Two up-and-coming WRs could decide Browns-Bengals

CLEVELAND – The battle within the “Battle of Ohio” involves two players who won’t be on the field at the same time Sunday at First Energy Stadium.

If the Browns are to have a decent chance of defeating the Cincinnati Bengals, they’ll need another productive performance by receiver Josh Gordon. The Bengals will likely need receiver A.J. Green to have one of his trademark big games to make their short trip home more enjoyable.

It’s been all mutual admiration between the receivers this week. Maybe it’s because there are so many similarities between the two. Both are big for the position – Gordon is 6-3, 225 and Green checks in at 6-4, 207. Both are long striders with deceptive speed, and both can win the physical battle against smaller cornerbacks.

“He (Green) is a great wide receiver,” Gordon said. “Real talented. World-class speed and size.”

Green, in his third season out of Georgia, agrees with the growing number of players in the NFL that Gordon possesses special skills.

“He’s another guy that’s coming into his own,” Green said of Gordon. “He’s a big receiver that can run and catch the ball very well.”

Green is by far the more established of the two after two seasons in which he combined for 162 receptions, 2,407 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has been a nemesis to the Browns, producing 344 yards and five touchdowns in four games to date.

Browns cornerback Joe Haden will draw Green in coverage most of the day. It will be a battle of two SEC players – Haden played at Florida – who are among the elite at their positions.

“He’s one of the special ones that don’t come around too much,” Haden said of Green. “There aren’t many A.J.’s in the league.”

Haden sees the same attributes every day in practice from Gordon.

“There aren’t too many J.G.’s,” said Haden, who rates the two receivers behind Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. “He’s like A.J., where he’s fast, strong and can catch the ball through the middle. When you throw it up there, you see his speed. He separates from people. I would say J.G. is a legit number one.”

Gordon’s season got off to a shaky start because of a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He returned in a big way last Sunday, catching 10 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Vikings.

Those numbers caught the attention of Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.

“He gives them a true vertical threat,” Lewis said. “He has great speed. When he catches the football, he gets up to speed so quickly. He makes a difference.”

Lewis sees some similarities between Gordon and Green, but he pointed out a difference.

“I think they both have the length,” Lewis said. “I think he (Gordon) accelerates quicker than what A.J. does. It’s probably not fair for me to comment because I don’t get the chance to study him daily like I do A.J.”

Haden faced Green in three of the four meetings between the teams the last two seasons – he missed the first one last season while serving a four-game suspension. Green expressed surprise that Haden wasn’t selected to play in the Pro Bowl in any of his three NFL seasons.

“It’s special hearing him say that, how that I look at him being the second-best receiver in the league,” Haden said. “Hearing that from him means that my work doesn’t go unnoticed. I try to go out every week and have to go against players of his caliber and knowing you might not get the recognition from outside, but it helps your coaches to know that your peers know what’s going on.”