BENGALS OLBs THOMAS HOWARD, BRANDON JOHNSON, MANNY LAWSON VS. RAVENS RB RAY RICE
With Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on the verge of revolt after Rice touched the ball just five times last week against Seattle, look for a heavy dose of Rice on the ground as well as through the air, where he is the Ravens leading receiver. In their last four games, when the Bengals have held the Baltimore offense to four touchdowns, Rice has been the guy that has hurt them, but the Bengals have contained him.
Rice has broken only one long TD on Cincinnati, a 48-yard screen pass in 2009, and while he's had catches of 21 and 30 yards, the Bengals actually didn't allow him to catch a ball in last season's finale and in those games they've done a good job holding him to 10 yards per catch on 19 for 191. But he has averaged 4.5 yards per carry against them with 281 yards on 62 carries.
What has helped minimize the damage is that the Bengals have held the ball on the Ravens in the last two years. They haven't had it less than 34 minutes and in the 17-7 win at Paul Brown Stadium in '09 they held it for 40.
There is no better man to give the Rice scouting report than Bengals running back Brian Leonard, his former backfield mate at Rutgers. They text fairly regularly and during the offseason Rice is a sure show at Leonard's bowling event in New York City and donor to the auction. On Sunday, they'll be competing third-down backs. Leonard:
"One of the best running backs I've ever been around. He's low to the ground, he's got great balance, great vision. You've got to wrap him up because he's going to break the first tackle if you don't. Since I've been watching him in the NFL, I never realized he catches it as well as he does. That was my job in college, but he has great hands on third down and he pushes the ball downfield.
"Other than that, he's the same he was in college. I actually first saw him in the Governor's Cup, New York vs. New Jersey, and he was impressive then. I think he's about 205, 210 pounds (actually 212) and he's got deceiving speed. He makes you miss. Always makes the first guy miss. He's not as fast as you think and as strong as you think.
"We've got some fast, big linebackers than can cover. I went against Thomas Howard when he was in Oakland and he shut me down on a couple of my routes. He can move very well. And Brandon can, too. He ran like a 4.3, 4.4 40 at the combine. Manny has those long arms. If he gets those hands on you, you're not going anywhere. You've got to get past him five yards."