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McCarron ready to take it to the next level

4/26/2014
John Reed/USA TODAY Sports

AJ McCarron had an illustrious career at Alabama and was quite possibly the most prolific quarterback to wear the Crimson Tide uniform. As the winningest quarterback in Alabama history, McCarron looks to take his talents to the next level and continue his career in the NFL.

In preparation for Jon Gruden’s QB Camp with AJ McCarron, below is an in-depth breakdown of McCarron’s greatest strength, his main area of improvement in 2013 and a cause for concern.

Strength: Accuracy

Over the last two seasons, McCarron threw 10 interceptions on 650 pass attempts. His 1.5 percent interception rate was only bested by Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater among quarterbacks with at least 15 starts across 2012 and 2013.

Not only was McCarron among the most accurate in FBS during his career, but he also holds the Alabama record of 291 passes without an interception, which he accomplished in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

It’s also worth noting that Crimson Tide receivers dropped 19 catchable balls thrown by McCarron last season, according to STATS LLC. That was the sixth-highest mark among all SEC quarterbacks.

Biggest improvement: Blitz recognition

As a junior, McCarron took 17 sacks when opponents brought five or more pass rushers, fourth-most among quarterbacks from BCS automatic-qualifying (AQ) schools. McCarron was sacked on 15 percent of his dropbacks facing added pressure. He reduced that total to only eight during his senior season.

AJ McCarron vs 5+ Pass Rushers
Last 2 Seasons

Although McCarron’s completion percentage when facing this type of pressure decreased by three percentage points from 2012 to 2013, he improved his yards per attempt by 1.5 yards despite his average target depth decreasing by 1.3 yards.

McCarron has also learned to use his checkdowns when facing pressure. McCarron threw 16 touchdown passes against the blitz last season, third-most among BCS-AQ quarterbacks behind only Jameis Winston and Sean Mannion.

Cause for concern: Has McCarron hit his ceiling?

Across the board, McCarron’s passing statistics have regressed since his junior season. McCarron’s decline was glaring on his deep passes.

On passes of 15 or more yards downfield, McCarron’s completion percentage dropped from 58.8 percent in 2012, which led all BCS-AQ quarterbacks with at least 25 such attempts, to 43.1 percent last season. He threw three interceptions on those deep passes in 2013, after throwing none in his junior year.