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A.J. Green hoping Bengals can follow in Falcons’ footsteps

Green is striving for wins, even if it means a drop in his personal production.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

No one is doubting A.J. Green’s ability to dominate a box score.

Green, who is heading into his seventh NFL season, caught 66 balls for 964 yards and four touchdowns in essentially nine games last season. Had he kept up that pace, Green would have finished with around 1,700 receiving yards for the season, which would have shattered his previous career high of 1,426 in 2013.

But, Green suffered a hamstring strain in game No. 10 (Week 11), which led to him missing the final six games of the season. 2016 ended up being the first time Green did not record 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Had he hit that mark, Green would have joined Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to have six-straight 1,000-yard seasons to begin their career.

Green’s last full season came in 2015, where he caught 86 passes for 1,297 yards (15.1 and 10 scores. He is on pace to finish No. 1 among every receiver who's ever played for the Bengals, in nearly every category. Entering 2017, Green ranks No. 4 in catches (481), No. 2 in yards (7,135) and is No. 4 in touchdowns (49) in franchise history.

That’s not enough for Green, who continues to look for ways to advance his game while taking this franchise to new heights. For Green, that could actually mean putting up less personal production per game than he’s accustomed to.

As he told, Green is looking to play in a more balanced attack this season full of weapons, not one where the ball has to be forced to him for the team to win. He’s not a ‘get the damn ball to me’ type of guy and values wins over stats.

“I know what I’m capable of doing. Never a doubt in my mind,” Green said. “Last year I had opportunities and just took advantage of them. In 2015 I felt like I had a good season, but we had all the weapons. I didn’t have that many targets, but I still had good yardage. This year it’s just not me and Brandon (LaFell) and four young guys. Everything doesn’t have to be forced to me, which I like.”

Green is hoping that an offense that features himself, Tyler Eifert, John Ross and others will help keep defenses on their heels and unable to focus on shutting down one player. He also hopes that having such a deep and talented group of pass-catchers helps this Bengals franchise get over the playoff hump.

We saw a similar situation play out with the Atlanta Falcons and star receiver Julio Jones last year. When healthy, Jones is one of the game’s best receivers, but before 2016, he had only experienced one playoff win in five seasons.

That changed as the Falcons offense became more dynamic and able to score on anyone, even without Jones. That’s what Green envisions for this Bengals offense. And though the Falcons didn’t win the Super Bowl, they came extremely close.

“That’s the goal. Win the Super Bowl,” Green said . “Look at the year Julio had. He was coming off an 1,800-yard season and he had what last year? (1,409). That’s because they put all the weapons around him. He still made the same plays he made when he had the 1,800 yards, but when they double-teamed him they had (Mohamed) Sanu and (Tyler) Gabriel. They’ve got to respect those guys. They went to the Super Bowl and Julio had (1,400) yards. It’s all about what you want. That’s the ultimate goal is to win the championship.”

For now, Green is spending his summer break working out at Kennesaw State, which is close to his Georgia home, which you can read more about here. It’s great to see Green is fully committed to winning at any cost, even if it means his numbers take a dip.

Between Green, Eifert, Ross, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and the rising Josh Malone and Cody Core, as well as a great pass-catching running back in Joe Mixon, this offense has too much firepower to not have more of a balanced attack in 2017. Green hopes that’s the case, and that it leads to more wins in both the regular season and playoffs.