AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens

     

Bengals

Bengals WR Tee Higgins had an outstanding rookie season with 67 catches for 908 yards and six touchdowns. But the second-round pick out of Clemson fell just short of a few benchmarks he was targeting, like a 1,000-yard season or Chris Collinsworth‘s rookie reception record, after a hamstring injury knocked him out for the season finale. He has no shortage of ambitious goals for his second season. 

“Another achievement I always wanted to accomplish, to have a 1,000-yard season,” Higgins said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “Not just in the league but in college. I achieved it once, but being able to do it in the league full of pro players would be an unbelievable achievement. Being able to do that, I obviously wanted to break the reception record for the Bengals. I caught it but it was called back and so I happened to get hurt on that play. It is what it is, come back stronger next year.”

Browns

Browns TE David Njoku wouldn’t comment on his future with the organization when asked if he feels Cleveland is the right place for him. Njoku notably requested trades in July and prior to the deadline in October. 

That’s a good question,” Njoku said, via Scott Petrak of BrownsZone. “I’m not going to answer that right now. I have no comment towards that at this moment. I’m just going to enjoy my family, my friends, my loved ones. I have a couple of projects happening in the near future, so I’m just focused on the right now and let everything handle itself in the near future.”

Njoku said he “was confused” to see the Browns sign TE Austin Hooper as a free-agent and draft fourth-round TE Harrison Bryant in last year’s draft after exercising his fifth-year option. 

“I was confused because the Browns (exercised) my fifth-year option and they got all of these other tight ends,” Njoku said. “At the same time, I’d been hearing (coach) Kevin Stefanski’s offense is very tight end-oriented. So I was optimistic about everything. I was excited to get back to work. With a couple of complications obviously here and there throughout the season, it put me in a predicament where I had nothing to do but just put my head down and work.

Njoku called 2020 a “roller coaster” given he was upset with his playing time but did not want to become a distraction from Cleveland’s winning season. 

“Last year was definitely a roller coaster for me,” Njoku said. It was an interesting year, another year of growth. I learned a lot about myself. I pushed through adversity, physical and mental. I just found myself in a position where I’m upset with the playing time, but this team that I’m on is winning and I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else around me. I don’t want to ruin it for myself.”

Ravens

Ravens OT Orlando Brown Jr shed some light on his desire to play left tackle that could lead to a split between him and the organization his father played for. Brown has been locked in on the right side since being drafted but moved to the left after LT Ronnie Stanley went down soon after signing a mammoth extension. 

Left tackle has traditionally been the premier position but right tackles have grown in importance with how many elite pass rushers there are across the league. Contracts still tend to favor tackles on the left though, like Stanley who signed for nearly $20 million a year. Brown says his desire to play on the left is less about the contractual difference and more because his father played on the left side.

“It’s never been about the money,” he tweeted. “I’m so appreciative for this organization and all my teammates. I couldn’t thank [GM Eric] DeCosta enough, he’s a incredible football mind and one the best men I know. I want to live out the dream my dad had for me.”

Brown expanded more in an interview, talking about the impact his late father, a larger-than-life person and personality who played several years in the NFL for the Ravens, had on him. 

“Growing up in my household, if you were going to play O-line, my dad didn’t want you being on the right side,” Brown said via Daniel Oyefusi of the Baltimore Sun. “It was one of those deals where he felt as though the right tackle — and especially at the time when he played — he felt the right tackle was not considered the best tackle on the offensive line and in the offensive line room. And his mentality and approach was, ‘I want you to be better than me.’ So from Day 1, when I started playing offensive line, it was always him working me on the left side.”

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