Ryan Hewitt loves mixing it up under the hood and inside the hash marks.
BENGALS H-B/TE RYAN HEWITT vs. RAVENS ILB C.J. MOSLEY
Hewitt, who majored in science, technology, and society at Stanford and hopes one day to help make electric cars mainstream, is a lot like that 2010 Camaro he loves to drive. He may play and sound like a throwback, but he's smart and sleek enough to fit into Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's cutting edge scheme as the most versatile player on one of the NFL's most versatile offenses.
Hew is tailor-made for Hue.
"I like football. I like the whole thing," Hewitt says. "I like playing a sport where you can go one-on-one against a man and see who comes out on top over and over."
He'll get plenty of man Sunday in Baltimore (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in the 6-2, 235-pound Mosley, Baltimore's brilliant Pro Bowl pounder in the middle. If not for Aaron Donald, he would have been the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year after he became the only player in the league last season to log at least 125 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions.
The Bengals got a taste of it last season when Mosley roamed for 13 tackles in the Bengals' 27-24 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
"You have to be willing to go full speed and hit someone. I enjoy that," Hewitt says. "It's fun because eventually a lot of times I'm able to see the opponent back down. Obviously, (Mosley) won't be backing down. That's why it's a fun matchup. He'll be bringing it every time as will all their other linebackers . . . He plays fast all the time. He's physical. He's a prototypical linebacker. He's a heck of a ballplayer. It's more my matchup, my style of downhill football."
It is every draft guru's dream matchup, an orgy of measurable, intangibles, and pedigree. The 6-4, 254-pound Hewitt didn't get any Rookie of the Year votes last season like the first-rounder Mosley out of Alabama. But the undrafted one from Stanford was on everyone's All-Rookie team as the fullback.
The Bengals finished sixth in NFL rushing last season, their highest rank in 14 years, and currently stand fifth and Hewitt is a big reason why. Left guard Clint Boling, center Russell Bodine, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth are drawing raves for their work in the first two weeks of the season, but Hewitt has contributed his brand of punishing blocks on 56 percent of the snaps. He has no fear as a lead blocker, but plenty of positions.
He's played 71 snaps in the first two games and some have come at fullback, some have come at tight end, and some have come in between as he runs pass routes.
"He's no-nonsense," Boling says. "He's got a laid-back attitude. He's got the West Coast thing going on. He's a hell of a player. He's not real flashy. He's a real gritty, a hard-working blue collar guy."
That's where the 2010 Camaro comes in. Hewitt loves cars of all ages, enough that he can tinker with them and make them come alive without taking them into the shop. The deal with his parents was when he got the scholarship to play at Stanford, they hooked him up with a car after his freshman year.
"It ended up being about two-thirds of a car because I ended up paying a third," Hewitt says. "It's a sweet deal.
"I'm still in the first couple of years salary, so I don't have any real nice cars. Maybe someday."
He does have a Silverado truck, but he's got the wandering eye for cars and he loves the Camaro even though it is a college leftover. "I just like cars. They're fun. I've liked to go fast since I was a kid in Go-Carts and stuff like that."
A '69 dark blue old school Camaro has caught his eye every day he drives by Newport on the Levee to Paul Brown Stadium. He figures it belongs to somebody who works there and he wouldn't mind taking a look under the hood.
"It's a good looking car," Hewitt says. "I like both old cars and new cars. I like newer cars because the interiors are sleeker. The old cars got a lot of grunt and they're easier to work on. They're bigger and you open the hood and it's like the engine is just stuffed in this little box. You've got all this extra room to add things and do whatever you want to the car."
Hewitt plays like the '69 Camaro. He grunted his way into some of the biggest plays last season. It is estimated that about 40 percent of their running plays came with Hewitt as the fullback while averaging 4.2 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns outside goal-line situations, including Jeremy Hill's clinching 60-yard touchdown run against Jacksonville and Giovani Bernard's 89-yarder against Carolina that was the second longest run in franchise history.
After two games, it looks like they're diversifying Hewitt a little more and maybe using him a little less as a fullback and a little more as a tight end and a receiver in easing rookie Tyler Kroft into the No. 2 tight end role. With the return of No. 1 tight end Tyler Eifert, it's not as easy to go two backs with so many multiple receiver looks. But Hewitt is playing about 10 percent more than last season's 45 percent.
"I never think about what positon I'm playing when I'm in the game," Hewitt says. "Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it. I just like to play."
And running backs coach Kyle Caskey loves to play him.
"He's just so versatile," Caskey says. "He can take on linebackers in the run game and beat safeties in the pass game. He can do whatever you ask."
This is a tough rivalry to get your hands around. Usually the Bengals win with their run game, so you can say they have to run the ball. But the Bengals have won four out of the last five against the Ravens without a 100-yard rusher and they swept them last year barely averaging three yards per carry. Two years ago at home they survived four Andy Dalton interceptions to win.
But turnovers are usually the defining Cincinnati-Baltimore stat. The Bengals are 8-0 with a plus differential and 1-8 with a minus under head coach Marvin Lewis against the Ravens, indicating the games are tight. Which means they have to prevent Mosley from making big hits causing fumbles or getting his hands on balls for picks.
Hewitt is already into the protection thing. His post-career plans include trying to protect the environment.
"The most relevant way we're going to be able to transition away from fossil fuels is electric cars," Hewitt says. "The last class I took at Stanford was a sustainability class, talking about the sustainability of products, whether it's the designing of them or whatever it may be. Cars are something I like. To make them sustainable would be cool to me. Save the planet and make cars cool." But Sunday, he has to make sure Mosley doesn't cause a meltdown.