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ITJ Discussion: Gauging AJ McCarron's Bengals debut versus Buccaneers

The Inside the Jungle crew discussed what they saw out of AJ McCarron in his first NFL in-game action last Monday night. Check out the audio and transcript and be sure to tune in to the show every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. EST!

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every Wednesday night a group of Cincy Jungle contributors get together to talk about the latest with the Cincinnati Bengals. Inside The Jungle's Wednesday Night Round Table is at its best when the "fearsome foursome" comprised of Nick Seuberling, Mickey Mentzer, Anthony Cosenza and Scott Bantel are all together gabbing about various team topics. That's just what was on tap this past Wednesday.

Among the topics on Wednesday's show were the deplorable performance by the Bengals against the Buccaneers, as well as a few guys who impressed, our thoughts on cutting back the preseason and listener phone calls. One segment in the middle of the show was dedicated to the NFL debut of AJ McCarron as the backup quarterback for Cincinnati.

Though he wasn't spectacular, he has apparently earned the coaches trust, as they released Josh Johnson earlier this week. Here are some of our thoughts on McCarron in both audio and transcribed forms.

NS: To me, the biggest positive from this game (against the Buccaneers) was that we did finally get to see AJ McCarron play football int he NFL. It feels like it's been forever since we've seen him play,. I know, Mickey, you're Pro-Dalton, what are your thoughts on what McCarron did compared to what Andy Dalton did in the first half on Monday night?

MM: Heh. That's a loaded question. So, he played great against the scrubs. He did okay. I will go a step back for a second, it's not that I'm "Pro-Dalton", I just think Dalton is the best quarterback on this roster and I don't think we've seen anything to prove otherwise. If the season comes down to McCarron, we're going to be in a bad situation. So, that's all I can say about that. It was good to see the kid finally play. I'm glad he did okay, but it's not like I'm going to be calling for him to replace Dalton.

NS: Now it is the preseason, but are you wanting him to play a little more against the ones and twos, just to see what he can do? Or is this more of a "Dalton needs the reps now, we'll worry about that when the time comes later"?

MM: I don't know. Ithink it was good to get the mix. I'd almost stick Dalton out there until they scored. You know, "here's your punishment--you're going to play against the third string defense of Tampa Bay, if that's what it takes to finally get your head out of your rears". So, I don't know. Like everyone, we can pick apart everything, like I said before, if the season comes down to our backups, we're in trouble.

NS: AC, I know you're, well, you're not Pro-Dalton, you're kind of "eh" when it comes to Andy Dalton, right? Give me your take on what McCarron did. I know he completed, what, ten of his 14 passes against scrubs in Tampa, which they don't have the deepest team in the world. But at least he was able to lead them on a scoring drive, but we're again tempering that with the fact that it was against scrubs.

AC: Right. And, as kind of a side note, I think the writing was on the wall when McCarron played the entire second half and Josh Johnson didn't play a snap, and subsequently he (Johnson) was gone after this game, so that tells you what the coaching staff's mindset was there. But, I thought McCarron initially was pretty jittery. I think part of that was just general nerves, taking his first NFL snaps against another team, and the offensive line play throughout the night was terrible, from top-to-bottom, so he was getting some pressure. I liked some of the throws he made, some others were kind of the young guy immediately checking down to a running back.

That worries me a little bit, but as he settled in, he and Jake Kumerow made a couple of nice connections late in the game and threw some nice slant routes to him, which were pretty impressive. As you said, he led the team on a scoring drive, their only touchdown of the night, so that's a positive there. I do want to see him against some higher and stiffer competition than he probably faced in this last game. But, that probably won't happen until the fourth preseason game because this next one coming up is known as the dress rehearsal, where the starters will probably once again play an entire half, if not more. Heh, based on what we saw Monday, they need the work, so more McCarron may not come until the fourth preseason game at this point.  But, some good, some bad and at least he didn't turn the ball over.

NS: Yeah. What did you make of McCarron, Scott?

SB: You know, he was fine. I want him to look good because I want to feel confident in him if they need him this year, if Dalton did get injured. I also would like him to look good because I would love in a year or so to be trade bait. There would be nothing better than being able to trade the guy for a first or second round pick if he looks really good in the preseason. You know, like New England has been able to do in the past with some of their quarterbacks, the Falcons were able to do it years back. So, if they are able o leverage him into a good trade, that would be awesome.

So, I root for him to do well, but for the people that wanted to see AJ McCarron start over Dalton, I think if you believe you saw anything that makes you believe he can start over Dalton on Monday night, I think you're crazy. He looked okay against fourth-stringers, but most of his success came in that last drive, which, by that time, you're down to the guys at the end of the roster-- a lot of guys not even trying since it's a blowout. So, I didn't see anything that made me feel comfortable if he has to start, but it was good to see him out there and actually throw some footballs.

The McCarron conversation then shifted to a possible brewing of a quarterback controversy should the starters play poorly in their upcoming "dress rehearsal" Saturday night. Listen to the audio for the entire McCarron segment and be sure to tune into our live show here at CJ every Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST. If you can't make the live show, you can also download the podcast through the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.