BENGALS WR A.J. GREEN VS. DOLPHINS S RESHAD JONES
BENGALS CB ADAM JONES VS. DOLPHINS WR JARVIS LANDRY
The two Bengals Pro Bowlers are looking to use Thursday night's stage against the Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium (8:25-Cincinati's Channel 12 and NFL Network) for redemption after a couple of plays last Sunday against the Broncos left them fuming.
And they're going against two red-hot players. Landry is coming off two straight 100-yard games and leads the NFL with 24 catches while Jones wrecked Cleveland on Sunday with three of his 10 tackles for a loss.
Jones, one of the defensive captains who prides himself on understanding the game, went back to the tape and saw how Denver wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders slipped by him for that 41-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
"I just play my game, have fun, let the plays come to me," Jones says. "I wasn't my normal self."
After dropping a huge third-and-three pass on the sideline with 6:06 left and the Bengals trailing, 22-17, Green stayed at his locker to openly flog himself for any media member that approached. He was still doing it before Tuesday's walk-through.
"I have to take on the double teams and get other people in position," Green says. "But when I get the chances I have to make the plays."
As leaders of a club that has made it to the postseason five straight years, they both know what Thursday means.
"We haven't started 1-2 for a while," said Green, who has only done it once and that was his rookie year of 2011. "It would definitely be tough if we go down 1-3."
Now we're talking ancient history. They haven't had a start like that since going 0-8 in 2008 with a sidelined quarterback and they haven't lost three straight since they lost four straight in 2012 during a streak that started in a PBS loss to the Dolphins about this time of year back on Oct. 7, 2012.
But the locker room appears thankful they only have to wait four days to get another chance to make it right. Even if the recovery period is dauntingly short.
"Mentally you know what it is," Jones said. "You get it once a year. Dig deep. It might hurt a little bit, but you get three days off to rest."
It doesn't leave them much time to get the house in order for old friend Vance Joseph, the Bengals secondary coach the previous two years who is on the fast track to a head coaching job. The Bengals defense knows Joseph has been telling the Dolphins offense everything he knows about it, which is everything. And the Bengals offense knows 60 minutes against Joseph is going to be a draining chess match.
In his two seasons under Joseph, Jones went to one Pro Bowl and should have gone to another.
"I can't tell you in words what VJ meant to my career," Adam Jones says.
Green knows exactly what it means for him Thursday.
"I definitely know VJ has a plan for me," Green said. "I do know it's going to be a good plan. I've been around VJ awhile. I know how he thinks. "
Green and Joseph used to talk about how teams would try and stop Green with certain coverages and certain techniques. So would anybody be surprised if Joseph rolls out on Thursday a cover two zone tilted toward Green against a Bengals running game he knows to be inconsistent and struggling at the moment?
That's what Denver did and while Green made some big catches on his way to a 77-yard day with eight receptions, the longest one went for only 20. He hasn't made a catch longer than 21 yards since his dive-and-pluck off the sidelines against a stunned Darrelle Revis in the opener three weeks ago.
That's the only time the Bengals have hit 20 points this season and the first time in three years they've gone back-to-back under 20.
"It's mostly the mistakes we're making. We've been killing ourselves a little bit. We have to be more consistent," Green said. "Since I had that first game (180 yards vs, man-to-man coverage) people don't want me to beat them. A lot of people roll to my side. That's what I have to expect … I have to take double teams and open up stuff for us."
It's old home week for Green. Not only does Joseph know everything about him, he's going against a guy that went against him every day at Georgia and Green is amazed as anyone that Reshad Jones made his first Pro Bowl only last year.
"I knew he was going to be a big-time safety. He's shown it," Green said. "He's like Tasmanian Devil out there. Pick-sixes, tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He's all over the place. They do so many different things with him. They put him in the box, who knows where he'll be."
Three guesses and the first two don't count. You have to figure Joseph is going to put Jones over the top of Green to help out a veteran corner trying to adjust to a new team, Byron Maxwell, and a rookie corner trying to adjust to the league, second-round pick Xavien Howard.
Meanwhile, Adam Jones is eying another recent high pick in Landry, the 5-11, 206-pounder from LSU.
"He's a good receiver. He's very dangerous after he catches it," Adam Jones said. "He's not that fast, but he's very good with the football."
Jones heard the cackling from the Denver locker room that they baited him with double moves. And this is where the competitor comes out.
"There was no baiting," Jones said. "I was right there. He gave me a little push on the separation at the end. It's not like he ran by me. Go back and look at the film and he gave me a little nudge at the top. That created the separation. It was killing me. I was trying to figure out how he got over the top of me."
Green is also getting the edge on. He clammed up on what he expects from Joseph. He knows he's got an all-night mind battle.
"I can't tell you because he'll try to change it," Green says. "He'll definitely have a plan."
This is where the competitor comes out.
"Just keep playing," said Adam Jones, who forced a huge fumble on the first drive of the second half. "You've got to keep playing."
Cincinnati Ben-Gal Cheerleaders perform during the Denver Broncos vs Cincinnati Bengals game 9/25/16 Photos taken by Steve France