NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans players and coaches said Wednesday that they need to shut down the big plays of one Bengals rookie and disrupt the steady play of another when Tennessee hosts Cincinnati Sunday at LP Field.
Although they are new to the NFL, receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton have emerged as a solid offensive combination. Green has provided a deep threat, and Dalton has been cool under pressure.
Green leads all rookies with 33 catches, 516 yards, five touchdowns and four catches of more than 40 yards.
"Everybody knew coming out (of college) that he could be really good," cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "We all knew he had great hands, he could go get the ball. He's very tall, athletic."
Titans coach Mike Munchak was also familiar with the skills of Green, who was drafted fourth overall, because his daughters attended Georgia where Green starred collegiately.
The play of a quarterback, however, directly affects the production of a receiver. Dalton, who was drafted 35th overall, earned the opportunity to start after Carson Palmer refused to suit up for the Bengals and has had few growing pains that most rookies experience at the position.
Dalton has completed 136 of 218 passes (62.4 percent) for 1,479 yards. He's thrown nine touchdowns against seven interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 82.7, which is better than the passer ratings of veterans Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan.
"Andy Dalton, by himself, he's a winner," Verner said. "He came from a program where all they did was win at TCU, so he knows how to get the job done. When you combine those two individuals … I just think they're going to mesh. They want to spark that team, so they can have success like that run they had in the '80s."
After opening its season 1-2, Cincinnati has won four straight. The Bengals are seeking their first five-game win streak since 1988 when the franchise won the AFC Championship.
Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis told reporters Wednesday that the Bengals' staff had confidence in going with Dalton, and the young quarterback has been building on that faith.
"I think the reason that we felt the way we did about him is that we thought he had great ability to handle the situation," Lewis said. "It wasn't ever going to get too big for him. He has great anticipation, a great feel for where the football should go and great leadership. That's the part that you are not quite sure of until you are around the player day after day after day and he has got that as well."
Munchak complemented the Bengals' development and decision-making with their young players.
"They've done a nice job," Munchak said. "They've got a rookie quarterback, Dalton, who we know pretty well from spending time with him in the Draft. He's handled himself very well on the road, and they're being very smart with how they use him. They've been very effective with him. Hopefully we can put an end to that for a week."