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Old 07-14-2009, 06:42 PM   #1
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Default PFW AFC North training-camp previews

Pro Football Weekly AFC North training-camp previews
Posted July 14, 2009 @ 10:14 a.m.
By Mike Wilkening

Part Two of eight training-camp previews by division

Training-camp site: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

Training-camp report date: July 31.

Key veteran arrivals: WR Shaun McDonald, CB Keiwan Ratliff.

Key veteran departures: LB Larry Foote, CB Bryant McFadden, RB Gary Russell, S Anthony Smith, OT Marvel Smith, WR Nate Washington.

Drafted rookies: (1) DE-DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood; (3) OG Kraig Urbik, WR Mike Wallace, CB Keenan Lewis; (5) CB-PR Joe Burnett, RB Frank Summers; (6) DT Ra'Shon "Sonny" Harris; (7) C A.Q. Shipley, TE David Johnson.

Offensive overview: Over time, it may well be forgotten that the Steelers' offense was much criticized at points during 2008 regular season; winning a Super Bowl can sweep such memories into the footnotes. And the triumph in Super Bowl XLIII highlighted how explosive the Steelers' offense can be. QB Ben Roethlisberger has a rare knack for making big plays on the run. The WR corps, now featuring a pair of Super Bowl MVPs after Santonio Holmes' star-making performance vs. the Cardinals, can be very, very good. That said, there's little doubt the offensive line, which has been a weakness the last two seasons, must improve in both run and pass blocking. Also, RB Willie Parker must show he can stay healthy and that he still has that extra gear.

Defensive overview: There is little reason to expect the NFL's best defense in 2008 to take a step backward in '09. The group returns largely intact, with only one starter ILB Larry Foote having departed. Foote's replacement, Lawrence Timmons, is fast and well-versed in the defense, and he could be on the verge of a breakout season. This is a swarming, sound defense, one that does not make many mistakes and has the complete confidence of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, one of the more brilliant coaching minds of his generation. The Steelers' sustained success running LeBeau's 3-4 scheme has probably played no small role in a wave of teams rushing to employ the "30" defense.

Battle to watch: The Steelers need a capable third receiver to emerge in training camp. Ex-Lion Shaun McDonald likely rates an edge to win the position at present, and if the Steelers want a quick slot receiver, he could be tough to beat out. However, don't count out second-year pro Limas Sweed and rookie Mike Wallace. Sweed struggled as a rookie, but he was a playmaker at Texas. The light could come on for him at any point. Wallace has exceptional speed; recall the success the swift Nate Washington had as the Steelers' third wideout.

Injury update: P Daniel Sepulveda is coming off a knee injury that ended his '08 season before it started. The Steelers released veteran P Dirk Johnson earlier in the offseason, which can be taken as a sign that Sepulveda is progressing just fine. RB Rashard Mendenhall is showing no ill effects from last season's shoulder injury and looked very good in offseason workouts. WR Hines Ward (shoulder surgery) should be ready for camp. Finally, Roethlisberger tweaked his knee in offseason workouts, but the injury is not serious.

Fantasy sleeper: Don't forget about RB Mewelde Moore. He is unlikely to get a lot of carries if Parker and Mendenhall stay healthy. But if one or both get hurt, Moore will be in line for more work, and he was productive last season, scoring six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving). Moore might not be someone you draft initially, but he is a player to snap up if Parker and/or Mendenhall is injured or ineffective.


Training-camp site: McDaniel College, Westminster, Md.

Training-camp report dates: Rookies, July 27; Veterans, July 29.

Key veteran arrivals: QB John Beck, C Matt Birk, CB-RS Chris Carr, CB Dominique Foxworth, TE L.J. Smith, WR Kelley Washington.

Key veteran departures: OT Willie Anderson, QB Kyle Boller, C Jason Brown, DE Marques Douglas, CB Corey Ivy, S Jim Leonhard, WR Derrick Mason, CB Chris McAlister, LB Bart Scott.

Drafted rookies: (1) OT Michael Oher, (2) OLB-DE Paul Kruger; (3) CB Lardarius Webb; (5) ILB Jason Philips, TE Davon Drew; (6) RB Cedric Peerman.

Offensive overview: The Ravens ran the ball more than any other club last season, but QB Joe Flacco's development could allow offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to be more daring in the passing game in 2009. Flacco has a strong arm and exceptional poise and came a long way in a short period last season after being unexpectedly thrust into the lineup in August. The offensive line, which lost C Jason Brown but added ex-Vikings C Matt Birk, is a deep, talented group with license to improve. However, some concerns linger about the offense. There is no clear-cut starting running back. Nor is there a go-to receiver after Derrick Mason unexpectedly retired. Mason's absence means Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams will have to step up their play. Clayton caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns in 2006 but hasn't quite built on that promise. Meanwhile, Williams has battled ankle problems the past two seasons. The Ravens could add a receiver later in the summer, as their WR depth was a concern even before Mason's retirement.

Defensive overview: Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the mastermind behind the Ravens' flexible, attacking defense the previous four seasons, became the Jets' head coach. New defensive coordinator Greg Mattison isn't expected to tinker too much with Ryan's formula and is said to be respected by the players. The defense endured some personnel losses in the offseason, none bigger than ILB Bart Scott's departure to the Jets. Tavares Gooden, who is swift but inexperienced, will step into the lineup next to 34-year-old Ray Lewis, who re-signed with the Ravens. Baltimore could get a boost from the return of NT Kelly Gregg and SS Dawan Landry from injuries. Also, the Ravens have their deepest secondary in recent memory, a necessity for a defense known for taking its fair share of chances.

Battle to watch: RBs Willis McGahee and Ray Rice, as well as FB Le'Ron McClain, will compete for carries this season. Rice had a strong offseason, and McClain exceeded all expectations as a ballcarrier in 2008. On the other hand, McGahee struggled to stay healthy last season, and he is coming off knee and ankle surgery. Even if he wins the starting job which is no sure thing he may not carry quite the heavy workload he did earlier in his career. In short, all three Ravens backs will get work, but the work flow could be as frustrating to forecast as it was a season ago.

Injury update: McGahee fought knee and ankle injuries in the offseason; he has to be practicing to keep getting his share of carries on game day. ORG Marshal Yanda and NT Kelly Gregg are coming off knee injuries but ready to step back into the lineup. The same can be said for SS Dawan Landry (spinal-cord contusion). Williams needs to overcome a nagging ankle injury if he is to step into Mason's spot in the lineup.

Fantasy sleeper: TE Todd Heap caught just three TD passes in 2008, clearly struggling in his first season in Cameron's offense. However, it's a little early to write off Heap completely just yet; he is still just 29, and he had some very productive seasons earlier in his career. Also, with Mason retiring, Heap's workload could very well increase. With QB Joe Flacco having the potential to improve this season and with Heap liable to improve in his second year in Cameron's attack five or six TDs for the veteran tight end are not out of the question. He's worth a look in the late rounds of your draft.
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Old 07-14-2009, 06:42 PM   #2
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Default Re: PFW AFC North training-camp previews


Training-camp site: Georgetown College, Georgetown, Ky.

Training-camp report date: July 30.

Key veteran arrivals: WR Laveranues Coles, RB Brian Leonard, QB J.T. O'Sullivan, S Roy Williams.

Key veteran departures: OT Stacy Andrews, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Glenn Holt, OT Levi Jones, RB Chris Perry, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, S Dexter Jackson.

Drafted rookies: (1) OT Andre Smith; (2) LB Rey Maualuga; (3) DE Michael Johnson, TE Chase Coffman; (4) C Johnathan Luigs; (5) P Kevin Huber; (6) CB Morgan Trent, RB Bernard Scott; (7) FB Fui Vakapuna, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Freddie Brown.

Offensive overview: The return of QB Carson Palmer should make a major difference in the fortunes of the Bengals' offense, which finished last in yards gained per game in 2008. Palmer's accurate passing and strong arm are likely to make WR Chad Ochocinco a much bigger threat than he was last season. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, one of the game's better possession receivers, signed with Seattle, but Laveranues Coles is a solid replacement. What's more, No. 3 WR Chris Henry has had a very good offseason. RB Cedric Benson will get the lion's share of the carries, but how much running room he will have behind an offensive line that struggled last season and was shuffled in the spring remains to be seen. The line also struggled with pass blocking, and it must take a step forward, considering that Palmer isn't all that mobile and he suffered two major injuries on hits since 2006.

Defensive overview: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has drawn widespread praise for his work with this improving group. The defensive line is deeper than it had been in past seasons and could take a step forward. The competition for playing time could be fierce: Ex-Cowboys DT Tank Johnson has drawn good reviews to date, and rookie DE Michael Johnson is loaded with potential. The LB corps looks like a strength, with WLB Keith Rivers fully recovered from a broken jaw and rookie Rey Maualuga pushing to start on the strong side. The secondary is also intriguing, with Roy Williams, another ex-Cowboy, likely to start at safety and CB Leon Hall a player to watch.

Battle to watch: Maualuga and veteran starter Rashad Jeanty will compete to start at strong-side linebacker. "You can tell he's a middle linebacker," Jeanty said of Maualuga last month, "but he's playing like a strong-side linebacker's supposed to." Maualuga's playmaking ability is no secret, but Jeanty could be tough to dislodge from the lineup after making almost 100 tackles a season ago. Don't be surprised if he holds on to his starting job, at least initially. Jeanty is known for his ability to stuff the run.

Injury update: QB Carson Palmer has recovered from a right elbow injury, and he's back in control of the Bengals' offense — outstanding news for a team that had little offensive punch when he was out last season. Rivers has fully recovered from a broken jaw suffered last October; his weight is back up, and he has said he will not play any differently. S Marvin White is coming off a knee injury and finds himself behind in the battle for playing time in the back half of the secondary. TE Chase Coffman's foot injury does not look like a major concern, and he'll be ready at the start of training camp.

Fantasy sleeper: WR Chris Henry was a favorite of fantasy owners earlier in his career, but his production tailed off in each of the past two seasons as he missed significant stretches because of NFL suspensions. However, Henry has shown signs of returning to his old form in the offseason, and that's reason to consider him late in your draft. At his best, Henry is a solid third option in formats that start a third wide receiver or a "flex" player.


Training-camp site: Cleveland Browns Training Facility, Berea, Ohio.

Training-camp report dates: Rookies, July 24; Veterans, July 31.

Key veteran arrivals: LB David Bowens, LB Eric Barton, DE Kenyon Coleman, S Abram Elam, OT George Foster, WR Mike Furrey, CB Rod Hood, CB Corey Ivy, CB Hank Poteat, QB Brett Ratliff, TE Robert Royal, OT John St. Clair, OG-OT Floyd Womack.

Key veteran departures: CB Terry Cousin, LB Andra Davis, QB Ken Dorsey, S Sean Jones, WR Joe Jurevicius, OT Kevin Shaffer, TE Kellen Winslow, RB Jason Wright.

Drafted rookies: (1) C Alex Mack; (2) WR Brian Robiskie, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, OLB David Veikune; (4) ILB Kaluka Maiava; (6) CB Don Carey, CB Coye Francies, RB James Davis.

Offensive overview: New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is charged with turning around a Browns offense that did not score an offensive touchdown in the final six games of last season. Expect an offense influenced by Daboll's time as a Patriots and Jets assistant, but much is still unknown about this attack, which lacks a starting quarterback and has no shortage of concerns. For instance, how much does RB Jamal Lewis have left? He is coming off ankle surgery, and whether he can still break off a long run here and there remains to be seen. Also, who will start opposite Braylon Edwards at wide receiver? Finally, can the Browns capably replace TE Kellen Winslow, who has been a very good pass catcher at points in his career?

Defensive overview: The Browns will continue to employ the 3-4 defense, but look for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to also mix in some "46" looks. The Browns need to improve their pass rush, and Ryan will have to be creative to get that needed extra pressure. The defense will have several new starters, most notably S Abram Elam, a favorite of head coach Eric Mangini's. The defensive depth — a glaring weakness last season — has been bolstered, giving Ryan and Mangini some flexibility. NT Shaun Rogers played at a Pro Bowl level last season and would be all the more formidable if he had more help.

Battle to watch: QBs Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn will compete for the starting job. Quinn looked to have a slight edge earlier in the offseason, but Mangini has insisted that neither quarterback has the lead entering training camp. The more accurate passer might end up the winner, considering the problems both quarterbacks had in this area last season. The No. 3 quarterback, ex-Jet Brett Ratliff, probably doesn't have a shot at winning the job initially, but he's a player to watch down the road, as Quinn and Anderson were acquired on the watch of head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage, not that of Mangini and new GM George Kokinis.

Injury update: Jamal Lewis is coming off ankle surgery; while he might take a practice off here or there in training camp, he's likely to get the majority of the regular-season carries and should be good to go by Week One. Derek Anderson suffered a lower right leg injury in June; the leg was wrapped, and Anderson missed some of the Browns' mandatory minicamp, but the injury does not appear to be serious. DEs Robaire Smith (Achilles tendon) is likely to participate in training camp, as is DE Corey Williams (shoulder). TE Steve Heiden (knee) should be ready no later than the start of the season.

Fantasy sleeper: RB Jerome Harrison is expected to be a bigger part of the offense this season, and he's had a strong offseason. With Jamal Lewis coming off ankle surgery and the Browns looking for more explosiveness out of the offense, Harrison might be a nice player to stash at the end of your bench. Harrison hasn't had a lot of work in three seasons with the Browns, but he has good quickness and was a very productive back at Washington State.
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:12 PM   #3
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Default Re: PFW AFC North training-camp previews

This is a swarming, sound defense, one that does not make many mistakes and has the complete confidence of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, one of the more brilliant coaching minds EVER.

Good read. I can't wait to see how 3rd WR battle shakes down, as well as the o-line. The additions of Urbik and Shipley will, at the very least, push the guys ahead of them.
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Old 07-15-2009, 03:32 AM   #4
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Default Re: PFW AFC North training-camp previews

Originally Posted by JackHammer View Post

Good read. I can't wait to see how 3rd WR battle shakes down, as well as the o-line. The additions of Urbik and Shipley will, at the very least, push the guys ahead of them.
Agreed, I think that will be the two biggest battles in Latrobe this year. The wide receiver battler will be the biggest. I can't wait till it gets here.
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Old 07-15-2009, 11:28 AM   #5
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Default Re: PFW AFC North training-camp previews

Originally Posted by Galax Steeler View Post
Agreed, I think that will be the two biggest battles in Latrobe this year. The wide receiver battler will be the biggest. I can't wait till it gets here.
IMO there is no battle at Center.

There will be some competition for backup OL spots.

At WR, Ward, Holmes, McDonald, Sweed, Wallace should make the team. I guess it's Sweed v McDonald for the #3 spot. My guess is that Sweed sweeps it up leaving McDonald as the veteran swing guy.

I think the backup DB spots will have the stiffest competition.
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