BEHIND ENEMY LINES: An AFC North Update

Screenshot 2014-08-06 08.14.08

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Dalton gets rich, Bengals get richer?

Andy Dalton is the league’s latest multi-million dollar quarterback, as the “red-headed rifle” signed a 6-year, 115-million dollar deal with the Bengals this week.

Now locked down and secured for the future, it should be interesting to see what Dalton can muster up in the 2014 season. As many have reported, this contract isn’t as flashy as it seems.

Pro Football Talk reported that this contract is an extremely safe deal for Cincinnati, giving them the option to ultimately opt-out if things don’t go as planned. The $115 million number appears to be nothing more than bragging rights material for Dalton’s agent.

Where do the rookies stand?

The Bengals’ first depth chart was released earlier this week, answering some questions heading into the pre-season.

Here are some notable tidbits regarding the young tiger cubs in Cincy:

• Former North Carolina offensive lineman Russell Bodine is listed as the team’s starting center. This news triggers flashbacks to the Ravens anointing Gino Gradkowski as their starting center in 2013 and it could spell trouble ahead for offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s front line.
• Jeremy Hill from LSU is still listed behind the starting duo at running back, but reports from camp say he has a clear edge over the rest of the pack.
• As expected, former Alabama superstar AJ McCarron is listed 3rd on the chart, behind former Redskin Jason Campbell.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Bryant’s role a big one?

It was a tough offseason for the Steelers, but having a gem like Martavis Bryant live up to expectations can turn everything on the offense around.

Ed Bouchette has been reporting that Bryant is making his presence known early in camp and is getting some extended reps in with Ben Roethlisberger and the ones.

With the loss of Emmanuel Sanders, somebody must step up and command a big role behind Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown. Guys like Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey will be in the mix but it appears that Bryant can solidify his spot with a few impressive preseason outings.

Kirwan examines the Steelers

CBS NFL Insider Pat Kirwan recently took a look at what we should expect to see from Mike Tomlin’s bunch in Pittsburgh this year. As he dissected the offense, he explored the possibility of the no-huddle being the difference-maker:

“The Steelers will be serious players in the no-huddle offensive game,” Kirwan writes. “Last year it was a major factor in their 6-3 finish and it will grow this year.”

This is certainly intriguing considering the new additions Todd Haley will have to work with.

Will Lance Moore become Roethlisberger’s security blanket on 3rd-downs?

Can LeGarrette Blount wear down defenses with power-running play after play?

All of these questions can and should be answered as we get deeper into the pre-season schedule. Pittsburgh will play the Eagles in their third pre-season game on August 21st.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Johnny Backup?

For now, it’s safe to say that the Browns have their starting quarterback in mind…and it isn’t Johnny Manziel.

Brian Hoyer seems to have the edge for now, as he’s listed as the starter on the team’s first official depth chart. However Manziel has practiced with the ones during the past two days of camp.

Let’s not forget that head coach Mike Pettine was in no hurry to name Hoyer the starter before he had to. He’s either been keeping his cards close to the vest when talking to the media, or there’s a little bit of uncertainty when it comes to who is going to be the poster-boy of the 2014 season.

And let’s not discount the possibility of pressure from the owner’s suite.

Gordon decision to come soon?

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Josh Gordon’s 2014 fate will be decided before the season, but it may be up to three weeks before the final decision is made.

Gordon is appealing the NFL’s year-long suspension due to a substance abuse issue.

Cabot is also reporting that the Browns are preparing in advance to have at-least a half season without their star receiver, adding that things aren’t exactly looking up:

“But the Browns certainly aren’t counting on it. They know that no NFL player has ever won an appeal based on second-hand smoke and that Gordon will be hard-pressed to end up with anything less than the indefinite ban.”

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About Joe Wedra

Joe Wedra
Joe is an NFL enthusiast that spends way too much time studying tape, but he wouldn't want it any other way. Joe can be found on Twitter @JoeWedra, where he'll tweet out everything from Ravens analysis to scouting reports on Division II offensive line prospects...all for the love of the...more

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