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Friday, October 19, 2012
Division running backs not breaking loose

By Jamison Hensley

The AFC North was founded on running backs like Jerome Bettis and Jamal Lewis who broke tackles and gained extra yards. That's not the case with the running backs in the division right now.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, there's no running back in the AFC North that ranks in the top 18 in the NFL in yards after contact. The Bengals' BenJarvus Green-Ellis is 19th with 147 yards after contact. But his average (1.4 yards after contact per carry) is the lowest among the top four backs in the division.

Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander said the time missed by Green-Ellis, who didn't play the final three preseason games with a foot injury, has hurt the team's running numbers. Green-Ellis isn't so sure about that.

"Me missing a lot of time, almost the whole preseason, with Jeff [Faine, center] showing up 10 days before the season, and everybody being new, that's one thing," Green-Ellis told the team's official website. "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 and get the problems that we have and get them fixed and move forward."

It's surprising that Browns rookie Trent Richardson isn't higher. He was known for his physical running style in college. In six games in the NFL, Richardson is 20th with 144 yards after contact. The Ravens' Ray Rice is 22nd (138 yards) and the Steelers' Isaac Redman is 31st (90).

Their inability to get yards after contact is a big reason why the running games have sputtered this season. Only the Ravens' ground game ranks in the top half of the NFL. The Steelers' run game, which ranked 14th last season, is 31st in the league.