Cardinals WR AJ Green has only one goal: To win in the playoffs
AJ Green was unable to turn back time. It looks like it.
“He just turned 34 and he’s playing like he’s 25,” Cardinals assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Sean Jefferson said. “He has very good genetics. …He also had a really good foundation when he came into the league in terms of footwork, understanding coverage, understanding the leverage of a DB and how to use it against him .
“He really kept himself in shape. It kind of keeps Mother Nature at bay, along with the fundamentals it has. And having a good base, he is still able to be a constant contributor.
Despite missing a game due to COVID last year in his first season with the Cardinals, Green was third on the team in total receptions (54), second in receiving yards ( 848), led the team with an average of 15.7 yards per catch and tied for first with 16 receptions of 20 or more yards.
He did this despite changing position from a wide receiver X to a Z and coming to a completely different kind of offense with a fast-tempo, no-huddle system that relies a ton on hand signals.
“Man, last year coming into camp, my anxiety was through the roof,” Green said. “…I was like, ‘Man, this made me spin. I used to line up on the X and it was you against him. That’s what I was used to. I think it helped me get in shape mentally and physically and be a better student of this game.”
As for being able to stiffen up Mother Nature, Green laughed and said he was just trying to take care of himself.
“I love playing the game,” he said. “I have a family, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I just live a very simple life and it keeps me young. I only focus on football, my wife takes care of all the other things, so I keep my mind free.
Green, however, remains a deceptive threat to opposing defenses as he has a huge catching radius thanks to his 6ft 4in frame and his ability to mount and trap passes in both traffic and the along the sideline. He’s also faster than you think, which gives him another advantage.
“You’re absolutely right,” Jefferson said. “You see it in practice. He doesn’t seem to be running. This is deception you are talking about. He doesn’t really look like he’s running because he has such a long stride, but he can still run.
When Green entered the NFL from Georgia as the Bengals’ first-round pick in 2011, he immediately became a superstar. He had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, became the only receiver in NFL history to start a career with seven straight Pro Bowl selections, and he made it all easy.
Making the playoffs in each of his first five seasons, he said, made him feel “like a cakewalk.” But that was not the case. The Bengals have never won a playoff game in Green’s 10 seasons in Cincinnati and he’s still waiting to experience the thrill of winning a playoff game.
It’s one of the reasons, he said, he chose to re-sign with the Cardinals for another year because he’s a big believer in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense at how he will continue to use it and how he thinks Arizona is still a contender.
If that means moving around and lining up in different places with the rest of the Cardinals’ receivers, he’s okay.
“I just want to help out and be a winner and play as long as possible,” Green said. “Anything I need to do to help. I got the numbers, I already got all the individual accomplishments, records and yards and stuff like that. What I miss is making a big run in the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl. It would really help me. »
The thought of retirement didn’t really cross her mind. Green, whose 13 touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards ranks second to DeSean Jackson (21) since 2011, said he never set a goal for how long he would like to play.
He’ll know when it’s time, he said, “when I don’t feel like coming here and training every day.”
“I’m always excited to come and train and compete every day,” he added “…I don’t feel like I’m in grade 12 and I’m 10 years older than next receiver.”
Green was asked how he would react if the Cardinals had a deep playoff run like he hopes, including possibly a trip to the Super Bowl in February, which will be played at State Farm Stadium. Would that make him consider calling it a career?
“I’m probably going to want more, just to take the next step,” he said. “I still love the game, so I can’t walk away now.”
Do you have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Contact McManaman at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch.
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