Cincinnati Bengals star A.J. Green represents the prototypical NFL wide receiver.
Big, strong, fast and gifted with immense leaping ability, Green has sure hands and an innate skill for route running.
In his first 40 NFL games, Green already has amassed 219 career receptions for 3,269 yards and 23 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound All-Pro caught a career-high 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
"He's got all the tools," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "The guy can go up and get the ball. He's strong, physical, fast, can build speed. This guy is a great receiver — that's the only way I can put it."
Heading into Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium, one of the few things Green hasn't done in two-plus NFL seasons is star against the Ravens.
In three career games against the AFC North foes, Green has nine receptions for 122 yards and no touchdowns. He played briefly in a meaningless regular-season finale last season and caught two passes for 26 yards.
That lack of production hasn't diminished the Ravens' respect for Green.
"He's a great receiver. Everybody knows that," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "You've got to know where A.J. is at all times. He's a big target. He can run all the routes. That's [quarterback] Andy Dalton's favorite guy. He can just put the ball up, and [Green] can make a play. That's the kind of guy you need."
Although Green leads the Bengals with 57 receptions for 862 yards and five touchdowns, the Ravens won't be able to simply employ bracket coverage and devote a pair of defensive backs to contain Green.
That's because Dalton has plenty of inviting targets to choose from. He can target tight ends Jermaine Gresham (33 catches, 321 yards) and Tyler Eifert (27 catches, 307 yards), wide receivers Mohamed Sanu (31 catches, 316 yards) and Marvin Jones (28 catches, 435 yards) or elusive rookie running back Giovani Bernard (30 catches, 267 yards). Plus, receiver Andrew Hawkins is back from injured reserve-designated to return.
"They've added a lot of weapons," Pees said. "They've got a lot of talent, and it's a good offensive line. It's not only Andy who has developed as a quarterback. I think they've just developed as an offense."
The Bengals rank ninth in total offense (380.2 yards per game) and seventh in passing offense (273.4 yards).
"It's been nice," Dalton said. "We've done a good job of getting guys in here that are playmakers. It's been big because it's not just A.J. making plays. It's a bunch of other guys doing it."
Still, Jones is the top playmaker. He caught a franchise-record four touchdowns in a 49-9 win over the New York Jets last month.
"A.J. is always going to be A.J., but he's got a lot of help," Ravens cornerback Corey Graham said. "Jones has come a long way making tough contested catches. You can't put all the coverage on A.J. It makes it a challenge for everybody."
Having fallen to 3-5 overall and mired in a three-game losing streak, the Ravens need a big game from their 14th-ranked pass defense (239.1 yards allowed per game).
"We're ready to take on the challenge," Webb said. "We're ready to get the stink off our back and play some ball and get a win."
Counting on Campbell
Behind the strength of quarterback Jason Campbell's right arm and ability to nimbly escape pressure, the Cleveland Browns snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Ravens last Sunday.
Now that the Browns have found a seemingly viable passer, they need the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week to get healthy over their bye week.
The Browns have a rough history of injuries at quarterback, losing starter Brandon Weeden to a thumb injury and Brian Hoyer to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament earlier this season. Campbell briefly left last Sunday's game with bruised ribs when nose tackle Haloti Ngata landed on top of him.
"This league is all about pressing on," Campbell, who had three touchdowns in the 24-18 win, told Cleveland reporters. "With the division we play in, I don't think anybody is playing at 100 percent. There are a lot of guys banged up and beat up."
In LeBeau they trust
Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the architect of the zone blitz, is frequently hailed as an innovator of modern defensive football.
But the Steelers' defense faltered badly in a 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots during which they yielded franchise records for points and yards allowed (610).
Pittsburgh players stand firmly behind LeBeau, saying it's not his fault.
"There's nothing anyone can say outside our group about Coach LeBeau that bothers us," safety Ryan Clark told Pittsburgh reporters. "We know what kind of man he is. We don't have to defend him. His resume speaks for itself."
Added cornerback Ike Taylor: "I am going to ride with Coach LeBeau until my wheels come off."
The 2-6 Steelers rank 12th in total defense heading into Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.
"We don't have the luxury of hindsight," LeBeau said. "You will see an improvement. We're leaving too many windows, and we're going to close the windows."
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