The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, but each time the Houston Texans have dismissed them in the Wild Card Round. 2013 brings hope of continuing that postseason streak, and the Bengals are widely regarded as a team on the rise.
The Bengals found their quarterback of the future in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and Andy Dalton has started every game in his first two seasons. But when thinking about who is the most irreplaceable player on Cincinnati’s roster, another player who is entering his third season jumps to the head of the class.
Wide receiver A.J. Green has immediately become one of the top young stars in the NFL, catching a total of 162 passes for over 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He finished in the top 10 of the league in receptions (97-seventh), receiving yards (1,350-10th) and touchdowns (11-tied for fourth) last season, along with a streak of nine straight games with a touchdown (10 total), and if not for a slow finish (less than 60 receiving yards in three of the final four games) his numbers would have been even better.
The Bengals had no one else besides Green with more than 64 receptions, 737 yards and five touchdowns last season (tight end Jermaine Gresham in all three cases) and other than Andrew Hawkins (51 receptions) no other wide receiver had more than 20 catches. Injuries to Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones depleted an already thin receiving corp at different points in the season, which served to make Dalton even more reliant on Green.
Cincinnati did add some talent in April’s draft by using early picks on tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard, but Green is still sure to be Dalton’s top target and a driving force for the team’s entire offense again this season.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.