Zac Taylor, who has yet to have wide receiver A.J Green for a full practice in pads in his two seasons as Bengals head coach, says he'll have him in Sunday's opener (4:05 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium.
"He looked good to me today," said Taylor after Monday's brief workout. "It's good to have him back in the fold."
Even though Green hasn't played a full game since Oct. 28, 2018, it's hard to come up with a better Opening Day target for Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. Green bailed out Burrow's predecessor in his NFL debut nine years ago, so here he is.
Green averages 102 yards in his eight openers, where he has a total of six touchdown catches, and two his four biggest games ever have come in the first game. He got Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis thinking about retirement with 12 catches for 180 yards (his third biggest game) when the Bengals went to New York on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 for an emotional victory.
And he had his fourth biggest game to open the 2013 season in Chicago when the Bengals somehow lost to the Bears despite his 162 yards and two touchdowns.
You have to figure Green has something up his sleeve to celebrate his long-awaited return. He rescued fellow rookie Andy Dalton's debut in the 2011 opener in Cleveland when he saved his first NFL catch and only one of the day for a 41-yard touchdown from backup Bruce Gradkowski that put the Bengals ahead to stay with 4:28 left.
When they went to Baltimore to open 2014, Green put the Bengals ahead to stay, too, on a 77-yard bomb with 5:48 left.
Taylor is just glad Green's hamstring looks like it did before he tweaked it in a brief collision three weeks ago on the day before the Bengals put on pads
But don't look for an overload of A.J. in his first game back.
"Fifty-five is a lot of snaps. You always monitor that," Taylor said. "We're fortunate because we're deep at receiver and we feel like there are a lot guys that can step in there and be a primary receiver … You call a play and you don't necessarily have to look to see who's out there to make sure what play call. You feel the confidence all those guys can execute their jobs."
In the seven openers his snaps have been logged, Green has averaged 57 plays. But he never played less than 85 percent of the time and he never took fewer than 53 snaps in an opener.
So it will be interesting to see how Taylor handles the big man with Tyler Boyd, John Ross III, Tee Higgins and Auden Tate healthy.
JONAH's DEBUT, TOO: Because of the shoulder injury that wiped out his rookie season, two Bengals No. 1 picks are lining up Sunday when Jonah Williams becomes their fourth straight different Opening Day left tackle. He joins Andrew Whitworth, Cedric Ogbeuhi, Cordy Glenn and Andre Smith.
"He's really been an asset for us. The good news is you don't notice him all the time, which is a positive," Taylor said. "He's just doing his job. It's not, 'hey Jonah, what made you do that,' or 'what are you thinking there.' It's just a guy out there that does his job, and that's what I like to see from my linemen."
Even though it is Williams' first NFL game, you take it for granted it won't be too big for him. He played all those years at hyper NFL intense Alabama, where he developed a reputation for having a 40-year-old head on top of a 20-year-old body.
"I think I'm pretty calm. I'm excited about this game, I'm hyped for it, I'm excited for this challenge, but at the end of the day I think it comes down to execution," Williams said in his Monday media Zoom "When you go out there and you know what your assignment is and you know how you're going to do it, you're going to play hard. I'm going to come off the ball fast, I don't think I have to necessarily hype myself up for that. It's just something that comes from training and being sure in practice and walk-throughs that I'm ready to go so when the game comes around it's just natural."
CAGEY VET: Former Raven Josh Bynes brings 101 NFL games, making him the first Bengals' Opening Day starting linebacker with at least 100 NFL games since A.J. Hawk in 2015 when Cincinnati won in Oakland for the first time ever.
All eyes are on Bynes because three of the backers are rookies and the other two, Germaine Pratt and Jordan Evans, have a combined 61 and Evans has 45 of those.
The nice thing about Bynes, 31, is he doesn't mind telling the kids what is what.
"Leaving camp, I was telling them don't worry about next week (and) don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow is not here. Worry about today, worry about mistakes today and knock today out," Bynes said in Monday's very wise Zoom. "Then, when I wake up in the morning, I can worry about that day. Because you can't just look too much forward and back in this league. You just have to keep progressing and keep trying to find ways to get better. As long as you put in your mind mistakes are going to happen, they are inevitable.
"Otherwise, coaches wouldn't exist in this league. That's why they are here. Mistakes are going to happen. Let those things go. Those mistakes that happen, they are trying to see how you overcome those mistakes. When adversity hits, how do you respond to that. That's just life in general. That's a big thing for these young guys. Mistakes are going to happen. Just let them go. And obviously see the pace. It's fast pace on Sundays. So, I think that's going to be really huge for them as well."