In the two seasons since the Cincinnati Bengals elected to draft first-round wide receiver A.J. Green, he has succeeded in racking up an average of 1,203.5 yards and nine touchdowns per season. No easy feat considering the lack of other receivers there have been on the Bengals offense over the last few seasons. Defenses have consistently had to put double coverage on Green, but that has rarely mattered, as evident from his stats. In 2012, the confidence of quarterback Andy Dalton rose and with it, Green’s numbers. Seeing 97 receptions out of 164 targets over 16 games last season, it has been more than evident that not only is he the go-to guy for the Bengals, but lining up on 962 snaps in the season has shown that he has what it takes to make those kinds of numbers.
There was reason to believe that he would see lower numbers last season with drafting of Mohamed Sanu and the emergence of Andrew Hakwins. But after the smoke cleared, it was quite clear that 2012 was going to be even better for Green than his rookie season was. Hawkins was not as much of a force on the Bengals offense except in the red zone (which green is unproductive in anyway) and Sanu did not take off until week 10 and very quickly was placed on injury reserve because of a surgery he received to fix a fracture in his foot.
This year, the Bengals know what Sanu is capable of and along with Hawkins could see the majority of the plays in the red zone, leaving the rest of the field open for Green in past years, but not so for 2013. The drafting of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round seems to have completely changed the future face of the Bengals offense, and it’s possible that it will not favor Green. The new two tight end system of offense that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has admitted to studying will see a great deal of production (particularly for touchdowns) for both Eifert and 2009 round-one draft pick Jermaine Gresham. The two tight ends will probably get the majority of the short yardage passes as well as any passing third down situations. Between the two of them, Sanu and Hawkins, the red zone production will eaten up.
So what does that mean for Green? Well this actually could work out quite well for him. With defenses so consumed with the two tight ends, they will no longer be able to double cover him, freeing him up to eat up field whenever the Bengals feel like it. If, and when, he is able to beat his cornerback off the line, it’s possible that he could get quite a few long range touchdowns. This is the third year for Dalton too and will be very important for him to produce since the Bengals have given him so many weapons, so he will certainly be looking for AJ Green to make him look good.
Prediction: Not as productive as 2012, Green will see less receptions but a longer yards-per-reception average as he will have more freedom to stretch the field.
2013: 67 receptions 1,108 yards seven touchdowns
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer. You can follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88