A.J. Green's ballyhooed return has been a ghastly affair through five games.
The 32-year-old receiver has brutally struggled after missing all of last season due to an ankle injury. In five games, Green has complied 14 catches on 34 targets for 119 yards and zero scores. The past two weeks have been particularly gruesome. In those two tilts, Green generated one catch on six targets for three yards.
Sunday's loss to Baltimore seemed to boil up bad tidings. Green earned zero catches on one target while playing a season-low 42 percent of the snaps (28). The one target was a massive overthrow by Joe Burrow, which led to an interception.
Given his role in the offense, Green was asked Thursday if he wants to remain in Cincy beyond the Nov. 3 trade deadline.
"Yeah, of course," he said, via Ben Baby of ESPN. "I think we're building something special here."
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported on NFL NOW that Green has not requested a trade.
Like a Boomer at a Gen Z party, Green looks completely lost in the Bengals' offense.
Even if Green wanted a trade out of Cincinnati, it's doubtful any team would pay for an aging receiver who can't get separation, is fighting the football, has a history of injury and is earning $17.9 million this year on the franchise tag. At most, the Bengals could cut the veteran as a parting gift for his years of loyal service if Green truly wanted out, which he insists he doesn't.
Green said a sideline video of him appearing to say he wanted a trade was inaccurate. The veteran did, however, admit he's frustrated.
The receiver, who injured his hamstring in training camp, added that it's not the injury that's holding back his production.
"It's fine. It is what it is. I'll be able to push through it," he said.
Whatever the issue, it's clear Green and Burrow haven't found a rapport. The rookie QB has taken blame for those struggles, but it's not as if Green is torching DBs regularly only to see balls go elsewhere.
Per Next Gen Stats, Green has earned a minuscule 1.7 yards per separation, fewest among all receivers in 2020 with at least 25 targets. He's generated 3 yards of separation on just 14.7 percent of his routes and 5 yards of separation on 2.9 percent, both are second-fewest among all receivers with 25-plus targets. Green's 41.2 percent catch rate is also worst among pass-catchers.
Green's 43.4 expected catch rate is also the worst in the NFL (min. 25 targets), which underscores the struggles between Burrow and Green finding chemistry.
Despite the frustration, Green hopes his role in the offense increases naturally.
"I don't want them to force me anything," he said. "I'm just happy to be back out there. I know it's going to come over time."
As Green tries to figure out his place in the Bengals offense, Higgins will continue to see a larger and larger role in the offense even if A.J. catches more than one pass every fortnight.