On Sunday, the Raiders will head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, who have problems of their own to be sure. Their starting quarterback is out for the year, and they have floundered this year en route to a 5-8 record.
But even so, their defense deserves some respect for even getting them this far, and quarterback Derek Carr has turned to his defensive coordinator, former Bengals DC Paul Guenther, and his backup quarterback AJ McCarron for help in preparing for their former team this week.
“Absolutely, [Guenther] and AJ McCarron. AJ, he was throwing against these guys all the time. All of it is just information until you go out there and play. They’ll have a new wrinkle, they’ll try something new or whatever, so you always have to be ready for that. Any information, I try and gather whatever I can, even guys that I just have as friends that play for another team certain weeks. I’ll just text them, ‘Hey, what do you know about so and so?’ Even if he’s like the fourth corner, like what do you know about him just in case he plays? Just because you have to be ready for all things. So, having those guys in our building and AJ being a close friend, being able to talk to him every day, it’s been really nice.”
It’s difficult to imagine two people who could help prepare a quarterback for a team more than their former defensive coordinator and their former quarterback, who faced them each day in practice. McCarron won two National Titles at Alabama before being drafted by the Bengals in 2014. He signed with the Bills as a free agent earlier this year, but was traded on September 1 to the Raiders for a fifth-round pick after Buffalo misdiagnosed him with a fractured collarbone and then opted to go with Josh Allen as their starter.
He hasn’t panned out as a starter for various reasons, but it’s a difficult argument to make that McCarron has been given a fair chance to win a starting job. It may be, however, that it’s in the quarterbacks room where his true value lies, as a cerebral and instinctive player who can aid in preparation. For now, that’s what he’s doing, but he could be on the short list for teams needing a reliable backup or someone to challenge for a starting spot in the future.
It’s great to know that Derek Carr has so many resources to help him prepare for the teams he faces on a weekly basis. It’s understandable that he has so many friends on different teams in the league, considering his family goes back a long way in the NFL and in football circles in general. This week, he likely has better resources to help prepare than in any other game he’s played.