It didn't take long for A.J. Green to make a name for himself in the NFL. Drafted 4th overall to a team in flux, Green, along with Andy Dalton, stepped in and allowed Bengal fans everywhere the chance to push the names "Carson Palmer" and "Chad OchoCinco" out of mind forever. With a Pro Bowl selection, a 1000 yard season, and a playoff berth already under his belt, A.J. Green has accomplished a lot, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. The tireless effort to improve is what makes the good players great, and this offseason, A.J. Green plans to do just that.
Larry Fitzgerald's offseason camp, which he holds in Minnesota every summer, has been an attraction to young and old talent alike. Working with Fitzgerald has propelled the careers of many young receivers, most notably Sidney Rice and Dwayne Bowe.
Sidney Rice worked only one offseason with Fitzgerald, but the difference that instruction made in the arc of his career is tremendous. Rice worked with Fitzgerald in the offseason following the 2008 campaign
2008 Season pre-Fitzgerald workout: 13 Games--15 receptions--141 yards--4 TD
2009 Season post-Fitzgerald workout: 16 Games--83 receptions--1,312 yards--8 TD
Yes, players mature and improve from season-to-season, but the change from 2008 to 2009 for Sidney Rice is staggering. Fitzgerald's impact on Rice is tough to deny, but naysayers will point to the Minnesota Vikings' addition of Brett Favre for that 2009 season--an argument Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe says is a moot point:
You can tell [the potential impact by the production that Sidney Rice had last year," Bowe said. "I know he had Brett Favre but still. I talked to him a week ago and he told me they competed and it made him [better] and he went to the Pro Bowl.
Dwayne Bowe is another player who benefited from his workouts with Larry Fitzgerald. Bowe made those comments on Rice while in the midst of Fitzgerald's camp, and followed up his quote by saying, "Now I think it's my turn to takeover". And "takeover" is exactly what he did. Following his summer in Minnesota with Fitzgerald, Bowe improved his stat line from this...
Season pre-Fitzgerald workout: 11 Games--47 receptions--589 yards--4 TD
Season POST-Fitzgerald workout: 16 Games--72 receptions--1,162 yards--15 TD
With Rice and Bowe, Larry Fitzgerald may not have been the sole component for their success, but it is undeniably a part of the equation. Most importantly, however, is the determination these players had to improve. That determination is what led Bowe and Rice to workout with Fitzgerald in the first place, and it is exactly the mindset A.J. Green finds himself in right now. According to Geoff Hobson, Green's been in this mindset for the past month and a half.
Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green says he's been working out five days a week for the last month and a half in Atlanta. Among his workout partners have been fellow Pro Bowlers in Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, as well as one of the receivers flying up the draft board, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill.
With Green, statistics tell part of the story--65 receptions, 1057 yards, and seven touchdowns are surely impressive numbers--but no stat can quantify the path of greatness Green is headed on. His character, skillset, and ability to perform in the clutch make him an outstanding player, but his now proven unwavering desire to improve could make him truly special.
A good wide receiver is a player who puts pressure on the defense and makes his quarterback's job easier, but rarely is a receiver talented enough to take the game over for himself. Randy Moss was able to do it with New England in 2007. Larry Fitzgerald reached this level in his playoff run of 2008.
So, how about A.J. Green in 2012?