AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Bengals RB Joe Mixon entered the season looking to break out as the next star running back in the NFL, with the end of his contract looming in 2020. Instead, Mixon and the Bengals have struggled, with the third-year back totaling only 27 yards and averaging 1.6 YPC as Cincinnati limped to an 0-2 start. 

“I take it personally on me,” Mixon said via Laurel Pfahler of the Dayton Daily News. “These two performances I’ve been displaying have been terrible. You call me the peon right now. I’ve got to go home and do some re-evaluating, some looking at the man in the mirror, which is me, and got to step up, making something happen.”

The Bengals have dealt with a number of injuries along their offensive line, which was already a question mark entering the year, but Mixon says the responsibility for his poor start falls on him, not the line. 

“It’s not the team, it’s me, honestly,” he said. “I’m not being accountable to my teammates and making the plays I need to make. … I ain’t done nothing that I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not putting my team in good position to win. I’ve got to step it up.”

Bengals OL Billy Price is used to starting, and after being a first-round pick by the Bengals last year he expected that to continue. However, Price was benched coming out of the preseason after losing his starting job at center to Trey Hopkins

“For somebody who went to Ohio State, an elite-level program, drafted in the first round, playing here in Cincinnati, you’re a starter when you come in, and you have a couple setbacks and now you’re climbing back into the ranks, it’s tough,” Price said via the Athletic’s Jay Morrison. “It’s a mental roller coaster. It’s not fun. Thank god I have my wife because it scares you sometimes.”

Price was also unable to earn the nod to start at left guard ahead of fourth-round rookie Michael Jordan. However, Price got his chance to play when Jordan exited Sunday’s game with a knee injury, and Price is expected to start at left guard for the Bengals in Week 3 against Buffalo. Depending on how he does there, OL coach Jim Turner says he could earn his job back.

“He’s one of the fortunate ones that has the talent to play in the NFL,” Turner said. “I don’t consider that a difficult thing. He lost his job. He’s fighting to get it back. And now for him to come off the bench, there should be an inspiration for him to come off the bench and play as hard as he possibly could to show everybody what he’s about.”

  • Bengals HC Zac Taylor said at one point during the preseason if there was an injury on the interior offensive line, Hopkins would shift to guard and Price would go to center. However, Hopkins has played well enough that the Bengals want to keep him locked in at center: “Trey has been really consistent. His communication has been really good in the middle. I have full confidence that Billy can play center as well, but there’s just no need to do that.”

Browns

  • Per Scott Petrak, Browns OC Todd Monken says he’s been happy with how starting RG Eric Kush has performed through two games after outlasting the competition during the preseason.
  • Browns HC Freddie Kitchens says they’re still evaluating TE David Njoku to determine the severity of his broken wrist and are considering all options. (Tony Grossi)
  • Browns LB Christian Kirksey is slated to miss Week 3 with a chest injury. (Ian Rapoport)

Ravens

The Ravens initially targeted Patrick Ricard as an undrafted free agent out of Maine in 2017 to play defensive tackle. However, with a gaping hole on the other side of the ball at fullback, it didn’t take long for the coaching staff to see the possibilities. Now Ricard plays both ways, starting at fullback on offense and getting snaps in the rotation at defensive tackle, and the team has reportedly discussed a contract extension.

“When I got here, literally, (OC Greg Roman) came up to me in the hallway during OTAs, and he was like, ‘Hey, I want to try you at fullback. I want you to line up, just split the crotch of the tackle, and kick out the first guy on the edge,’” Ricard said via the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. “That’s all he told me. That was it. He didn’t want me to know what the words meant in the play, didn’t want me to know the technical stuff. Very little. That’s all I really knew at first.”

  • The Ravens tried out P Sean Smith on Thursday. (Aaron Wilson)

Steelers

The Steelers were able to acquire DB Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins after a rift developed over Fitzpatrick’s former coaching staff moving him around to a number of different positions he didn’t feel comfortable with. Pittsburgh HC Mike Tomlin said following the trade that Fitzpatrick would play only free safety for the team to begin with. 

“I think right now it’s important to anchor me down because I’m learning an entirely new system,” Fitzpatrick said via Will Graves of the Associated Press. “Once I learn the system more, I’ll be able to move around a little bit. It’s part of my game. It’s one of the reasons they wanted me around.”

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