A.J. Green is back for another season with the Arizona Cardinals, but the veteran wide receiver knows he needs to play better than he did in 2021. In particular, Green knows he needs to establish a stronger rapport with quarterback Kyler Murray.
Green recently gave an interview during which he revealed there was a problem with his and Murray’s chemistry last season. It’s not a rift, but Green feels like he and his quarterback need to talk more about what they expect from each other on the field.
The Cardinals likely expected more from Green after snapping him up on a one-year deal last offseason. He arrived with a reputation as one of the NFL’s best, following nine productive seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, but instead Green only managed to score three touchdowns for his new team.
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Green Keen to Fix Communication Issues
Green has given an interview to Arizona Sports 98.7 for an episode of the “Big Red Rage.” It’s set to air on Thursday, April 21, but Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com has relayed some of Green’s comments.
Specifically, Urban transcribed Green’s response when the wideout was asked about doubts he and Murray were in lockstep last season: “That’s fair. That is 100 percent fair. I felt the same way. That’s where I have to be accountable. I need to go to him and tell him what I see and (him tell me) what he needs me to do better. I can take it – ‘A.J., run the route at this depth. You need to do this.’ I’m no bigger than the team. I need him to communicate with me, and I’ll do the same.”
To his credit, Green made himself accountable for what Urban called “his chemistry” or lack thereof, with Murray: “There is a lot of room (for growth). For me, it’s communicating with him what I see, and what he wants me to do and how he wants me to run this (particular) route. I think last year there was a lacking on my part. I didn’t really communicate with him about stuff like that because I didn’t want to put a lot of stuff on his plate.”
There is obvious room for improvement after Green made a mere 54 catches for 848 yards. Those meagre numbers were out of character for the wideout who enjoyed six 1,000-yard seasons in Cincinnati.
Green was expected to draw coverage away from Murray’s No. 1 target, DeAndre Hopkins. He was also being counted on to provide Murray with a genuine field-stretcher.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Green rarely exhibited his talent as a deep threat, save for this play against the Houston Texans in Week 7, highlighted by Andy Kwong of SB Nation’s Revenge of the Birds:
Getting more moments like this from Green will be the key to making his career with the Cardinals work. There’s no quick fix, but Green is ready to take the direct route with Murray, per Urban: “For me, it’s being more in his face, talking together. ‘A.J. you need to do this better,’ and I’ll be like, ‘OK, I’ve got to do this better.’ Don’t be hesitant when it comes to my play. ‘A.J., you need to pick this up.’ The second year is going to be big for that.”
Smoothing over a relationship with a key member of his supporting cast will be another test of Murray’s leadership. It’s a timely challenge during the signal-caller’s standoff with the Cardinals’ front office over a new contract.
Murray’s Leadership Brought Into Focus
Green hinting at difficulties communicating with Murray will bring the latter’s ability to lead into focus. Not everybody is impressed by Murray’s efforts.
He hasn’t made the best start to mending any fences that might need mending with Green, according to Jody Oehler, host of “The Drive” for Fox Sports 910 Phoenix:
Oehler was referring to Murray’s decision to stay away from the start of voluntary workouts. Although NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported other veterans have taken the same step with the Cardinals’ knowledge, Green intends to be a “regular attendee,” according to Urban.
Not all of Murray’s teammates are as concerned about his absence, though. Running back James Conner brushed off Murray no-showing when asked, per PHNX Cardinals podcast host Bo Brack:
Football work may not be taking place yet, but there’s a spotlight on Murray as he and his agent push for a lucrative, long-term contract extension. Rapoport’s colleague Tom Pelissero recently reported Murray’s rep Erik Burkhardt withdrew a proposal and is still waiting on a counter from the Cardinals and general manager Steve Keim.
It’s just one more chapter in an ongoing saga that began when Murray temporarily scrubbed his social media of any mention of the Cardinals, a decision he later regretted. Doubts about the 24-year-old’s maturity and “body language” were reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Whatever Murray is thinking, the irony is the Cardinals have done a lot to put enough talent around him to help deliver a championship. This offseason alone, Keim has re-signed Green, Conner and tight end Zach Ertz.
Combining this trio with Hopkins and second-year roving weapon Rondale Moore gives the Cardinals one of the best offenses in football. It’s on Murray to show he’s committed enough to getting the best out of himself and those around him.
Murray has rarely had a problem producing on the field since being drafted first overall in 2019. In three seasons, he’s thrown 70 touchdowns and rushed for 20 more.
A strong and vocal show from Murray that he’s ready to meet skill players like Green and Hopkins halfway, would let Keim instead focus on bolstering a shaky defense in this year’s draft. Elevating the unit to the level of the offense would surely put a Murray-led Cardinals team in a stronger position to compete for a championship.