Ravens face a tall task in shutting down A.J. Green

November 16, 2011|By Matt Vensel

Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who has six touchdowns in nine games, is clearly on the minds of the Ravens defensive backs who will be tasked with shutting him down this week. I chatted with Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Haruki Nakamura at the Castle on Wednesday, and each raved about the rookie.

Green’s status is up in the air for Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium after he suffered a knee injury in last weekend’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But if Green plays Sunday, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis seemed optimistic that he will, the Ravens will face the type of tall wide receiver that has victimized them in the past (though it’s not like they are the only defense that has had trouble with lanky receivers with sub-4.5 speed).

At six-foot-four, Green is a major reason why the Bengals rank in the top half of the NFL in red-zone offense. Three of his six catches inside an opponent’s 20-yard line have been touchdowns, including two inside the 10.

Let’s take a look at how the Ravens have fared against notable wide receivers who are six-foot-two or taller.

In Week 2, Tennessee’s Kenny Britt had nine catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. Mike Sims-Walker, who was with St. Louis in Week 3 and Jacksonville in Week 7, had four catches for 47 yards combined. New York’s Plaxico Burress had three catches for 33 yards. Houston’s Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walker teamed up for 10 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald hauled in three receptions for 98 yards.

Last weekend, Sidney Rice had two catches for 14 yards before suffering a concussion in the third quarter.

Outside of the outbursts by Britt and Fitzgerald, the Ravens, who are sixth in the league in pass defense, have slowed down tall, physical receivers this season. Credit starting cornerbacks Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb for that. Their strong play has kept rookie first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith in nickel and dime packages.

The battles between Smith and Green are going to be fun to watch down the road, but it doesn’t sound as if Smith will be draped all over Green, who is 13th in the NFL with 635 receiving yards, on Sunday. So it will be up to Williams, Webb and the safeties to shut down Cincinnati’s Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

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