Mike and Mike in the Morning previewed the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals Monday morning as we shared here on FoS and they completed their AFC North review with the Ravens and Steelers as reviewed on FoS here. As the pre-season has begun, and the regular season is creeping up, FoS will be sharing a division preview Unit by Unit of each of the 4 teams. While position ranking could be fun, doing so for each of the 25 positions, including Kicker, Punter and Return Specialist is a little tedious and does not help take a bigger picture into account. Also with the Bengals in a 43 Defense, and the other teams in a 34 variation, Front 7s are more important then splitting up DLine and Linebackers. These reviews will include the following units:
As we continue are rankings on the offensive side the quarterback’s throwing the passes have huge impact on those catching the passes. Instead of separating out wide receivers and tight ends they are combined here as teams have learned to use TEs often in similar ways as WRs. These rankings are based on which group would you most want for the 2013 season, so injuries and suspensions that we know of right now are included.
- Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green is the class of the division with his size, speed, leaping ability and route running. Though currently suffering through a slight injury, Green has been a consistent dominate force since entering the league. The Bengals have struggled to surround him with a high quality #2 wide receiver but have made up for it at tight end. Jermaine Gresham, a former 1st rounder, has been outstanding between the numbers for the Bengals. This year the team added the best tight end in the draft, Tyler Eifert. 2 pass catching tight ends is a new wave in the NFL, started with the Patriots. The Bengals can line up both Eifert and Gresham on the line or split them out wide to create multiple mismatches. If any of the plethora of receivers in camp are able to lock down the #2 spot across from Green the Bengals passing offense has the opportunity to be great, dependent on QB Andy Dalton.
- Pittsburgh Steelers - While the Steelers lost Mike Wallace to free agency, and a large contract in Miami, the team still boasts 2 young developing receivers. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders comprise a dynamic 1-2 punch for QB Ben Rothlesberger and Todd Haley to deploy. Brown and Sanders will have to prove they can continue to succeed with out Wallace’s dynamic presence taking attention and his speed “taking the top off” the defense. With TE stalwart Heath Miller injured, and his backup Matt Spaeth also going down with injury the team will be looking to young unproven players at that position. Rookie Markus Wheaton and veteran Jerricho Cotchery will be needed in 3 and 4 wide sets to provide something: Wheaton’s speed and Cotchery’s route running.
- Cleveland Browns - It was a close call between the Steelers and the Browns for the #2 position. The two tipping points were the experience edge to the Steelers and Josh Gordon’s 2 game suspension. The Browns improved their WR position over the last few drafts with Gordon and Greg Little. Gordon is a long strider who fits perfectly in the down the field passing game new OC Norv Turner wants to play. Little, the former RB, has started to take hold of the #2 position with his sturdy frame and ever improving hands. In the off-season the Browns added Devone Bess, a veteran slot receiver who runs precise routes and will be vital in third down and short yardage situations. David Nelson, formally of the Buffalo Bills, could provide a tall red zone threat, if he is able to return from his knee injury. This is the year that Jordan Cameron has to step up at TE. The ex-USC basketball player has shown flashes but has not shown consistency.
- Baltimore Ravens - The reigning Super Bowl champs return outside deep threat Torrey Smith and dancing with the stars and return man Jacoby Jones while losing Anquan Boldin to trade and TE Dennis Pitta to injury this year. The Ravens just signed Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokely, and will rely on those two significantly this year. The fact that the Ravens need 2 players who were left on the free agent market all off-season is telling of the lack of talent at the pass catching positions. It is possible Jones continues to show signs of improvement as a solid #2 but the 7th year man has not shown such yet. Next year, with the return of Pitta the core of the receivers may be different. Ed Dickson, the backup to Pitta is also injured and may miss a game, or more, as well. For now its Smith and a cast of castoffs and aging veterans for QB Joe Flacco to deploy out in routes.
What did we miss? How would you rank these 4? Did we “disrespect” your team? Tell us what you think.
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