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Better Bengals wide receiver: A.J. Green or Chad Johnson?

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Both A.J. Green and Chad Johnson were great receivers, but who was better?

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

During the decade of the 2000’s, the Bengals had one of the league’s best wide receivers with Chad Johnson OchoCinco Johnson.

Johnson entered the league without a lot of hype, as he only played one year of Division 1 football with Oregon State, accumulating 37 receptions. His combine was also rather unspectacular, running a 4.57 second 40 yard dash with a 33 inch vertical jump, and measuring at 6’1” and 192 pounds.

As a result, seven other wide receivers were drafted in 2001 ahead of him: David Terrell, Koren Robinson, Rod Gardner, Santana Moss, Freddie Mitchell, Reggie Wayne, and Quincy Morgan.

After spending his rookie season of 2001 in a reserve role with the Bengals, his career took off with six consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, which included five Pro Bowls and a pair of first team All Pro selections. In 2006 he led the NFL with 1,369 receiving yards, on 87 receptions, and with seven touchdowns.

His peak coincided with a resurgence in interest, and on-field success for the Bengals. After a decade of dormancy, the Bengals climb from the cellar of the NFL coincided with Johnson’s career arc. Johnson was the master of footwork, with his quick, nimble feet seemingly always able to stay in bounds on sideline throws, and deceive defenders on his routes, allowing him to get separation.

Johnson’s silly touchdown antics and even his name change, and re-change, were tolerated and even enjoyed by many Bengals fans, who were pretty excited to have a team worth watching, and a great player too.

Johnson played 11 seasons in the NFL, including 10 in Cincinnati. He finished his career with 766 career receptions, 11,059 yards, and 67 touchdowns. He is a fringe Hall of Fame candidate, although likely behind former Bengals Willie Anderson, Ken Anderson, and Ken Riley in the list of Bengals deserving of enshrinement in Canton.

Chad Johnson vs A.J. Green first 7 seasons

Name Year Age G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD R/G Y/G Ctch% Fmb
Name Year Age G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD R/G Y/G Ctch% Fmb
Chad Johnson 2,001 23 12 60 28 329 11.8 1 2.3 27.4 46.70% 0
Chad Johnson 2,002 24 16 137 69 1166 16.9 5 4.3 72.9 50.40% 0
Chad Johnson 2,003 25 16 154 90 1355 15.1 10 5.6 84.7 58.40% 0
Chad Johnson 2,004 26 16 170 95 1274 13.4 9 5.9 79.6 55.90% 1
Chad Johnson 2,005 27 16 155 97 1432 14.8 9 6.1 89.5 62.60% 1
Chad Johnson 2,006 28 16 152 87 1369 15.7 7 5.4 85.6 57.20% 1
Chad Johnson 2,007 29 16 161 93 1440 15.5 8 5.8 90 57.80% 2
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
A.J. Green 2,011 23 15 115 65 1057 16.3 7 4.3 70.5 56.50% 1
A.J. Green 2,012 24 16 164 97 1350 13.9 11 6.1 84.4 59.10% 2
A.J. Green 2,012 25 16 178 98 1426 14.6 11 6.1 89.1 55.10% 1
A.J. Green 2,012 26 13 117 69 1041 15.1 6 5.3 80.1 59.00% 3
A.J. Green 2,012 27 16 132 86 1297 15.1 10 5.4 81.1 65.20% 1
A.J. Green 2,012 28 10 100 66 964 14.6 4 6.6 96.4 66.00% 0
A.J. Green 2,012 29 16 143 75 1078 14.4 8 4.7 67.4 52.40% 2

A decade after Johnson entered the league, the Bengals drafted another great wide receiver. This time, it was a highly regarded 6’4” A.J. Green from football powerhouse Georgia. Green joined the Bengals via the 2011 NFL draft, as the first wide receiver selected, just ahead of fellow SEC product Julio Jones.

Green immediately became a starter for the Bengals, as he only had Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell to beat out for a starting spot. Despite the Bengals breaking in a new quarterback, Andy Dalton, and a new offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, in an offseason shortened by a lockout, Green’s excellence on the field was immediately recognizable.

He finished his rookie year with 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns, and helped the Bengals reach an improbable playoff berth. Green has earned seven Pro Bowls in seven seasons, with no All Pro selections. He has averaged 1,173 per season and over 80 receiving yards per game.

Green’s production coincided with a string of playoff appearances for the Bengals, who made five consecutive playoff trips, in Green’s first five NFL seasons. Green is a master at getting open, slipping past defenders with deceptive movement, and has an elite level of concentration when passes are in the air, able to make highlight receptions on difficult catches that would make any circus juggler proud.

Chad Johnson vs A.J. Green summary

Name Year G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD R/G Y/G Ctch% Fmb
Name Year G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD R/G Y/G Ctch% Fmb
Chad Johnson First 7 years 108 989 559 8365 15 49 5.2 77.5 56.50% 5
A.J. Green First 7 years 102 949 556 8213 14.8 57 5.5 80.5 58.60% 10

Comparing Green to Johnson after their first seven seasons, their production is essentially dead even. Both recorded about 550 receptions for 8,000 yards. Johnson holds a slight edge with three more catches (on 40 more targets) and 152 more yards, although in six more games played. Green has eight more touchdowns in those first seven seasons, but has double the fumbles. Johnson arguably had a better pure passer throwing the ball his way.

Poll

Better wide receiver for the Bengals

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Chad Johnson
    (256 votes)
  • 72%
    A.J. Green
    (661 votes)
917 votes total Vote Now