CINCINNATI – A cornerback who sees a little of himself in Darrelle Revis. A tall defensive end who is similar to Michael Johnson, even sharing his jersey number.
The Bengals think they’ve upgraded two important areas by getting cornerback Darqueze Dennard and defensive end Will Clarke in the draft. They also brought in a center who could start right away and a running back who could be pretty close behind.
“You feel good about it at the end,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
And for their most intriguing move, they formed a new throw-and-catch tandem.
Get ready for A.J.-to-A.J. In practice, anyway.
The Bengals got a big-game quarterback to back up Andy Dalton on Saturday, taking Alabama’s A.J. McCarron in the fifth round. The Heisman Trophy runner-up was still available for the 164th overall pick.
McCarron’s history of winning national championships was enticing to the Bengals, who haven’t been able to win with Dalton in the playoffs. Still, the pecking order is set for the foreseeable future. It’ll be Dalton throwing to A.J. Green.
“I’m confident in myself but at the same time, I know Andy’s the QB out there and I respect that,” McCarron said on a conference call. “All I want to do is go in and help us in whatever way I can.
“If that means me holding the clipboard for a couple of years and giving Andy reports during the week and watching film with him and helping him in any way I can, I’m just ready to do it.”
Dalton led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, only to have some of his worst games. The Bengals lost their opening-round game all three seasons, falling to 0-5 in the postseason under Lewis.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, matching the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history.
Although Dalton is entering the final year on his deal, he and the Bengals are discussing an extension and the club has been unwavering in its support. When it comes to developing his backups, Cincinnati hasn’t had as much success.
The Bengals signed Jason Campbell in the offseason, their third different backup in the last three years. They still have Josh Johnson, who was No. 2 last season. Dalton had expected them to draft a backup in a later round and try to develop him.
At least initially, there’s not much of a commitment to McCarron.
“We tell all our quarterbacks here: You may not start here, but if you come here and you grow and you prepare and you learn, you may have to play someplace else in your career – we never know how that’s going to unfold – but what we’re going to do is create an environment where our quarterbacks can be the best that they can be,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said.
With Dalton getting most of the plays in practice and Campbell trying to grow into the backup role, McCarron will get his best chance to throw to Green and the other receivers before and after practice.
The Bengals think that McCarron’s competitiveness will help the other quarterbacks in some ways.
“The bar in his mind is set really high and I know he felt this is a long way down the road for him to get picked,” quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said. “He’s happy being picked, but he saw himself in a much higher light in regard to how the NFL saw him.
“I just know he sees himself as guy that’s a starter, that’s on top of the heap, that he can do all those things. And I love that about him.”
The Bengals moved up 12 spots in the fourth round – only the third time in franchise history that they’ve traded up in a round – to get center Russell Bodine from North Carolina. He’ll compete right away for the start job left open when Kyle Cook was released.
Overall, the Bengals drafted Dennard, LSU running back Jeremy Hill, Clarke, North Carolina center Russell Bodine, McCarron, Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers, LSU receiver James Wright and Georgia Southern defensive back Lavelle Westbrooks.
Dennard, who tries to emulate Revis, is slated for a reserve role initially. So is Clarke, who got Johnson’s No. 93.