AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Bengals QB Andy Dalton still has two more years on his contract. However, with a brand new head coach and no guaranteed money remaining on his deal, Dalton faces a crucial moment for his long-term future going into 2019. 

“I don’t feel like there’s any extra pressure,” Dalton said via ESPN’s Ben Baby. “I feel like for me and this team, I think we have high expectations for ourselves. I’m not worried about any other added pressure or anything. I’m just worried about winning.”

  • The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. believes if Cincinnati struggles and is in position to take a top quarterback in 2020, Dalton will remain on the roster as a bridge to the next starter. 
  • Dehner mentions DE Carl Lawson has been impressive and could have double-digit sack potential.
  • Dehner says G John Jerry has been better than expected at both guard and tackle given for a player out of the league in 2018.
  • Meanwhile, Dehner has observed the coaches mentioning C Billy Price‘s plantar fasciitis whenever his performance is brought up. The 2018 first-round pick appears to have lost the starting center spot to former UDFA Trey Hopkins.
  • Dehner notes that LB Malik Jefferson and WR Josh Malone have failed to stand out. 

Browns

Browns RB Nick Chubb was buried on the depth chart early in his rookie year but burst onto the scene in the back half of the schedule. He ran for 823 yards and six touchdowns in the ten games after earning the starting role. This year, Cleveland expects to feature Chubb from start to finish. 

“I think he’s going to be special like he was last year,” Browns RB coach Stump Mitchell said via Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “He’ll be used a little more in  the passing game than he was last year. Nick just continues to improve on the skillset that he has, and I think he has a fantastic skillset.”

Ravens

Steelers

2019 will be the first year of Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s career that he lines up without Antonio Brown on the field. Smith-Schuster recognizes that all eyes will be on him as he steps into the No. 1 receiver role for Pittsburgh, and he’s focused this offseason on diversifying his skill set to become more of a complete receiver. 

“Being able to catch the deep balls down the field, those go balls, those free balls that they send down the field where I’ve got to go make those plays,” Smith-Schuster said via TribLive.com’s Kevin Gorman. “That’s what I’ve focused on a lot, catching the ball over the shoulder and being able to be a threat on the outside.”

Smith-Schuster isn’t known as a burner, but he’s established himself as one of the NFL’s top receivers working primarily from the slot, though he often worked in space vacated by the constant double teams opponents would send at Brown. Some have questioned how the third-year receiver will fare with the added attention. 

“I would actually contradict that a little bit,” Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said. “I think a lot of Nos. 1s are one-spot guys. … You can move guys around by formations but to literally play a different position – he plays X, F, Z – JuJu can do it all and he’s uniquely different in that sense because he can do kind of everything. That’s different than a lot of No. 1s, truthfully.”

  • The Steelers announced Ray Sherman would step in as interim wide receivers coach following the passing of Darryl Drake. (Mark Kaboly)

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