|Bengals WR A.J. Green caught four passes for 151 yards in two games against Browns CB Joe Haden last year. (AP Images)|
This past Sunday Elias confirmed Bengals A.J. Green became the first WR in history to reach 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns through his first 20 games.
Few have been able to stop him since the rookie out of Georgia since he entered the league last year. Yet, few know him better than Cleveland's Joe Haden .
Haden faced Green twice while at the University of Florida in the yearly SEC East rivalry. The rivalry renewed after a year off as both landed in the same division of the NFL.
Green's first game came against Haden, who held the rookie in check for the majority of a Cincinnati victory until a quick break of the huddle caught the Cleveland defense out of position for a 41-yard game-winning TD reception for Green. It would be his only reception of the day.
Later that season, Haden held Green in check much of the day in Cincinnati until Green broke across the middle and defied gravity to snag a high pass on the final drive for a 51-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal.
Here are Green's statistics during their four matchups in college and the NFL:
- 2008 Cocktail Party, Florida 49, Georgia 10: 5-91
- 2009 Cocktail Party, Florida 41, Georgia 17: 3-50
- 2011 Bengals 27, Browns 17: 1-41 (game-winning TD)
- 2011 Bengals 23, Browns 20: 3-110 (51-yard reception to set up game-winning FG)
Without Haden in the first meeting between these two, Green caught seven passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. With Haden, the setup of the Cleveland defense stands to transform into more one-on-one coverage. No matter who stands across from Green, that look will always draw the attention of Andy Dalton.
“It's a matchup that we like,” Dalton said. “A.J. we feel like he is talented and we can put him against anybody.”
Green (6-4, 210) owns a size advantage on Haden (5-11, 190), but the Browns star makes up for it with his quickness and reaction time. Green ranks Haden among the best he's ever faced and only names like Darrelle Revis and Johnathan Joseph come up in the same conversation.
The biggest advantage that played out in Haden's absence during Game 1 was with so much attention spent attemtping to contain Green, too many other Cincinnati receivers were left in advantageous matchups. Brandon Tate caught a 44-yard TD pass in one-on-one. Andrew Hawkins made a spectacular 50-yard catch-and-run without a defender able to track him in space.
The advantage lessens elsewhere with secondary support less concerned where No. 18 lines up.
“He's going to be on A.J. so our other guys are going to have to step up,” Dalton said. “We have to do that this week and we have to hit the big plays.”
Green and Haden don't talk as friends, only before games, but this matchup is cloaked in respect.
“He knows what I do and I know what he does,” Green said. “He knows my strength. Just a battle, we are just going to be out there grinding we are going to see what happens. Definitely have respect for him because he's a great player in this league. You have to respect him.”
The greatest challenge with Haden comes when the ball hits the air. Marvin Lewis defines Haden as not being “cumbersome around the receiver.” When the ball hits the air, Haden and Green looking to make a play will be as good as it gets in today's NFL.
“You would say (Haden) is bred to be a cornerback,” Lewis said. “He's got speed, he's got length he can play the football in the air. Great ball skills. He has a real feel around receivers.”
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