Cincinnati Bengals: Does Andy Dalton Make A.J. Green Better or Vice Versa?

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2011

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 11:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals  throws a pass during the NFL game against Houston Texansat Paul Brown Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Both Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have had phenomenal rookie years. The numbers reflect that for the both of them.

Dalton has completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,833 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He's also rushed 26 times for 89 yards, five first downs and a touchdown. Very good numbers for a rookie coming in from a spread system.

Green has 55 catches for 891 yards and seven touchdowns. Phenomenal numbers for a rookie.

However, both quarterback and wide receiver rely on each other to get those numbers. If Dalton doesn't get him the ball, Green can't catch it, and if Green doesn't catch it, Dalton can't get completions.

Obviously, you can't completely separate one from the other, even by the numbers, but we can come close.

For Dalton, what I've done is remove A.J. Green from the equation. I've subtracted the number of catches A.J. Green has from Dalton's completions and subtracted the number of targets to Green from his attempts.

When you do the math, when not throwing to Green, Andy Dalton completed 190 of 338 passes. That bumps his completion percentage down to 56.2 percent.

Not a huge difference, right? For further comparison, in the one game that Green didn't play (vs. Baltimore), Dalton still completed 53 percent of his passes.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 11:  A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass while defended by Johnathan Joseph #26 of the Houston Texans during the NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/G
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While this seems like a useful metric, it doesn't help much without a control. So, let's take a veteran quarterback—Tom Brady—and remove his No. 1 target (Wes Welker) and see how it compares.

Tom Brady's completion percentage, before adjusting it, is 66.1 percent. After the Welker subtraction, it goes down to 63.5 percent. That's a drop of 2.6 percent (compared to the 2.8 percent drop when you subtract Green).

Essentially the same. That tells me one thing about Dalton: Green is not the only reason he's successful. Apparently, Dalton only relies on Green slightly more than Tom Brady relies on Wes Welker, and no one would argue that Welker makes Brady.

Now, that is not to completely dismiss Green, either. Comparing the number of targets to the number of catches can also show us the percentage of the passes that wide receivers are catching.

Green has caught 71.4 percent of his targets and averages 16.2 yards per catch. Welker completed 72.9 percent of his targets for an average of 13.4 yards per catch.

If you've ever watched a Patriots game, you know that Welker catches a lot of short passes and then adds yards after the catch. That isn't A.J. Green's style. Green catches almost all of his passes downfield.

So, what can we say about Welker vs. Green? Green catches slightly fewer passes, but he also catches them further downfield and, as good as Dalton is, I'm willing to bet Welker is asked to make a lot fewer difficult catches with Brady throwing him the ball.

So, am I saying that A.J. Green is a better wide receiver than Wes Welker already? Absolutely. And he's just a rookie.

What we can take away from this: First, Andy Dalton is not overly reliant on A.J. Green. Even without Green, Dalton has respectable numbers. Second, when Green is playing, Dalton plays better. Third, Green is an absolute phenom.

Neither Dalton nor Green relies on the other to be good, but both benefit from each other. And as they mature as players, that connection will continue to grow. Dalton is good, Green is great, and each makes the other better.