In three of the last four openers, A.J. Green has had at least 131 yards.
It's been a long time coming for the Class of 2011. Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) marks the first home opener for the draft class that gave you wide receiver A.J. Green first with the fourth pick and then quarterback Andy Dalton with the 35th.
Cincinnati Bengals feature Bengals All-50th team banners in Paul Brown Stadium
So it's fitting that when head coach Marvin Lewis sends out his youngest team since Green and Dalton were rookies, it's believed they'll be the offensive captains when they line up opposite the Ravens. Indications are the Bengals are going to start out the season with game captains instead of permanent captains, a tactic Lewis has used before. One of Lewis strengths as he heads into his 15th opener as the Bengals head coach is that he knows his players inside and out in this pass-the-leadership-torch season in the post Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko era.
Also emerging is left guard Clint Boling, a fourth-round pick in '11.
"It's multiple guys. That's one thing Marvin has touched on,' Dalton said before Wednesday's practice.
"We've had several guys step up to fill these roles. A.J. has done a great job, with the way he goes about handling himself leading this offense and this group. Clint Boling has done another good job, as a guy who has played in a lot of games. Its fun to see our draft class, the 2011 draft class, be some of the guys who have taken over this team and this offense. I wouldn't say there has been one guy who has filled that role, but we've had several guys work their way into this leadership position."
Boling, now the grizzled veteran on the offensive line with 77 starts with the departure of his good friend and locker room rock Whitworth, only has to go as far as right guard to find a guy that has been looking to him. Trey Hopkins makes his first start Sunday in four years, since he was a senior at Texas.
"The year I came in, Clint was coming back from ACL surgery and he helped me from day one. He's one of the smartest guys we have on this offense," Hopkins said. "He knows the offense like the back of his hand. He's always been a leader. Especially in showing preparation, just knowing what to do because he's one of the most aware offensive linemen I've ever seen in my life."
How ironic is this? Whitworth (LSU), Boling (Georgia, and Hopkins (Texas) all played under offensive line coach Stacy Searels. It was Searels who compared Boling's leadership skills with those of Whitworth after the '11 draft, and Hopkins can see it.
"There's no question that Clint has taken on that moniker," Hopkins said. "And he's keeping this group together."
There are those that like to classify the Bengals as young, but not at starter.
* *"When you're younger, you want some of your core positions to be a little bit older," Dalton said. "We're younger at the receiver position, but they've got a guy like A.J. (Green) to look up to, and Brandon LaFell, guys who have done it a long time and have done it the right way. Same thing with offensive, like Clint and some of the guys who have been here for a while, they've got guys to look up to. It's crazy that this is our next phase of our career, my career. I was talking with someone earlier, and some of these years are kind of running into each other as we were talking about which years things happened. It's just that progression of your playing career."
Trey Hopkins on Clint Boling (65): "He's keeping this group together.
_It looks a perfect storm for Green in his first game back since he missed last year's final seven games with a partially torn hamstring. Of his top 12 games, No. 1 (227), No. 9 (151) and No. 11 (131) have come in Baltimore. Of those 12, three have come on Opening Day: No. 4 with 180 last year against the Jets, No. 7 in Chicago in 2013 with 162, and No. 12 in Baltimore with 131. Simply put, he's gone nuts on the Ravens, once causing Ravens head coach John Harbaugh to muse after a loss to the Bengals along the lines of, "Maybe we'll cover him one time before he retires." On Wednesday in a conference call with the Cincinnati media he wasn't as funny, but just as concerned.
"I think I was the first coach to go on record to saying he was the best in the league and that was maybe five years ago, six years ago and I stand by that," Harbaugh said. "I think he's a great player and he's proven it."
Harbaugh may be surprised to learn that Green has nearly 100 more yards against the Browns (824) than the Ravens (726). But he wouldn't be surprised to learn Green averages 91 yards against Baltimore and 75 against Cleveland. In his last four games against Baltimore, which dates to 2013, he's gone for 151 yards, 61, 131, 227, and 34.
Naturally, he's received a lot of attention in Baltimore on Wednesday.
"People think he is just a one-trick pony. He is not just running the deep ball; he is not just going to run 'go' [routes]," said Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' brilliant pass rusher heading into his 15th season. "He is a pretty precise route runner. I don't think he gets enough credit for that, but we are not fooled over here. We have a young defense, but we also have a veteran one now. We have kind of seen everything. We know that he is not just going to run deep balls. They are going to give him the ball often and early."
Safety Eric Weddle, in his first year with Baltimore last season after coming over from San Diego, didn't play against Green when he missed both Ravens games.
"I always wish he was going to play. You always want to play against the best," Weddle said. "I've played against him a few times in my career, and obviously, [he is] one of the best – if not the best. [He's] just as talented as they come – route-running ability, playmaking ability. A guy like him, you have to know where he's at at all times. He can ruin a game – he's done it before, especially for us. We have to be on our toes, technically sound, and play good team defense to make sure he's not going to ruin our afternoon."
_The Bengals got that 53rd man Wednesday when they claimed defensive tackle Christian Ringo off waivers from Green Bay. They view the 6-1, 298-pound Ringo, the Packers' second of two sixth-round picks in 2015 out of Louisiana-Lafayette, as a guy that can play both nose tackle and the three-technique. He's classified as a second-year player after spending his entire rookie season on the Green Bay practice squad and playing eight games last year with seven tackles (three solos) and a forced fumble. No doubt he'll ge inactive Sunday.
_Safety George Iloka has handed out ATC ball caps to the secondary with the words "Air Traffic Control," under the letters.
"That's our little motto this year," Iloka said. "Just patrolling the skies." ….
Harbaugh on the Bengals' new pass rushers: "They look good. They've always been formidable as a pass rushing group. They've always had one of the best front sevens in pro football year and year out and they restocked the cupboard there a little bit with those young guys and they look really good. Those are guys we liked in the draft as well and they're playing really hard and really well for them." ...
_Iloka (knee), who didn't play in the preseason, says he's got the fresh legs of a rookie. In the first injury of the report of the year Wednesday, he was listed as full go, along with tight end Tyler Eifert (knee), starting running back Jeremy Hill (ankle), and wide receiver Tyler Boyd (hamstring). Staring safety Shawn Williams (elbow), backup wide receiver John Ross (knee) and back-up tight end C.J. Uzomah (ankle) were again on the rehab field and are trending to out for Sunday …
A visual look at the 2017 Bengals roster.