Cincinnati Bengals: Put A.J. Green in bubble wrap until the regular season

A.J. Green suffered what is believed to be a sprained ankle at Cincinnati Bengals training camp, which means he needs to be protected at all costs.

There are no doubt viable concerns about the Cincinnati Bengals entering the 2019 season. New head coach Zac Taylor is an unknown, the defense has a litany of question marks and an already questionable offensive line has seen Jonah Williams be ruled out for the year and Clint Boling retire. A.J. Green, however, is supposed to be one of the steadying forces of the roster as a whole.

When on the field, the veteran wide receiver has been a consistently productive force, putting up at least 1,000 yards in every season in which he’s played more than 10 games (and even almost doing so in 10 games during the 2016 season). However, the issue of staying on the field is at question.

Last season, a toe injury limited Green to only nine games for the Bengals and surgery ultimately ended his season prematurely. He was still productive when on the field, catching 46 balls for 694 yards and six touchdowns. But Green not being available as the top option for Andy Dalton was evident in the offense.

That leads us to the first day of training camp for Cincinnati where Green suffered a lower-leg injury that saw him carted off the field. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Bengals believe it’s an ankle sprain but will get an MRI to confirm:

The big things to note here are first that it’s not confirmed as an ankle sprain. However, Rapoport’s information and comments from Bengals teammates seem to indicate that it’s not anything too serious. On top of that, though, it’s vital to take the note about the team being cautious with Green to heart.

Though Dalton and the Bengals offense do have solid weapons in recently extended wideout Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon, there’s no mistaking the importance of Green to this team. As he gets on the wrong side of 30 years old, though, the receiver’s health should be of chief importance.

With Taylor coming in as a first-year head coach, some may reason that Green needs to get plenty of reps to pick up a new system. However, when you’re looking a veteran player of Green’s talent, that should be less important to the team than just keeping the Pro-Bowl caliber pass-catcher available and healthy.

For the remainder of training camp and the preseason, the Bengals need to be treating Green with kid gloves. Let him ease his way back from this injury, keep him away from the majority of contact drills and, more than likely, don’t let him sniff the field in the preseason.

Next: NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs rule pre-training camp

Again, the expectations for the Bengals may not be all that high. However, if they are going to show any real signs of optimism, Green likely needs to be a part of that. To ensure that is the case, they must do everything in their power to keep him protected in the build-up to the regular season.