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What the secondary result of A.J. Green missing start of season could be

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Green’s injury will have a major effect on the offense and several players.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The first week of Bengals training camp was rocked by the injury to star wide receiver, A.J. Green.

The story continued to grab Bengals headlines and the timetable for his return seemed to change on a daily basis, but the latest news indicates that Green will miss time in the regular season.

There is of course the chance that he could make a freak recovery, and if you ask Andy Dalton, that wouldn’t surprise him, but odds are the Bengals will have to drive on without their best offensive player for at least a few games.

So, besides the obvious loss of a talented playmaker who can help them win, what does that mean for the team moving forward?

Who makes the roster

With a new coach, there is no precedent for how many players the Bengals may look to keep at a given position, but it is most likely that they will keep 6 or 7 wide receivers. With Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Alex Erickson being basically locks, this leaves only 2 or 3 spots. The most likely candidates for these positions are Cody Core, Josh Malone, and Auden Tate, but UDFA receivers Damion Willis and Stanley Morgan Jr. could be in the mix as well.

Green’s injury could create an opportunity for one more guy to catch on. Core is of course generally seen a special teams player, which may get him a spot anyway. Malone and Tate have been fan favorites in recent years, both showing exciting flashes.

With Green and Ross injured, Malone and Tate have been getting first-team looks. They are competing for both a roster spot and a chance to start early in the season. For them, it is a chance to both stick around and stand out.

Willis and Morgan both did some impressive things in college, but they still slipped through the cracks in this draft. It can be difficult for receivers to make the adjustment from college to the pro game, so although they have each already made some standout plays in camp, they are not likely to be ready to step into a starter role early for the Bengals.

Willis has some physical tools that could help the Bengals stretch the field in Green’s absence, but he was asked to run a limited variety of routes in college. Morgan has more nuance to his game, but he is likely more of a slot and not a guy who is going to fill Green’s shoes.

These two are the kind of guy who might get to stick around because Green’s injury opened up a slot. Maybe it will buy one of them a little more time and by the time Green returns he may have impressed coaches enough to warrant a roster spot. These two could develop into excellent players, but they need to stay around long enough to do it.

New Offense

There are some advantages to this offense developing with Green in the shadows.

First, it allows the team to prove that they have talent beyond Green. It gives Joe Mixon, Tyler Eifert, Boyd, Ross, and others a chance to step up and earn respect on a national level. If the Bengals can have a productive offense in the early weeks of the season without Green, it shows that they are really on the right track.

Facing this early adversity could also be good for the mental makeup of the team. When another injury happens late in the season, they can take confidence in knowing that they already thrived after losing their best receiver.

Finally, Green almost becomes a blockbuster midseason trade at that point. NOT LITERALLY of course. What I mean is if their offense is good without him, when he comes back, he should give them a big bump.

Zac Taylor comes from very productive and talented Rams offense. Green is the one guy who you can point to and say the Bengals have a distinct advantage over the Rams. Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp can’t hold a candle to Green when he’s at 100%.

This could be how Taylor puts his own spin on the McVay offense. He could establish the McVay system early, then add an element highlighting a top flight receiver when Green returns.

Financially

Green is entering a contract year and some have questioned if the team should extend him. This injury piles on to his recent history and seems to scream, “No!”

Prior to the injury, I believed the team would extend him, and it would be a reasonable deal. My opinion has not changed.

I was hoping for a deal that involved little guaranteed money and an out, and now it is even more likely that his contract will be just that. He was never going to ask for crazy Michael Thomas money anyway, but his injury will help the Bengals be more fiscally responsible in re-signing him.