AFC North Roundup

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    Just a week or two now, folks.

    With NFL training camps preparing to open amid lingering COVID-19-and-variants dominating the headlines, particularly for the pending Olympics, camps haven’t received quite as much press.  I’m not talking about the Packers, of course, whose deteriorating relation with star QB Aaron Rodgers has been the focal point of NFL coverage for most of the offseason.  Like the Buccaneers, we’re under strict orders to not discuss QB Tom Brady’s knee…

    (rim shot)

    But we CAN discuss the AFC North and the latest pre-camp happenings.  Away we go…

     

    Baltimore Ravens

    Interesting bit from the Ravens’ official site, which cautions about too much enthusiasm for the Ravens’ offseason additions, particularly offensively.  Offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s history with the 49ers notwithstanding, I have a hard time comparing the fates of QBs Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Lackson equally, as Kaepernick, more renowned for his National Anthem protests than his play on the field, didn’t possess the game-breaking ability with his legs Jackson does – few if any do, and certainly no current QBs.  It’s an interesting comparison, but these teams aren’t that similar overall, with the skill positions on those 49ers teams having a distinct talent advantage beyond the backfield.  I suspect the Ravens will turn in another schizophrenic season offensively by looking fantastic one week and woeful the next, and there will undoubtedly be more pressure on the defense this year in light of the offense’s supposed new focus on passing.  We shall find out soon enough.

     

    Cleveland Browns

    Yahoo gives us their high-level take on the 2021 Browns, and it’s pretty optimistic, although #11 is probably a few slots too low in my opinion.  Kudos to their fantasy analysis and emphasizing RB Nick Chubb, who’s become indispensable to the team and could challenge (again) for the 2021 rushing title.  I doubt anyone’s surprised at the endorsement of head coach Kevin Stefanski, who managed to get more production out of his roster in a single season than any Browns coach since Marty Schottenheimer – a span of 14 coaches and a new franchise later.  Regardless, the Browns are in position to challenge for an AFC North title this season, and Stefanski is a substantial reason they’re in this position, having finally impressed on the team a sense of continuity and shared purpose.  Of note is whether IR returnee WR Odell Beckham Jr. also shares that sense of purpose; as the article notes, this could very well be his last chance to prove he’s the star player he used to be.  We shall find out soon enough.

     

    Cincinnati Bengals

    Forgive my blunt assessment of this fantasy review of rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase’s value currently, but this is just…crap.  Determining trends before a player has set foot on an NFL field, based almost exclusively on draft position, is ridiculous in my humble opinion.  Wideouts of varying quality are found all over every draft round, every offseason, and these sorts of projections often ring hollow as a soon as a rookie scores his first TD.  While it’s certainly possible Chase may be underwhelming initially, that in no way dictates what his value would be in, say, week 6…or even week 2, for that matter.  Chase will have his former NCAA teammate throwing to him (QB Joe Burrow), which may make much more of a difference than many suspect, as they won’t have to work nearly as hard as some QB-WR combos to develop on-field chemistry.  We shall find out soon enough.

     

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    This tidbit about EDGE Melvin Ingram, the Steelers’ latest acquisition, isn’t going to convince many he’s still capable of producing lofty sack totals, but really, they probably don’t need him to be that effective in his new role.  As a projected depth piece, Ingram’s greatest value may be in his ability to set the edge against the rush at this point in his career.  Given the backfield riches the AFC North currently sports, sealing the edge may indeed be more important than collecting sacks.  Their personnel losses on defense were primarily in the secondary, and it’s most likely where they will struggle this season.

     

    We shall find out soon enough.

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