Ravens Update

Cedric Benson has learned to bide his time, wisely allowing his blockers to run interference for him instead of bulldozing ahead immediately.

It's a sign of growing maturity for the Cincinnati Bengals' bullish running back who has experienced more than his fair share of legal problems.

"There is a big difference between college and the NFL," Benson said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "I was probably patient in college as well but I think as a professional in this league, guys are good all the way up and down. From the defensive linemen to the linebackers, to the safeties in the box, you really have to be patient in setting up your blocks, almost kind of like helping the offensive linemen get on their blocks in a way. "They are probably the least athletic guys on the field, the offensive linemen. You have to be really patient and really keen on your path to give those guys the best opportunity to get on the defense."

Benson has learned a few other lessons the hard way off the field.

Benson pleaded no contest to assault charges in Texas earlier this year and served five days in jail and was suspended for one game. A year ago, he allegedly punched a bartender in a face in Texas.

And when Benson was with the Chicago Bears, he was arrested for allegedly operating a boat while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He wound up being pepper-sprayed by police. He was also arrested for driving while intoxicated that year, but was later cleared of all charges. Benson has stayed out of trouble for the past few months, a trend Bengals coach Marvin Lewis hopes is here to stay.

"I think he is a good story," Lewis said. "Now, I think he is still finding his way. He has paid some heavy prices, and hopefully he will keep himself totally on the right track and be able to walk away from any kind of disturbance. That's his biggest thing. The physical nature of his play, it's been hard for him to turn off at other times."

Inspired to perform musically at the Ed Block Courage awards in Baltimore last year, Benson said it was a meaningful moment for him. It was more in step with the laidback personality many of his friends around the NFL have come to know.

"Any award I think is an achievement, especially considering the road I've traveled and the hurdles I've had to overcome in my life and the life lessons I've had come my way," Benson said. "Just getting any award for me, I greatly appreciate it. The people were so friendly and so loose.

"They were in dire desperation of some entertainment, and I think in a way we're their entertainment. They're there to enjoy us, and we're there to enjoy them. So, I just figured we might as well have a little fun while we're here." Playing against Benson hasn't typically been an enjoyable experience for the Baltimore Ravens. Although they limited him to 41 yards on15 carries in the last meeting, he rushed for a pair of red-zone touchdowns. In six career games against Baltimore, Benson has gained 426 yards on 130 carries with four touchdowns.

Two seasons ago, Benson hit the century mark twice against the Ravens' traditionally stingy defense with two rare 100-yard rushing performances against them. He rushed for 120 yards and 117 yards with one touchdown run in each game.

Last year, though, he gained only 78 yards and 53 yards in two games against Baltimore. "We don't run it like we did in '09," Benson said. "We're passing and rotating with another back on a lot of series. I don't have the opportunity to be as much of a force as I was." Where Benson excels is using his stocky, 5-foot-11, 227-pound frame to full advantage by bashing into the defense wherever it's most vulnerable.

"What he does well is he's a very patient runner," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He runs those zone schemes as well as anybody in the league. He picks his spots, he doesn't get in a hurry, and he waits for you to make a mistake. "So, two things: You've got to be patient when you're playing gap control, as they say. You've got to control the man in front of you, stay square, tear off blocks and make plays. And you've got to create some things, some free-hitters in the backfield, to try to get some negative-yard plays if you can."

The Ravens have contained Benson lately, but they still remember how he handled himself against them two years ago.

While splitting time lately with change-of-pace back Bernard Scott, Benson has still managed to rush for 1,016 yards and six touchdowns this season with a long run of 42 yards.

"Yeah, he's a typical NFL back," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He's good all-around. He's a one-cut guy. He can hit the perimeter. He's a big jump cut guy and will also lower his pads. He's very good."

Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs recalled the Ravens being an inconsistent team two seasons ago when Benson thrived against them. "We weren't having a good year," Suggs said. "Nobody wanted to be around here that much, but it has kind of changed these past couple of years. He is a good running back, he is an explosive back. I think the best part of his game is that he is patient. Backs that are more deliberate, they don't have that much success against us.

"But when you have a patient back, the Maurice Jones-Drews, the Arian Fosters, the Cedric Bensons, they tend to be very patient, and then they will crack one on you, and you leave your secondary to try to make a tackle on a big back. He definitely is something we have to address, first and foremost, and try to get a wrap on this thing."

The Ravens have allowed opposing runners to gain 100 yards three times this season. Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 105 yards on 30 carries earlier this season.

And Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 109 yards and Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hills gained 112 yards. For the most part, though, the Ravens have shut down opposing running games.

They're ranked second in the NFL against the run, allowing only 91.8 yards per contest. Even the most patient runners have felt some frustration playing against the Baltimore defense. "They don't drive me nuts," Suggs said. "This is the NFL. We are playing against the best players, the best backs every week. If you go down the line, every major back in the NFL this year, we had.

"It only gets frustrating when we're doing something uncharacteristic, when we're in spots where we know we always made this play, we've made it time and time again, and we do something uncharacteristic."

During the past two weeks, Benson has uncharacteristically fumbled five times and lost two of them. He's been holding the football too far away from his body.

"If you get a shot, you go for the ball," Johnson said. "We need him to put the ball on the ground a few more."

In the first game against the Bengals, the Ravens prevented Benson from generating momentum by shooting gaps.

In particular, inside linebackers Jameel McClain and Albert McClellan had strong games in place of injured middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"They caught us with a couple of blitzes," Benson said. "They are always good at shedding blocks. They are a good team, and they've played together for a while. They have a lot of veteran guys in the right spot. You have to be real precise." The Ravens are banking on stopping the run Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and putting the game in the hands of rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. "The key to is obviously stopping the run and forcing them to throw the ball," Johnson said. "The thing is when he throws the ball, he's pretty good. When they establish the run, they're very good. You want to make them one-dimensional and take away the big plays.

"Keeping Benson in the box is a big deal, not letting him get on the edge. Anybody gets out of their gap, anybody gets cut or anything like that and he's out of the gate and it's a 60-yard run. We didn't let him hit a big one, which was big for us. We've definitely got to do that again. When they are able to run the ball, they're really good."

Notebook: Ravens trying to fix special-teams breakdowns

OWINGS MILLS – It was essentially the perfect storm, and it rained down on the Baltimore Ravens' punt team.

Kicking to Pro Bowl return man Josh Cribbs during the Ravens' 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, punter Sam Koch failed to angle the football toward the left sideline. When the ball landed in Cribbs' hands near the middle of the field, the Ravens overran their pursuit angles and spread out too far on the left and right sides.

It opened up a gaping hole for Cribbs to accelerate through, creating an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown as he ran through tackle attempts by safety Haruki Nakamura and Koch. It's the third return for a score the Ravens' special teams have allowed this season. "There's a variety of things that went into that play," special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "One is the punt wasn't the kind of punt we wanted. The hang time had a factor in it. We weren't able to get our gunners down there. The next part of it was that our net wasn't good. It was one of those team plays, all three parts of the coverage broke down.

"Even after he broke through the first line, and we missed two tackles, you just can't give that kind of player that kind of opportunity. He's too good. We went into the whole week with that kind of focus, and we just broke down."

The Ravens thought they had Cribbs boxed in, containing him as they have in the past few years since he set records for kickoff return yards against them in 2007 and 2008.

"The biggest thing was a little bit of lack of discipline," Nakamura said. "We spread the field pretty good. We covered everything, but we started running past the ball. We opened up one big hole.

"That's all a guy like Cribbs needs. We made him cut back once. Unfortunately, he cut back into a big hole it. It started off as good coverage and ended up in really bad coverage."

Earlier this season, the Ravens gave up a 107 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to New York Jets running back Joe McKnight and an 82-yard punt return for a score to Arizona Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson. They're now tied with the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks for the most returns for touchdowns surrendered.

Consequently, the Ravens are 31st in the league in kickoff return yards allowed with a 29.6 average and are 24th in punt return yards allowed with a 12.0 average.

"For us, that's the most frustrating thing," Nakamura said. "We've only had three really bad plays. Unfortunately in the special-teams world, three bad plays is a lot. We have one of the best special-teams units in the NFL. Those three plays are killing us right now. We need to go back and correct it."

The Ravens also dealt with ball security issues on kickoff returns this season with David Reed losing two fumbles against the Seahawks.

Rosburg said he's determined to fix the problems. "You never want to give up one touchdown, let alone the problems that we've had," Rosburg said. "The emphasis has always been in our program that we want to make sure we take care of the ball, we want to have good protection and we want to cover kicks. That's our first thing. The fact that we haven't taken care of the ball and we haven't covered kicks well enough has been a factor all season long. We continue to address those issues." POLLARD ILL: Veteran strong safety Bernard Pollard missed due to an illness.

Apparently, something is going around the Ravens' locker room since defensive end Arthur Jones missed practice Wednesday with an illness and returned to full participation today. Meanwhile, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe

(concussion) and offensive guard Marshal Yanda (bruised ribs) didn't practice again. Cornerback Cary Williams (concussion), defensive end Cory Redding (right ankle) and kicker Billy Cundiff (left calf) were limited again. "He's had two good practices, yes," Rosburg said of Cundiff. "We'll see what the trainers say." All of Cundiff's nine missed field goals this season have come on the road.

"I don't think we're going to necessarily weigh where we're playing into the equation," Rosburg said of the choice between Cundiff and Shayne Graham. "We're going to weigh the health of Billy and then make a decision based on that." Williams went to get a baseline test in order to get final clearance for contact.

For the Cincinnati Bengals, defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), safety Taylor Mays (hamstring) and linebacker Dontay Moch (illness) didn't practice again.

Safety Chris Crocker (knee), wide receiver A.J. Green (shoulder), defensive end Frostee Rucker (neck) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) were limited.


Reacting to quarterback Joe Flacco lightheartedly saying the Ravens turned too conservative in the second half of their win over the Browns, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron displayed a sense of humor.

The Ravens scored only three points after halftime with five first downs and 112 yards of total offense and Flacco suggested that the media put pressure on the coaching staff to open up the playbook.

"No. 1, I am not going to listen to anything you guys say," Cameron said. "I will listen to what Joe has to say. I almost thought of telling Joe, ‘Those words are hurtful. I am not coming to the pancake social.' That's why Joe wins. I really believe that. He's a competitor. He wants the ball in his hands every play that matters. That's the case most of the time, and every now and then, I am going to look out there, and I even say to Joe, I'll beep in, ‘Hey now, I am being a little conservative here.'"

Against the Browns, the Ravens didn't score for the majority of the second half after building a 20-0 lead.

"We kind of came out and we, honestly, played conservative," Flacco said. "When we didn't, we missed a couple of plays, whether it was a drop or a missed throw here. I wish you guys would help me out and start complaining that we played too conservative so it would put pressure on our coaches to not do that."

Cameron said he doesn't believe he overdid it with safe play-calling against the Browns even though only four passes were attempted in the fourth quarter.

"I didn't say that a lot the other day to be honest with you," Cameron said. "We're playing a team offense. You look at out there, look at how your defense is playing, the special teams, you factor all those things in. I think that's why we win. At the same time, if we are ever conservative, this is probably the only thing that I'll ever add to tha, it's probably somewhat calculated. But it has nothing to do at least from the play caller's standpoint, anything that Joe Flacco's doing. Sometimes, it's just some common sense. I know this: Joe and I will be on the same page."


Wide receiver Lee Evans has caught only four passes for 74 yards since being acquired from the Buffalo Bills via a trade in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. He missed seven games with a left ankle injury, but has produced only two catches since returning to the field on Oct. 20 against the Bengals. Evans was targeted four times against the Browns, but had no catches. His lack of timing with Flacco is evident.

"We've had a good week of practice," Evans said. "I think that gives you a good foundation for having a chance at being better. We've been able to get some work in and feel good about it still got one more day to prepare. We'll see what happens on Sunday. That's the bottom line." Evans expressed frustration after the Cleveland game with not being more productive working in tandem with Flacco.

"I think the bottom line is we have to get better, and they're both being accountable," Cameron said. "I think Lee says, ‘Hey, got to get better.' And Joe says, ‘Hey, I've got to do a better job.' That's what you do. It's not easy. Defenses make it hard on you, but I have a ton of confidence in both those guys that you will see things start to come together here down the stretch. We're not big on excuses around here. There's a job to get done. I think they're onboard with that."


Drafted in the third round out of Central Florida to play offensive tackle, rookie Jah Reid has begun learning how to play offensive guard.

He's been taking some repetitions with the offense at guard while Yanda recovers from his injury.

"I played very little guard my sophomore year, so it's pretty new to me," Reid said. "You pull some at tackle on sweeps, so that's not too different. You've got to stay low at guard. Guys are a little shorter and stouter. You've got to have a low center of gravity."


Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith played against Bengals Pro Bowl rookie wide receiver A.J. Green last year when Smith's Colorado squad took on the University of Georgia. Green finished with seven receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns, but Colorado won the game and Smith wasn't checking him every time.

"A.J. is a great receiver," Smith said. "It's going to be a great matchup. It's going to test your skills." … Promoted to the active roster from the practice squad this week, rookie offensive tackle D.J. Jones is eager to prove himself. "It's a great opportunity," Jones said. "For me being called up, I'm looking to capitalize on it the best that I can."

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