If we knew that A.J. Green was going to play every single game of the 2020 regular season, we would’ve expected a little more production from him.
In his first full season since 2017, Green finished with just 523 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 47 receptions. For perspective, Green put up 694 yards, six touchdowns on 46 receptions in just *eight* full games in 2018.
Such a drop off was not expected from the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver, but with added context, Green’s 2020 was even more shockingly subpar.
Per ESPN’s Seth Walder, Green finished with both the second-lowest Mean Separation Over Expectation and Completed Air Yards Over Expectation amongst receivers with at least 80 targets.
Final 2020 regular season update on this chart: separation over expectation on targets (x) by total completed air yards over expectation (y) for wide receivers only.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 19, 2021
Right = More separation than expected.
Up = More completed air yards than expected. pic.twitter.com/1YyAk6WeXH
In layman’s terms, Green wasn’t getting open very often and wasn’t hauling in downfield targets very often either. That’s not a surprising revelation to learn after watching him play last season, but that he was so far lower than all other qualifying receivers in these categories are still a bit shocking.
Green is not entirely to blame for his struggles last season. Quarterback Joe Burrow was definitely more in sync with Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins and for whatever reason couldn’t consistently connect with Green on a weekly basis. Through Week 5, Green hauled in just 14 of his 34 targets from Burrow and averaged just 8.5 yards per catch. From Weeks 6-7, Burrow and Green connected for 15 receptions on 11.9 yards per catch.
Burrow’s knee injury happened not too long after that productive two-week stretch, and his absence immediately impacted Green. The 10-year veteran went without a single catch during Brandon Allen’s first two starts at quarterback. There were a couple weeks were Green looked like his old self with Allen under center, but the season was essentially over and the damage had already been done.
Many will look back at Green’s 2020 season and remember how he just didn’t look or play like his old self. There were thoughts of him simply losing a step after missing the entire 2019 season with a foot injury, and the first month of the season surely validated that concern.
Green managed to put together a few solid performances during what was likely his last year in Cincinnati, but lasting feelings will reflect what those numbers from Walder indicate.