Knocking Off The Rust: Is A.J. Green Finished As A Top NFL Reciever?

Knocking Off The Rust: Is A.J. Green Finished As A Top NFL Reciever?

Plus, notes and stats previewing Cincinnati’s game against Philadelphia

Fans and critics alike are wondering if A.J. Green is finished as a top-tier receiver in the NFL.

A.J. Green admitted Thursday that he was “rusty.”

So, which is it?

The pessimist would point to the fact that, though Green outpaces the next closest receiver on the roster by nine targets with 22, Green is only tied for the third-most receptions to start the season. Even worse, Green has a horrid 3.6 Yards-Per-Target when Joe Burrow does look his way. Taking a look at some receivers over the last two decades, the likes of Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, and Torry Holt never made a Pro Bowl in or after their age-32 season.

The optimist would have their case as well.

First, look at the competition Green faced in the first two weeks. Chargers Cornerback Casey Hayward has made either a First or Second All-Pro team three of the last four years, according to Pro Football Focus and the Associated Press. After being targeted 48 times all of last year, Joe Burrow targeted him a staggering 17 times in Week One. If it wasn’t for a questionable Pass Interference call in the End Zone, that matchup could look a lot different.

In Week 2, Green was heavily covered by Browns Cornerback Denzel Ward. The former 4th overall pick made the Pro Bowl in 2018, and only gave up one Touchdown through the air in 2019. It’s safe to say Ward is quickly establishing himself as one of the better young corners in the game today.

There’s reason to believe that tough competition would lead to less-than-desirable results.

Speaking of undesirable results, the receivers listed above are not encouraging comparisons for Green playing at age 32.

But there are positive ones.

Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andre Johnson all made the Pro Bowl at age-32, while Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison made First Team All-Pro AFTER their age-32 season.

Lastly, the Bengals franchise and fans alike have put all of their chips in the Joe Burrow basket. The trust in him is unwavering, as it should be.

So, think about the stat from earlier: Green has 22 targets, nine more than the rest of the other receivers. With the little time Burrow and Green had to find a rhythm, the young Franchise Quarterback has shown he feels his best option is to throw towards #18’s way.

Burrow trusts A.J. Green. Maybe Who Dey Nation should as well.

Notes:

  • The Bengals, through two games (not including Thursday’s Dolphins-Jags contest), rank as the third-worst team in the league defensively in yards given up per-catch (13.3) and rush yards given up (370).
  • The team’s poor defensive performance gave Baker Mayfield his most effective game according to Passer Rating since Week 12 against the Dolphins last season.
  • Philadelphia, on the other hand, has been ineffective with the ball. The Eagles have six Turnovers in their first two games of this season.
  • Cincinnati ranks last in the league in Yards Per-Catch at 8.5 YPC.
  • Speaking of catching, the Bengals do catch a break as Alshon Jeffrey won’t return this week after speculation that he may play. Jalen Reagor will also miss the game Sunday with a thumb injury.
  • Eagles Safety Rudy Ford will miss this week’s game, while Fletcher Cox is listed as Questionable.
  • As for the Bengals, Defensive Tackle Geno Atkins will miss Sunday’s game. Defensive Tackle Mike Daniels and Safety Shawn Williams are both listed as Questionable.

Stats by Pro Football Reference and NFL.com.