Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green has had some fantastic seasons during his five years in the NFL.
He’s been so good that he’s never had less than 1,000 yards receiving in a season as professional. Even as a rookie and during an injury-plagued season in 2014, he still managed to break the 1,000-yard receiving mark.
But here is the really crazy thing. He can be, and will be, even better.
When you look at Green’s career thus far, his success has been directly correlated to quarterback Andy Dalton. If Dalton is playing quarterback, Green will see more passes and has been extremely successful as a result.
Just look at Green’s 2015 campaign for proof. Before Dalton was injured, Green was on pace to break just about every career receiving record he had. But after the injury and the insertion of A.J. McCarron at quarterback, Green’s pace was nearly cut in half.
So ultimately the health of Dalton will go a long way in allowing Green to have a career-best season in 2016. Thankfully Dalton should have a clean bill of health when the season starts, so the sky will be the limit for he and Green.
Beyond that though, Green should see even more targets in 2016 as the Bengals go through a transition period with their receivers.
After losing both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency this offseason, the Bengals will suddenly have a new group of receivers for Dalton to get used to. Ultimately the combination of Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell should be an adequate replacement, but it will take an adjustment period.
And during that adjustment period Dalton will need someone to rely on more heavily and see more targets. With tight end Tyler Eifert set to miss the beginning of the season with an injury, that leaves Green as the only option.
As a result, Green, who already gets the bulk of Dalton’s targets, will see even more passes thrown his way in 2016. And it should translate into a huge year for the superstar receiver.
Beyond the increased workload on the field this year though, Green is also taking a new role in the offense and becoming more of a leader on and off the field.
With Green now signed to a new long-term contract with Cincinnati and his worries about being a Bengal for the long haul over, he can now focus on becoming a leader within the locker room. And with so many new receivers entering the system this year, the Bengals desperately need him to be that leader.
“I’m being more vocal, teaching guys,” Green said. “Even between [practice] routes, I pull them to the side and tell them what we’re looking for. What we need to do on this route. What’s Urb [receivers coach James Urban] looking for? What’s Andy [Dalton] looking for on this route, and what you’ve got to do? That’s what I’m trying to do. Don’t be that crazy, crazy, trying to change so much that I’m out of my comfort level, but being comfortable being uncomfortable is what I’m trying to be.”
Ultimately this new mindset from Green will translate into big things on the football field. With his contract situation in the past and his new understanding that he must be a leader on this football team, it will allow him to focus on being the best receiver in football.
And 2016 will end up being a career-best season for the young receiver.