09/27/2013 12:31 PM
Joe Haden isn't staying up all night worrying about what Bengals receiver A.J. Green might do to him Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"It's not like we’re scared," the Browns cornerback said. "They have to plan for us, too. It’s not all about what they’re doing, it’s about what we’re gonna do to them. We have to come out and be aggressive and put hits on people. He’s really, really talented, but you've got T.J. (Ward) and (Tashaun) Gipson over the top, lurking, ready to come across the middle if he comes across the middle.
"I’m not just gonna run along with him and try to let him jump over me. It’s gonna be a really, good, intense matchup. It’s not a scared thing at all. It’s gonna be a battle. You gotta know sometimes they might get theirs, but you gotta be able to get yours a lot more."
And safety T.J. Ward takes exception to everyone assuming Green, a two-time Pro Bowler, will make his plays against the Browns.
“Who says he has to?'' said Ward. "That’s our job to stop him and try to make no plays out of them. But he’s a good receiver and we’ll see what happens Sunday. We have a great corner covering him.''
In four games against the Browns -- including three against Haden -- Green has caught 18 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns. He's averaged 19.1 yards per catch.
Some of his most memorable moments include the 41-yard touchdown in his first game as a rookie, a 27-17 victory in the 2011 season opener. The TD from Bruce Gradkowski came on a quick snap against a napping Browns defense and put the Bengals ahead for good. It was Green's only catch of the game, but he made it count.
In the second meeting that season, a 23-20 Bengals victory, Green leaped over Haden for a 51-yard strike that led to a game-winning field goal.
In the first meeting last season -- with Haden suspended for Adderall use -- Green caught seven passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in a 34-27 Bengals victory. Then, in Haden's first game back Oct. 14, Green erupted for seven catches for 135 yards and two TDs, his first multi-TD game. His final score was a 57-yarder against Haden, whose legs had turned to rubber after four weeks off.
But Haden got the last laugh when the Browns won, 34-24.
"We won, so I'll say I got the best of him,'' he said. "That last one, he got that touchdown. It was like third and 20 and that was my first game back from suspension. My legs -- done. I was finished. It was a good battle and A.J., he had a touchdown, so we're just excited, ready to get out there and get up on Cincinnati.''
Haden ranks the 6-4 Green as the second-best receiver in the league to Detroit's Calvin Johnson, who will invade FirstEnergy Stadium on Oct. 13.
“He’s just an overall great receiver with talent,'' Haden said. “He’s really tall, fast, runs good routes, goes up and gets the ball. He’s one of the best. He’s the best receiver I’ve been playing against since I’ve been in the league. And then with him and (quarterback Andy) Dalton coming in together, they have that chemistry and he trusts him.
"If you have a quarterback that trusts you, he’ll throw a jump ball to him. If it’s a situation he really needs, you know he’s going to go to 18.''
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who spent the past two seasons in Arizona with star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, believes Green stacks right up. Last season, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"AJ is one of the bright, rising stars in the AFC for sure,'' said Horton. "He's one of the young, elite, Larry Fitzgerald-type guys. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s not the fastest guy because he’s a bigger guy, but he catches everything that’s around him. He’s going to get his. You're not going to shut him out, and again, you want to limit those four shots, unwritten rule, that they take a game at you.''
After grappling with Haden over the past two seasons, Green can't understand why Haden hasn't joined him in the Pro Bowl yet.
"I feel like he’s one of the most underrated guys that gets no attention for being one of the best corners in the league,'' Green said on a conference call this week. "I'm so surprised he never made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro, because he’s been doing it for four years at a consistent basis. I really don’t understand why people don’t give him the benefit of the doubt to being one of the best corners.''
Coming from Green, that meant a lot to Haden.
"It’s special, just to hear him say that,'' said Haden. "Hearing that from him just [lets me] know that my work doesn’t go unnoticed. I try to come out there every week and have to go against players of his caliber, No. 1 receivers. You might not the get the recognition from outside, but in-house, your coaches know. And then it helps a lot knowing that the players you go against, your peers, they realize what’s going on too.''
Of course, Haden, who gives up five inches to Green, lost his shot at the Pro Bowl last season when he was suspended four games. But Green is convinced Haden should be there among the league's premier defensive backs.
"He’s probably one of the best corners I’ll face this season,'' Green said. "It’s always great to have a guy like that on the other side. You actually see where you measure up. He always plays me good, so it’ll be tough.''
Haden said the key is to limit the big plays.
"You don't want any deep balls, any passes over 30 yards,'' he said. "You don't want anything to go over your head. You want to be able to make sure you have AJ coming back to the quarterback, and if he does go deep, just make sure that you're there to try to be able to play. Just keep him in front of you. Keep all of their receivers in front of you."
But if Haden, who thinks the battles have been even, wants to be an elite Pro Bowl corner, he knows he has to fare well against Green.
“I look forward to it a lot,'' he said. "If you want to be the best, you have to go against the best. He’s one of those dudes that’s special, that don’t come along too much. There aren’t that many A.J.s in the league. You just can’t put too many people on his level. It's a really good contest and matchup and I like it a lot.”
And not one that keeps him awake at night.