If you look closely at A.J. Green’s college stats at Georgia, you’ll see that in addition to having 166 receptions and 23 touchdowns, he had one blocked kick.
“I was in charge of the field goal and extra point block team and all I wanted was to use A.J. one time,” said former Georgia assistant coach John Jancek, currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati. “So I battled to get him on the block team and sure enough, he blocked a kick to win a game against Arizona State. It was the only time he ever tried it and he blocked it clean. He was one for one.”
“We were down and needed a block and I just went up and blocked it,” Green told me. “I have a picture of it in my house.”
Clearly, there aren’t many things that A.J. Green can’t do on a football field. But one thing is impossible: Catching the ball if the Bengals don’t throw it to him.
In Sunday night’s loss to the Steelers, Green finished with one reception for an 8-yard touchdown. It marked the third time in his career that A.J. has finished with one catch (they have all been for touchdowns) and his eight receiving yards were a career-low.
“When you go back and look at the stats and see A.J. Green with one catch, it bothers you quite a bit,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Pittsburgh deserves most of the credit. In addition to having cornerback Ike Taylor shadow Green on every play, Dick LeBeau gave Taylor linebacker help on short routes and safety help on deeper routes.
“They were buzzing safeties over the top or buzzing linebackers on some of the underneath stuff,” said Green. “They did a great job – hats off to them. Ike Taylor played a hell of a game. He’s a great player and has been in the league for a long time.”
“They played a little bit more two-man than they have, but they’ve played it (before) so it wasn’t that big of a surprise,” said Gruden.
The extra attention from Pittsburgh’s defense did not have Green seeing red. Unlike some other receivers in the Bengals recent past, A.J. did not throw a fit on the sideline when the ball was not coming his way.
“I feel like we had some good stuff drawn up, but the defense played well against me,” said Green.
“He can complain if he wants to,” said Gruden. “I’m trying my hardest. I want to get him the ball probably more than he wants it.”
The Steelers weren’t the first team to roll their coverage toward Green and they obviously won’t be the last. The Bengals still have to get their best player the ball.
“There was a lot of concern about A.J. catching only one pass, and we have a concern that we didn’t get the ball to A.J. enough,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “We didn’t get the ball down the field and over the top.”
“We had some plays for him,” said Gruden. “It’s not like he wasn’t part of any play. Every time we call a pass play we know where A.J. is and what he’s doing and he’s a viable option.
“When it’s all said and done, you have to have some plays that feature him running fast and far and we didn’t have enough.”
The bottom line is that the Bengals have two weeks to figure out ways to get Green’s hands on the ball. And blocking kicks is not what I have in mind.
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