The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals will conclude their 2012 regular-season series on Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Bengals won the first game four weeks ago, 34-27, at Paul Brown Stadium.
“I think they’ve gotten better,” Browns quarterback
The Bengals have registered 18 sacks for 131 lost yards through the first five games of the season. They are led by the right side of their defensive line, including Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins and end Michael Johnson.
Atkins has registered 14 total tackles, including a team-leading six sacks, while Johnson is right behind with five sacks on opposing quarterbacks.
Sunday’s game will be the second consecutive against a defense able to create pressure with their front four. Last Sunday, the Browns did not surrender a sack against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
“Last week, I think the Giants represented a great challenge in terms of those four guys we talked about and how they play along the front,” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “I thought our guys gave a good account of themselves in the offensive line. I might tell you that I feel like just looking at the Bengals, that I feel like they are a more talented line right now than the New York Giants from the standpoint of those two big defensive ends.
“Geno Atkins may be as high of a motor guy that we face on the inside. He’s really a good football player. I guess I didn’t have a great appreciation for him until I got in and studied him in this division. We’ll have our hands more than full with the people they put out there.”
While the Bengals have gotten back defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the Browns have spent the week of practice without the services of defensive tackle
In Rubin’s absence, rookie
“I don’t think it really changes my role,” Hughes said. “Start or no start, I’m still going to go out and play the game on Sunday. Regardless, we’re going to go out and play our game. We’ve been getting a lot more reps in practice, doing extra conditioning, just to be prepared for Sunday. Rube’s a great player and Winn’s a great player. I don’t mind playing next to either one of them. I’ll complement either one of them by just going in and playing the best (I) can.”
Although Rubin is “questionable” for Sunday, he set a standard for work ethic and hustle that Hughes has tried to follow.
“Rube helped me a lot on the field, but just as much as he helped me on the field, he’s helped me off the field, getting used to this NFL transition I had to make,” Hughes said. “He’s a tough guy. He holds his gap and he plays good ball. He’s an effort guy and that’s something you can definitely pick up and learn as a younger guy. That’ll get you a long way.
“When you see somebody hustling and you know you weren’t doing as much as you could on that play, you don’t want to watch film and go, ‘I’m the guy in the back, walking while he’s running.’ I think it starts to pick up after a while. Guys start to do the same thing and it shows in games.”
The Bengals enter Sunday’s game after a 17-13 loss at home to the Miami Dolphins, but their Pro Bowl quarterback, Andy Dalton, and all-star wide receiver, A.J. Green, have picked up where they left off in 2011.
Dalton has completed 111 of 169 attempts for 1,345 yards and nine touchdowns against six interceptions. Green has made 36 catches for 493 yards and four touchdowns, including a 73-yarder from rookie wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu.
“It seems like he’s had a better year so far,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said of Green. “It’s a limited number of games and they’re targeting him. Certainly, they’ll make him a focal part of their passing game and they have a lot of talent around him also so it does open him up. He’s a threat, clearly, down the field and they use him underneath a lot also. He’s getting a lot of attention from his offense, he’s getting a lot of attention from defenses and he’s still producing.”