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AJ McCarron's confidence in himself shared by Bengals

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The following item is excerpted from the Week 15 edition of Albert Breer's exclusive Inside the NFL Notebook:

AJ McCarron's comments referencing Tom Brady after his appearance in Sunday's loss to the Steelers were harmless. The Bengals' backup-turned-temporary-starter wasn't exaggerating. He actually is in the same situation Brady was in back in 2001: having ascended to second on the depth chart in his second year, then being pressed into action through an injury to an established, longtime starter. That said, it's a good bet McCarron also believes he can do what Brady did 14 years ago with the Patriots, because that, in fact, is part of what attracted Cincinnati to him in the first place.

"There's no question [he believes he's capable of it]," one club source said. "Those are the things we loved about him." Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese made the trip to Tuscaloosa before the 2014 NFL Draft and came back raving about the Alabama product's personality, direction and belief in himself. And when the Bengals drafted McCarron 18 months ago, they saw a winner who loved football and brought experience a) in a demanding program where he was coached hard and b) on the biggest stages. But things took a wrong turn quickly. After his first day of throwing in OTAs that May, the team shut him down, because his throwing shoulder had been worn ragged. He had the shoulder taken care of and went through a recovery program, and while the initial hope was that he'd heal up quickly, it was six months before McCarron practiced again.

The coaches saw that it was killing McCarron not to compete, but they also noticed that his confidence never wavered. When he did get back last November, Marvin Lewis fed him reps on Fridays to move his development forward. And by last spring, the Bengals saw a quarterback they believed could develop into a starter. Months later, in the preseason, things were at a point to where the staff felt McCarron was a starting-level backup with a "high ceiling" for growth. Of course, having potential is one thing; delivering on it is something else entirely. But for now, the Bengals see a guy who showed some of the same things on Sunday that he has over the last year-and-a-half, and that has at least given them some hope that they can keep winning until Andy Dalton gets back.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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