For the better part of the last decade, A.J. Green has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. As he prepared to hit free agency, landing with a Super Bowl contender on a cheap deal seemed most likely. Whether the Arizona Cardinals fit that bill can be debated, but Green had landed in the desert on a one-year deal.
After missing the entire 2019 season with an ankle injury, Green had the worst season of his career in 2020. He played in all 16 games, but tallied just 47 catches (on 104 targets) for 523 yards and two touchdowns. He struggled to build rapport with Joe Burrow, then Burrow going down with a torn ACL. Add in his own decline, and Green looked like a shell of what he was.
Green had the eighth-most air yards in the NFL last season (1,478). And, depending on the source-Air Yards.com or Player Profiler, he had either 955 or 939 unrealized air yards. By yards of separation per target, yards after the catch and other similar-style metrics, Green was a bottom-tier wide receiver last year.
Green will surely benefit from the presence of DeAndre Hopkins. On the whole, the Cardinals’ offense will be far better than Cincinnati’s was last year. The peak version of Green is gone, but he can still be a useful player.
Here are three way-too-early bold predictions for Green in 2021.
3. A Career-High Catch Rate
Green’s catch rate was obviously a career low last year (45.2 percent). But his career catch rate is lower than might be expected (57.4 percent), in part due to being more of a downfield guy.
In Arizona, Green will get a huge upgrade at quarterback in Kyler Murray. Per Next Gen Stats, Murray had at least a league average passer rating to every area of the field last year. He was well above average on deep throws across the field.
Green can’t cut it loose deep and separate anymore. But his ability as a route runner will be put to better use by the Cardinals. A 70 percent catch rate is well within reach in 2021.
2. At Least 60 Receptions
With a missed season in 2019, and missing 13 of 32 games between the 2016 and 2018 campaigns, Green has topped 60 catches in a season twice since 2015.
Assuming he plays all 16 games, as he did in 2020, Green should be able to get less than four catches per game.
1. 10 Touchdowns
Even as his health and effectiveness has eroded, Green has remained a solid red zone weapon. Last year was the first time in his career he didn’t average at least one red zone target per game (nine red zone targets, according to Rotowire).
If they manage his snaps, the Cardinals would do well to make sure Green is on the field when they’re in the scoring area. Plugged into the league’s 10th-best red zone offense from 2020, and Green gets to double-digit touchdowns again in 2021.