catching the ball. Speaking of the passing game, with Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert, he has no excuse to fail or should he?
The biggest adjustment will be game speed. Yes, the SEC had more speed than most conferences but not to this degree. McCarron is not known for picking apart defenses which he will somewhat have to do while bodies are flying around. He will see every exotic blitz package know to man just because he is fresh meat. So is there a chance he can whether this storm?
Against the San Francisco 49ers, McCarron perform very well by going 15-21, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Keeping the Bengals No.1 in the AFC North Division and also a possible chance to clinch home-field advantage. McCarron and the Bengals face a huge test this Monday when they travel to Denver for a Monday Night showdown against the Denver Broncos, whose defense should post a much bigger challenge than the Niners did. This could very well be his welcome to the NFL game whether good or bad.
What we know of McCarron is his best quality is never letting the game get to big for him. He has a way of slowing the game down in his head while every one else is moving 100 miles per hour. It seemed when he was in Alabama, he relished the pressure, silencing all doubts. He should feel very comfortable because pressure, doubt and the big-game factor stares him right in the face. It’s not foreseen what will happen but the Bengals might have the best possible non-experience quarterback you would want in this situation.