The Falcons are set to face the Cincinnati Bengals, who are looking to rebound from their first loss of the season, at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The first meeting of A.J. Green vs. Julio Jones is in jeopardy after Green suffered a groin injury against the Panthers. He only played three snaps in the game.
Green didn’t play in the last meeting back in 2014, while Jones caught seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in a 24-10 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Green, who played at Georgia, and Jones were selected three spots apart -- 4th and 6th -- in the 2011 NFL draft.
“They’re both quiet. They’re guys (who don’t) talk trash,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick told Bengals.com on Monday. “They just show up to work, go to work every day. They’re similar as far as when you look at them.”
Kirkpatrick played at Alabama with Jones and has been with Green and the Bengals since 2012.
“To me A.J. is a little more finesse in certain things he does and Julio is a little more physical in certain things he does,” Kirkpatrick said. “But they both have great hands and they both go get the deep ball.”
The Bengals opened the season with a dramatic victory over the Colts, 34-23 and defeated the Ravens 34-23. But on Sunday, the Bengals had major trouble with the Panthers, quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey.
The Panthers gashed the Bengals for 230 yards rushing and successfully targeted Kirkpatrick on third downs in a 31-21 win in Charlotte.
In the last meeting on Sept. 14, 2014, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who now plays with the Falcons, caught a 76-yard touchdown pass to help led the Bengals to victory.
This will be the 14th meeting. The Bengals lead the series, 8-5.
“We don’t play them a lot, but I know their strengths and talents,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday. “I’ve studied those (interior defensive line) guys for years and have a lot of respect for them.”
In addition to Green, the Bengals have embattled second-year wide receiver John Ross, who’s taking heat in the Queen City for not fighting hard enough for a couple of passes that turned into interceptions against the Panthers.
Ross didn't speak to reporters in the locker room after the game and didn't enter the locker room Monday during time open to the media, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
With Green down and Ross struggling, wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught six passes for 132 yards and touchdown against the Panthers.
The Bengals also have tight end Tyler Eifert, who’s a load when healthy. He caught 6-of-8 targets for 74 yards against the Panthers.
“I think they’ve got an excellent set of skill players,” Quinn said. “Both on the offensive side and their speed guys. I’ve always like their defensive line with Geno (Atkins), Carlos (Dunlap) and those guys. I would say that at tight end, running back, receiver and cornerback and safety. ... We have guys that can run and they do too.”
In the last two games, the Falcons have struggled covering running backs out of the backfield. McCaffrey caught 14-of-15 targets for 102 yards in the win over the Panthers. Alvin Kamara caught 15 of 20 targets for 124 yards in the loss to the Saints.
The Bengals have running back Giovani Bernard and may get Joe Mixon (knee surgery) back for the game.
“That’s one thing in my offseason study of them, what I’ve noticed about them is the skill guys they have offensively and the corners and the safeties,” Quinn said. “That part, you’ll be intrigued when you see the matchups and how they play out.”
The Bengals defense was shaky against the Panthers. They gave up the sixth most rushing yards (230) in the 16 seasons that Marvin Lewis, a former defensive coordinator, has been the head coach.
When the Panthers needed a third-down conversion, they went after Kirkpatrick, who has had the most passes thrown at him except all but one cornerback in the league. Newton completed three third-down passes on Kirkpatrick.
“I admit I didn't have my best season last year, but so far I feel like I've had my best start to a season,” Kirkpatrick said. “If they want to keep coming eventually they'll pay for it. If you look at the completions on my side this year, I feel like it's low. In three games I don't feel like I've given up 100 yards, I mean 200 maybe, 150 on my side so I feel like I've been doing pretty good.”
Kirkpatrick’s 31 targets are second only to the 33 of the Eagles’ Ronald Darby, according to profootballfocus.com.
“He has to keep the proper perspective and leverage, depending on the coverage, all the time,” Lewis said to the Cincinnati media on Monday. “He started the game out very well, and then they were able to convert a couple third downs, where he has to do a little bit better of a job. Some are going to be tough plays, but probably the second toughest position out there on that field is cornerback.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.