Uniforms aside, veteran wide receiver AJ Green looks a lot like his old self.
He does clutch captures, using his combination of size, athleticism and experience to overpower and outsmart defenders. And perhaps more importantly, he’s having fun playing for the Arizona Cardinals.
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“I love it,” Green said on the “Big Red Rage” radio and podcast show on Thursday, September 29. “I have found a place to have fun again. We are winning and we have a great team.
Longtime Cincinnati Bengals star Green, 33, traded orange and black for Cardinals red during the offseason when he signed a one-year contract with Arizona. The change of scenery appears to have rejuvenated the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who some had considered to be past his prime and a shadow of himself.
“The new spot, the new atmosphere just gave me another boost,” Green said. “A lot of people said I couldn’t play anymore, that I was losing a step, but I know the work I put in every year. I still have a lot of stuff left in the tank and I’m glad Arizona gave me this opportunity.
Even his family in South Carolina saw a difference in Green watching Cardinals games on TV this season.
They called like, ‘Dude, AJ, you’re smiling and having fun again. “And I’m like ‘Yeah, I am.’ Winning brings happiness, ”he said.
Green and his new teammates are looking to keep the momentum going when the Cardinals face the Los Angeles Rams in a 3-0 clash on Sunday (October 3). The NFC West Showdown kicks off at 1:05 p.m. MST.
Say goodbye to Cincinnati
Now in his 11th season in the NFL, Green scored his first touchdown with the Cardinals in week two against the Minnesota Vikings.
He followed that up in Week 3 in Jacksonville with his first 100-yard receiving game in nearly three years with a five-catch, 112-yard performance against the Jaguars.
Before that game, the last time Green broke the Milestone of the Century was on Oct. 21, 2018, when he made seven catches for 117 yards for the Bengals in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Green was among the best receivers in the game before injuries slowed the Bengals star. He started his career with seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections, going over 1,000 receiving yards in six of those seasons. The only exception was a 964-yard season in 2016.
In 2018, a foot injury sidelined him for seven games that season, and he missed the entire 2019 campaign after injuring his left ankle in the first practice of training camp. He returned to play all 16 Bengals games in 2020, but the 6-foot-4, 210-pound wide receiver was more of an afterthought on offense and finished the season with 523 receiving yards, the lowest in his career. .
“I loved my time in Cincinnati,” Green said. “I would never trade it for anything. I made lifelong friends in Cincinnati. But all good things come to an end.
Still, the Bengals lost a lot towards the end of Green’s tenure, playing at 77
Record of -80-3 overall and a dismal score of 25-53-2 from 2016 to 2020.
GM says Green has ‘a lot of juice’
Despite injuries and declining stats, Arizona general manager Steve Keim still believed in Green and what he could bring to the Cardinals.
At the time, Bleacher Report called Green’s one-year, $ 6 million contract Arizona’s worst free agent signing of the offseason. Journalist Alex Kay wrote:
While kicking the tires on Green makes sense for any competing team looking to add a veteran to their receiving corps, the price Arizona paid is woefully high for a player who hasn’t produced at a high level for almost half a decade.
After a quiet 25-yard game and two catches in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, Green got more involved in offense, entering the end zone against the Vikings and then leading the team. receivable against the Jaguars.
“It was nice to see AJ having that kind of a day because what we saw throughout camp,” Keim told Arizona Sports “Burns & Gambo” on Friday Oct. 1. “We saw a great athletic receiver who still has a lot of juice left and I got really excited about him.
In three games this season, Green made 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown. He has also established himself as an effective weapon down the field for quarterback Kyler Murray. Green leads the Cardinals in yards per reception at 18.1 per game, and his four catches over 20 yards are tied for most in the NFL this season.
Green ranks third in receiving yards in the Cardinals’ balanced pass attack, as Murray continues to spread the ball:
- Christian Kirk: 15 catches (17 targets), 239 yards, two touchdowns.
- Rondale Moore: 13 catches (15 targets), 184 yards, one touchdown.
- AJ Green: 10 catches (18 targets), 181 yards, a TD.
- DeAndre Hopkins: 13 catches (16 targets), 158 yards, three touchdowns.
- Chase Edmonds: 16 catches (17 targets), 121 yards.
- Maxx Williams: 10 catches (11 targets), 113 yards.
“We know we have a lot of guys who can play with the ball,” Green said.
So far this season, defenses have mostly focused on slowing down Hopkins, opening the door for Green and other Arizona pass catchers to have some big games.
“(Hopkins) is a guy who is going to demand a lot of coverage and make our job easier,” Green said. “When they put him in brackets, double him, we have to eat to soften the blanket for him.”
Keim said the balanced output makes it difficult for the Cardinals to stop passing play. If the teams continue to focus on Hopkins, they run the risk of getting burned by Green, Kirk and Moore, he said.
“Depending on how people play us, every week different players are going to have big games, big stats,” Keim said.