AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Bengals HC Zac Taylor said they are finding “a lot of advantages” with the structure of their practices.

“There’s a lot of advantages that we’re finding right now. Just the way we’re going to be able to structure practices and create more scrimmage situations,” Taylor said, via Geoff Hobson of the team’s official site. “You consider in a pre-season game Joe Burrow maybe wouldn’t have gotten to play with a couple of guys that you’re holding out or don’t give many reps to. Whereas you can protect those guys in a scrimmage that you control a little bit better.”

Taylor said the Bengals’ defense improving their tackling and offense limiting turnovers are “critical to our success this year.” 

“We’re going to have to tackle. We’re going to have to learn how to take hits and take care of the ball. All those things that will be critical to our success this year,” Taylor said. “Quite frankly, we weren’t good enough last year in a lot of those areas. Not only was it going to be a point of emphasis this training camp, but now even more so with the lack of pre-season games.”

As for players potentially opting out of the 2020 season, Taylor said that is a personal decision and supports anyone who chooses to. 

“Those are personal decisions for those guys. And certainly, we’ll support those decisions,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to speak for any player in this league that’s going through those conversations with their loved ones. If those guys want to announce things, they can. But we’re not going to make any comment on it.”

Browns

  • Per Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, Browns 2019 sixth-round G Drew Forbes‘ agent says he opted out of 2020 because of an undisclosed medical issue: “He really had no choice. It’s nothing very serious, but you can’t take any chances with this virus. His life and his family are more important than football.”
  • He added Forbes was leaning toward playing until Wednesday, and it was a hard decision given he had the chance to compete for a starting job at right guard. 
  • Browns HC Kevin Stefanski says the plan is still to start first-round OT Jedrick Wills at left tackle despite the lack of practice time: “We are keenly aware we have a young player there. We will be on top of his development.” (Scott Petrak)
  • Stefanski didn’t tip off who would be calling the plays on offense: “We do have a plan to decide who calls plays. We’ll announce when appropriate.” (Petrak)

Ravens

  • Per the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, Ravens HC John Harbaugh says he respects QB Lamar Jackson‘s opinion on WR Antonio Brown: “We’ll look at any and every player at all times. Antonio Brown is no exception.”
  • Harbaugh added he didn’t think Brown was available to sign right now, though he wasn’t 100 percent sure. 
  • The Ravens have talked about playing CB Jimmy Smith at safety in 2020, but Harbaugh said they’ll see as they go through the season: “Jimmy is a corner. If he lines up at safety, it will be for a reason.” (Zrebiec)
  • Harbaugh confirmed Ravens CB Tavon Young, who missed 2019 with a neck injury, is 100 percent for 2020, as well as EDGE Pernell McPhee and S DeShon Elliott. (Zrebiec)
  • The Ravens are optimistic about C Matt Skura being ready for Week 1 but Harbaugh plans to be cautious as he comes back from a catastrophic knee injury: “We’ll be careful. We’ll see how he looks and how he feels.”
  • Harbaugh mentioned the Ravens will shuttle the players on the interior offensive line around a lot. Third-round OL Tyre Phillips is competing to start at guard but he’ll also get some looks at backup tackle after Andre Smith opted out. (Zrebiec)

Steelers

  • Per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster says QB Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and looking like he’s in outstanding shape for the 2020 season: “Working him this offseason, he’s pretty much back to 100 percent. He lost some weight, and probably better for him and better for our team. I’m super excited what he’s going to bring to the table.”
  • Steelers OC Randy Fichtner gushed about the potential of Steelers second-round WR Chase Claypool: “I’m excited because I know he’s physical, I know he can run, and I know he can learn up to this point.” (Pryor)
  • Fichtner notes Steelers QB Paxton Lynch has a legitimate shot to unseat Devlin Hodges as the third-string quarterback: “He’s an exciting guy for me to see where he can go.” (Pryor)
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