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AJ McCarron wants to challenge incumbent Andy Dalton

CINCINNATI -- Andy Dalton's spot on the Cincinnati Bengals' depth chart is secure. But that doesn't mean backup AJ McCarron won't try to give the starting quarterback a run for all $115 million he's worth.

McCarron, the Bengals' second-year backup who spent nearly all of his rookie year on the non-football injury list because of a shoulder injury that stemmed from college, said Monday he planned to push Dalton hard during training camp.

"I want to compete," McCarron said. "Andy's our starter. I know that. I love Andy to death. But I want to make him better every way that I can.

"Like I told him, hopefully one day me and him can be retired and look back on it and we're both $100 million guys. That's my dream."

In August, Dalton signed a six-year contract extension worth up to $115 million. The previous May, McCarron was drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round.

When backup Jason Campbell declined an opportunity to re-sign with the Bengals during free agency earlier this spring, McCarron slipped into the top reserve role. Josh Johnson returned to the club via free agency as another backup before the quarterback room grew by one Sunday.

Former Oakland Raiders signal-caller Terrelle Pryor signed following a weekend tryout during the Bengals' rookie camp. Pryor came to Cincinnati after entering the league in 2011, when current Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson drafted the quarterback during his only season as the Raiders' head coach.

Pryor said Monday that Jackson told him multiple times over the weekend he was impressed with what he saw.

"He said I had great practices, threw the ball well and got the ball to the right person in terms of progression," Pryor said. "It's like he says, he can go to sleep if he knows where the ball is supposed to go."

Coaches have been resting just as well in recent nights based on the limited view they have gotten of McCarron during voluntary offseason workouts.

"He looks like he's throwing with no pain," Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said.

Receiver Mohamed Sanu caught some of McCarron's throws and noted seeing "good zip."

"It's coming up on you fast, and it's accurate," Sanu said.

After recovering late last season from a sore shoulder, McCarron spent the offseason training with his longtime quarterbacks coach David Morris and Tom House, a California-based throwing coach who also worked with Dalton and Pryor this winter.

"Like I told him, hopefully one day me and him can be retired and look back on it and we're both $100 million guys. That's my dream."
AJ McCarron, on trying to catch up to Bengals starter Andy Dalton

House's group changed some of McCarron's mechanics to get him to throw with tighter, more compact body control. McCarron's throwing arm no longer flies far off his body during his windup, he said. He also has better timed the torque of his hips with the follow-through from his shoulder.

The tweaks, McCarron said, have resulted in longer throws, tighter spirals and a pain-free arm.

Zampese said he believes the changes also have helped McCarron play more confidently.

"Each throw means something to him," Zampese said, "and it shows on his face every time he doesn't think he did it right."

McCarron hopes his competitive nature shows in Dalton's play this season. He reiterated that he knows he likely won't unseat the starter, but he plans on practicing as if he will.

"Andy's always been there for me. He's been like a big brother to me," McCarron said. "But I'm going to compete and try to push him the best I can and have his back -- always."