Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green watched it all Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and after Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Jaguars he said he’s only looking at when he can return and play for the first time this season and not at the Oct. 29 trade deadline.
But he’s not saying that’s next week in London against the Rams. He’s not even saying if he ran routes before the game. But he did say his ankle is feeling better than it did Saturday. And he says the team’s record won’t dictate his return.
“There’s always (trade) speculation. ‘You can use this for draft capital.’ Not just me. All around the league. I already know where I stand, what I mean to this team,” said Green of head coach Zac Taylor’s No Green Deal declaration earlier this month. “I don’t want to say I’m ready to play because if I don’t play y’all will think I’m milking it.”
Yes, he wants to get back and play for this team. His ankle has to be 100 percent. Just like he knows he can make a difference for them.
“Big difference. I feel like when I’m out there everything plays different,” Green said. “I think everyone knows. My presence, I think, creates a lot for everybody.”
Green saw it all. The 33 rushing yards, two by the running backs, the career day by slot wide receiver Alex Erickson (eight catches for 137 yards) and the massive frustration of wide receiver Tyler Boyd with five catches out of 14 targets for 55 yards, plus a couple of drops and a tone-setting trying-to-do-too-much fumble to start the second half. Green sees defenses taking away the run with loaded fronts.
“It’s tough to run against those kinds of fronts,” Green said. “But we’ve got receivers that can make plays like Alex and (Auden), so I don’t think that’s the problem. We just haven’t got that going yet.”
Green said he’ll reach out to quarterback Andy Dalton after that rough fourth quarter. As a captain, he figures his rehab can also give guys something to see.
“Andy’s a strong guy. He knows what he means to this team, he’ll be fine,” Green said. “The worst situation brings out who you really are. That shows who’s really here for football. If it’s not, it’s going to show. For me it’s just keep pushing, keep encouraging them. For myself, no matter what the record is I’ll work my butt off to get back on the field. That’s who I am as a person. I’m going to keep working and hoping they just look at what I’m doing trying to get back out there.”
_There’s no mystery why the Bengals are 0-7. That was on display Sunday. They’re last in the NFL running the ball and they had 33 yards rushing, only the 12th game in franchise history they’ve had that or fewer. Three of those games have been this season and one was last week, when they also had 33 in Baltimore. They’re also last defending the run and they gave up 216 in the third straight game they’ve allowed at least 200 yards rushing. It’s the first time they’ve done that in 50 years when the Bengals, in their second season, gave up five of those games.
“That’s our Achilles right now,” said safety Shawn Williams. “We have to stop the run and I don’t know what else we can differently.”
Taylor is looking for the same answers trying to get the run game going on offense. Running back Joe Mixon, the defending AFC rushing champion, is clearly as frustrated as everybody else with 12 yards on 18 carries in the last two games. Two yards on ten carries Sunday. This from a man who was 4.9 yards per. The capper was a run in the fourth quarter where Dalton and Mixon collided in the backfield. Taylor openly wondered about people going in the wrong direction on run plays.
“We’ve got to be accountable in the run game,” Taylor said. “We called some runs — we get the pictures on the sidelines — (and) they’re good runs, and we lose the point of attack right as the (running) back is hitting the line of scrimmage. There’s a big hole there, and at the last second, they’re beating us up front one-on-one. That’s what’s frustrating because you’re in second-and-nine, second-and-10, or you get an efficient play on first down and then call a run, and it’s everybody — the linemen, the backs, the tight ends, the play call — it’s everything, (and) it (all) factored in to this game. We’re going to look at that tape, and we’re all going to have to take ownership of how we ran the ball in that game.”
_It had to be the worst fourth quarter of Dalton’s career. Three picks, the first the 10th red-zone interception of his career, and the second the game-breaker, the 23-yard pick-six on a screwed up screen with 4:18 left to make it 24-10. Dalton said if he had thrown the ball further in front of Boyd in the red zone, it’s a completion. The screen, which Dalton threw to no one because he had to unload when the pressure blew up almost immediately, appeared to be the product of the receiver, running back Giovani Bernard, getting walled off.
“He’s got to get the ball out of his hands, and there’s a guy right in his face,” Taylor said. “That’s one of the ones that goes down as an interception, and really, that’s on the whole unit right there.”
Dalton: “Sometimes you have to anticipate those screens. You see him get out, and then he runs into a lineman.”
_Taylor got the obligatory is he ready to make a change at quarterback question and that would appear to be no.
“That’s not something I’m going to talk about right now,” Taylor said. “You know, it’s fresh after the game, (and) when the (starting) quarterback has a tough game, it’s the first question. But we’re just going to keep it steady now.”
_The Bengals got a big game out of their defense and their brand new trio of starting cornerbacks made some plays until the Jags’ grinding 78 plays began to take its toll late. On the first drive of the game, cornerback B.W. Webb could have given them a 7-0 lead on a pick-six off a tipped pass by right end Sam Hubbard. But Webb, who is playing with a cast on his broken forearm, saw it bounce off the arm. He went full circle. After Dalton’s red-zone interception with 8:25 left, Webb almost got the ball back three minutes later in great field position at the end of the game on a third-and-seven chance that was harder than the first chance, but he got his hands on it.
Webb didn’t use the cast as an excuse on either play.
“I have to make those plays. That’s all,” Webb said.