The last time the Ravens' secondary tried to bottle up Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green, he dashed past safety Matt Elam for a long touchdown catch.
During the All-Pro wide receiver's 53-yard score in the Ravens' season finale last December, Elam simply couldn't match Green's speed in the open field in deep coverage after no one bumped Green at the line of scrimmage. That allowed Green to reach his top gear easily and accelerate away from Elam during a Bengals victory that cost the Ravens a playoff spot.
They're determined to avoid a repeat scenario with Green on Sunday during their season-opener against the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Oh yeah, A.J. gets on top of people with the deep ball," said Elam, who has shifted from free safety to his natural strong safety position. "That's one thing we're focusing on in practice. If we just do our job, we'll contain him."
In five career games against the Ravens, Green has caught 21 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns. During a November overtime loss in Baltimore, Green caught a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown at the end of regulation that deflected off of safety James Ihedigbo's hands as he finished with eight receptions for 151 yards.
'We just need to be aware of where he's at, at all times," new free safety Darian Stewart said of Green. "We know what he's capable of."
Entering his fourth NFL season, Green has caught 260 career passes for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns. Last season, Green finished with a career-high 98 receptions for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"The last time it wasn't so much down the field quickly," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "He just ran straight down the field and ran right by us. It wasn't anything really mysterious about that, the one that he got behind us on. He's a great talent.
"They do a great job of moving him all around so that you can't ever really say he's going to line up as he acts. He can be the Z, he can be the slot, he can be all over. He can motion. He's extremely talented, probably one of the best in thie league, but we have to focus on a lot of people in this offense."
Green set franchise records with six 100-yard games last season. He joined Hall of Fame wide receiver Tom Fears for the fewest games played (38) to reach 200 catches, 3,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.
"There's nothing he really doesn't do well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "One of the things that jumps out to me is his run after the catch. They do a nice job of getting him the ball, not just over the top. They run double moves, they put him in every different position.
"They run him upfield and they throw the ball up to him. They hit him on crossing routes, they hit him on quick screens, they hit him on look passes. Anything they do to get him the ball in his hands where he can turn and get upfield is also somethign he does real well."
Stewart wasn't shying away from the challenge, saying the Ravens are going to prove doubters wrong on Sunday.
"They just don't know yet, they'll see," Stewart said. "We've got a hell of a group all-around. We're the game-changers. We know what we have to do. We're going to make plays back there."
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