Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Is lack of Dalton-Green chemistry hype?
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- A.J. Green had just played one of his best games in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform. But it meant very little.
"It's not a great game, man," the receiver said while changing into dress clothes inside the visitors locker room at Chicago's Soldier Field. "Not when I had a hand in a turnover and a dropped pass and coming out with a loss. I don't care about my stats. I'm going to have my stats regardless."
He wasn't upset with his quarterback following that Week 1 loss on Sept. 8. He wasn't frustrated by the routes that were called for him. He was simply mad at himself for not doing quite enough to allow the Bengals to pull out a narrow road win.
They only lost by three, 24-21.
In the weeks since, Green has become the unfortunate, classic example of what can happen when a player sets a high personal ceiling so early in a season. He hasn't come close to matching that same level of production in the subsequent four games, causing some to question not only how good he is, but how tight the relationship really is between Green and quarterback Andy Dalton.
But is there really something to that perceived lack of chemistry? Or is it just all hype? At the bottom of this post, we took a look at a few numbers that might indicate it isn't as much of an on-field issue between the pair as some might assume. Together, they still have been quite productive, and have the opportunity to put up the best numbers they've had since they joined the organization.
One look at game tape from the 17-6 loss at Cleveland two weeks ago, though, and it becomes clear why that connection has been challenged.
During the loss, Green could be seen tossing his hands up after misfired passes, slowly jogging back to the huddle following incompletions and scowling on the sideline at the conclusion of failed drives. Asked Wednesday if there was a lack of chemistry between he and his star receiver, Dalton shook his head.
"Teams are playing him differently, so we've got to find different ways [to get him the ball]," Dalton said. "A lot of teams have been trying to take away some of the deeper throws with him. We've got to take our chances with some of these other guys, though. He's not the only guy who can go deep for us. We've got other guys that can make plays. Teams are going to play him differently just because he's so good at what he does."
In the Bengals' next game, this past Sunday against New England, Dalton attempted 27 passes. In an effort to prove how much he wants to get away from strictly passing to Green -- he went in Green's direction 15 times against the Browns -- Dalton directed 15 of his 27 throws to his tight ends and running backs. The other 12 went to his receivers. Of those, eight balls were thrown Green's way. He caught five of them.
When it comes to going deep downfield, there is a little something to what Dalton said. Yes, teams are using safeties and corners to effectively double-team Green. Yes, cornerbacks are getting outside leverage on him, effectively jamming him near the line of scrimmage, taking away any shot to sprint downfield untouched.
But the overall numbers suggest that Green is still every bit as productive on balls thrown 10 yards or more.
If Green keeps his current pace, he would catch 29 such passes this season. That would be just three off his career high. Green has also been targeted 28 times on such passes, putting him on pace for almost 90 for the season, which would far eclipse his previous season high of 74.
Of course, many of these projections could change based on anticipated changes to the Bengals' offensive scheme. Both Dalton and coordinator Jay Gruden have expressed interest in having a more balanced system that includes more throws to other receivers and more rushes for the backs.
Still, the numbers suggest that Green and Dalton continue to hook up downfield -- it's just that they haven't had much to show for the times they have connected.
Much has been made of Dalton's apparent knack for passing in short-yardage situations. (He kept 17 of his 27 throws under 10 yards on Sunday.) But even while he has been throwing his share of screens and underneath routes, the statistics show that he is throwing downfield more than he has in any other season. It also shows that he hasn't been effective doing so.
So, is the lack of Dalton-Green chemistry all hype? You be the judge.