For the first time in Kyler’s professional career, he will have legitimate outside Wide Receivers on both sides of the field. Since 2011, A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins are both Top 5 in receiving yards and touchdowns while primarily playing on the outside.
Last season, Christian Kirk was the Cardinals’ primary “Z” WR. That’s the outside WR opposite of the “X” which was DeAndre Hopkins.
The Z is generally on the tight end side of the formation and off the line of scrimmage in order for them to both be eligible receivers, while the X is usually on the line and the opposite of the formation. Most teams put their WR1 at the X, or at least their best receiver at beating press, because he’ll see the most of it being on the line of scrimmage.
Similar to the slot, being off the line allows the receiver to go in motion and get in more favorable positions to avoid press and avoid some defense’s top cover guy. That part of playing Z was favorable for Kirk, but at 5’11” he doesn’t necessarily excel at the other aspects of playing Z, like winning outside.
Like Hopkins, Green was primarily the X receiver in Cincinnati. He faced most team’s best corner and dealt with a lot of press coverage.
The addition of the 6’4″ outside-target allows Kirk to move inside to the slot, where his skills should be better utilized. With Hopkins as the primary X, Green will get to be the Z for the first time in his career. This will allow for more advantageous opportunities and less CB1 jams at the line of scrimmage.
Last year Green struggled to produce at the level he’s accustomed to, with just 47 catches for 523 yards and 2 touchdowns. He got the pleasure of going through the regular rookie struggles with Quarterback Joe Burrow for 10 games, then got Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley as his QB the last 6.
9:22 3Q— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) September 17, 2020
Here's the overthrown touchdown to AJ Green. With this view, it looks like Vigil is maintaining outside leverage and passing off Green vertically. With Adderley shading 3WR side, Jenkins is only realistic option who should have carried Green vertical. pic.twitter.com/gPhrWvASj6
Needless to say, the poor season wasn’t all his fault.
Most Uncatchable Targets in 2020 🤏— PlayerProfiler (@rotounderworld) June 5, 2021
1️⃣ Jerry Jeudy: 42
2️⃣ AJ Green: 41
3️⃣ Keenan Allen: 39
4️⃣ Michael Gallup: 38 pic.twitter.com/0ZOEwVBBdo
Now 33 years old, Green isn’t in his prime anymore, but he can still win on the outside and he’s still reliable making contested catches on inside routes.
AJ Green may not be in his prime but he still has something left in the tank.— Damian Parson 🏈 (@DP_NFL) March 18, 2021
Still capable of winning vertically. This is a low risk signing. I believe Green paired with Hopkins will work. pic.twitter.com/9xBUGqD5tp
With improved Quarterback play and more favorable matchups, it’s not hard to imagine a revitalization in the desert in his new role with his new team. Green should end up filling a much-needed hole outside and opposite Arizona’s star WR DeAndre Hopkins.
What are your thoughts on how A.J. Green will perform in Kliff’s offense this year? Let me know on Twitter @Cardinals_ATB.