AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

  • The Athletic’s Jay Morrison expects Bengals WR John Ross to start over second-round WR Tee Higgins but the snap count will be closer than it otherwise could have been had Ross not missed a stint of camp. 
  • Morrison doesn’t anticipate Bengals CB Mackensie Alexander‘s legal situation cropping up again until the offseason. 
  • The Bengals hosted free agent OT Keaton Sutherland for a visit on Monday. (Aaron Wilson)

Browns

  • The Browns released their unofficial depth chart, with the biggest surprise coming in the form of rookie TE Harrison Bryant leapfrogging TE David Njoku for the No.2 spot behind TE Austin Hooper. Bryant was being referred to as the MVP of the Browns training camp.
  • Cleveland also named safeties Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph as their starters, while recently acquired S Ronnie Harrison and second-year player S Sheldrick Redwine were listed as the backups.
  • The Browns hosted former Chiefs’ T Greg Senat for a visit with the Browns. (Aaron Wilson)
  • Former Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart has returned from a hamstring injury and is back practicing with the Browns. (Nate Ulrich)
  • The Browns hosted RB John Kelly for a visit on Tuesday. (Aaron Wilson)

Ravens

With a Heisman trophy and an MVP already on his resume at the age of 23, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has accomplished quite a bit already. But part of what makes Jackson so special is that it’s his failures, particularly in the playoffs the past two seasons, that motivate him even more than his successes. 

“The great thing about Lamar is he doesn’t change,” Ravens HC John Harbaugh said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “He’s gonna be himself. He’s not gonna get caught up in any of the hype. He’s humble. He’s very hungry. He wants to be a better player. He knows he’s got a lot to learn. He pushes his guys big-time, he pushes them at practice, he competes against the defense really hard. He’s real demonstrative out there, he wants to win every play, and I think the guys really respond to that.

“That’s what they love about him, he’s so genuine, he doesn’t change. He knows more football. He’s had some hard knocks, he’s gone down in the playoffs a couple times, those are real experiences that you grow from, that callous you, that toughen you up. That’ll only make him a better leader.”

Steelers

Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is known for his fun-loving personality but even he was brought down by the hail of obstacles Pittsburgh faced in 2019. There was the death of WR coach Darryl Drake, QB Ben Roethlisberger‘s injury and struggles from his replacements and an injury to Smith-Schuster himself that limited him to almost a third of the production he had the year before, along with some personal issues he hinted at but didn’t go into. But the outlook for 2020 is much brighter and it’s due in no small part to Roethlisberger’s return.

“He’s definitely back to being his old self,” Smith-Schuster’s mom, Sammy, said via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “He’s excited about the new wide receivers that are coming in. I was talking to him after the first practice, and I said, ‘How’s everything going?’ He was like, ‘Man, I’m so happy Ben is back. Everybody, our team, we’re ready to go.’ I think he’s back.”

There’s potentially more turbulence on the horizon, as Smith-Schuster is entering the final year of his contract and there’s little indication extension talks have taken place. However, the young receiver says he’s just going to focus on living life in the present and deal with his contract when it comes up. 

“I’m not worried about that,” Smith-Schuster said. “With everything going on right now, you just never know what could happen. As for me, I’d love to be a Steeler, but at the end of the day, I’m here to play ball, win games for the team and for the organization.”

  • Steelers HC Mike Tomlin said they’re “not opposed” to using the different talents they have on their running back depth chart but RB James Conner is still the main guy: “There is no question about who our bell cow is. Our bell cow is James Conner and he is our primary ball-toter.” (Aditi Kinkhabwala)
  • Tomlin said special teams was the first thing he thought about when the chance to bring back former starting S Sean Davis presented itself: “Forget safety, Sean Davis is a guy who’s been a quality punt teams player, quality kickoff team player. those are the first things we thought about when we had the opp to reacquire him.” (Pryor)
  • Steelers OT Zach Banner has won the starting right tackle job over Chukwuma Okorafor. (Mark Kaboly)
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