Bengals will try to keep 'fire' going while A.J. Green is out

CINCINNATI -- There was a difference in the Cincinnati Bengals' wide receivers after A.J. Green was carted off the field during the opening practice of training camp on Saturday.

When the team lined up for drills on Sunday, tight end C.J. Uzomah sensed a “fire” across the field, especially among the other receivers.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Green is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a torn ligament in his left ankle, leaving it up to the others to pick up the slack in the star receiver’s absence.

“You can definitely see maybe an increased sense of urgency in the way we do things as an offense,” Uzomah said before Monday’s practice.

Green was spotted in the Bengals' locker room riding around on a push scooter, with the injured left foot in a protective boot. Bengals coach Zac Taylor said they are still waiting for “some clarification from another doctor” before announcing a timeline for Green’s return.

When the Bengals lined up for Monday’s practice, a “maintenance” day that featured red zone drills, they were also without starting wide receiver John Ross. Ross, who is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, hasn’t participated in any of the Bengals' three practices.

With two key receivers out, Taylor said it gives younger players a chance to make the most of their opportunities.

“I’ve seen great effort, great attention from that whole room so far,” Taylor said.

But the Bengals' offense has worked around injuries to Green and Ross throughout the offseason.

On Monday, wide receiver Josh Malone was among those working alongside quarterback Andy Dalton and other key offensive contributors. Malone also received some one-on-one advice from Taylor, who was the Rams’ assistant receivers coach in 2017.

“It's hard to fill A.J.'s shoes, but if we can get guys like Josh to continue to make plays like he's doing, I believe we'll be fine,” receiver Tyler Boyd, who recently received a four-year extension worth $43 million, said on Sunday.

But replacing Green’s production will not be easy.

Since the Bengals drafted him with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Green has been one of the NFL’s most productive receivers, making the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons. And when he’s not on the field, Cincinnati has a tough time winning.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bengals’ winning percentage drops from .599 to .324 when Green hasn’t been on the field. Last year, Green missed seven games with a right toe injury, the longest absence of his career.

Quarterback Andy Dalton's production dipped dramatically without Green. With his star receiver, Dalton completed 64 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Without Green, those numbers dropped to 57 percent along with six touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Boyd’s output could also be affected in the absence of one of the league’s top passing options. Boyd averaged 17.5 fewer yards per game in the five games he played without Green last season.

In addition to giving more reps to other receivers, Green's injury has affected the Bengals' early practices in other ways. Uzomah said players are making sure they’re lining up exactly where they need to be, and routes aren’t being broken off in order to maintain the timing of each play.

“There is a sense of more eyes are on all of us when he’s not on the field,” Uzomah said.

Between the current receiver depth and the new offense Taylor is installing, Cincinnati’s receivers should have plenty of chances to show they can make an impact.

“If you're on the field, everybody is going to have a chance to make a play,” Malone said. “So always be ready and always come ready to play.”