AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Steelers

     

Bengals

Teams rarely get the No. 1 overall pick without earning it and the Bengals absolutely earned it with their performance in 2019, including on defense. Cincinnati’s defense ranked near the bottom in most categories and that was reflected with the wholesale turnover the group underwent this offseason. Cincinnati went on a shopping spree in free agency, bringing in DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes, S Vonn Bell, CB Mackensie Alexander and LB Josh Bynes. In total, Bengals DC Lou Anarumo has 17 new players to integrate this offseason, which unfortunately happens to be the first in nearly a decade without OTAs. 

“The good news is it’s not six rookies we’re depending on,” Anarumo said via the Athletic’s Jay Morrison. “That would certainly add to the challenge. We made a conscious effort in the guys we took. Not only are they quality men and quality players, but they’re smart individuals and they’ve been around. While they may have called particular techniques something at another team, it’s really just, ‘Hey, this is just this from what you call it.’”

  • Bell is expected to replace S Shawn Williams in the starting lineup at strong safety and Anarumo is excited for the shot of youthful energy: “The guy is a workhorse from a meeting standpoint — great communication, great leader, and he’s a physical guy. We got younger back there a little bit with him. He’s a good blitzer. I’m just excited to get him and see him move in a live situation. He really brings a bunch of energy and juice to the group.”
  • There were questions about Cincinnati’s ability to attract free agents but Bell said he was sold on HC Zac Taylor‘s culture: “He wants a ferocious team. He wants guys that are hungry.” (Ben Baby)
  • At linebacker, Anarumo notes Bynes can team up with the lone holdover from last year’s group, 2019 third-round LB Germaine Pratt, to allow rookies Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey time to acclimate. 
  • One of Anarumo’s other goals is to manage snaps for veteran DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Geno Atkins to make sure they’re effective for the whole season: “Now, they’re both in great shape, as always, but what happens is you don’t really see the effect on those guys early in the year. It’s later in the year where they just get worn out, beat up the older they get. So we’ll have a pitch count, per se, with those guys. But when the most impactful plays are about to happen, hopefully they’re in there.”

Browns

New Browns TE Austin Hooper said he has always been friends with TE David Njoku and doesn’t read too much into his recent trade request. 

“David and I have always been cool,’’ Hooper said, via Mary Kay Cabot. “David and I have always had a good relationship. A super nice, super sweet dude. Genuinely a good human being.”

Hooper mentioned that Njoku changed agents, who wanted the tight end to change teams. 

“He changed agents, and the agent wanted him to go somewhere else,’’ Hooper said. “I get it. It’s a business at the end of the day. You have to do right by your family. He switched agents to an agent who, if you take a look at someone’s track record, that’s something he has always done. Going into his contract year, he swapped agents, and of course, that’s going happen.”

Ravens

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec expects Ravens veteran WR Willie Snead to start ahead of third-round WR Devin Duvernay at least to begin the season. 
  • 2019 third-round WR Miles Boykin should be the team’s other starting receiver on the outside, per Zrebiec.
  • Zrebiec notes the Ravens’ signing of TE Jerell Adams shouldn’t preclude them from also adding TE Delanie Walker if the veteran is interested. However, Walker would be coming in as the No. 3 tight end. 
  • Zrebiec says Ravens 2019 fourth-round G Ben Powers could win a starting job ahead of veteran D.J. Fluker and others if he’s improved. He adds Powers could also end up as a trade candidate given his draft status if he doesn’t win a job. 

Steelers

  • Per the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, Steelers HC Mike Tomlin says he watched QB Ben Roethlisberger throw and while his spiral was looser, his velocity looked good: “I did watch him throw. I didn’t see anything that was alarming in any way. His velocity is excellent. His spiral could be a little tighter. I have seen it tighter but nothing to alarm you in any way.”
  • Tomlin told reporters the Steelers expect LB Devin Bush to take a step forward in his second year as the leader of the defense: “He’s a defensive quarterback, if you will, being an all-situation linebacker, one that plays in all downs, distances and circumstances. He’s the type of guy that has to be a hub of communication.”
  • Kaboly thinks it’s notable that Tomlin didn’t mention pass coverage when discussing Steelers LB Vince Williams, who projects to start next to Bush: “Just in terms of having to work with Vince over the course of his career, he is a formidable run-stopper. That is his niche. He has always been solid in that regard over the course of his career. He has worked at other aspects of his game. His rush has been noteworthy in recent years — his ability to win as a blitzer against backs is an asset to us. His football intelligence and communication skills have always been a solid component of his resume.”
  • While the loss of preseason snaps is significant, Tomlin mentioned that hasn’t changed their expectations for QB Mason Rudolph: “We’re looking forward to seeing him take a significant step this year.” (Brooke Pryor)
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