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Secondary faces another big challenge with A.J. Green's first visit


CHARLOTTE -- Having to face a lineup featuring Atlanta's Julio Jones one week and then Cincinnati's A.J. Green the next sounds like something out of a fantasy football league. But, for a Panthers secondary a week removed from a tough loss to the Falcons, that scenario is a few days away from becoming a reality when the Bengals visit Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.

Week 3 may be the first time that Green, one of the NFL's top wide receivers, will face Carolina in his career, but having already taken on one of the league's top wideouts in Jones has given the defense an idea of what to expect.

"Julio is more compact, bigger. I think they've got the same amount of hands. Both of them can jump," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "I wouldn't say Julio is faster. I wouldn't say he's that much faster than A.J.

"A.J. is a lot smoother; Julio is like shot out of a cannon."

Although comparing Green's skill set to Jones may be like holding up a mirror, their Week 2 performances were far from the same. While Jones had five catches for 64 yards and didn't find the end zone against the Panthers, Green used his 6-foot-4 frame to score three first-half touchdowns in a victory over the Ravens - two of which came on 5-10 slot corner Tavon Young. Over the course of his career, Green has proven that he can be successful at all three receiver positions, but the decision by the Bengals coaching staff to use him more frequently in the slot will give head coach Ron Rivera and the Carolina defense their biggest challenge.

"I think the reason they are moving him around is to try to create opportunities for him. You just got to have a package that can counter it," Rivera said.

As Carolina's No. 1 cornerback, James Bradberry will shadow Green on the outside. He may even line up against him in the slot on occasion.

"Sometimes on third downs when we go man I'll be able to go inside," Bradberry said. "It's kind of hard for the outside corners to go in. There's a lot of space to cover inside.

"We'll see. When Cap is on the field he likes to be on the inside, so I'll let him to do that. I'm confident in Cap."

As the nickel corner, Munnerlyn will get most of the work against Green when he's in the slot. During Munnerlyn's stint with the Vikings, he spent a week of joint practices covering Green and getting a feel for the ways in which he sets up cornerbacks.

"I'm kind of familiar with him a little bit and I'm up for the challenge," Munnerlyn said. "I know a lot of people are like, 'Oh man, Captain, it's going to be rough.' But I'm up for the challenge. I think that's when I play my best."

Same goes for Bradberry, who knows Green has the ability to make a secondary look silly.

"He checks all the boxes off the list for a receiver. Speed, agility, route running, physical guy, tall guy. He can do pretty much everything," Bradberry said. "These are the things that earn you your next contract; when you go out there and play well against top-level talent. That's my goal."

Wednesday, Rivera reiterated his faith in Bradberry and his growth since being drafted by the Panthers in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

"JB has done a tremendous job since his rookie year. We put him into tight positions, and he doesn't back down one iota," Rivera said. "He didn't back down last week against one of the premier receivers in this league, and he's got another one this week that he'll get an opportunity to line up against."

View photos from the third week of practice as the Panthers prepare for their game against the Bengals.