Michael Irvin flanked by his wide receivers in Sunday's Pro Bowl. From left to right: Jacksonville's Allen Robinson, Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Houston's DeAndre Hopkins, Atlanta's Julio Jones.
KAHUKU, HI - Finally, it is A.J. and Julio down in the same schoolyard.
After a decade of being measured back-to-back like twins since they were school kids in South Carolina and Alabama, the Bengals' A.J. Green (6-4, 210 pounds) and the Falcons' Julio Jones (6-4, 220) are on the same team in Sunday's Pro Bowl (7 p.m.-ESPN) and both start at wide receiver for quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston
"We've been compared since high school," said Jones after Thursday's first practice of Team Irvin. "We did our thing in college and now we're doing our thing in the NFL. We keep doing it each year. We feed off each other. I think come Sunday there is going to be a 1-2 out there."
Of course, neither will say who is No. 1 and who is No. 2 after five years they came into the league together. Michael Irvin, the old receiver who is their coach Sunday, prefers to say both are headed with him to Canton. And this is a comparison of grownups. Two non-divas that have helped shape the no-nonsense approach of this generation's receivers.
"I feel like we're great in our own way," Jones said. "We are both like the same guy. We just chill. . . . We feed off each other."
The recent numbers say Jones has the edge because he's currently feasting on a huge year leading the league with 135 catches and 1,871 yards. Green has never had 100 catches or 1,500 yards, but he's been remarkably consistent and durable.
"The key is being healthy," said Jones, who lost the last 11 games of 2013 when he broke a screw in his foot and still scored on a 46-yard catch later in the game.
And Jones needed the big year to finally make the stunningly close five-year comparison look like this according to profootballreference.com.
In 76 games, Green has 415 catches and 6,171 yards for a 14.9 yards per average on 705 targets with 45 touchdowns. In 65 games, Jones has 414 catches for 6,201 yards for a 15 yards per average on 648 targets with 34 touchdowns.
Jones has done it in fewer games, but Green has more 200-yard games (2-1), has helped lead a team to the postseason all five years (Jones two) and three weeks ago he did what Jones hasn't done and put his team ahead with less than two minutes left in a play-off game with a touchdown catch.
Take your pick.
Take in the sights of the Pro Bowl including the Draft and the first practice.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/NFL
Green, as always, is polite and deferential. Back in 2011, he was picked fourth in the draft, Jones went sixth. On Wednesday out here, Jones went first in the draft and Irvin got Green on the rebound.
"He had a great year," Green said. "(The rivalry has) been blessed since day one. In high school we were in the All-American Game, but we were on different teams. But we've been friends. We worked out together coming out (of the draft) and he spent some time with me and my wife (on the set) when we both did a thing for Gatorade."
Told it's intriguing, Jones said, "It's really intriguing to watch him make plays for the same side."
Green on his favorite part of Jones' game: "He can run any route and with his size and yards after catch, he's dangerous."
Jones on what he likes best about Green's game: "The way he goes after the deep ball."
In a sport awash in trash talk, both of them shrug and say neither has to be considered better.
"We talk. We hang out," Jones said. "I don't see it as a competition and I think he has the same mindset."
A SNAP: The one of the seven Bengals not on Team Irvin, special teamer Cedric Peerman, is not a stranger on Team Rice. Long snapper Morgan Cox of the Ravens has spent his six seasons reading scouting reports about Peerman twice a year so he felt pretty comfortable with his personal protector during Thursday's first practice.
On Wednesday they were paired together signing autographs at Schofield Barracks and Cox got to know the guy behind the scouting report.
"He's been a handful for us. He's just a load on punt rush," Cox said. "He's' such a smart player and it really is an honor to be on the same team with him. Then you meet him and you find out why he's the player he is and what kind of guy he is."