Two days after Cincinnati Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden said his offense is still trying to find an identity, All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green admitted he is trying to shed the one he developed Sunday.
Green, who was targeted 15 times but only finished with seven catches for 51 yards, was visibly frustrated during the 17-6 loss at Cleveland, and he said it annoyed him even more seeing the way he acted when he got home and watched the broadcast.
“I have to control my emotions and body language a little better than I did on Sunday,” Green said Wednesday before practice. “That’s not me. I watched the game and my arms are flailing and I’m all loose, and that’s just not me. That’s not the way I act.”
Green was so bothered by his actions that he pulled quarterback Andy Dalton aside in the parking lot Tuesday to talk about it.
“The cameras are always going to be on me, so I can’t be showing Andy up or the offense up,” Green said. “I have to control it better. It’s not the first game I’ve been frustrated and probably won’t be the last.”
Ever since the opener in Chicago – when Green had nine catches for 162 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown – teams have been trying to take the deep routes away, and the ploy has been mostly successful.
In the last three games Green has 17 catches for 138 yards. Not only are the 138 yards the lowest three-game total of his career, the 8.1 yards per reception are nearly half of what he averaged (15.0) through his first 32 games in the league.
“It’s just the way everybody plays me now,” Green said. “Everybody plays outside leverage, so they’re really taking away the outside. So I have to run a lot of slants and keep them honest. I have to be able to go inside more and run more in-breaking routes to open the deep ball back up.”
A more effective running game would help serve the same purpose. The Bengals are averaging 3.4 yards per carry with a long of 17.
“Heck yeah we want to run the football,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth added. “We want to run it a lot. We’ve got a group that wants to run it. Our tight ends want to run it, everybody wants to run it. But what we really want to do is execute plays. The key is to be balanced and not allow yourself to sway one way or the other too much and find out what you’re doing well and keep doing it.”
The ability to run the ball should be key Sunday against a New England Patriots team that is known for shutting down what the opponent does best, which in the Bengals case is obviously getting the ball to their All-Pro wide receiver.
Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden made that difficult last week, and Green is going to be in for another test Sunday against New England’s Aqib Talib, the NFL co-leader in interceptions with four.
“It’s going to be another grind,” Green said. “I have to continue to work because I know everyone’s gameplan is to take me away. I have to be able to go out there and run my routes to win and not get frustrated.”