The Redskins may be forced to cover one of the best receivers in the NFL without one of the best corners in the NFL.
Coach Jay Gruden is very familiar with the receiver, the Bengals’ A.J. Green. Cincinnati drafted Green in the first round in 2011, Gruden’s first year as the offensive coordinator there. In three seasons with Gruden, Green averaged 87 receptions, 1,278 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Green has done quite well in the wake of Gruden’s departure in 2014 to become the Redskins’ head coach. He is on pace for a career season, with 50 receptions for 775 yards through seven games. Stopping the Bengals offense means stopping, or at least slowing down, No. 18.
“A.J. is a different animal,” said Gruden. “You know, he is 6-foot-3-and-a-half, 6-foot-4. He’s very strong, and he’s got the ball tracking ability unlike anybody we’ve ever seen.”
The Redskins have just the guy to slow Green down under contract but Josh Norman’s status for the game is up in the air as he is in the NFL concussion protocol. The All-Pro cornerback will visit an independent neurologist later today. He may get clearance to make the trip to London with the team. But even if he does a setback of some sort could keep him out of the game.
MORE REDSKINS: RYAN KERRIGAN LEADS JERSEY SALES IN TWO STATES
If Norman can’t play, the Redskins will play a mix of coverages.
“A.J. has been pretty effective against just about any corner he’s ever gone against,” said Gruden.” And you have to do different things against him. You know, if you think we’re going to play Cover 0 with man-to-man the whole time, you’re going be really mistaken.
“We’re going to have to change up the coverages, figure out ways to beat him up a little bit at the line of scrimmage, and play a safety over the top from time to time, play a third, play somebody underneath him, and then play some man-to-man. We’re going to have to play some man-to-man eventually, whether it’s [Quinton] Dunbar, whether it’s [Bashaud] Breeland, [Greg] Toler, whoever it is if Norman doesn’t go.”
It sound like the Redskins are going to take a “kitchen sink” approach to covering Green or perhaps they haven’t yet figured out how to handle him.
Green is the best receiver the Redskins have faced since taking on Antonio Brown of the Steelers in the season opener. They had all offseason to try to figure out how to handle him and they had Norman but Brown still caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. So maybe they have to try to figure out how to win even if Green goes off.
And this season’s results show that’s possible. The Bengals are 3-4 despite Green’s gaudy stats. So teams are figuring out some way to mitigate the damage that the star receiver inflicts on a regular basis.