AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

  • Per ESPN’s Ben Baby, Bengals HC Zac Taylor said No. 1 overall QB Joe Burrow has ” been as advertised” so far. 
  • Taylor confirmed the team is planning for Burrow to be the starter from the jump: “We’re going to put a lot on Joe right out of the gate.” (Baby)
  • Asked about their expectations for Burrow, Taylor responded: “Play well Week 1. That’s our starting point.” (Baby)
  • Taylor is happy to have Bengals WR A.J. Green in the fold after the veteran signed his franchise tag: “It’s really good to get him under contract and get him back on the field. He’s going to be a huge part of this offense and this team.” (Baby)

Browns

  • Scott Petrak of BrownsZone.com notes there are several burning questions facing the Browns entering the 2020 season, including whether or not QB Baker Mayfield can rebound from a down year.
  • Petrak also mentions the franchise will be expecting big things from DE Myles Garrett, especially after the former number one pick signed a massive extension this offseason.
  • Other issues include whether first-round OT Jedrick Wills can get up to speed during his first NFL season, and whether or not the Browns will deal TE David Njoku, who Petrak says isn’t good enough that the Browns can’t live without him but also has not shown he is talented enough to force his way out of Cleveland.
  • Petrak notes another issue is how new HC Kevin Stefanski will move the ball to so many different talents including WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, as well as RB Kareem Hunt who figures to be involved in the passing game with RB Nick Chubb expected to handle a bulk of the carries.
  • Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal writes the biggest concern for the Browns’ receiving corps is whether Landry will be healthy enough to start the season after offseason hip surgery. 

Ravens

  • Per the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson said his focus this offseason has been on downfield passing and out-breaking routes to try and make those a more effective part of the offense. 
  • He added Ravens 2019 first-round WR Marquise Brown, is poised to break out in 2020 now that he’s healthy: “I feel like he’s going to make a huge jump, more than people think. He is a lot faster with that foot 100 percent.” (Zrebiec)
  • Ravens GM Eric DeCosta acknowledged the value they got from the Falcons made trading TE Hayden Hurst worth it after the former first-round pick quietly asked the organization to move him: “Would we be better with Hayden Hurst? Probably. But we want to win with guys who want to be on the boat with us, and he felt a change was best for him.” (Dan Pompei)

Steelers

As reports of players taking the NFL’s opt-out option for the 2020 season began to trickle in, one trend that emerged is a number of linemen making that decision. Obesity is one of the top risk factors for COVID-19 and NFL linemen are required to maintain certain weights for their job. Many who opted out also had pre-existing conditions like asthma that also increased their risk. Steelers DL Cameron Heyward fits both of those categories but has made the personal decision not to opt out of the 2020 season. 

“I would say I have to take every precaution,” Heyward said via the Athletic’s Ed Bouchette. “I think there are so many unknowns. I could get the disease another way. I’m going to take every precaution, keep myself safe and others around me safe. I think by doing that I can still be able to play and play at a high level. Maybe being a P.A. rep, I think I have too much information. That’s put me at ease. I’ve been trying to do everything I can, whether it’s staying up on multiple vitamins, whatever, making sure if I did catch it I’d be healthy enough. It’s still an ongoing everyday process with this virus that we don’t know about. But I have to make sure I take every precaution. I feel like I’m doing it and I’ll be cleared to play.”

  • Heyward said he’s excited to get a healthy Stephon Tuitt back on the defensive line after the veteran missed 10 games with a pectoral injury in 2019: “I think Tuitt is going to be ready. He had to get his pec right and get through the rehab, but he was progressing nicely this offseason before the COVID shut it down. We all went to Dallas and trained together, and he has come a long way. Tuitt wants to get back to the group, and the group needs him.”
  • Bouchette notes Steelers DL Chris Wormley, acquired via a trade from the Ravens, will battle 2019 sixth-round DL Isaiah Buggs to be the first player off the bench in the rotation. 
  • Because the Steelers only carry five defensive linemen on the gameday roster sometimes and both Tyson Alualu and Daniel McCullers will rotate at nose tackle, Wormley and Buggs could be battling for an active jersey as well. 
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