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Bengals believe AJ McCarron can be starting-caliber QB in NFL

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The Bengals' faith in AJ McCarron has continued to grow this offseason. Will he one day be a starting quarterback in the NFL? The Bengals think he can be.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The AJ McCarron hype train continues to pick up steam.

According to a report from NFL.com, the Bengals believe McCarron is "fully capable of becoming a starting-quality player." This is just the latest vote of confidence in the second year quarterback coming from the Bengals.

Hue Jackson has expressed his content with McCarron over the past few weeks saying, "He's done well. I've been really impressed with him. He's taken the challenge. He works hard at it."

One of McCarron's Bengals teammates and fellow Alabama alum, Wallace Gilberry also talked up the young quarterback a few weeks ago. "The kid is doing awesome," Gilberry said. "When I say awesome, that's kind of an understatement."

The Bengals have been so impressed with McCarron that they went ahead and cut Terrelle Pryor this week, and may be willing to go with only Dalton and McCarron as the lone QBs on the 53-man roster. That means McCarron will be a snap away from becoming the full-time starter if Dalton gets injured or benched.

So what does all of this McCarron hype mean?

Absolutely, 100%  nothing... if Andy Dalton plays well or the Bengals keep up their winning ways in 2015. If Dalton continues to falter though in 2015 and if Cincinnati struggles, the quarterback picture could change.

It's not unthinkable to see the Bengals taking a step back and losing six, seven or even games this year with as difficult a schedule as they have. If they go on a skid while Dalton is playing poorly, McCarron could start to see playing time.

Still, it's highly doubtful McCarron gets thrown into a starting role with the Bengals with no regular-season NFL experience. They're not paying Andy Dalton more than $9 million this year to sit on the bench. McCarron will need to get tossed into some games in relief of Dalton before Marvin Lewis is willing to even consider starting the second-year pro. And keep in mind, McCarron has yet to play one down in the NFL.

When it comes to the regular season, it's unlikely McCarron will get any starts in Cincinnati in 2015. 2016 is another story though, one that we'll have to wait out to see how it plays out.