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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 agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst


Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 


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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."