Week two of the NFL Preseason has gone and plenty of questions have been left unanswered for the teams in the AFC North.
All four teams (Ravens, Bengals, Browns and Steelers) seem to have locked on to their starting quarterback. It’s going to be the position battles that most intrigue fans during training camp and the preseason. At last wide receiver Antonio Brown and his helmet issues are no longer a problem in this division! Good luck with that, Oakland!
But there were two really heartbreaking losses this week in the death’s of former Bengals running back Cedric Benson and Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake.
We don’t talk nearly enough about the Bengals here at OurTurf, so I figured I’d reach out to the experts. In my search, I came across Ace Boogie on Twitter. He’s a Bengals analyst and host of New Stripe City on YouTube. The perfect person to talk to! I asked him 5 questions to get the lowdown on Bengals Nation.
Me: How did the Bengals do in the draft?
Ace: I think the sense around the NFL is that the Bengals did great. I’d have to agree with this because they really attacked fixing one of their biggest weaknesses by drafting [tackle] Jonah Williams. [Tight end] Drew Sample was a bit of a head scratcher, but overall I think they did great. They were able to fill needs, add depth, and add character. One thing that changed was that they didn’t target any players with off-field issues and went after team captains.
Since the Cleveland Browns are “my” team, I thought I’d try to take an objective look at the AFC North division overall and see who did the most to improve their roster. I said I’d TRY to be objective, but no promises…
When it comes to numbers, the division kind of stair-stepped up: Cleveland had 7, Baltimore had 8, Pittsburgh had 9 and Cincinnati chose a whopping 10 players.
As to positions, Defense has 17, Offense had 16 and there was one kicker taken. Yes, you read that right… my Browns took a kicker in the 5th round… we’ll talk more about that later…
This season an unprecedented eight NFL teams will have new head coaches. And for six of these coaches, it will be their first time running the whole show.
Bruce Arians has stepped out of the booth and back onto the field in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have floundered recently and Jameis Winston hasn’t grown or flourished the way we expected him to when he was drafted in 2015. Perhaps promoting former NFL QB turned offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be the first step in turning Winston around.
But the seven other coaches have their work cut out for them. Let’s take a look at these “rookies” and, maybe the biggest key to their success, who will be under center as they take the field.
Let’s face it – the AFC North was a hot mess last year! With Le’Veon Bell sitting out, the once-dominant Pittsburgh Steelers had to root for the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 in order to make the playoffs.
The Baltimore Ravens benched quarterback Joe Flacco and began the new era of Lamar Jackson football. Can Jackson keep being the leading rusher for this team and avoid injury?
The Cincinnati Bengals landed at the bottom of a division where the Browns had held that spot for too many years to count. But the once 0-16 Browns, under the leadership of rookie QB Baker Mayfield, are making their case to take over the division.
Let’s take a team-by-team look at the moves they’ve made so far to get ready for the battle to be “Kings of the North.”
With the success that the NFL’s youngest head coach, LA Rams HC Sean McVey, it was no surprise NFL owners wanted to try to find the same needle in a haystack. This offseason brought a fury of hirings of young head coaches. Smartly, those coaches are looking to veteran coordinators to fill out their coaching staff.
While teams like Tampa Bay decided to go with a veteran head coach in Bruce Arians, most other coach-needy teams decided to go young. Arizona, Green Bay, Miami, and Cincinnati have all hired coaches between the ages of 35 – 39.
Not that age has anything to do with coaching, but it does have to do with experience. Bringing in veteran coordinators and specialist not only is savvy, but it allows the HCs to be educated by some of the best.
Despite the win in Cincinnati, the Steelers still end up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
First, we start the year with running back Le’Veon Bell holding out for a long-term deal instead of a franchise tag. While most felt that it was going to come together at some point, it didn’t.
But no one benefited from Bell’s absence more than RB James Conner. Conner finished the season with almost 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards passing and had 13 touchdowns. He stepped into the RB role and made it his own. Could Bell be changing the way that holdouts go? Is there anything wrong with betting on yourself? Should you think of your team?
It has been a long time coming, but the Cincinnati Bengals have finally parted ways with head Coach Marvin Lewis.
After 16 seasons, Lewis’ tenure is over in “Who Dey” nation. For the past several years there was speculation as to why the Bengals held on to Lewis for so long, but it was simply their trust and respect in how he managed to turn around this team, a team that sat below .500 for several years prior to 2003.
Lewis took over the head coaching job in 2003, when he replaced Dick LeBeau who tanked the Bengals for the worst win percentage in franchise history. Lewis improved the Bengals to winning seasons with a band of young players such as quarterback Carson Palmer and receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
He was voted AP Coach of the Year in 2009. His regular season record, 131-122-3, holding just above .500. But it was his postseason record, a sad 0-7, that was always black mark on his coaching record.