IS AJ McCarron a Fit For the Arizona Cardinals?
A lot of talk has been surrounding quarterback AJ McCarron leading up to the NFL Draft, and one of the most popular teams to link him to has been the Arizona Cardinals. At face value, the pairing seems to make sense, as McCarron is not quite NFL ready, and veteran quarterback Carson Palmer seemingly has a bit left in the tank.
McCarron would have the ability to sit behind a veteran starter and learn from two of the best quarterback gurus in the league in head coach Bruce Arians and offensive assistant Tom Moore, and eventually take the reins of a team that by all accounts should be a Super Bowl contender with good quarterback play. Not everything should be taken at face value though, which is why it is necessary to analyze McCarron further before deciding whether or not he is truly a fit the the Cards. Here is a complete breakdown of AJ McCarron, and how his strengths and weaknesses correlate with how much of a fit he is for Arizona.
Size: At 6’3 and 220 pounds, AJ McCarron certainly has the size needed to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL. Arians has taken a liking to taller quarterbacks though, as Andrew Luck and Tim Couch were 6’4 and Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and current Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer all measured up to 6’5. That’s not to say that McCarron lacks the size to be Arizona’s quarterback of the future, but Arians definitely has a type and AJ isn’t the ideal fit.
Overall Grade: B-
Fit for Cardinals offense: C
Arm strength: One of the biggest criticisms surrounding AJ McCarron is his perceived lack of arm strength. While I do believe those claims a tad bit over exaggerated, it is also apparent that McCarron does have a bit of trouble on his deep ball. It’s not getting it to his receivers that’s his issue, it’s his velocity and tendency to float his long passes that get him in trouble. He can get away with it in college, but unless he improves his velocity a lot of his passes down the field are going to be either incomplete or completed to the wrong team.
Arians’ offense lives and dies by the deep ball, and with McCarrons issues slinging it deep it is hard to see how Arians can watch the game tape and drool over his arm strength. This aspect of McCarrons game cannot be enticing to the Cardinals, as a focal point of their offense would be taken away with McCarron’s deep ball issues.
Overall Grade: C-
Fit for Arizona: F
Leadership: This is one aspect of McCarrons that even his biggest critics have to give him praise for. He was a three year starter at Alabama, winning three BCS Championships along the way and earning the respect of everyone on his sideline. Coaches and players alike praised McCarron for his maturity and leadership ability, and you have to think that any interest that Bruce Arians and the Cardinals have starts with the quarterbacks ability to lead an offense.
Overall Grade: A+
Fit for Arizona: A+
Accuracy: One hot button issue on AJ McCarron is his accuracy. The quarterback has been called everything from deadly accurate in the short to intermediate game to an overrated slouch who can only hit wide open receivers. After watching McCarron extensively, I’m ready to meet right in the middle of these two opinions.
McCarron does not have the laser accuracy in the short and intermediate passing game some claim he has, but he’s no slouch either. He has a few issues fitting the ball into tight windows and leading receivers open, but in a West Coast offense we could see some major success out of AJ. Unfortunately, Arizona is far from a West Coast offense, and his issues throwing into tight windows and accuracy throwing deep should knock him down a peg in Arizona’s eyes.
Overall Grade: C+
Fit for Arizona D+
Pocket precense and mobility: Nobody is going to mistake McCarron for Johnny Football, as evidenced by his by 4.94 40 yard dash time at the 2014 NFL Combine. That is not needed in Arians’ offense, but pocket presence and the ability to throw under pressure is. McCarron has not displayed the ability much of either ability in his three years at Alabama, as he has seemed rushed and uncomfortable under the slightest hint of pressure. His mechanics break down and he panics when rushed, and has limited ability to avoid pressure. This area is not one of McCarron’s strongest attributes, and is something that the Cardinals are definitely going to look at in a negative light.
Overall Grade: D
Fit for Arizona: D
Overall: AJ McCarron has everything between the ears a team could ask for at the quarterback position. He is a student of the game, has a great work ethic, and is a natural born leader that has won three national championships. With that being said, his physical limitations are what will be a cause for concern at the next level, especially in Arizona.
He lacks the ability to drive the ball down the field, and his lack of pocket presence and his tendency to break down under pressure would spell disaster in a system that thrives off the deep ball and waiting until the last possible second to get the ball out. Steve Keim and Bruce Arians have earned Cardinal fans respect and trust, but AJ McCarron does not look like he is a very good fit for Arizona from an outside perspective.
Final Verdict: C-
Fit for Arizona: D