Cincinnati Bengals second year wide receiver A.J. Green has quickly earned himself some stature in tghe NFL as a big time play maker. Last season, as a rookie, Green hauled in 65 receptions for 1057 yards and seven scores. He did this working with a rookie quarterback and in a completely new system all around in Cincinnati.
The Bengals are used to having big time receivers over the past few years however as they most recently featured the duo of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson (Ochocinco). both of these players tried to be bigger than life on and off the field. They were both known for their outlandish touchdown celebrations and strange antics with the media.
Green, on the other hand, seems to want to do most of his talking on the field. He has the size, speed and body control to do just about anything you could ask a wide receiver to do. He and second year quarterback Andy Dalton have developed a quick chemistry and Dalton shows complete faith in the young receiver, sometimes throwing the ball into double and even triple coverage, trusting that his man will be the one to come away with the ball. You could see the duo growing their chemistry as the season went on and now they have had a full off season to work together. Rightfully so, the fans in Cincinnati have a lot to look forward to.
So, with all that being said, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton will bring their Bengals to M&T Bank Stadium Monday night to face last seasons division champion Baltimore Ravens to open the 2012 season. The Ravens not only won the AFC North in 2011 but they succeeded in sweeping the division as well. They beat the Bengals twice. Once with Green and once without. The Ravens however have had their problems with top tier receivers over the years and if Green and Dalton have grown into a truly elite duo they could present a real problem for Baltimore.
That is why the Ravens used last seasons first round pick on corner back Jimmy Smith out of Colorado. Smith is also a physical specimen standing well over six feet tall with long arms and legs, perfect for your prototypical NFL shut down corner. In fact Smith and Green have done battle before at the collegiate level with Smith coming out as the unanimous winner in that contest.
The big difference is, now at the NFL level Green has been thrown right in as the teams number one receiving threat while Smith has been brought along slowly. Smiths progress was partially hindered due to an injury on the first play of the first game of the 2011 season, causing him to miss the first few games of the season all together. So, Although he was drafted to be the number one corner for Baltimore he spent much time last season as the number two or even nickle or dime back in some cases.
Covering the opposing teams top receiver was usually the job of fellow young corners Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb. Williams played admirably considering the tough assignments he was handed last season(his first year as a starter) but he was also beaten for some big, big plays throughout the season. Webb, on the other hand, played himself to, what should have been, a Pro Bowl season. He is best suited for the slot position where his physicality and quick hips help him cover some of the shorter quicker receivers in the league.
This brings to question: Who will cover A.J. Green week one? Is it time for jimmy Smith to take over as the Ravens "shut down corner"? Or, will Williams again be asked to contain the oppositions number one target? The Ravens could option to use their best over all corner to date Lardarius Webb to cover the speedy Green which could, in fact, be the best option.
I'm sure there will be certain packages in which each player is asked to cover any one of the receivers the Bengals choose to line up but you would have to think that each player would have one man that they are mainly assigned to and the toughest job, by far, will be Mr. Green.
So what do you think Ravens Nation? Who would you man up on A.J. Green?