Tough Test for Ground Game

Bengals' defense third best in NFL against the run.

BEREA, Ohio — The Browns had one of their best rushing games of the season against the Jaguars as they averaged 5.3 yards a carry and rushed for 148 yards. Chris Ogbonnaya had a breakout game as he rushed for 115 yards on 21 carries (5.5 avg.), including a 40-yard run. He also added a one-yard touchdown run.

This week the Browns face the third best rushing defense in the NFL with the Bengals. The Browns are still without Peyton Hillis, but are expecting a shot in the arm with the return of Montario Hardesty.

Pat Shurmur is impressed with the Bengals.

"They are a good run defense," Shurmur said. "The scheme, number one, they have some outstanding players. They also are committed to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback.

"There's a reason they are a good defense."

Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga has been impressed with the Browns running game as of late.

"It all starts with an athletic front," Maualuga said. "The Browns offensive line is quick and they have two Pro Bowlers. It gives the running back some room and (with the runnings backs),it starts with vision.

"Ogbonnaya and Hardesty have done a good job of finding seams and showing speed to get it to the next level."

Maualuga expects the Browns to try and run the ball.

"(The Browns) went over 100 yards last week and I'm sure they're going to try to do that this week," he said. "It's going to be a good test and it's going to come down to who (executes) the better game plan.

"As a defense, we have to stop the running game."

Maualuga is the same player that was passed on twice by the Browns in the second-round of the 2009 NFL Draft as the Browns drafted Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi ahead of him. The Bengals selected Maualuga one pick after the Browns took Massaquoi.

Maualuga is third on the Bengals in tackles with 62, just six behind team leader Reggie Nelson, despite missing three games with a sprained ankle.

Maualuga credits defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer with the way the Bengals are playing.

"It all starts with coach Zimmer," he said. "We're all working together and have a comfort level with each other."

As does head coach Marvin Lewis.

"Zim has a great feeling for what's going on in the mind of the guy on the other side of the field," Lewis said. "He's got an innate knack for play calling, to know what the other team is going to do and respond to it.

"He puts guys in position to win the down, and he makes sure they have the knowledge of what they and the other team are doing," he said. "You go into our meetings, and you see everybody taking notes like it's trigonometry class. And I know when he misses (a play call), he beats himself up unmercifully about it."

Notebook

Hardesty Full Go: Shurmur said the RB Montario Hardesty (calf) will be taking fully part in practice.

"He will practice," Shurmur said. "If he's ready to go, he will start (Sunday)."

The only players ruled out are RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and DB T.J. Ward (foot). FB Owen Marecic (concussion) did not practice Wednesday and his status is in doubt.

Shurmur said that the Browns will not throw out the fullback package if Marecic can't go as he's the only fullback on the active roster.

"We have several tight ends, who can play in the fullback package."

The Browns have FB Eddie Williams on the practice squad.

QB Colt McCoy is not expected to be held back in practice with his shoulder. Shurmur said he's fine.

Maualuga on Colt: Maualuga said he has been impressed with QB Colt McCoy.

"He's a very good mobile quarterback, who has only thrown (a few) interceptions," he said. "He's spread the ball around and has done a good job because he knows and understands defenses."

Battle of Ohio: Despite the proximity of the Browns and Bengals, this week's game is to be blacked out in Cincinnati. The Bengals are 6-4, but the fans haven't warmed to the Bengals yet.

"The fans are entitled to their own decisions and how they want to see the game," Maualuga said. "Whether they want to buy a ticket or not, is up to them. We feel the way they feel, the way the past couple of seasons have gone.

"The city is due for a good team and some victories," he said. "All we can do is try and win and give some hope."


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