Last season as a rookie, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green demonstrated why the Bengals made him the fourth overall pick in the draft, as he helped guide Cincinnati to a nine-win season and a playoff berth. And this season he will look to build upon his phenomenal 2011 season.
Green's efforts are helping him gain recognition as one of the league's top receivers. ESPN's AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley released his rankings of the top 5 wide receivers in the AFC North. And Green received the honor with being ranked as the No. 1 receiver in the division.
Says Hensley of Green:
You only had to watch one Bengals game this year and see Green's potential. He averaged 16.3 yards per catch and scored seven touchdowns as a rookie, and he's been working out with Larry Fitzgerald this offseason. What could hold Green back is the Bengals' lack of a proven No. 2 wide receiver, which allows defenses to focus their energy on the Pro Bowl receiver.
The fact that the Bengals currently lack a proven No. 2 receiver wasn't a huge problem for Green in 2011. Last season, the Bengals also lacked a proven No. 2 receiver and Green still had a monstrous season. Yes, they did have Jerome Simpson, but prior to last season, Simpson had never played a full season since being drafted by the Bengals in 2008. And during his four-year career with the Bengals, Simpson was too inconsistent when given the opportunity.
Green led all Bengals receivers in virtually every receiving category last season. He compiled 65 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns in just 15 games. Green was Andy Dalton's favorite target as he targeted him for 116 pass attempts on the season. And Green will continue to be one of the Bengals most durable weapons.
Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown claimed the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens rounded out the rankings at No. 4 and No. 5 respectively.
As long as Green continues to develop and grow as a player, then he and the Bengals will be in good shape moving forward. But if Cincinnati is unable to find a wide out to play alongside Green in 2012, it could be a long battle the Bengals are faced with. Either way, the Bengals have one of the league's most explosive receivers who has yet to reach his ceiling which creates a lot of excitement for Bengals fans.