Simply put, A.J. Green is an elite receiver. He has elite hands, an elite ability to get open, and an elite compilation of statistical production from his first six NFL seasons. Yet, the one thing he does not have is recognition as a first team All-Pro selection.
Green is averaging 80 receptions, 1,189 yards, and 8 touchdowns per season throughout his NFL career. But as great as these numbers have been, they haven’t been high enough to warrant the elusive First Team All-Pro selection. With the Bengals coming off a down season, with an offense that struggled, and just lost its best linemen, you will be hard pressed to find many who think the offense will be good enough for Green to warrant that All-Pro recognition.
For a prediction to qualify as a Bold Prediction, it must satisfy two criteria. First, it must be something that goes against the mainstream thought. Second, it must be something that is unlikely, but has a reasonable chance of occurring. Does this bold prediction meet the criteria?
Why this prediction is BOLD:
A.J. Green is a great receiver, but has never been named first team All-Pro. The award is generally given to the players who put up the largest compilation of statistical achievements throughout the year, and the Bengals’ offense just doesn’t provide this for Green.
Ken Zampese’s offense looked lost at times last year, and without a large step forward this year, his offense could struggle once again. Also, the Bengals lost their two best offensive linemen from last year’s offense (Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler). That places Green on an offense that may not give quarterback Andy Dalton enough time to throw the ball to Green.
Another factor working against Green is the added options to the passing game in 2017. The team invested a top-10 draft pick on another wide receiver, John Ross, who could take away some of the deep passes that help Green pile up yardage. The healthy return of Tyler Eifert will also eat into Green’s numbers - especially near the goal line. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd enters his second year in the league, and will be poised for a larger role in the offense. And the selection of Joe Mixon in the NFL Draft, gives the Bengals two very good receiving running backs, with the healthy return of Giovani Bernard being the other.
Ultimately, a bad line and too many other weapons will limit Green’s ability to put up big enough numbers to be named a First Team All-Pro.
Why this prediction is LIKELY:
Through nine games last year Green was on pace for 117 catches, 1,714 yards, and seven touchdowns. That pace would have placed Green first among all NFL wide receivers in catches, 10 ahead of league leader Larry Fitzgerald’s 107. And that pace would have made Green the league leader in receiving yardage, topping T.Y. Hilton’s 1,448 yards by more than 250 yards. And that came with Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ offense having a down year. As much as the Zampese’s offense struggled in 2017, the one thing they did well was get the ball to the best offensive player.
The Bengals struggled to run the ball last season. Bernard was hurt, and Jeremy Hill was ineffective, yet again. When an offense can’t run the ball, it allows a defense to become one-dimensional, and focus on stopping the passing game. With the selection of Joe Mixon in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals found the cure for what ailed their running game. Mixon is a very elusive runner with exceptional vision and a natural ability to find an open lane and make defenders miss. These are attributes that were lacking in the Bengals’ running game until the end of the season when Rex Burkhead showed it was possible to gain yardage even with a less than stellar offensive line. Burkhead’s strong finish in 2016 shows that a running back can be successful in the Bengals’ offense, and adding one with a skill set well beyond Burkhead’s means defenses will have to focus on the running game again. And more focus on the running game means less focus on the passing game, and Green.
Green is on an offense that was pumping All-Pro production from him, and now includes a bolstered running game. The overdue First Team All-Pro reward should finally be coming Green’s way this season.
Will A.J. Green be a First Team All-Pro in 2017?
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