Are you excited? You should be. Expectations are high for AJ McCarron and his NFL debut this evening.
The last time that AJ McCarron threw a pass in a football game, he connected with running back Derrick Henry on a 61-yard touchdown play for Alabama against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2014. The last snap that McCarron took in a game isn't such a pleasant memory, as he was sacked and the ensuing fumble was returned for a touchdown as the Sooners sealed a 45-31 victory, only the fourth loss in McCarron's 40 collegiate starts. Now, 599 days later, McCarron is ready to play again. He's scheduled to return to the field with the Cincinnati Bengals in an NFL preseason game. The Bengals visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7 p.m. CDT Monday. ESPN will televise the game nationally.
In a game where few things went right for McCarron or Alabama's offensive line, it's fitting that his last throw was a touchdown and his last snap was a sack-fumble. Time to erase a bad taste in his mouth, I'd think.
When he will see snaps is still TBD, but odds are good the Tide product will get on the field early.
Neither McCarron nor coach Marvin Lewis have given any indication about how much he might play against the Bucs, but the plan is for him to go in whenever starter Andy Dalton sits. Dalton participated in only one series last week against the Giants before getting replaced by Josh Johnson, the third-string quarterback who played nearly the rest of the game. During last year's second preseason game, Dalton played through the first quarter; the equivalent of two drives.
Coach Marvin Lewis, who has been high on a healthy McCarron, has nice things to say about AJ's ability to be a leader.
"I know there's going to be ups and downs just because I haven't played a football game since 2014," McCarron said. "You just have to stay through it, never get too high, never get too low, find a happy medium. The biggest thing is I want to get us in the right situation as much as possible. Try to slow the game down as much as possible also." Head coach Marvin Lewis is also looking forward to McCarron's NFL debut after what he's seen on the practice field. "What you like about him is he seems to thrive off of confidence and things going well and making a play, and it comes to life," Lewis said. "He's a good leader in the huddle. He really brings the best out of people, which is great."
Still, Cincy Jungle does make a good point: With a 53-man roster, it's time for McCarron to actually get and stay healthy and contribute if he wants to make the roster.
1.) A.J. McCarron If McCarron wants to be on the 53 man roster this season, he needs to get on the field ASAP. The old adage goes "The best ability is availability", and McCarron has not demonstrated that thus far. While Josh Johnson may not be setting the world on fire, he is on the field getting reps, which is more than can be said for McCarron. If you think his desire to be on the field this week is just a matter of wanting to play, I would argue that he wants to get on the field because he may be fighting for his job at this point. With no game experience in his NFL career, the Bengals wouldn’t be comfortable rolling with him backing up Andy Dalton in the regular season. It’s time to see something.