This elite wide receiver is defying every NFL convention

We are living in a golden age of wide receivers, but A.J. Green is still flying under the radar. 

Thanks to generous rule changes that favor the passing game and an exciting crop of elite wide receivers peaking at the same time; the numbers being put up by the league’s top targets are mind-boggling. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and others have a greater influence on the game than pretty much any generation of pass catchers before them.

Perhaps the most reliable target of the bunch is the Bengals’ A.J. Green. Green’s numbers since he has come into the NFL in 2011 have been downright obnoxious, averaging 83 catches, 1234 yards and 9 touchdowns heading into this season. In 2016, Green has stepped it up, leading the league with 50 catches through 7 games, is second with 775 receiving yards and second in receiving yards per game with 110 yards per game. Even by his standards, he is having a career year.

But you won’t hear much from Green. In a league that caters towards the self-promoter, Green flies under the radar when it comes to league’s elite talents. Part of that is because he plays for Cincinnati, some of it is because he plays in a rather bland offense led by Andy Dalton. While Jones, Brown and Beckham catch passes from significantly higher profile QBs in Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning; the most notable thing about Dalton is still that he is a redhead.

But despite his immense physical skills, Green avoids attention like the plague. On Sunday the Bengals ran a play at the end of the half that was literally “Throw the ball up high to A.J. and see if he can catch it” and Green responded by hauling in a crazy one-handed catch with no less than five defenders around him. Green responded to his amazing feat by casually standing up, flipping the ball to the referee and walking to the sideline.

 

If the league’s most famous receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. made that catch, there is no telling what he would do. He could take off his helmet, launch himself into the sky and circle around the stadium like a satellite. But that isn’t Green’s style and image wise, it probably costs him. When he thrashed Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets in Week 1 to the tune of 12 catches for 180 yards, the story the next morning was all about how Revis had lost a step and was no longer an elite cornerback.n

Realistically, though, how surprised should we be that Green had a really good game? His numbers speak for themselves–but because not much is said about him, his ability becomes a bit undervalued. If Beckham had a similar game against Revis, chances were the headlines would be all about Beckham; either because of his celebrations or because everyone would appreciate how special of a talent he is. Green? He might as well be a faceless player–a side character whose role in the game is to only expose and embarrass the opponent.

Green may be quiet, but that is only if you consider noise and showmanship the main forms of communication on a football field. There is nothing understated about Green’s production; the man is a pass-catching machine that dominates even the most talented defenses. Just don’t expect him to make a big deal about it.