Bengals’ Dalton-to-Green becomes one of NFL’s top passing tandems

Published 1:31 am Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Associated Press


CINCINNATI — Even when A.J. Green is closely covered, Andy Dalton doesn’t hesitate to throw his way and let the 6-foot-4 receiver try for a spectacular catch.

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Already, there’s a chemistry and trust between the Bengals’ top two draft picks.

Cincinnati’s rookie combination is fast becoming one of the NFL’s best. They’ve connected for five touchdowns, the fourth-highest total through nine games for any NFL rookie duo since 1970, when the AFL and NFL merged.

“These guys are not just ordinary rookies,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “These guys are special players and special athletes and special at their positions.”

They may not get a chance to add to that touchdown total this weekend in Baltimore. Green hyperextended his right knee while making a 36-yard touchdown catch Sunday against Pittsburgh and sat out the second half.

He was limping slightly on Wednesday and said it’ll probably be a game-time decision whether he plays against the Ravens.

Both teams are 6-3. The winner moves into a first-place tie with idle Pittsburgh (7-3) in the AFC North.

Green said he had an MRI that found a bruise. He lay on the field when he landed hard on his right leg Sunday after catching the ball in the end zone between two Steelers safeties.

“They say I dodged a bullet — just a bone bruise,” Green said. “Everything looks good. Just time and rest, a lot of treatment and I’ll be fine.”

He was one of nine Bengals held out of practice on Wednesday. Green doubts he’ll play if the knee feels the same as it did on Wednesday. Also, he’s concerned about making the injury worse.

“If it takes one game to sit out, hey, it’s better than sitting out a whole season,” he said.

Without Green, the Bengals’ passing game declined. There’s no one else that Dalton trusts the way he does Green, who showed from the first workout in training camp that he can adjust to the ball and catch it over a defender.

Green is usually his best option.

“If we can get him one-on-one or in a chance where he can out-jump some people, we will take that shot,” said Dalton, a second-round pick from TCU. “We will take our chances with that one. It has paid off for us a couple times.”

Green, the fourth overall pick in the draft, proved dependable during training camp, when he made acrobatic catches routinely and out-jumped defenders for the ball. Dalton trusted him on Sunday, lobbing a pass into the end zone even though Green was bracketed by Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.

“It just starts from practicing, building that confidence he has in me that if the ball’s in the air, it doesn’t matter who’s on me, I’ll go up and try to make the play,” Green said.

Both rookies are well ahead of the rest of their draft class.

Green leads NFL rookie receivers in catches (41), yards (635) and touchdowns (six). Four of his touchdowns have been on receptions of 35 yards or more, a sign of his ability to outrun defenders.

Dalton has thrown 14 touchdown passes, the most by a rookie through nine games since the AFL/NFL merger, according to STATS LLC. Dan Marino and Peyton Manning had 15 touchdown passes after their teams’ 10th games. Manning set the rookie record with 26 TD passes in 1998.

“I don’t think you put them in the same category that you put other rookies,” Gruden said.

Notes: CB Adam “Pacman” Jones’ non-jury trial scheduled to start Thursday morning in Hamilton County Municipal Court is expected to get pushed back. He’s charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for an incident at a downtown bar in July. Jones has pleaded not guilty. … Jones (groin), CB Nate Clements (knee), S Chris Crocker (knee) and Green were among the nine Bengals held out of practice on Wednesday.