BENGALS WR A.J. GREEN VS. BROWNS CB JOE HADEN
With Green, the Bengals Rookie of the Year candidate, practicing full go Thursday and Friday and listed as probable, Paul Brown Stadium should be in for a Draft Day special Sunday (1 p.m.-WLW-AM 700) when he tees it up against Haden, the second-year cornerback.
It's a rematch of their Opening Day joust in Cleveland when Green only caught one ball in his NFL debut against the bulk of Haden's career-high five pass breakups and it came when the Bengals quick-snapped the Browns and left their defense flat-footed. But it went for a 41-yard TD pass with 4:28 left and was the longest winning TD catch in NFL history by a rookie in his team's first game.
Green, the fourth pick in this last draft, and Haden, the seventh pick in 2010, have done just fine since. Haden leads the NFL with 16 pass breakups and Green's 635 yards and six TDs lead all rookie receivers even though he's missed the last six quarters with a hyperextended knee.
After 10 games, it's clear how much Green means to the Bengals. They've lost the last two games and quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown five picks without him.
Rob Rang, the draft guru for CBS Sports.com and nfldraftscout.com, scouted Green and Haden when they played against each other at Georgia (Green) and Florida (Haden) and checks in with his take on Sunday's matchup.
"This matchup alone would be worth the price of admission. Very rarely do you actually have the one player that the other team fears the most going against each other. And this one is particularly important because it figures to be a tight, low-scoring game.
"Haden is already one of the best cover cornerbacks in the league. He's as explosive and as athletic as A.J., maybe even more. Haden isn't Deion Sanders. He's a very good young corner, but he can still get beat. Yet he's also one of the few guys that can frustrate Green athletically and potentially limit him.
"The one advantage A.J. has is his height (6-4 to Haden's 5-11) and ability to jump. He's a spectacular athlete and he's already made some remarkable catches when it comes to jump balls and fade routes. The oldest truth is the perfect pass always beats the perfect coverage and it's impressive the kind of rapport Green already has with Dalton.
"I would think Green is going to play better than he did in the first game. That was his first game in the NFL and he's had (eight) more so he's doing nothing but learning and getting better.
"But I also think Green's not going to have to have big numbers for them to win. I would think the Bengals are going to keep it close to the vest and not try anything crazy, knowing that if they hold the Browns to under 20 points they're going to win. Just A.J.'s presence is important because it opens up whatever else they do, particularly the running game."