The Bengals reported to Paul Brown Stadium Thursday and as five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green began his sixth training camp without off-season work-out partner Calvin Johnson in the league, he says he's one of a group of about five vying to replace Johnson as the NFL's best wide receiver.
"I'm in there," said Green, who also counts Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and DeAndre Hopkins in that mix.
Green's 1,297 yards didn't come near the 1,800-yard explosions of Jones and Brown or even Hopkins' 1,500-yard season or Beckham's 1,450 yards. But Green is looking at other measurables.
Such as yards per catch.
"The way the league is set up now, there are bunch of receivers who are going to get targeted (so much) whatever that is," Green said. "The number might not be 1,800 yards, but it's efficient."
You guessed it. Green's 15.1 yards per catch were better than Jones' 13.8, Brown's 13.5, Hopkins' 13.7, and even Johnson's 13.8. And while Jones had a league-leading 193 targets, according to profootballfocus.com, Brown was second with 190 and Hopkins third with 187. Beckham, checked in with 153 while matching Green's 15.1 yards per. Green's 123 targets were tied for 17th, two fewer than T.Y. Hilton and two more than Golden Tate.
And he's not complaining with a Pro Bowl tight end like Tyler Eifert around.
"We're not built like that," Green said. "We're not built like Pittsburgh. We're not built like Atlanta, where you always have to throw the ball. We're balanced. I've been in offenses like that my whole career.
"It keeps everything honest. You can catch a lot of balls, but are you efficient? I don't care if you have 1,800 yards, what is the ratio of targets?"
According to PFF, Jones (3.04), Brown (2.89), Beckham (2.43) and Green (2.41) were the only receivers in the league to crack 2.4 yards per route run.
Green, who turns 28 Sunday, was a bit taken back Johnson called it at age 30 after nine years.
"The way he was talking . .. How his body was. He said he could play the game, but getting through the week is the tough part," Green said. "He said three years ago, 'A.J., I've got two more years. I've got like two, three years and then I'm out of here after I've got nine (seasons).' I thought he was just playing."
The 6-4, 212-pound Green doesn't see himself bowing out so quickly.
"He's a big guy. His body takes a lot of pounding. I feel like I'm more of a slim guy," Green said. "My knees don't have much wear and tear. He used to take big hits, cheap shots. The way he hit the ground all the time. That's a big body at 230 slamming down. I think my body is set up differently. I'll be fine. I want to get at least 12 (seasons).
"If I can't do it, I'm just going to walk away. I want to do it for 12. If I sign a two-year deal (after his current extension gets him to nine years), I'll be gone. Eleven will be fine if my body's not holding up. Eleven would be great. My goal is 12 to 15. We'll see. I'll be 31 (in his ninth year), so I think I can go three or four more years after that."
He does have some unfinished business. After four seasons of struggling in the post-season, Green put together his best post-season game back in January against the Steelers with five catches for 71 yards. And he was placed in the pantheon when his leaping 25-yard TD catch at the goal line capped a 16-0 run and gave the Bengals a 16-15 lead with 1:50 left in the game.
But fate intervened and beat them, 18-16. And Green still hasn't watched it.
"Don't even care," Green said. "I will never forget about it. Probably because that was the highlight of my career to the worst part of my career. That fast. High. Low. It was my first play-off touchdown. Big moment. I finally arrived. Stepping up in a play-off game. It's something to build off."
How weird is it all? Green has gone back and watched some play-off games he struggled in. But here, he was the toast of the town.
"This one was different," Green said. "We had that. We should have won that game."
And now there are other concerns as well as winning. Green and wife Miranda are expecting their first child Sept. 30, a son named Easton Ace Green. If that doesn't sound like a future first-rounder in about the 2038, then his nickname of "Easy," does . . .
The Bengals added veteran safety Jimmy Wilson to the derby that decides who'll back up starters George Iloka and Shawn Williams.
Wilson, who turns 30 Saturday, is clearly the veteran of a bunch consisting of seventh-rounder Clayton Fejedelem, sophomore Derron Smith, and Floyd Raven, an undrafted rookie last year who was cut in preseason.
The 5-11, 193-pound Wilson has five career interceptions and three sacks in 78 games. A year after the Dolphins took Wilson in the 2011 NFL Draft in the seventh round out of Montana, current Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle became Miami's defensive coordinator and from 2012-2014 Wilson made 20 starts for him that included a career-high 13 in 2014.
Then last year Wilson moved in free agency to San Diego, where he played in 13 games, with six starts and had 44 tackles, one interception, one sack and one fumble recovery. He signed with Kansas City back in April, but was released May 3 ...
On Tuesday head coach Marvin Lewis vowed that WILL linebacker and defensive captain Vontaze Burfict would play very little this preseason in order not to risk injury. He wasn't kidding. On Thursday the Bengals placed Burfict on the non-football injury list, which means he reported with an injury he suffered outside of team activities.
It's believed not to be a serious injury or one that has upset the Bengals' plans since Burfict's NFL suspension takes him out of the first three games of the regular season ...
Thursday was another chance for head strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton to marvel at the off-season work of cornerback Adam Jones. Jones, two months shy of 33, showed up with just 4.2 percent body fat.
"He's a lean guy anyway, but that's amazing. He's really figured out how to stay in great shape," Morton said . . .
Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, who lost 30 pounds himself this offseason, stopped by to chat with Jones at his locker but it's so early in the year that not even Jones was prepared to lobby for more punt returns.
Jones, an All-Pro returner two years ago who had huge returns last season in the come-back win over Seattle and the 16 unanswered points in the Wild Card game against Pittsburgh, says he doesn't have to catch a punt in the preseason to be ready to catch one in the Sept. 11 opener at the Jets.
But he knows sophomore wide receiver Mario Alford is going to back there a ton in the preseason in the competition to find Jones' backup.
"Darrin is going to put him back there a lot," said Jones, who has given Alford simple advice. "Catch it and run right away." . . .
A pair of first-rounders who haven't played very much because of injuries, right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi from the 2015 draft and slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard from 2014, are ready to prove they belong in the starting lineup.
Dennard, who has said he's here to win a starting job as well as the slot, dropped some weight after ballooning to 212 following shoulder surgery.
"I really don't think I had the chance that I really can show guys what I can do," Dennard said. "The little chances I did have to play on Sundays I think I showed glimpses of what I could do when I did have opportunities to make plays. It's definitely something I can do just by being consistent, being healthy. That's the main part. Just to have the opportunity to go out there and play." . . .
Cincinnati Bengals host Pre-Training Camp media luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium.