AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Steelers

     

Bengals

The Bengals signed DT D.J. Reader to a four-year, $53 million contract this offseason. Reader says he’s dropped weight this offseason and is down to 320 pounds in the hope of being in the best shape possible. 

“I want to do the things that are going to make me a better player this year,” Reader said, via Bengals.com. “Maybe get a little more quicker. My reps might go up, you never know. I wanted to be prepared for everything. I wanted to make sure I’m going to be in the best shape of my career. Play better and yet still be strong.”

Browns

Instead of breaking out in his third season, Browns TE David Njoku battled through injury and clashes with the coaching staff last year. A wrist injury put him on injured reserve for half the season and he had a hard time getting a consistent role on the field when he came back. With a fresh start under a new coaching staff, Njoku is looking to bounce back and justify Cleveland’s decision to exercise his fifth-year option. 

“My No. 1 goal is to stay healthy,” Njoku said via Anthony Poisal of the team’s official website. “If I can stay healthy, the sky is the limit. It’s going to be special. We have all the tools here, and we have a great coach, so we’re really excited to put it all together.”

Cleveland’s decision to pick up Njoku’s option was a slight surprise, as while the former first-round pick has flashed massive talent, he’s been unable to find consistency. The Browns also made TE Austin Hooper a top priority in free agency, giving him a deal that made him the highest-paid at his position. But Browns OC Alex Van Pelt said there’s room for both Hooper and Njoku in their offense. 

“He is going to add to that tight end room,” Van Pelt said. “There will be times we are out there with three tight end sets — that is part of this system — and to have him with the ability he has both athletically to play inline or get him out in space and get some matchup issues with safeties and linebackers covering him, I am excited to see what he has to offer.”

Steelers

Joel Corry of CBS Sports includes Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster in his article of players at a crossroads entering the 2020 season.

Corry writes that “2020 could go a long way in determining whether Smith-Schuster is a No. 1 wide receiver or a No. 2 who needs another wideout drawing coverage away from him to be highly effective.

  • The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette thinks Steelers RB Jaylen Samuels‘ position versatility can help him make the roster even though Pittsburgh traditionally keeps just three running backs. 
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