AFC North Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Ravens

Ravens WR Miles Boykin definitely enjoyed his rookie season, as Baltimore finished the year 14-2 and was one of the best teams in the NFL before an upset loss in the playoffs. But the third-round pick in 2019 has bigger personal goals for 2020 than the 13 receptions for 198 yards and three touchdowns he finished with last year. 

“Absolutely, just being a dominant, more polished wide receiver,” Boykin said via Clifton Brown of the team’s website. “Obviously, last year was my rookie year and I was blessed to be part of a team that went 14-2 during the regular season, made it to the playoffs, fell a little bit short. That experience is going to be good for me in the long run. I think I’m ready to break out this year and I’m just excited to see what the year holds for us. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help this team win.”

Boykin acknowledged the rigors of the full NFL season wore him down over the course of the year. In addition to playing a full 16 games, Boykins says the level of intensity was also different than anything he’d ever experienced. 

“I had never played 16 weeks before in college,” Boykin said. “My legs got a little bit tired at the end of the season. (I’m) building up my leg endurance, really just being quicker on the field. Having the leg strength to be able to do that is a huge part of it. I took a month of just not doing anything. That was the advice from the strength coaches. I didn’t believe them at first. I took off a month and I still had some nicks and bruises. I definitely never felt anything like that. College season is over, you take a week off, you feel brand new again. It’s definitely a different monster.”

Steelers

After the Steelers traded up to take LB Devin Bush in the first round, the former Michigan defender turned in a pretty strong rookie season. Bush finished with 109 total tackles, nine for a loss, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, four recoveries, including one taken back for a touchdown, and four pass defenses. But there were also some clear times where Bush looked like a rookie. Former Steelers DL Aaron Smith says not to discount how hard it is for a rookie to step in and play to the level Bush did — and what that means going forward. 

“A lot of people don’t’ understand how difficult it is to step in as a rookie, let alone be the linebacker position that has to take all the mental aspect of it in and play physically well,” Smith said via the Athletic’s Ed Bouchette. “That’s not an easy task. Most guys would struggle. You take Troy Polamalu when he first started playing as a rookie. Troy is by far probably the greatest football player I’ve ever been around, no doubt about it. But you look at the struggles he had early on that rookie year because there’s so much mentally and then you have to execute it physically at a high level. (Bush) got more comfortable (as the season progressed). You reduce the amount of thinking the better you can play.

“That’s what’s going to be so exciting about this year. He’s not going to hesitate. He’s not going to be wondering what he’s supposed to do. He’s going to know the defense, he’s going to know the calls and he’s going to do it in a manner that will be very fast.”

  • Bouchette believes the Steelers will let RB James Conner play out this season, test free agency and ask him to give them the last shot on topping any potential offer. 
 
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