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Cincinnati Bengals’ second-year quarterback AJ McCarron was the winningest signal-caller in Alabama history when he left the program in 2014. He has blossomed this offseason, after revamping his throwing motion, according to Around the NFL writer Chris Wesseling.
Former Alabama standout and current Bengals’ defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry took notice of McCarron’s form. Gilberry told reporters that McCarron was “doing awesome,” and Cincinnati’s coaching staff has high hopes of McCarron becoming a quality player in the National Football League, according to NFL Media’s Albert Breer.
The Bengals selected McCarron in the fifth round (164th overall pick) of the 2014 NFL Draft. His confidence has improved as a pocket passer, as he continues to absorb Cincinnati’s offense under head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Andy Dalton remains Cincinnati’s starting quarterback, but McCarron’s development could place Dalton on a tighter leash, if he continues to underperform in big games (prime time, playoffs, etc…). Dalton’s six-year, $96 million deal looks huge on paper, however, it’s based on a yearly performance. The Bengals can chose to shut it down as early as the end of this season.
Cincinnati returns a talented roster in 2015, headlined by wide receiver A.J. Green, running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill and tight end Tyler Eifert. Dalton, 27, enters his fifth season with the Bengals this fall and has a chance to navigate this team far in the playoffs.
It’s now or never for the two-time Pro Bowler (2011, 2014). If Dalton can’t generate consistency to start the season, don’t be surprised if McCarron moves in under center.
McCarron was 36-4 as a starter at Alabama from 2011-13. He threw for 9,019 passing yards with 77 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. McCarron was a three-time national champion (2009, 2011, 2012) and a two-time Southeastern Conference champion in 2009 and 2012.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.