BALTIMORE _ In the meeting rooms where the Ravens' defense has huddled this week, a certain amount of attention has been paid to Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson and wide receivers A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson.
But that doesn't mean they've forgotten rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.
A second-round pick in April, Dalton is enjoying one of the finest seasons ever put together by a rookie. He will finish the season as the only first-year passer in NFL history to throw for at least 20 touchdowns while starting in at least eight wins.
"You watch as much film as you can, but playing him, you're obviously going to learn the most about a player," Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He's mature beyond his years. He doesn't seem to get rattled, he's definitely not fearful, and he's coming in firing."
With 3,166 passing yards, Dalton is one of just five rookies to surpass 3,000 yards in a season, joining Peyton Manning (3,739 in 1998), Cam Newton (3,722 in 2011), Sam Bradford (3,512 in 2010) and Matt Ryan (3,440 in 2008).
In the Ravens' 31-24 win against Cincinnati on Nov. 20, Dalton passed for a career-best 373 yards and put the team in a first down-and-goal situation to send the game into overtime.
Only an intentional grounding penalty on Dalton and a sack by rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee on fourth down preserved the victory for the Ravens. But Dalton still earned a measure of respect from the defense.
"As a youngster, that says a lot about his composure," strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "He's going to stick with it and play this whole thing out, and it's not over until that clock says, '0:00.' Us as a defense, we have to continue to play ball. We have to understand that for 60 minutes, we have to keep them down."
Another rookie who isn't so green
Green is dealing with a sprained right shoulder, but he leads all rookie wide receivers with 63 receptions and 1,031 receiving yards, and his seven touchdown catches are tied with the Ravens' Torrey Smith for the most among rookies in 2011.
Green, who is averaging 16.4 yards per catch, has seven receptions of 40-plus yards this season and 19 receptions of 20-plus yards. He missed the teams' first meeting because of a hyperextended right knee.
"He's a monster, man. We have to know where he is every play on the field," Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "He's developed a lot this season like no other wide receiver I've seen other than our own Torrey Smith. So we will have to know where he is at all times."
Boldin, Yanda doubtful
Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin has been upgraded to doubtful from out after participating on a limited basis in Friday's practice.
Although it's appears very unlikely that Boldin _ who earlier this month underwent surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his knee _ will suit up against the Bengals, coach John Harbaugh praised Boldin's resolve.
"Those guys rehab hard," Harbaugh said. "Anquan's a very tough guy. (Right guard) Marshal (Yanda is) a very tough guy. (Cornerback) Cary (Williams) is very tough. These guys are tough people. They want to do everything they can to play, and I think they're doing everything that they can to play as soon as they can."
Yanda returned to practice Friday on a limited basis _ an encouraging sign that his rib and thigh bruises are improving. But the right guard said any prediction that he might be able to start Sunday is a bit premature.
"We'll see what happens," Yanda said after practice. "We've got 48 hours yet, but we'll see what happens. I felt OK out there today, so we'll see what happens come Sunday. Still don't know yet. We'll see."
The team listed Yanda as doubtful.
Smith thinks Cary Williams will start
Despite Harbaugh's admission that Williams (concussion) hasn't been cleared to play, rookie Jimmy Smith said he thinks the cornerback will start against Cincinnati.
The absence of Williams, who is listed as questionable, would pave the way for Smith, the team's first-round pick in April, to make his second start in the last three games. But Smith said starting in place of Williams isn't on his mind.
"I didn't even think about it, and I don't think that's even going to be the case," Smith said after Friday's practice. "I know Cary's going to be playing in the game. So that's not my focus at all, whether I'll be starting at corner. I'll be at nickel."
The only consensus regarding the team's kicking situation is that a decision won't be made until Saturday at the earliest.
Until then, both Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham said they are unaware of the team's plans for the regular-season finale.
"I have no idea," Cundiff said when asked about the decision-making process regarding his injured left calf. "I'm not the decision-maker. So we'll let the decision-makers decide, but I feel pretty good with where I'm at, and I'm in a much better spot than I've been in almost a month now."
Defensive end Cory Redding (right ankle) was limited for the third straight day and is listed as questionable for Sunday, but he said he intends to play against the Bengals. "I feel great," said Redding, who sat out the win against Cleveland. "I'm playing." ... Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has not practiced this week because of post-concussion symptoms. He is doubtful against Cincinnati. ... Pollard, who did not practice Thursday because of an illness, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who did not practice Wednesday because of an illness, were removed from the injury report. ... Four Bengals starters _ defensive end Frostee Rucker (neck), strong safety Chris Crocker (knee), left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) and Green (right shoulder) _ were upgraded to full participation after being limited Thursday. All four are probable against the Ravens. Reserve defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring) was limited in practice after missing Wednesday's and Thursday's sessions. He is questionable for Sunday.