The comparisons between A.J. Green and Julio Jones began long before they got to the NFL, and they likely will continue through the rest of their careers.
The duo were Parade All-Americans and ranked as two of the better wide receivers in the country coming out of high school in 2008. And each achieved rapid success in the Southeastern Conference, Green at Georgia and Jones at Alabama.
Both were voted first team All-SEC their first three years before becoming early entrants in the NFL draft, where the Cincinnati Bengals selected Green fourth overall and the Atlanta Falcons took Jones sixth.
Tonight at 8 they get to meet again when the Bengals play the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in a nationally televised preseason game.
“That’s just how it’s going to be,” Green said when asked about the constant comparisons with Jones. “Just like Kevin Durant and LeBron (James), there always will be that comparison somehow or some way.
“We are probably the two best young guys out there, and we are just always going to be compared,” Green continued. “He’s a great receiver, and I’m a good receiver. We don’t take that much into it. We just go out and play.”
Given that it’s just the second preseason game for both teams, Green and Jones – and the rest of the starters – probably won’t play after halftime, if that long.
But with two of the better young quarterbacks in the league — Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan — throwing to two of the top young receivers, there should be plenty of action early.
“It will be fun,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “It will be real NFL football … an opportunity to apply real Sunday regular-season football on (defense). You can’t just sit there and be as vanilla. We’re going to have to show some things.”
The biggest focus for Lewis and the Bengals will be to get out of this game healthier than they did last week in a 17-6 victory against the Jets, when four starters left the game injured, including left guard Travelle Wharton with a season-ending ACL injury.
In addition to linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and defensive end (Carlos Dunlap), who will not play, and safety Taylor Mays (head), who will, tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis suffered a foot injuy against the Jets and is doubtful tonight.
And with backup Bernard Scott still out with a hand injury suffered early in training camp, the Bengals are left with Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman, Aaron Brown and rookie Dan Herron to handle the rushing load in what could go a long way in determining who makes the 53-man roster.
Green-Ellis, Scott and Leonard would seem to be locks, leaving the other three to battle for the final spot.
Peerman led the team with 30 yards last week, including a rushing touchdown and a special teams score when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. Brown had six carries for 11 yards, while Herron rushed four times for 8 yards.
Herron missed most of minicamp and OTAs with a foot injury, and he’s sat out his share of practices in training camp as well. Lewis said he is eager to see what the rookie from Ohio State can do now that he is healthy.
“Going forward he will get a good opportunity to play a little bit more,” Lewis said. “A running back needs opportunity and a chance to get a feel for it and go. He has to have the ‘physical-ness’ to play at this level, and he’s now getting the opportunity to exhibit some of his skills.”