Certain NFL teams have forged reputations for great players at certain positions. For the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, it's quarterbacks, for the Pittsburgh Steelers it's linebackers. With the Cincinnati Bengals, it's been wide receivers.
Starting with Isaac Curtis and continuing on with Cris Collinsworth, Eddie Brown, Carl Pickens, and even Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals have seemingly always had an All-Pro wide receiver. With both Ochocinco and Terrell Owens departing this past off season, there was concern over where that next great wideout would come from. Enter Adriel Jeremiah "AJ" Green.
Rookie wide receivers, even those drafted as highly as Green whom the Bengals selected with the fourth overall pick, aren't supposed to be doing what Green is. Wide receiver has traditionally been a position where rookies spend at least a year adjusting to the increased talent level in the NFL. If they've got a rookie quarterback like Green has in Andy Dalton, the learning curve is supposed to be even steeper.
Instead, AJ Green has solidified himself as one of the NFL's premier receivers. Green has played in 10 of the team's 11 games. He was injured early in the first matchup against the Steelers and sat out the next week against Baltimore. In that span he's piled up over 700 receiving yards and six touchdowns. His yards per catch average is an amazing 16.9. To give a little perspective, those numbers have already eclipsed Calvin "Megatron" Johnson's rookie season with the Detroit Lions. With another 35 yards and two touchdowns he'll have gone by Larry Fitzgerald's rookie accomplishments.
How important is Green to the Bengals? Consider that Green has dealt with two injuries thus far. He injured his foot in the Denver game (a Bengals loss) and played the next week less than 100 per cent against San Francisco (a Bengals loss). He left the Steelers game (a Bengals loss) and missed the Baltimore game (a Bengals loss). See the trend?
Last week, Green came back from his hyper extended knee and locked up with Browns cornerback Joe Haden who had limited Green to just one catch in the first game of the season. Haden held Green to just three catches this time, but each of them was a huge part of the Bengals' comeback victory. Green's final catch, an acrobatic 52 yarder that put the Bengals in field goal range for the game winner was a thing of beauty.
Former Bengal defensive back and older brother of Bengals wide receiver Andrew, Artrell Hawkins remarked this week that he believed that Green couldn't really be covered. His combination of leaping ability and awareness of the ball in the air is uncanny. One look at him snatching that pass from three Cleveland defenders last week illustrates Hawkins' point.
Isaac Curtis was a charter member of the Bengals Hall of Fame and Cris Collinsworth is slated to be inducted this year. If AJ Green continues down the road he's shown us thus far in his rookie season, he'll not only join the ranks of the great Bengals receivers, but be receiving a bust in Canton some day.
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