Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio NFL Lens examines the near-perfect technique of A.J. Green on a difficult target versus a top cornerback.
There may be 8-12 receivers you might want ahead of A.J. Green in a hypothetical team-building scenario and for various reasons that have validity. Yet, if Green is not among those 8-12 receivers as part of the discussion, you’ve failed.
It was true seven years ago and it remains true today: As good as Julio Jones is, I’d still take A.J. Green first. The Bengals receiver isn’t the runner Jones is, but he’s a more well-rounded route runner, withstands physical play with the ball in the air as well as any receiver in the league, and catches the ball better than Jones.
This target with Aqib Talib in coverage isn’t a flashy play but it’s a near-perfect display of hands technique and spatial awareness of Talib’s position and strategy.
One of the points I didn’t mention in enough detail was Green’s hand position. I noted the thumbs together and the fingertips-first catch, but I didn’t underscore the importance of Green beginning his approach with his thumbs together well before his hands even reach the highest point of the extension to the ball.
I don’t see receivers do this often. Most raise their arms towards the ball and the hands work from a wide position and work inward. Invariably, receivers with this starting point never get their hands close enough together to meet the ball.
One hand often earns more contact with the ball than the other and it can lead to juggled passes. Green’s thumbs are together before he begins extending his arms. As a result, his thumbs stay together and his hands are in a better position as the ball arrives.
With Talib attacking Green’s arm, there’s little chance Green maintains possession of the target if he didn’t make the catch with both hands. It’s the precision of the earliest details in the process that create stable fundamentals throughout.
It’s among dozens of tiny reasons that Green is a great receiver.