Antonio Cromartie must control Bengals' A.J. Green
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - How exactly is Antonio Cromartie supposed to contain A.J. Green?
It's simple, according to Dennis Thurman.
"Put his hands on him and pray,'' the Jets' defensive coordinator said Thursday, drawing a laugh from the audience.
Last week's win over the Patriots was an emotional test of wills between AFC East rivals. But the Bengals pose even more matchup problems for the Jets (4-3) than New England did. And Green, who ranks in the top 10 in receiving yards (619) and receptions (43), is one of the best wideouts in the game.
Cromartie said Green reminds him "a lot'' of the retired Randy Moss.
"And also a little bit of Calvin Johnson,'' Cromartie said, referring to the Lions' top weapon. " . . . Just how those guys attack the ball, and also they're a deep-ball threat.''
But Green is just the tip of the iceberg.
Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best in the league, recording 23 sacks in the past 39 games. And thanks to the 6-1, 303-pound Atkins and fellow defensive tackle Domato Peko (aka "the kid with the hair,'' in Rex Ryan's words), the 5-2 Bengals boast a top 10 run defense that allows 97.9 rushing yards a game. Cincinnati also was ninth overall in yards allowed (334.3) heading into Week 8.
Atkins lines up on both sides throughout games, meaning right guard Willie Colon and rookie left guard Brian Winters will have their hands full on Sunday.
"It's about as big a challenge as it gets,'' Ryan said, referring to Winters' battle against Atkins. "He is an outstanding player.''
"[Atkins] has got a great motor,'' said Winters, a Kent State product who grew up about four hours from Cincinnati in Hudson, Ohio. "He's got low leverage, he's an athlete. That's what he brings to the table. He doesn't stop.''
Winters, who is making only his fourth NFL start since replacing Vlad Ducasse, asked to line up in practice this week against a fellow rookie, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, to get a sampling of what he'll see Sunday.
"He told me to go out there and play just like I play,'' Richardson said, referring to his role of simulating Atkins. "And I told him I'll gladly do it if it'll help him. So I've been playing on the edges a lot. Winters said, 'I'm always ready for a bull rush.' ''
The Jets' coaching staff also highlighted the skill set of defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the "calculated shots'' of quarterback Andy Dalton and the "Darren Sproles-type'' quickness of running back Gio Bernard. But Green holds the key to the Bengals' offense.
"He's very talented,'' Thurman said. "He's tall, he's long, he's athletic, has good speed, good hands, and you better pay attention to him. The guy's a heck of a football player.''
Cromartie won't know until Saturday night if he'll be shadowing the Bengals wideout all over Paul Brown Stadium's field. When told that Green often is used in the slot as well, Cromartie chuckled.
"I can play anywhere,'' he said. "I can play any position they need me to play. So that doesn't bother me at all.''