Fantasy Football Friday: A.J. Green’s Injury Opens Door Wider for Jermaine Gresham


Sep 7, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jermaine Gresham (84) tackled after his catch by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith (51) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was carted off the field after aggravating his big toe injury in practice on Wednesday, and now it looks like he won’t play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, according to ESPN’s Bob Holtzman.

Aside from the impact this development has on the Bengals this week and beyond, Green’s absence also has fantasy football implications.  In particular, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will need to reshuffle his options and figure out how to distribute the ball.  As Jackson told PFW, the Bengals have a lot of weapons left in their arsenal, but which ones will they deploy against the Panthers? 

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Jackson has long been touted as a run-first guy, but he has played to the Bengals receiving strengths so far this season, and the Panthers blah secondary provides an inviting target for quarterback Andy Dalton.  So, while an extended absence by Green might force the Bengals to shift to a stronger running attack, I don’t expect that to happen this week.

What that probably means for Sunday is that RBs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill will continue to see their share of passes, WR Mohamed Sanu will become the primary receiving target and Brandon Tate will get a chance to take some of the heat off his return game.  Rookie James Wright might finally get a target, as well.

My darkhorse to benefit from Green’s injury, though, is tight end Jermaine Gresham.  He is one of those maddening guys who have the perfect blend of size (6-5, 261), strength and athleticism to be a world-beater at his position, yet he has yet to put it all together into a really great season.   The major knock on Gresham over the years is that he drops too many passes, and he was at it again last Sunday against the New England Patriots, when he missed two easy catches that might have helped the Bengals avoid such an embarrassing (43-17) loss.

Still, this situation is tailor-made for Gresham to break out.  Everyone will be looking to Sanu as the main man, which should allow Gresham to settle into the role of a secondary option, giving a Dalton a big target when he needs one.  Averaging two catches and three targets per game so far this season, Gresham could easily see those numbers double.

This may be Gresham’s last best chance to shine, because if he can’t turn in a big performance this week under these circumstances, his playing time might start slipping.

In reality, the Bengals’ offense is balanced enough that the gap left by Green should not be crippling, and they will find a way to absorb the loss without overburdening any one player.