Ranking A.J. Green's 10 Best Plays with the Cincinnati Bengals

Max Garland@@MaxGarlandNFLContributor IIIJuly 2, 2014

Ranking A.J. Green's 10 Best Plays with the Cincinnati Bengals

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    Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is just three seasons into an incredibly productive NFL career, and he already has at least 10 list-worthy catches to his name.

    From his gifted grab against the Baltimore Ravens that put the game into overtime to his ridiculous one-handed touchdown versus the Kansas City Chiefs, Green has kept Bengals fans and NFL fantasy owners happy and entertained since 2011.

    In ranking these plays, three primary criteria were considered, one being the most important:

    1. Impressiveness of the play itself

    2. The amount of difficulty due to defensive excellence

    3. The amount of athletic ability displayed during the play

    One thing to keep in mind is that touchdowns are prioritized, as it is much tougher to recover from a receiver making an unfair catch in the end zone than one making an unfair catch in the middle of the field.

    This list is by no means definitive, and debate is encouraged. Just remember, only 10 spots force plenty of worthy plays off the list, especially for a decorated receiver such as Green.

Honorable Mentions

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    Green and Mohamed Sanu trick Washington's defense

    In 2012, Green had the best statistical game of his career against the Washington Redskins, with nine receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown. He received that touchdown by torching DeJon Gomes via a nice pass by wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in the Wildcat formation on the game’s first play. The trickery is entertaining, but the play itself worked because of defensive incompetence.

    Green gives Chris Houston a problem

    An 82-yard long ball versus the Detroit Lions, shown in this GIF, gets the Bengals off on the right foot. Green simply shakes off Chris Houston’s back rub—no, sliding off someone’s body that easily does not constitute as a tackle attempt—and scurries into the end zone without a Lion nearby. It’s on the highlight reel for sure, but like the touchdown against Washington, plenty of credit should go to the defense.

10. Green Burns Atlanta Deep

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    Green’s speed and height makes a simple “go” route one of the deadliest weapons in football. Shown in this GIF, the 50-yard touchdown in a 2012 game versus Atlanta looked like a play in the backyard.

    With plenty of time to throw the ball, Andy Dalton launched the football to Green, and the 5’10” cornerback, Asante Samuel, didn’t stand a chance. He did manage to drag Green down, but the Georgia product’s wiry arms and forward momentum made the play a well-deserved touchdown.

    This play shows off Green’s excellent deep speed; however, the catch was routine and Samuel didn’t put up much of a fight until the end (albeit better than what Gomes and Houston tried to do in the Honorable Mentions). It’s a standard long bomb that Cincinnati fans will be enjoying for the next several years.

9. Green's Arm-Stretcher Versus Buffalo

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    Green looks like a stick figure compared to Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones. Luckily, he’s one of those stick figures with disproportional arms that can reach whatever is necessary.

    In 2011 against the Buffalo Bills, Green uses his entire lengthy frame to catch an off-target toss from Dalton. His ability to adjust to the football, grab it and maintain possession throughout is on perfect display in the video above. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin had no idea where that football was going, but Green is on a different plane altogether.

    The catch itself is easily the best we have seen so far, which is valued more in these rankings than yards gained. However, touchdowns get extra imaginary points, so that bumps this play down the list slightly.

8. Hail Mary Catch Against Baltimore

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    In November 2013, a lucky touchdown at the last second gave the Bengals new life versus the Baltimore Ravens. Green, of course, was the recipient of this play. The moment would not have even made this list if Baltimore just knocked the ball down, as the host in the video above pleaded.

    This Hail Mary is certainly one of the most memorable plays of Green’s career, even though he simply capitalized on a gift from James Ihedigbo. There is at least a 90 percent chance that someone will discredit this list for including it in the first place. But hey, a game-tying touchdown as time expires is a game-tying touchdown as time expires.

    The play is not higher because it sounds so much cooler looking at the game log. When watching the actual play, I felt a little disappointed; however, it tops the Bills catch because the significance of the moment, and the memorability of the play, is much more notable.

7. Tip-Toeing the End Zone in Denver

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    The top wide receivers are those that just need the ball tossed near them to make good things happen. This is especially true in the red zone, where limited space means speed is less important than focus and guile. Even in his rookie year, Green could do great things with less room for error.

    In 2011 against Denver, shown in the above video, Green snatched a high-flying Dalton pass in the end zone, even though the Broncos cornerback was in good position. What makes this play impressive is how Green nails his landing with not even an inch between the end zone and the sideline. His rapid-fire reaction allowed him to put both feet in bounds.

    This tops the previous plays because the cornerback challenged Green so much more, and Green had to work hard throughout the entirety of the play. It’s the type of acrobatics he has been showing off since his Georgia days.

6. Green Lays out Against the Jaguars

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    Green’s absurd catch against the Jaguars two years ago, shown above, incites memories of the catch versus Buffalo. This time, however, he fully extends horizontally rather than vertically.

    Green and his stretchy arms get another workout by snatching a Dalton pass fired too far to the left. He then reels the ball in and maintains possession.

    The stakes here weren’t very high, and the cornerback simply lets Green have another one for the highlight reel. The play itself and the athletic ability displayed are top notch, however.

5. A.J. Beats the Unbeatable Earl Thomas

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    It’s one thing to make a catch that could be performed in shorts at practice. It’s another thing entirely to battle with the NFL’s best secondary in their formative years, and come out on top.

    Just skip to :55 in this video to see what the buzz is all about.

    With top safety Earl Thomas draped all over him at CenturyLink Field, Green maintains his focus, and he tracks and catches the ball deep over the middle. Thomas drags him down, but it is too late—they’re already in the end zone.

    That play happened over two years ago, and Thomas is clearly a much better player now; however, he challenged Green excellently which makes the play that much more impressive, and the best deep catch on this list so far.

4. Green Grabs It Behind Leodis McKelvin

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    The highlight of this play is Green posterizing poor Leodis McKelvin, who was also “featured” in No. 9 on this list.

    That alone would not put this play into the top half of the rankings, however. After the ridiculous catch around McKelvin’s head, Green shakes off the cornerback, jukes another player near the sideline, shakes off another tackle, until he is finally taken down 24 yards from the end zone.

    So Green transformed from a top tier wide receiver into a punt returner making defensive backs look silly, all in the span of one play. Ridiculous.

    This play has all SportsCenter could ask for, and addresses each of the criteria in the first slide. The only nitpick is that there is a touchdown bias in these rankings, which is what the next three are all about.

3. Green Takes Chris Cook to School

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    In this video it’s easy to see that Dalton is eyeing Green the entire way, and he expects the Pro Bowl wideout to get it no matter the circumstances. That’s even if the defender commits pass interference.

    That’s what happens here. In this 2013 blowout versus Minnesota, Green slows down the ball with one hand, and readjusts as he is falling to get possession and the touchdown. This is all while cornerback Chris Cook is interfering with him. Green’s concentration when the football is in his range is one of his top assets.

    This play is an impressive juggling catch that resulted in a touchdown, but Green doesn’t have to battle two defenders or the sideline like he does in the top two plays.

2. Green Battles Steelers in the Sky

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    In his rookie season, Green made a Calvin Johnson-esque play against one of the most feared secondaries at the time, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    As seen here, Dalton launched a rocket to Green near the end of the first quarter that traveled more than 40 yards. It was a jump-ball situation in the end zone, but Green had the height, athleticism and youth to snatch it away from Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.

    Green’s ascension to a higher plane of football greatness came at the cost of injuring himself, but he proved his mettle against a veteran secondary determined to thwart the rookie.

    The catch was great, the challenge by the defender even better, and Green showed why he was worthy of being the first receiver drafted in 2011.

1. Green's Ridiculous One-Hander Against the Chiefs

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    The No. 1 play of A.J. Green’s professional career, starting at 2:47 in the above video and seen in this GIF, shows off the traits that make him one of the best receivers in football.

    It starts off with Green’s eyes, which never lose sight of the ball even though Javier Arenas is determined to mess with his concentration. Then, Green makes an incredible one-handed catch away from his body as he is falling. This all happens in a split second while Green is as close as possible to being out of bounds, but he still manages to keep his feet in and maintain possession. Touchdown.

    This play tops every other reception Green has ever made in Cincinnati. It has the catch. It has the contest. It has the athleticism. It has everything necessary to be No. 1.

    Ranking all of these plays took lots of thinking, but Green’s touchdown grab versus Kansas City required no thought at all in regards to its placement.