Thrilling Dalton-to-Green connections ignite Bengals camp

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- The best play of the night? A.J. Green made it, of course. That's happening almost every day now in Bengals camp.

Green made a diving catch along the sideline during an 11-on-11 drill Friday night, a prelude to Cincinnati's scaled-back training camp scrimmage.

It was the crowd pleaser.

"When you see one-on-one (coverage) with A.J., it's going to trigger something in you to take a shot down there," rookie quarterback Andy Dalton said. "He's a big guy, he's physical and he can make a lot of catches."

He's making the spectacular ones look routine.

The Bengals took Green with the fourth overall pick out of Georgia, giving themselves a replacement for Chad Ochocinco. They traded Ochocinco to New England for draft picks, making the rookie their primary receiver.

He's playing the part so far.

During an 11-on-11 drill against the starting defense, Dalton was under pressure and simply threw the ball deep down the left sideline, hoping Green could catch up to it. The receiver stretched out and came down with the ball while landing hard inbounds -- easily the best play of the night.

It excited the fans. The coaches? Not so much.

"Every time he lands on the ground I'm like, 'Oh, please, don't hurt your shoulder,'" offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "He's a special guy. He's fun to watch. Every time I see someone lined up on him kind of seven or eight yards deep, I feel like yelling at the quarterback, 'Throw it to A.J.!'"

Green didn't make a big deal out of it.

"It was a good catch," he said. "Not one of my best. I can do that pretty much nine times out of 10. It's nice making a big play in front of my teammates."

How could it have been better?

"I probably could have scored on it," he said. "I probably should have stayed up and tried to run through it, but I chose to dive. I was a little tired."

The rest of the night was more humdrum by design.

The Bengals severely scaled back the annual camp scrimmage because many of the players had practiced only once. Free agents couldn't work out with the team until Thursday because the NFL's new labor agreement wasn't approved until then.

Usually, the Bengals give the ball to the offense and see how far it can advance on downs. This time, they did only about 15 minutes of scrimmaging, running 18 plays from midfield. Unlike previous years, nobody kept statistics.

Dalton, a second-round pick from TCU, is getting the first shot at the starting job. He worked with the starting unit and got the most snaps of the four quarterbacks during the scrimmage part of practice.

Dalton has run most of the plays throughout camp, learning a little more of the offense each day.

"Andy had another great day," Gruden said. "He was efficient on third-down (plays), had some key completions, got the ball out of his hand when he had to. He's doing a good job of managing the game so far."

He's in line to start the preseason opener Friday in Detroit.

"They've been giving me a lot of snaps, giving me the opportunity to go out there and start everything off," Dalton said. "I think they're just trying to get me ready, get me looks against the defense, and hopefully getting me ready for the preseason game next week."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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