AFC Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

The Bengals haven’t been able to get their No. 1 overall pick, rookie QB Joe Burrow out on the field but Cincinnati is still doing everything it can to prepare Burrow to be their Day 1 starter in 2020. Bengals HC Zac Taylor has gotten creative to get Burrow experience calling plays even in a virtual setting over Zoom and Taylor says he’s been impressed with the rookie even under the circumstances. 

“He’s been great,” Taylor said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “As advertised is the best way to put it. You can tell he spends a lot of time on his own being prepared with questions and he’s doing a great job taking ownership, which is important for a quarterback to do, and he’s doing everything he can to own this offense. Been really impressed with him, but not surprised.”

To help Burrow be prepared as possible as a rookie, the Bengals have had to get inventive. They’ve put all 11 offensive starters in a Zoom room and had Taylor call in the plays independently to Burrow so he can call plays and make checks in a virtual “huddle.” Bengals OC Brian Callahan said Burrow has even been skipping ahead in the offense faster than they can teach it, which gives them confidence he’ll be able to hit the ground running despite the challenges. 

“The ability to take a concept that takes some guys maybe an offseason to learn, it would take a huge concept and he’s immediately thinking about the next level of things,” Callahan said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “’What can I get to that’s better than this? What if we get this coverage, I don’t like this look here what can I do?’ Well, here’s your options. OK, good. His processing information and applying it to the next level was what was really impressive to me.”

Ravens

Ravens HC John Harbaugh expects the team to enter training camp next month at full health — potentially including C Matt Skura in that equation. Skura suffered a catastrophic knee injury late last season, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL while also dislocating his knee. The team didn’t expect him to be ready to return until potentially halfway through the 2020 season but Harbaugh said the veteran is ahead of schedule and passed the team’s conditioning test handily. 

“We’re healthy. Yeah, we’re healthy,” Harbaugh said via NFL Media’s Kevin Patra. “Matt Skura was the biggest injury we had last year and he looks to be like he’s ahead of schedule. Really impressed with how hard he’s worked at it. He really looks good out there. I think it was reported that the time, the workout that we did, the timing of the conditioning test, he just blew the thing away. That’s remarkable. So we go in healthy.”

Skura confirmed Harbaugh’s reports that he was nearing a return to the field ahead of schedule. 

“I think I’m definitely getting close to like the 90 to 95 percent range,” Skura told Jason La Canfora and Ken Weinman on 105.7 The Fan. “I think the biggest thing for me now is just like kind of fine tuning the smaller muscles in like my hip, my knee and even like my calves. So just getting those muscles strengthened up again I think is still what I’m working on and then also now I’m a little bit focused on offensive line skill drills.”

Baltimore made it a priority to add a number of players to the equation at interior offensive line this offseason given Skura’s injury and the retirement of G Marshal Yanda. Even if Skura is fully healthy, a starting spot isn’t guaranteed. But winning the job is absolutely his goal. 

“I think that’s definitely a big goal of mine heading into the season and training camp as well,” Skura said. “I might not be out there the first day of training camp. . . . But I want to go back out there and show everyone that hey, I went through this injury, but I’m back where I am, and I want to improve on last year’s season as well. That’s definitely a goal.”

Steelers

  • Per NFL Media’s Aditi Khinkhabwala, Steelers HC Mike Tomlin said he hasn’t personally seen QB Ben Roethlisberger to make an assessment on his health, but the doctors are positive: “The medical experts are comfortable with where he is in the rehabilitation process and his trajectory for the 2020 season.” 
  • Tomlin mentioned Steelers OT Matt Feiler would probably open up camp taking snaps as the starter at left guard. Steelers DL Tyson Alualu would also open as the team’s starting nose tackle. (Brooke Pryor)
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