Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is down in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII. On Thursday afternoon, he was on Radio Row with the Gatorade Fuel Bar, discussing, along with other players, the proper sports nutrition needed to perform at such a high level. Green was nice enough to take some time out of his day to join us for a few minutes to talk about the 2012 Bengals season and what lies ahead for the team.
While the Bengals were obviously happy with a 10-6 regular-season record and their second playoff berth in two years, the loss to the Texans has left a bad taste in Green's mouth. The Texans, for the second year in a row, sent the Bengals packing in the wild card round. Many were frustrated, not only with the loss, but with the lack of Green's involvement in the offensive game plan, especially in the first half.
Green, though, was upset with the team's play as a whole, especially since the Texans allowed the Bengals to stay in the game for so long.
"I was a little disappointed at the end just because, you know, we had the chance to make it our year," Green said. "The first year, a lot of people didn't expect us to make it to the playoffs anyways. We knew as a team we had a chance to make it to the playoffs again. It was a disappointment, the last couple games, and we played probably the worst game we played all season, and we still had a chance to win."
Green finished the season with 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013, earning his second Pro Bowl spot. While in the Pro Bowl, Green caught three touchdown passes, breaking the Bengals franchise record for most touchdowns caught in the Pro Bowl. Still, Green, the epitome of humility and class, admits that he has a lot to work on in his game.
"I think it (his season) was okay," he said. "I still have a lot of stuff to work on, but I feel like I'm heading in the right direction."
The Bengals defense has led them to the playoffs over the last two seasons while the offense did enough to get by. Under Jay Gruden, the offense has yet to break into the top-20 in the league. Green knows that for the Bengals to take the next step, the offense has to step up and play on par with the defense.
"We have to be more consistent on offense," he said. "We can't have down series or go three-and-out all the time. That's the biggest thing. Our offense needs to be more consistent."
One reason the offense seemed to struggle was the lack of a No. 2 receiver. Mohamed Sanu stepped up and played well as the season wore on, but a foot injury landed him on Injured Reserve. Once again, the attention went away from every other receiver and was aimed directly at Green, who believes Sanu's injury hurt the team. Green said that Sanu was beginning to come into his own near the end of the season and that Sanu can be lined up at any wide receiver position on the field and be successful.
The player that has taken the a lot of flak from media and fans, though, has been quarterback Andy Dalton. Quarterbacks consistently take the most heat when the offense can't move the ball, regardless of the players around them. That's the nature of the quarterback position.
Green understands that Dalton is going to be facing a lot of tough questions from fans and the media, but he believes Dalton is largely responsible for the Bengals' turnaround over the last two seasons.
"That comes with the territory," Green said. "Quarterbacks are always under the most pressure. But Andy does a great job, he turned this whole organization around."
Green has become one of the league's best receivers and his ability to go up and catch passes at their highest point added to his natural athletic ability, could make any quarterback instantly successful. What's even more impressive, though, is the fact that Green remains so humble. In the NFL, the wide receiver position is notorious for being full of divas. Guys like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco have given receivers bad names. Green, though, is more like Larry Fitzgerald in that fact that he lets his play on the field do the talking.
As far as he's concerned, the Bengals will take the steps necessary in 2013 to get past the wildcard round of the playoffs.
"Yeah, I think we're going to go to the second round, and make another jump and get over this hump," he said when asked about his expectations of the upcoming season.
Let's hope he's right.