However, he didn’t last as long as he did during his preseason debut against the Tennessee Titans. In the second quarter of the Falcons’ 37-17 loss to the Dolphins on Saturday, August 21, McCarron went down with a non-contact right knee injury.
After the game, head coach Arthur Smith gave a discouraging update on the eighth-year signal-caller.
“I really feel for AJ McCarron,” Smith told reporters, via ESPN. “Any time something like that happens and it’s non-contact, it’s tough when you know what these guys put into it. I feel for AJ. We’ll obviously get the MRI to confirm but he’s heartbroken.
“He had bounced back and he was out there fighting, fighting for his team and trying to get the extra yards.”
McCarron’s injury, which ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed to be “significant” on Sunday morning, occurred while handing the ball off to third-year running back Qadree Ollison before grabbing his right knee shortly thereafter. He attempted to hobble to the sidelines at first but didn’t make it there without the help of the medical team.
The 30-year-old finished the night early completing three of six passes for 43 yards with one run for seven yards.
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Falcons Signed McCarron After Passing Up QB in Draft
The Falcons opted to not draft one of several top-tier rookie quarterbacks out of this year’s draft class and instead turned to the veteran free agent McCarron.
The Alabama product was originally a fifth-round selection by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2014 NFL draft. Over the last seven years, McCarron has spent time with the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans following his stint with Cincy.
He played last season as Deshaun Watson’s backup, appearing in just two games for Houston.
So far in his NFL career, McCarron has played in 17 games with four starts, having completed 109 of 174 passes for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.
Feleipe Franks Replaced McCarron
With starter Matt Ryan taking a rest day, McCarron was replaced by undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks, the only other quarterback the Falcons have on roster.
Franks was set to split the game in half with McCarron but received an extra 10 minutes for a chance to shine following the vet’s early exit.
He completed four of his nine passing attempts for 46 yards and an interception while also rushing three times for 32 yards. The Falcons offensive line, once again, struggled with pass protection and Franks was sacked four times.
“The one thing that Feleipe has shown is that he can extend plays,” Smith said after the loss. “I thought he threw the ball a little bit better tonight at times. Still got to push him where he’s had a lot of growth and will continue to grow.”
Depending on how significant McCarron’s injury is, the Falcons may need to sign another veteran backup with the season opener just weeks away.
“You’re always going to look to improve the team,” Smith said. “So we have to assess what the injury is. Until we get an MRI, you’ve seen things happen before and it’s quick. But any time, we’re always looking to improve the roster.
“If it long-term, sure, we’ll continue to look.”