It's no secret that the key to the Bengals' offensive success lies with wide receiver A.J Green. Whether its making a big play himself or garnering much of the defense's attention to open up plays for others, he is the focal point of the team's game plan. It seems that the Cleveland Browns realize the same thing as well.
Frankly, the Browns have to acknowledge Green's presence. In Green's first two games against the Browns, he made two enormous plays that sealed both victories for Cincinnati. Coming into this Sunday's matchup, the Browns are game planning for Green in an effort to prevent Green from making these types of plays once again.
Steve Doerschuk of www.cantonrep.com how the Browns are focusing on Green this week, but there's one major flaw in that game plan--Cleveland will be without their star cornerback, Joe Haden. He is starting a four-game suspension this week, which is a big break for the Bengals because of his track record of covering Green in the two previous games. Haden was on an island with Green and fared pretty well, despite two big plays.
Thats going to change this week. Doerschuk notes that the Browns willuse multiple defenders to shadow Green. Browns head coach gave some terse praise to Green recently:
"If the ball is thrown to him in less than ideal conditions," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said, "he finds a way to go up and get it."
Shurmur saw this first hand in the second game last year, which was a windy and miserable matchup in the late fall. If there's two positives to come out of this for the Bengals, it's that Green has proven he can beat double teams, coupled with the emergence of Andrew Hawkins. If, for some reason, Green cant make plays in Haden's absence, look for Hawkins to make plays on short and underneath routes.