BEHIND ENEMY LINES: AFC North OTA Update

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Image courtesy of CBSSports.com

We’re officially under 100 days until the start of the regular season and John Harbaugh’s mighty men are taking the field to prep for their AFC North rivals this season.

Things are heating up quickly, so we’ll break out the start of Behind Enemy Lines for the 2014 campaign.

It’s going to be a big year - might the Cleveland Browns make a run for the AFC North title?

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Where will West fit in?

To the dismay of local fans, Terrence West is a Brown. While the Ravens would likely have been open to listing the Towson alum on their depth chart, they’ll now make it priority number-one to ensure West knows what the AFC North is all about.

The great folks at Ourlads (check them out, you won’t be sorry) have West slotted behind Ben Tate and and Dion Lewis, but don’t be surprised if it’s the former Tiger taking snaps with Tate once the regular season begins. Here are a few of the new faces on the Cleveland offense:

  • WR Nate Burleson
  • WR Miles Austin
  • WR Earl Bennett
  • G Joel Bitonio
  • G Paul McQuistan
  • TE Jim Dray
  • QB Johnny Manziel
  • RB Ben Tate
  • RB Terrence West
  • RB Isaiah Crowell (sleeper alert…)

Johnny Vegas!

Reports came out over the weekend that the future of the Browns organization took his party to Vegas over the weekend to celebrate with Rob Gronkowski, known as one of the league’s TMZ targets. Manziel’s weekend accounts were documented by TMZ – you can read the outlet’s article here.

Does this matter? Probably not, but it speaks to the kind of player that the Browns drafted. If they wanted a soft-spoken signal caller, they didn’t exactly get their man.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Bengals Start OTAs; Is Hill the guy?

Jeremy Hill didn’t have many on-field knocks coming out of LSU, leaving some to say the Bengals stole him from everyone else. The off-field issues have plagued the big back, but his rushing ability is unquestioned – something Cincinnati is clearly noticing right away.

As we start OTAs, it appears that the staff has the former Tiger ahead of BenJarvus Green-Ellis during on-field drills. While it’s too early to read into anything too closely, it’s clear that the team has plans for Hill to be heavily involved in the offense.

What’s going on at tight end?

Vance Meek from Stripe Hype recently touched on the topic of starting time for the tight ends. With Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert battling for snaps, we could be seeing a spirited training-camp clash. Both of these guys want to be on the field and catching passes from Andy Dalton. The question is simple: who will impress enough to see consistent playing time, no matter the formation?

Meek gives Eifert the “fan favorite” label, but mentions that Gresham’s veteran status keeps him slightly above the former Golden Domer.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Joey Porter making a difference in Steel-Town again

Porter was a threat for just under a decade for the Steelers, and he’s back with the team as a defensive assistant for the 2014 season. One player that he is training is Jarvis Jones, the former Georgia Bulldog that under-performed in 2013. Here’s a quote from ESPN’s article that spotlight’s Jones’ view towards his current mentor:

“The crazy cussing and stuff like that he hasn’t done that yet but you can tell his intensity, his passion for the game,” Jones said. “He’s more hands on than just talking to us and trying to show us how to do it.”

This will be an interesting situation to watch moving forward. Jones caught some heat from fans last year – can Porter help get the former first-rounder back in gear?

Does Roethlisberger have the necessary weapons?

It’s hard to say how the Pittsburgh quarterback will fare in 2014, but the team obviously feels that they’ve done enough to bolster the receiving corps. They added Lance Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey, and drafted Martavis Bryant from South Carolina. While these moves were notable at the time, they all blend together to be very average when looking at the big picture.

Other than Antonio Brown, there isn’t a solid receiver that can be talked about as an elite threat in the passing game. They’ll rely on guys like Markus Wheaton and Moore, but is shutting down Brown the key to success for AFC North rivals?

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