AJ Green making biggest impression in Bengals camp
The pass rush is closing in. Andy Dalton has to get rid of the
ball. Though he’s had only a handful of practices in training camp,
the rookie already knows what to do.
Find No. 18 and fling it his way.
Rookie receiver A.J. Green has made so many impressive catches
in the first week of the Bengals’ camp that his new quarterback
already expects the sensational.
”He’s making outstanding catches,” Dalton said. ”He’s going
up, he’s making diving catches, he’s doing it all. It might not
always be in the right spot, but he can go get it.”
He’s become the buzz of Bengals camp.
”There’s a wow factor to him,” receivers coach James Urban
said. ”I’ve not see a first week like this (by a rookie).”
It started in the first practice, when the first-round pick
routinely beat defensive backs to get open. On the second day, he
put a double move on Leon Hall – Cincinnati’s top cornerback – and
made him stumble in a pass-catching drill.
Later, when Dalton severely underthrew a pass, Green came back
and jumped high above a safety to pluck the ball away.
His best moment came on Friday night, when he caught up with
Dalton’s long throw along the left sideline and made a diving catch
that thrilled the small crowd on hand for the annual scrimmage.
”We haven’t had many come in here as talented as he is,” Hall
said. ”I don’t think I’ve ever seen a receiver as he is this
early. He’s been doing great, and I’m really excited to see how he
does in the preseason and then going to Cleveland for that first
The Bengals deemed Green worthy of the fourth overall pick.
Draft analysts had dubbed him the most NFL-ready receiver in a
while, a potential Pro Bowl player for years to come. Cincinnati
traded Chad Ochocinco – the top receiver in franchise history – to
New England for draft picks, making Green the No. 1 receiver before
he signed his contract.
”Coming in being a high pick, some of the vets are like, `Hope
you don’t steal money like some of the other guys,”’ Green
So far, he’s earning the accolades.
”Anytime you see him break the huddle, you feel like you have a
chance something good’s going to happen,” offensive coordinator
Jay Gruden said. ”Andy’s getting more comfortable and the
quarterbacks are getting more comfortable with him. And A.J.’s
getting more comfortable with the terminology.
”That’s the biggest thing. Once he gets the terminology down
and the route concepts down, he’ll be a force.”
The receiver out of Georgia is the anti-Ochocinco in many ways.
He doesn’t tweet much, doesn’t celebrate or try to get attention on
the field. There’s no self-promotion, which has impressed the
veterans as much as the catches.
”I’m not blown away with the physical ability because I
expected all that,” quarterback Jordan Palmer said. ”He’s a great
guy. He’s working hard. He’s focused. When you ask him who he wants
to be, he wants to be (Arizona’s) Larry Fitzgerald. I asked him
why, and he said because he does all the little things right.
”His physical tools are through the roof. It’s the other things
that are going to make him great.”
Green’s first year might be his toughest, not only because so
much is new to him. The core of Cincinnati’s passing game is
Dalton was a second-round pick who is being prepared to start.
The Bengals worked him into some no-huddle plays on Saturday for
the first time. Rookie quarterbacks tend to go through a lot of
Plus, it won’t take opponents long to figure out that they’ve
got to take Green away.
The rest of the receiving group is inexperienced, too. Jordan
Shipley and tight end Jermaine Gresham are starting their second
seasons. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell have been career backups
– 16 combined starts between them.
The Bengals haven’t gone with such little experience in the
passing game since 2000, when second-year quarterback Akili Smith
threw to rookies Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans and second-year
receiver Craig Yeast. Cincinnati lost its first six games that
season and finished 4-12.
With Ochocinco gone, Green’s going to be the biggest target on a
Bengals team coming off yet another 4-12 season.
”He’s done what was advertised,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
”He’s a big man with great speed and great body control. He can
run every route, make every catch and make the quarterback look
good on every play.”