OWINGS MILLS - In college, A.J. Green was known as a receiver capable of pulling off something spectacular any time the ball was thrown his way. The Cincinnati Bengals' young star has quickly established a similar reputation in the NFL.
The fourth pick in the 2011 draft out of Georgia, Green is one of the NFL's premier young playmakers. A rangy and athletic player with tremendous ball skills, the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Green caught 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.
Finding a way to slow him down will be a key point of emphasis for the Baltimore Ravens as they head into their Monday night season opener against the Bengals.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh referred to Green as "maybe the best receiver in football" on Tuesday.
"Incredible athleticism," Harbaugh said of Green. "If you throw a ball anywhere near him ... he finds a way to go grab it. He's got an amazing catch radius. He's big, tall, long and can get behind a defense very quickly."
Green, teaming up with a fellow 2011 draft pick in quarterback Andy Dalton, averaged 16.8 yards per catch last year. He had at least one catch of 35 yards or more in nine of the 15 games he played.
"I think A.J. Green is a special talent," Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said. "The guy can go down the field and he can go across the middle."
Pollard offered a warning to the young Green, though.
"When he goes across the middle, he has to see us," Pollard said. "And that's not taking anything away from him, but this is what we live for. When we see receivers coming across the middle, if we're in the right defense, we are going to smack you, and we are going to let you know you came across the middle on the wrong team.
"Having said that, if you miss him, he can hit a home run."
Green was sidelined for the Bengals' first matchup with the Ravens last season and was limited to just two catches for 26 yards in the second meeting, but Baltimore struggled with top-tier wide receivers during this preseason.
Atlanta's Julio Jones grabbed six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in just one quarter of work during the Ravens' first preseason game. Detroit's Calvin Johnson pulled in five for 111 yards and a score in barely more than a quarter of action just a week later.
Baltimore's first-team defense yielded more than 330 passing yards during those first two preseason games, surrendering 11 passing plays of 15 yards or more during that span.
The Ravens downplayed the numbers, but Harbaugh acknowledged Tuesday that Green and the Bengals will be a good test for Baltimore's pass defense.
Dalton threw for a combined 605 yards in his two games against the Ravens last year, although he had only one touchdown to go along with three interceptions.
He threw for 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a rookie last season.
Cincinnati doesn't have a clear No. 2 wide receiver after allowing Jerome Simpson to leave as a free agent, but is excited about the potential of second-year player Armon Binns, who will likely rotate with fellow young player Brandon Tate opposite Green.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham will see plenty of targets as well.
Gresham had 56 catches for 596 yards and six scores last season.
He led the Bengals with five catches for 72 yards during their second meeting with Baltimore.
"[Green's] not their not only weapon," Harbaugh said. "It's a very talented group."