2017 was a bad year for the Bengals and their fans.
One of the few bright spots was A.J. Green eclipsing the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the sixth time in his seven year career. He also doubled his touchdowns from four to eight.
One person who doesn’t that was such a bright spot was Green himself.
“My stats were crummy,” Green said via Katherine Terrell of ESPN. “I’m never one to put my personal stats up front, I just go out there and play.”
It shouldn’t be that surprising to here from Green, though. He had quite a few bad games in 2017 that likely left a bad taste in his mouth. There were games like when the Bengals took on the Bills where he could be credited with three turnovers as two passes went off his hands for interceptions and he lost a fumble. He ended up making the play when it counted though to help win the game.
There was also the lack of production in the first two weeks as the Bengals failed to reach the endzone. Those were games where he probably felt like he could have done more to help the team if he was given a chance. Then there was the Jacksonville game where he took his frustration out on Jalen Ramsey by choke slamming him and getting ejected.
Overall though it was a season filled with tough losses, and games that Green and the Bengals know they should have won.
“There will be years like that,” Green said. “Just got to, don’t get as frustrated, stay true to who I am, and continue to play. ... It was a frustrating year for me personally, just not playing the way I need to play, or whatever it was. I wasn’t focused last year like I was [in] previous years.”
It is strange to here Green of all people admit to lacking focus, but then again it seemed the whole team lacked focus last year. After starting 0-3, the Bengals struggled their way to try and reach .500. They never did quite make it there though.
In fact, the two time they were close were the two weeks when they lost to the Steelers. Then there were the late season rumors that Marvin Lewis wouldn’t be around in 2018. It is pretty easy to see where the distractions came from.
The Bengals did a good job of changing that this offseason. They hired on Bill Lazor as the new full-time offensive coordinator after he took over following the firing of Ken Zampese after Week 2.
Lazor has already decided to do away with the Jay Gruden based playbook that has been around since Green came into the NFL. The team also had to replace their former receivers coach James Urban who departed for Baltimore this offseason. Lazor brought in Bob Bicknell who he has coached with previously with the Eagles. Bicknell also has 25 years experience as a coach. The change seems to be enough to get Green excited again.
“I was blessed to have [James Urban] for my first seven years and really have no change to the offense,” Green told Terrell. “This is going to be a challenge. I’m ready for that.”
The one thing though that Green, the Bengals and almost every fan know needs changed is how often Andy Dalton gives his star receiver a chance down field. It had been a staple for seasons.
Dalton heaving the ball downfield and allowing Green to go get it, which he often did. Last year though it didn’t happen as much. Some of it was due to protection, Dalton getting gun shy, the two not being on the same page, ect.
Green is on a mission to change that in 2018, though.
“The deep ball definitely is one of the things we need to focus on,” Green told Terrell. “We left a lot of plays out there. ... It [was] a combination of everything. We just have to put everything together.”
It is pretty safe to say that if Dalton is hitting Green and his other receivers downfield that the Bengals should be a pretty successful team in 2018.