As we enter the heart of the training camp season, let’s dive into what’s going on around the AFC North in another edition of Behind Enemy Lines.
Austin due for a big year?
The Browns did a lot right during the offseason, Johnny Manziel included. Despite the media circus and speculation frenzy, the offense as a whole appears to be headed in the right direction. One key piece of that fluid offensive game plan looks to be former Cowboy receiver Miles Austin.
Austin has apparently showed big things in training camp, something that will be extremely welcomed by the Cleveland staff who will likely be losing 2013 superstar Josh Gordon to suspension.
There isn’t certainty that the 30-year old wideout can stay healthy, but if all goes as planned, Austin can play a big role in helping Brian Hoyer stay in a rhythm during a tough opening stretch.
Haslam has to be worried about Manziel
Recently, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote about Jimmy Haslam’s views toward his rookie QB. Here’s an excerpt:
“I don’t want to wear this subject out,” Haslam said after the first training camp practice. “Johnny said it himself. He made some mistakes. We expect better from him. I’m sure he’ll perform now. We’re anxious to see what he can do on the field, which is what really counts.”
Any owner in the NFL is going to try to minimize any situation akin to the one the Browns are in right now, and Haslam did that – but it’s interesting that he wasn’t shy about noting that the team “expects better” from the media wonder boy.
There’s always going to be concern about “what happens next” with Manziel, but it’s very telling that Haslam was open to share that with the media. There is definitely concern within the organization, and it shows with the quotes from Haslam and many others.
Early roster prediction
Scott Brown of ESPN recently projected the opening day roster in Pittsburgh. Here are a few highlights:
• Only five receivers are kept, including former Raiders WR Darius Heyward-Bey. He’s an interesting candidate to watch, as he can be a breakout star with the right fit. Is Pittsburgh that place?
• Brett Keisel is on this projection. Why? Ultimately, the thought around the team is that Tomlin and Co. will want “their” star defensive lineman back on the roster in 2014. Brown says that he expects Keisel with the team as a situational player.
• Six cornerbacks headline his prediction, including some of these little-known names: Antwon Blake, Shaquille Richardson, and Brice McCain.
Sanders with a slight to Roethlisberger?
Emmanuel Sanders is now in Denver, but a recent interview with 104.3 The Fan in Denver, he definitely (maybe?) took a shot at his former quarterback in Pittsburgh. Here’s the quote from Pro Football Talk:
“I feel like Peyton is a far better leader, in terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort,” Sanders said. “This is the first time that I’ve had a quarterback that every single day after practice — no matter what his accolades, NFL MVP, Super Bowl ring — he keeps guys like me and [rookie receiver Cody] Latimer after practice. . . . He’s not one of those guys you’ve got to chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint.”
So, there’s that.
Obviously, Manning will always deserve praise, but Sanders is clearly burning a bridge while taking public shots at Roethlisberger’s work ethic.
That guy slinging mud at Joe Flacco on 105.7 The Fan probably appreciates you Emmanuel.
Will Sanu be a difference maker this year?
Reports out of training camp show that Mohamed Sanu has been lining up everywhere, throwing touchdowns on trick plays, running regular routes, and even carrying the ball on handoffs.
Taking all of this into consideration along with the fact that Cincy could use one more offensive spark, it raises the question – is Sanu “that guy” this year?
Every season brings a breakout offensive star, and early signs show that new coordinator Hue Jackson could be planning big things for the 3rd-year receiver.
The depth chart isn’t extremely deep at receiver this year, (Sanu is projected to start across from A.J Green), so one big campaign from a guy like Sanu could be exactly what Andy Dalton needs.
In 2013, Sanu reeled in just 47 passes for 455 yards in a smaller role. For a big season, he’ll need to do something he hasn’t done since his 2011 season at Rutgers – that is become a viable, consistent pass-catcher.
Lewis taking injuries seriously
Marvin Lewis needs all hands on deck this year, and according to Bengals.com, that means no “oklahoma drills” in practice.
As Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com wrote, Lewis isn’t going to risk another injury similar to the one that Geno Atkins suffered last year.
Here’s the quote from Lewis via Hobson:
“It’s not 2003. We know who 35, 40 of the players are going to be. Let’s make sure those 35 to 40, we give them every opportunity to get to Baltimore in one piece,’ Lewis said of the Sept. 7 NFL regular season-opener.
It’s becoming pretty clear that the team has a big red mark circled for opening day. Both sides need to set the tone with a win – Cincinnati hopes they can get it with 53 guys they want on the roster.