The Ravens have already seen how dangerous Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard can transform a football game into an elaborate game of tag, eluding defenders with his unique set of cuts and moves.
Bernard famously reversed field, broke tackles and somersaulted into the end zone for an electrifying 35-yard touchdown run against the Miami Dolphins.
Now, Bernard is on the Ravens' mind heading into Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium, where they'll try to prevent him from breaking into the open field.
"He's almost like a punt returner that's playing running back," Ravens defensive end Chris Canty said. "He's a jitterbug. He gets in and out of cuts very quickly. He can accelerate very quickly. He gets into those small holes.
"He's got good vision for a young back. He's fearless. He'll cut it all the way back to the back side. We're going to have to play disciplined team defense."
The rookie from North Carolina has already rushed for 361 yards on 81 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He's caught 30 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
He rushed for two touchdowns against the Dolphins, gaining 79 yards on nine carries.
"Very dynamic back," strong safety James Ihedigbo said. "The things he can do out of the backfield create mismatches. He's a good player."
By zig-zagging across the field in Miami, retreating into the backfield before reversing field to cut and accelerate away from defenders, Bernard displayed his athleticism and imagination.
“You just have to feel comfortable with what you’re doing,” Bernard told Cincinnati reporters. “Like Barry Sanders in his time. He was one of those who lost a lot of yards to gain a lot of yards. There’s times when it’s going to be like that, but the biggest thing is getting positive yards.”
The Bengals have kept the 5-foot-9, 208-pounder fresh by having veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis handle most of the pounding workload inside.
The Bengals expect Bernard to play Sunday despite bruised ribs.
"The guy's a great back," defensive lineman Arthur Jones said. "He's a guy who has really good balance, built kind of low to the ground. He's dynamic."
Bernard has drawn a few comparisons to Ravens running back Ray Rice.
"Yeah, I've heard it, but my biggest thing is playing how I play," Bernard said. "I'm not going to mimic my game after anybody. He's a great player. It's always good to be compared to somebody that's in the league and that's been doing it for a while."
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