Tag Archives: AFC North

2017 AFC North Draft Grades

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Pittsburgh Steelers

First-Round Pick: T.J. Watt-Outside Linebacker-Wisconsin

Best Pick: T.J. Watt

Grade: A

No team in the history of the National Football League has won more Super Bowl Titles than the six in which the Pittsburgh Steelers possess, and the most recent edition of the NFL Draft illustrated why.

While some teams entered the National Football League Draft playing the guessing game as far as what they needed to do in order to improve their respective rosters, the Steelers stuck to their plan of bringing more talent to Western Pennsylvania while capitalizing on the mistakes of others.

T.J. Watt

The first round saw the Steelers have to wait until the 30th pick, but there they selected Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Watt is the younger brother of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt. Just like his big brother who suits up for the Texans, T.J. is a freak of nature. Watt fills a need for the Steelers who have to improve their pass rush. Last year at Wisconsin, Watt recorded 11.5 sacks as a member of one of the stingiest defenses in college football, and his workman like attitude will be a welcome sight in Western Pennsylvania.

In the second round the Steelers were able to land USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. At 6’1″, 215 lbs., Smith-Schuster gives the Steelers another red zone target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and their prolific offense.

James Conner

The Steelers had two selections in the third round with one of those choices being used on Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner. The Steelers got a close look at Conner in college and they know all about his story. Conner was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, while he would also overcome Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during his time at Pitt. Conner never gave up and his mental toughness fits the mold of being a Steeler.

The Steelers were close to getting to the Super Bowl last season, and this draft class can help to possibly make it a reality come February.

Baltimore Ravens

First-Round Pick: Marlon Humphrey-Cornerback-Alabama

Best Pick: Round Three-Tim Williams-Defensive End-Alabama

Grade: B-

It’s hard to believe, but three of the last four years have seen the Baltimore Ravens fail to make the playoffs. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been attempting to get the Ravens back to being a consistent playoff contender as this draft could help to get Baltimore closer to that.

Marlon Humphrey

This draft saw the Ravens focus on getting back to their identity. In the first round the Ravens selected Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Marlon Humphrey. With the Steelers currently being the team to beat in the AFC North, the Ravens need all of the help that they can get in their secondary in order to hang with Pittsburgh’s explosive offensive players.

After trading defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens had a pair of third round picks and they quickly found a replacement for Jernigan in Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Chris Wormley. At 6’5″, Wormley should fit in to the Ravens scheme on their defensive line as they run the 3-4. Later in the third round Baltimore would peg one of Humphrey’s collegiate teammates in outside linebacker Tim Williams. Williams is an outside linebacker by trade, but he is extremely versatile which includes playing the run and pass well. And that versatility could make Williams a starter early on for the Ravens.

The fourth round saw the Ravens select San Diego State Aztecs guard Nico Siragusa. Siragusa is coming off of an All-American selection at San Diego State which included him opening holes for record setting running back Donnel Pumphrey. And after the Ravens were 28th in the National Football League last season in rushing, they need all of the help that they can get on the offensive line.

This draft class might not show up immediately for the Ravens, but they will be effective players.

Cincinnati Bengals

First-Round Pick: John Ross-Wide Receiver-Washington

Best Pick: Round Three-Jordan Willis-Defensive End-Kansas State

Grade: B

After the Cincinnati Bengals failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010, it was time for them to retool. The Bengals entered the National Football League Draft needing more speed at the wide receiver position and they got their money’s worth.

John Ross

In the first round the Bengals selected Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross who set a record by running the fastest 40-yard dash time in the history of the National Football League Scouting Combine. Ross ran a 4.22 40-yard dash and his speed will now see him test the arm strength of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

Joe Mixon

In the second round the Bengals would put themselves under the microscope by drafting Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon. Mixon entered this draft as one of the best play makers at the running back position; however most people have not been focused on that due to his past off-the-field issues. In 2014, Mixon was suspended by Oklahoma after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly hitting a woman. In 2015, Mixon would return to Oklahoma and become a key contributor to the Sooners winning 22 games over the last two college football seasons. But when video surfaced late in 2016 of Mixon hitting the woman during the 2014 incident, he was immediately taken off of some team’s draft boards. Now the Bengals must face the public backlash and if they and Mixon are able to get past that, he could be a very productive player for them.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has always believed in stock piling pass rushers, and in a division with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, you can never have enough players who can put pressure on the quarterback. The third round saw Cincinnati select Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis. Willis comes to the Bengals as a very polished edge rusher. In 2016, Willis was the Big 12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as he recorded 11.5 sacks. The Bengals didn’t stop there as in the fourth round they selected Auburn Tigers defensive end Carl Lawson. Lawson had the potential to be taken late in the first round, but questions about his durability saw his stock fall. Now Willis and Lawson can learn from veteran Bengals defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson while also contributing on the field.

If the Bengals can stay healthy in 2017, they should once again be able to contend for a playoff spot.

Cleveland Browns

First-Round Pick: Myles Garrett-Defensive End-Texas A&M, Jabril Peppers-Safety-Michigan, David Njoku-Tight End-Miami

Best Pick: Myles Garrett

Grade: D

The Cleveland Browns had a real opportunity to reverse the fortunes of their franchise at the 2017 National Football League Draft. But it typical Browns fashion, they let that opportunity go by the wayside.

The Browns entered the draft in possession of the first overall pick which was almost impossible for even them to mess up. The Browns used that selection on Texas A&M Aggies defensive end Myles Garrett who has freakish pass rushing ability. But the biggest issue for Garrett is whether or not that he’ll get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle in which so many first-round picks of the Browns have gotten lost in. And after the selection of Garrett, it was completely downhill from there for the Browns.

The Browns owned the 12th overall pick and they were in need of a quarterback. However with North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky having been drafted by the Chicago Bears, Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson was sitting there waiting for a phone call with area code 440 attached to it. Instead of taking Watson, the Browns made a trade with the Houston Texans who were poised to take Watson and make him their franchise quarterback. And as I’ve said before, the Browns will rue the day in which they passed on Watson as he is a proven winner which is what they need in their locker room.

Cleveland would make take two more selections in the first round as they pegged Michigan Wolverines strong safety Jabril Peppers 25th overall and Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku 29th overall. Peppers saw his draft stock fall as the result of a diluted sample at the Scouting Combine, while teams weren’t sure if he is a safety or an outside linebacker. Njoku was arguably the best athlete at the tight end position coming into the draft, but how much of an impact that he can with Cleveland remains to be seen.

After passing up on Watson, the Browns would then take Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round. Kizer had more uncertainty as far as his ability to be a professional quarterback than the three signal callers who were selected in the first round. Kizer is still very raw a passer which includes questions about his pocket awareness and ability to break down pro-style defenses as it appears to be simply another case of goofing up by the Browns.

Caleb Brantley

In the sixth round Cleveland would select Florida Gators defensive tackle Caleb Brantley who saw his draft stock diminish after he was accused of punching a woman last month to the point that the alleged victim required dental work. Brantley had second round potential, but most teams weren’t willing to touch him with a 10-foot pole after the allegations came out against him. The Browns contend that they can still release him based off of potential legal ramifications, but why put your franchise in that position in the first place?

Since the Browns re-entered the National Football League in 1999, they’ve only had two winning seasons. And after the Browns went 1-15 last season, they laid a complete egg at the draft as they will continue to be the whipping boys of the AFC North, along with being the laughing stock of the NFL.

Source: Cfbstats.com

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2016 Week 17 NFL Picks

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Week 17’s showdown against the Green Bay Packers could be a defining moment for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2016 Week 16 NFL Picks

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

The New England Patriots can see the finish line in regards to getting home-field advantage in the playoffs.

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2016 Week 14 NFL Picks

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Quarterback Dak Prescott has the Dallas Cowboys on the verge of an NFC East Title?

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2016 Week 9 NFL Picks

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

After starring for the Ohio State Buckeyes, running back Ezekiel makes his return to the State of Ohio, but now he is shining for the Dallas Cowboys?

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Rewriting The Book On Futility

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Believe it or not there was a time when the Cleveland Browns were the envy of the National Football League. The Browns began in the All-American Football Conference in 1946 before both leagues merged in 1950. In the Browns first ten years of existence, they played in ten title games which saw them win the AAFC Title four times, and the NFL Championship on three occasions. What helped the Browns was their leadership at the two important positions on the field as they were coached by Paul Brown and Otto Graham was their quarterback. It also didn’t hurt that the Browns also had future Hall of Famers such as running back Jim Brown and offensive lineman Lou Groza suiting up for them then as they were very close to unstoppable.

But the beginning of the end for the Browns came on January 7, 1963 when team owner Art Modell fired Brown was the only head coach in the history of the franchise. In 13 seasons with Cleveland, Brown compiled a record of 111-44-5 which is still the gold standard for the franchise. But the egos of Modell and Brown could not co-exist anymore which led to the messy departure. Under the guidance of head coach Blanton Collier, the Browns would win the National Football League Championship in 1964, but they would soon begin a slow and painful journey into futility.

Jim Brown would abruptly retire in 1965 at the age of 29 after just nine years in the National Football League. The Browns would still put forth quality teams that featured the likes of running back Leroy Kelly, but they could never get over the hump in the NFL during the late 1960’s against the contenders such as the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. And when the NFL merged with the American Football League in 1970, the Browns were placed in the AFC Central Division as they would face none other than Paul Brown who was now the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

After a pair of playoff appearances in 1971 and 1972, it would be a downward spiral the Browns for the remainder of the 1970’s before they won the AFC Central in 1980. But to this day Browns fans will be haunted by “Red Right 88” which was the play that was called when Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe threw an interception that secured the team’s 14-12 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The Browns would suffer more playoff heartache during the 1980’s as they were done in throughout the decade by the likes of the Denver Broncos and their quarterback John Elway who beat three times.

But the Browns death blow would come on November 6, 1995 when Modell decided to move the organization from Cleveland to Baltimore after he was unable to secure the new stadium that he was seeking. Modell’s decision caused a huge uproar as he became the most hated man in Cleveland. And following the Browns final game of the 1995 National Football League season which was a 24-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it marked the end of an era as Cleveland would not get a new franchise until 1999.

However as the folks in Cleveland were happy to welcome the new Browns, the results have been putrid to say the least. Since 1999, the Browns have only had two winning seasons, while becoming the laughing stock of the National Football League. Upon returning to the NFL, the Browns have had three different owners, seven team presidents, eight general managers, nine head coaches, and a whopping 26 different starting quarterbacks.

Hue Jackson

The Browns began the current National Football League season with a new team president in Paul DePodesta, general manager in Sashi Brown, head coach Hue Jackson, and starting quarterback in Robert Griffin III. But unfortunately for the Browns they are nowhere close to being a contender.

Through two games here in 2016, the Browns are a train wreck waiting to happen. In Week 1, the Browns were throttled by the Philadelphia Eagles 29-10. In the contest Griffin would suffer a fractured shoulder that would see him placed on injured reserve, while the Browns defense wouldn’t have an answer for Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz who was 22-of-37 passing for 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

This past Sunday, the Browns would jump out to a 20-point, first quarter lead on the Baltimore Ravens (the original Browns), and it appeared that Cleveland was on their way to the upset victory. But on the ensuing extra point by the Browns following their third touchdown of the game, the kick was blocked by the Ravens and rookie cornerback Tavon Young who returned it for two points for Baltimore. The Ravens would shut down the Browns offense for the rest of the afternoon, while they would steadily chip away at the Cleveland lead. And when it was all said and done the Ravens would defeat the Browns by the score of 25-20 as another vintage dose of Cleveland futility was complete.

The Browns are preparing to face the Miami Dolphins this Sunday in a battle of 0-2 teams, but you wouldn’t know that as Miami is favored by 9.5 points. The Browns being 9.5-point underdogs sums up their season along with the expectations around them as they might as well begin preparing National Football League’s Scouting Combine in February as the draft cannot get here quick enough for them.

Cody Kessler

The Browns lost Griffin in Week 1, and his replacement at quarterback in Josh McCown suffered a shoulder injury during Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Now the Browns will turn to rookie quarterback Cody Kessler as the revolving door at the most important position on the football field continues.

So far Jackson appears to be the right guy for the Browns, but he needs time as this isn’t a problem that can be easily fixed. The Browns are in need of a culture change that is going to take some time as they must find a way to contend with the Ravens, Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers who have all taken turns using Cleveland as whipping boys in the AFC North. Through various trades the Browns had 13 draft picks during this year’s National Football League Draft as Jackson is seeking to build depth, while also finding players that fit into his system. But hopefully Jackson has the opportunity to see things through for an organization that hasn’t had a good history recently of being patient.

Of the Browns nine head coaches since returning to the National Football League in 1999, no coach has lasted more than four years, while the last four coaches haven’t gotten more than two years. It hasn’t been that much better for the Browns when it comes to drafting either as only four of their ten, first-round picks this decade are still on the roster. And it’s not getting any better for the Browns as wide receiver Corey Coleman who was their first-round pick this year is out for the next four-six weeks with a fracture in his hand.

Things will keep getting worse for the Browns as they’ll host the New England Patriots in Week 5 in what will be the first game of the season for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following his four-game suspension for “Deflategate” and you can expect him to have a point to prove. The Browns still have five divisional games on the slate and it isn’t looking good for them as the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals all look poised to make a run towards the postseason while making Cleveland the unofficial “homecoming game” for the division.

At some point the Browns will have to find a winning formula, but in the meantime they are just three years away from being three years away.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2016 Week 2 NFL Picks

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Will it be the good Andy Dalton or the bad Andy Dalton when the Cincinnati Bengals clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2016 AFC North Projections

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

X-Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4

When you think of the history of the National Football League, you can’t go that long without recognizing the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have been an NFL franchise since 1933, and since 1972, Pittsburgh has only had seven losing seasons which is remarkable. Some other outstanding traits that are displayed by the Steelers organization is that they preach patience and consistency with their head coaches as they’ve only employed three head coaches since 1969, which is a far cry from the majority of the other franchises around the NFL where there is constant turn over at the head coaching position. Mike Tomlin set to begin his 10th year as the Steelers head coach, and like his two predecessors in Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, he has led Pittsburgh to at least one Super Bowl Championship. The last two years have seen Tomlin get the Steelers to the playoffs, but he has a team in 2016 that is more than capable of adding a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions to the display case in Western Pennsylvania.

Ben Roethlisberger

As long as the Steelers can keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy, they have a legitimate shot of winning it all. Roethlisberger has been the Steelers starting quarterback since 2004, and all he has done is win while displaying a toughness that the folks in Western Pennsylvania can relate to. At the age of 34, Roethlisberger isn’t showing any signs of slowing down while he still can throw one of the best deep balls in the National Football League. Last year with Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers had the third ranked offense in the NFL, and you can expect more of the same in 2016.

Very rapidly Antonio Brown has become one of the better wide receivers in football. In the last three years Brown has gained nearly 5,000 yards of receiving yards and he has become Roethlisberger’s most dependable target in the process. The Steelers will miss the contributions of wide receiver Martavis Bryant who will have to sit out the entire 2016 National Football League season after a failed drug test, and tight end Heat Miler who retired after spending his entire 11-year career in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers are hopeful that wide receivers Sammie Coates, Markus Wheaton and Darius Heyward-Bay can step up to make contributions in the passing game to offset the losses of Bryant and Miller.

The Steelers are also hopeful to have a healthy pair of running backs in Le’Veon Bell and De’Angelo Williams. Last year injuries limited Bell to just six games and he’ll miss the first three games of 2016 after being suspended by the National Football League due to the fact that he missed a drug test. But the Steelers need the combo of Williams and Bell in the backfield as each are solid at picking up the blitz for Roethlisberger, while also having the knack to be receivers in the passing game.

The Steelers should once again have one of the better offensive lines in the business as long as center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro can remain healthy as this unit has a high level of physicality attached to them.

As the Steelers defense is set to begin its second year under defensive coordinator Keith Butler, you can expect the term “Blitzburgh” to once again be used to describe this unit. Last year the Steelers amassed 48 sacks which was third in the National Football League, and with the likes of inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and veteran outside linebacker James Harrison back on the scene, Pittsburgh is ready to show that they are still the bullies of the AFC North.

As a rookie in 2015, outside linebacker Bud Dupree totaled 4 sacks, but if he is able to become the pass rusher that the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him, their defense could become very stingy. Rookie inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich was the Steelers seventh-round pick this year and after being an All-American last year at Temple, his strong work ethic and determination will be a welcomed sight to Pittsburgh’s blue-collar work ethic.

Cam Heyward

On the Steelers defensive line, defensive end Cam Heyward is turning into a star and fellow defensive end Stephon Tuitt is no slouch either as ability to rush the passer and stop the run opens up Pittsburgh’s linebackers to make more plays.

The Steelers have a chance to make a statement in Week 2 when they host the Cincinnati Bengals as there is no love lost between these two AFC North rivals; especially after last season’s wild card game which was won by Pittsburgh. Overall four of the Steelers first five games in 2016 are against teams that finished last season with winning records. But the Steelers chances to win the AFC North will come down to their final three games of the season as they’ll face the Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns in consecutive weeks.

Y-Cincinnati Bengals 11-5

The last five National Football League seasons have seen the Cincinnati Bengals reach the playoffs. But each time the Bengals have been unable to win a playoff game. Last year’s playoff loss for the Bengals stung more than the others as they had the Pittsburgh Steelers on the ropes until they came apart at the seams. A fumble by Bengals Jeremy Hill late in the contest gave the Steelers life. And when Pittsburgh got the ball back, Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones made sure that they did their part in helping the Steelers win. The Bengals began last season with a record of 8-0 as they finished the regular season with a record of 12-4 for their best mark since 1988 which marked their last trip to the Super Bowl. However as good as the Bengals were in 2015, what does head coach Marvin Lewis have up his sleeve to motivate this team to not only make the postseason for a sixth consecutive year, but to also win their first playoff game since January 1991?

Andy Dalton

In each of the last five years Andy Dalton has been the Bengals starting quarterback and he has a career record of 50-26-1. But Dalton’s career playoff record of 0-4 record, along with the fact that he typically comes up short when the Bengals need him the most have made him a lightning rod for controversy in the Queen City.

Last December, Dalton suffered a fractured thumb which put him on the shelf for the rest of the season as he is looking to get back on track here in 2016. But Dalton will miss the guidance of his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson who is now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns as former quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese will be calling the plays in Cincinnati.

Behind a strong offensive line that features left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals have a solid running game with their tandem of running backs in Hill and Giovanni Bernard. And if Bernard and Hill can combined to get 400 carries this season, it should symbolize another trip to the postseason for the Bengals.

In the past I have talked about the need for Dalton to not play “hero ball” in order to help the Bengals win games. And although that wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the better wide receivers in the National Football League, Dalton shouldn’t try to force feed him the football, while another receiver such as tight end Tyler Eifert needs to step up and become a consistent option for Cincinnati in the passing game.

After the Bengals finished 2015 11th in total defense, there’s nothing that can stop them from being a top-five unit this season except themselves as they have a wealth of talent. The Bengals can rush the passer with defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, while the interior of Cincinnati’s defensive line is stout with defensive tackles Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, and Pat Sims. There’s plenty of talent in the Bengals linebacking unit with Burfict, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, and outside linebacker Vincent Rey, while picking up a veteran middle linebacker in Karlos Dansby could help the Bengals finally get over the hump and win a playoff game. In the secondary, the Bengals can cover with the likes of veteran cornerbacks Adam Jones and Kirkpatrick, but it just a matter of this unit staying focused under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.

The schedule makers were not kind to the Bengals as they’ll begin the upcoming season with consecutive road games against the New York Jets and Steelers, while they will have their home opener against the Denver Broncos who are the defending Super Bowl Champions. And if the Bengals get off to a slow start, they will be fighting an uphill battle in the AFC North against the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens to win the division.

Y-Baltimore Ravens 10-6

You have to go back to the 2005 National Football League season to find the last time that the Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Injuries derailed the Ravens chances in 2015 as they went 5-11. And for Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh, they’ve been hard at work this off-season to get Baltimore back on track in the AFC North.

Joe Flacco

Last year marked the first time in the National Football League career of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that he missed time due to an injury. In Week 11, Flacco suffered a torn ACL which put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. As the Ravens starting quarterback, Flacco has a career record of 75-47 while also sporting a 10-5 mark in the postseason which includes leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl Title. Flacco has been rehabbing from his knee injury, and the Ravens are going to need him to be fully healthy when they take the field in September.

Aside from Flacco, the Ravens must get more continuity from their rushing attack that was ranked 26th in the National Football League last season. Baltimore’s leading rusher in 2015 was veteran running back Justin Forsett with just 641 which isn’t going to get it done in the NFL; even though that the league is now very pass happy.

Injuries also hurt the Ravens offensive line last year as they were unable to provide protection for Flacco or open up holes in the running game. The Ravens would use the sixth overall pick of the 2016 National Football League Draft on offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley who has the potential to be an anchor on the offensive line for the coming years. The Ravens also have veterans on the line in the form of center Jeremy Zuttah and guard Marshal Yanda that will need to find cohesion early in order to provide blocking the skills players in Baltimore’s offense.

Last year was supposed to be wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.’s final hurrah in the National Football League. But after Smith suffered an Achilles injury which abruptly ended his campaign, he is back for one more go at it in 2016. Smith has been one of the better pass catchers of this era as he has the potential this season to become just the sixth player in National Football League history to record 15,000 receiving yards.

Terrell Suggs

The Ravens were eighth in total defense in 2015, but the unit’s issues began in Week 1 when outside linebacker Terrell Suggs suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon which robbed Baltimore of their defensive leader. Suggs is back for the upcoming season, and the Ravens have picked up former San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle, but will there be enough play makers on this side of the football to get Baltimore back to the post season?

In recent years punter Sam Koch and place kicker Justin Tucker have been vital to the Ravens success. Last year Koch had a net average of 42.9 as his kicks can change field position, while Tucker is one of the better field goal kickers from within 50 yards. And special teams will be a huge factor for the Ravens; especially when the temperature begins to drop in the months of November and December.

If the Ravens want to be a playoff team in 2016, they must take care of business in the first half of the season as only one of their first seven opponents made the playoffs last year. The Ravens last two games of the season will be on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals as Baltimore will have its work cut to make the playoffs in January.

Cleveland Browns 5-11

It’s the same old song for the Cleveland Browns as they are beginning another National Football League season with a term attached to the them which is “starting over”. Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, they have had three different owners, eight general managers, nine head coaches, and they are working on their 25th different starting quarterback. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam didn’t help himself in his most recent front office hires as he hired a new team president in Paul DePodesta and general manager Sashi Brown. Neither man has a football background as DePodesta has worked in the front offices of Major League Baseball franchises, while Brown has a law background.

Hue Jackson

At least the Browns hired a football guy as their next head coach in former Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson. In one season with the Raiders, Jackson posted a record of 8-8 as he was charged with changing the culture there. And that is exactly what Jackson is attempting to do with the Browns as they’ve only had two winning seasons since 1999.

As the Browns are coming off of a 3-13 season, the only way for them to go is up. The Browns resisted selecting a quarterback early on during the 2016 National Football League Draft and instead of drafting a quarterback early on in the proceedings, they instead decided to try their hand at a reclamation project.

Robert Griffin III

Quarterback Robert Griffin III was the second overall pick of the 2012 National Football League Draft by the Washington Redskins and he took the league by storm. In 2012, Griffin became the NFL’s Rookie of the Year as he helped the Redskins win the NFC East. But a knee injury towards the end of the 2012 season, along with missing the entire training camp for the following campaign put Griffin behind the eight ball. And when Jay Gruden became the Redskins head coach last year, he never warmed up to Griffin being his starting quarterback which made him expendable. The Redskins would part ways with Griffin this off-season and he is looking to re-kindle some of the magic from 2012 now with the Browns.

Jackson has been known to develop quarterbacks and the main thing that Griffin needs to work on is his pocket awareness, but he will be a welcome sight in Cleveland after the Browns parted with another quarterback from the State of Texas this off-season in Johnny Manziel.

Last year the Browns were 25th in total offense in the National Football League and they are in need of more consistency. The Browns still have nine-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle in Joe Thomas anchoring their offensive line, but he is becoming disgruntled with the team’s inability to win. Longtime Browns center Alex Mack left this off-season to join the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland is hopeful the center Cameron Erving who was a first-round choice of the team in 2015 is ready to fill the void.

With Jackson running the show in Cleveland, the team is in the process of a roster overhaul which means that there is a competition at nearly every position and somebody has to step up and become a play maker on offense.

The same can be said on defense where the Browns need to be more aggressive under first-year defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Browns must find a way to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their front seven as their 29 sacks in 2015 were 28th in the National Football League.

Jackson is attempting to change the culture for the Browns and he will spend 2016 simply weeding out the guys that don’t fit his system. But hopefully Jackson gets the chance to establish himself with the Browns as they don’t have patience with their head coaches.

X-Division Winner

Y-Clinched Wild Card

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

facebooktwittergoogle_plus