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Bengals' running game stuck in place

Bengals' running game stuck in place

CINCINNATI (AP) The Bengals' running game still isn't going anywhere.

They overhauled the offensive line and brought in BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the offseason, hoping for a more diverse approach. So far, it's not working out that way.

The Bengals (3-3) rank 21st in the NFL in running the ball, forcing them to throw a lot more than they'd like. It's also contributed to an inability to string together long drives - they've converted only 26.7 percent of third downs, worst in the league.

They're waiting for the running game to get going.

``You never know,'' said Green-Ellis, who hasn't run for 100 yards this season. ``Everything happens at different points in the season. We just all have to come together and continue to work at it and be consistent and be our own worst critics at times.''

It's had problems right from the start.

The Bengals let Cedric Benson leave as a free agent, looking to get a more diverse running back for their West Coast offense. Both Green-Ellis and backup Bernard Scott were injured during training camp, preventing the Bengals from figuring out a rotation between them.

The offensive line also took several hits. Rookie Kevin Zeitler started at right guard in place of Bobbie Williams, who left as a free agent. Left guard Travelle Wharton tore up his right knee in the preseason opener, and center Kyle Cook suffered a significant ankle injury in the final one. The Bengals signed free agent center Jeff Faine only 10 days before the opener.

Everything in the running game was in flux and has yet to settle down.

``I think there's a lot to it,'' left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``It's got to be executed better and we have to get on the same page. It's looked good at times and it's looked bad at times. The key is just finding a way for everybody to get on the same page, communicate a little better.

``It's different. This is the first time we've been in a situation where all three guys interior-wise are new. So we're learning to communicate together and figure those things out. That's the key to the running game.''

The running game had an encouraging first half in Cleveland last Sunday, picking up 45 yards on 10 carries. In the second half, Green-Ellis was limited to 17 yards on six carries as the Browns pulled away to a 34-24 win.

The Browns took away the up-the-middle runs, and Cincinnati wasn't able to get the ball outside.

``They jumped under a lot, really kind of gambled that we weren't ever going to go outside with the football,'' Whitworth said. ``They jumped under everything and it kind of squeezed the interior of the line. They did a lot of that kind of stuff, which I thought was pretty unorthodox but it worked. It was timed up right and we missed out on a couple of opportunities to get the ball outside.''

Scott is their quickest running back and their best chance to get the ball outside, but has been unavailable. He hurt his right hand during training camp and missed the first two games. He played in two games, carried the ball eight times and tore up his left knee, ending the season.

Third-string running back Brian Leonard bruised ribs during the loss to Cleveland last Sunday and missed practice time during the week, another setback to the running game.

The Bengals are averaging 3.9 yards per carry, the same as last season. Green-Ellis is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, after averaging 4 yards in four seasons with New England. He has eight catches in six games.

Green-Ellis thinks the preseason changes prompted by injuries affected the running game initially.

``Me missing a lot of time, almost the whole preseason, with Jeff showing up 10 days before the season, and everybody being new, that's one thing,'' he said. ``But we're into Week 7 and we've got to go out there and play well together and we have to gel here and gel quickly.''


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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed WR Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Shefter.

After being released by the Raiders Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers WR Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?