If Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is going to bounce back from the least productive game of his young career, he is going to have to do it against one of the best cornerbacks to ever play in the NFL.
Champ Bailey, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and certain Hall of Famer, will draw the assignment on Green in what figures to be one of the more intriguing matchups Sunday when the Denver Broncos (4-3) face the Bengals (3-4) at Paul Brown Stadium.
“It’s a great challenge for me,” Green said. “He’s probably one of the best corners to play this game.”
Bailey has more career starts (200) than Green has receptions (109). And even in his 14th season at age 34, Bailey still is playing well enough to slow — and in some cases, shut down — top wide receivers.
“He can still run,” Green said of Bailey, a fellow University of Georgia product. “He’s kind of got long, long arms. He likes to get his hands on you. He’s been around the block a lot.”
Only once this season has a player recorded more than 72 receiving yards against Bailey and the Denver defense. That was Atlanta’s Roddy White, who caught eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in a 27-21 Falcons win in Week 2.
The rest of the numbers are paltry.
- Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, four catches for 37 yards, TD
- Houston’s Andre Johnson, 2-72, TD
- Oakland’s Denarious Moore, 4-71
- New England’s Brandon Lloyd, 3-34
- San Diego’s Malcolm Floyd, 5-60
- New Orleans’ Marques Colston, 5-63
“Champ Bailey is still playing very, very well and doing good things,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who coached Bailey as Washington Redskins defensive coordinator in 2002.
“He has tremendous athleticism, great ability to study and understand and wants to be the very best, and has done it for a long time,” Lewis added. “So just speed, athleticism, long arms, hips, feet — all that goes into it. Great vision, great ball skills, he tackles, he’s physical and likes to play that part of the game. As I said when I got to coach him, it was a lot of fun. He comes to work every day ready to work with a perfect attitude. A stud.”
Green is coming off a game where he caught just one pass for an 8-yard touchdown in a 24-17 loss to the Steelers.
It was only the second time in his career he was held to one reception, with the other being his NFL debut in Cleveland last year when his only catch was for a game-winning 41-yard touchdown.
Green came back the following week and caught 10 passes — which still stands as his career high — for 124 yards and a TD against a Broncos team that was without Bailey due to a hamstring injury.
Bailey told Denver reporters this week he’s eager for his first chance to go against Green.
“It’s no secret that he’s one of the best,” Bailey said. “And he’s emerging to be the best. There are a lot of guys that see the ball go up, but they don’t know how to get it. He’s probably the best in the game at going up and getting it.”
Because of his emergence as one of the game’s top receivers, coupled with the fact the Bengals haven’t been able to find a consistent threat to line up opposite him, Green has been getting a lot of attention in coverage this season. But that could change Sunday.
“They’ve got Champ, so I’m hoping to see some single coverage,” he said.
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden hopes so, too.
“It will be fun to watch,” Gruden said. “I know Champ is looking forward to it. He has shut down a lot of receivers in his day. This would be another notch on his belt I’m sure. I think he’s been in the Pro Bowl more years than A.J. has been playing active football. I know A.J. is very much looking forward to it. He looks forward to every matchup, but this one is I’m sure special.”
The Bengals made a couple of roster moves Friday, placing second-year linebacker Dontay Moch on season-ending Injured Reserve due to chronic migraines and activating rookie linebacker Emmanuel Lamur from the practice squad.
Moch missed all of last season with the headaches, but they appeared to be behind him. He made his NFL debut Oct. 7 in Cleveland and witnessed the birth of his first child three days later. But the migraines returned earlier this week.
“It’s a shame,” Lewis siad. “They’re still trying to figure out why. For a guy who Wednesday wanted to know, ‘Coach, what do I have to do to get a chance to play,’ I don’t know what brings on the headaches. It’s something he’s going through, and we don’t have a great solution for it right now. You obviously can’t ever count on a guy until that’s resolved.”
Lamur signed with the Bengals on May 14 as an undrafted college free agent out of Kansas State.