Anxiety levels down, communication up for Cardinals WR A.J. Green
GLENDALE — A.J. Green’s first season in the desert can be looked at a couple different ways.
On one hand, the wide receiver led the team in yards per reception and had a very real chance of reaching 1,000 yards last season.
On the other side of things, Green’s chemistry with quarterback Kyler Murray appeared to be on a week-to-week basis, with evident miscues between the pair.
But now with a full season under his belt and and a better understanding of head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, Green is in a much better place than when he showed up to camp in 2021.
“Last year coming into camp, anxiety was through the roof, because now I know I’m the Z and then there’s no huddle, hand signals,” Green said Monday. “And I’m like, ‘Shoot this got me spinning.’ I’m used to lining up on the X and (it’s) you versus him, and that’s what I’m used to.
“I think it helped me mentally and physically to get in shape more and just continue to be a student of this game. … That’s what made (Larry Fitzgerald) so great, he turned from an X to a Z to a slot.”
Outside of a surprise appearance from Murray during a voluntary OTA session, training camp marks the first extended amount of time the duo has been on the same practice field in a team setting since last season.
Their continued rapport with one another was placed on the back burner after the QB tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. But despite Murray not being on the field for likely the rest of the week, Green remains confident in their relationship growing.
“Just talking, just getting comfortable with each other,” Green said. “I notice when I’m not in there, he’s telling me, ‘This is how A.J. is going to run it and this is what I want you to do on this route, A.J.’ We’re just more comfortable with each other and that came with time and being here another year.”
The enhanced communication doesn’t stop with Murray, either. Green has made it his mission to better understand what he needs to do, especially with No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins sidelined for the first six games of the season due to a PED suspension.
Green had a real shot at being the team’s lone 1,000-yard pass catcher in 2021, ending with 848 yards and three touchdowns on 54 catches (92 targets). If the communication aspect has really taken that next step with his QB and others, there’s a possibility he can reach that threshold this season.
“It started Day 1, we got back to OTAs and stuff like that. Everything’s being overcommunicated,” associate head coach and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said Monday. “Last year when A.J. came in, he had played in a traditional offense his whole time (in Cincinnati).
“Here, it’s taken a little bit of getting used to and of course we’re no-huddle, we’re flying and stuff like that. Signals are fast and stuff so it took a little while to get to. That’s one of the things we wanted to focus on this year coming in, is just be overcommunicating. Make sure everybody got it. … That’s what we’ve been focused on and so far so good.”