A.J. Green is a beast. Ever since being drafted fourth overall by the Bengals in 2011, he has burst onto the scene taking over games with his leaping ability and strong hands, saving the Bengals offense and quarterback Andy Dalton on more than one occasion.
In Green's third season, experts and casual fans alike thought the Georgia product was going to take off. Despite being widely considered one of the top-five receivers in the game after his first two seasons, the expectation was that he would become even more. Traditionally it is a wide receiver's third season when everything "clicks" and the game slows down. Certainly the game wasn't too fast for Green over his first two seasons anyway, but the idea was that he would be even better.
Kind of scary, huh?
That's exactly what defenses thought, so after five games, Green sits with 31 receptions, 361 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Remember that nine receptions, 162 receiving yards and two of those touchdowns came in Week 1 and you could argue his season to this point isn't exactly what we had expected.
I'm here to tell you it isn't a bad thing though. Sure, the Bengals' offense hasn't been overly impressive to this point without Green being the focal point, but we need to take into account the entire story.
The Bengals offense hasn't been efficient because of a wide array of things, including Dalton's inconsistent play, the implementation of two rookies in Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert as major offensive cogs and some shaky play at the other receiver spots.
Each of those issues are growing pains for life without Green making his normal impact. Sitting at 3-2, the Bengals can obviously handle some growing pains offensively as Dalton can't rely on Green exclusively as many would argue he did during their first two seasons. The run game can't rely on Green's presence and his fellow receivers are suddenly being called upon to step up and make plays at key moments of the game. I like what I have seen from Bernard, Eifert, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones despite these "growing pains".
Green is being schemed for by opposing defenses even more so than year's before. Pittsburgh always contains the Bengals' star. Green Bay schemed exclusively for stopping Green. Cleveland's defense is solid and corner Joe Haden is a legitimate shutdown corner. New England is notorious for shutting down elite receivers with mad genius Bill Belichick matching up talented corner Aqib Talib on Green and scheming the rest of the defense to keep tabs on him. Green is too talented though to be contained as he has been for the entire season. In the meantime though, opponents are daring Dalton and the other offensive playmakers to beat them. At 3-2, those other playmakers are obviously doing enough and learning to play without Green's traditional contributions.
Cincinnati has been too one-dimensional in the passing game the past couple seasons with Dalton and Green. Now, Cincinnati has weapons who have been able to learn and succeed when Green is essentially taken out of the game. The fact that the Bengals are 3-2 despite Green's season is a good thing. It means the Bengals finally have some weapons, albeit, young and still inexperienced weapons.
If you're a Bengals supporter, you have to like that Cincinnati is managing to pull off wins against teams like Green Bay and New England behind their defensive play and young, improving players like Bernard, Eifert, Sanu and Jones. Defenses won't be able to limit Green the entire year, so when he breaks out, the Bengals suddenly will have their weapons at their full disposal.
That's when Cincinnati's offense gets scary. This week against Buffalo may be the first real opportunity for fans to see just how scary.Back to the Cincinnati Bengals Newsfeed