James Owczarski at Cincinnati.com has penned an excellent long-ish piece on AJ McCarron going into the playoffs.
The sum and substance is basically what we saw at Alabama for three seasons -- McCarron is a savvy, smart player that knows everyone's assignments, prepares exceptionally well, and commands respect. The latter is particularly important, because, even as a rookie, he was emanating leadership and instilling belief in the Bengals locker room that he could get the job done.
Last year, hampered by an injury and unable to practice much of the season, he had to wonder if his time would ever come. A healthy McCarron looked fantastic in the preseason, and all season Marvin Lewis has said that he has faith in McCarron. Like all starters, AJ was always one play away.
Then the play came; since then, McCarron and has done all that could possibly be asked in relief of the injured Andy Dalton.
For 12 games and nine plays, McCarron remained one play away. Until he wasn’t. Dalton’s fractured his thumb in the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Dec. 13 was the thunderbolt, and McCarron was tossed into the fire with his team down 10-0 in the second quarter.
"We weren’t really worried about him being prepared," veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "We knew he would come in and know exactly what we needed to do and understand the plays and formations." There was more to it, though. "I think AJ, like I’ve said all along, has a very unique presence to him."
The whole article is well worth your read.