There’s a glimmer of hope. A beacon, if you will.
Discussions are ongoing regarding the NFL’s return (although really, is it a “return” if they haven’t missed any game time?) from the COVID-19 global pandemic. Little concerning concrete testing and prevention has been disclosed to the public, but it’s encouraging the owners and players are still clinging to the notion the 2020 NFL season will commence – and continue – unabated. Reactions to these talks are mixed, but in the interest of generating revenue, promoting their brand, and offering -gasp! – hope, there’s little else the league can do.
If virus conditions worsen this fall, activities can be easily postponed or scuttled, probably in a less-frightening, abrupt fashion than what we’ve witnessed during this first “wave”. This is primarily due to early reports that a working vaccine may be available by Thanksgiving. The league’s immediate concerns lie in the opening of training camps, usually slated for mid-late July, as it’s doubtful we’ll have witnessed a full return to society by then. NFL owners are discussing the possibility of holding training camps in non-local, not-usual locations, which would be predicated on which states are “open” by the time camps are slated to begin. There’s no clear way to predict which states might still be affected in mid-July, but the expansion of available COVID-19 testing for NFL players is certainly something I’d support if it means proceeding (somewhat) normally.
But I digress. On to AFC North stuff:
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta seems pretty happy with the slate of receivers he’s assembled. Granted, the Ravens’ receiving corps (outside of a history of respectable tight end play) has been rather suspect, at times bordering on awful. For fans that might denigrate the current bunch, I invite you to remember the glory days of Clarence Moore, Randy Hymes and Patrick Johnson, then report back. Needless to say, the youth and relative talent on the roster currently provides potential if nothing else. DeCosta need not worry yet; his record drafting receivers can’t be worse than predecessor Ozzie Newsome…can it?
Despite drafting OT Jedrick Wills, the Browns have reportedly remained in contact with venerable LT and former Eagle Jason Peters. Depending on what the Browns could potentially offer, Peters is intriguing, but as the article implies, signing a 38-year old tackle to a long-term contract wouldn’t be advisable. Peters seems to want to play beyond this year, which given the investment the Browns have in Wills, probably isn’t feasible in Cleveland. Stay tuned.
There’s some speculation by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Cincinnati would be a good landing spot for former Ravens and Broncos QB Joe Flacco, whose well-documented fall from football respectability since 2012 has prevented him from landing any offers thus far in free agency. The 35-year old Flacco may have some on-field knowledge to impart to his younger counterparts, but his days of effective quarterback play are most assuredly over, and the Bengals would be well-served by bringing in…well, any other veteran, really. Never an inspiring presence, Flacco’s vacant, self-absorbed expression and sour sideline demeanor (not to mention his marked reticence to benching) could prove harmful to a QB room with a total of five games of NFL starting experience. (Note: This author’s disdain for Flacco’s “game” has also been well-documented, so if you can determine why this would be a good fit, please elaborate. Because I can’t. Nice try, Jeremy.)
After finally providing the interior defense the team had been lacking in the wake of ILB Ryan Shazier’s career-threatening injury, Steelers second-year ILB Devin Bush is ready to capitalize on his excellent rookie campaign. Bush’s liabilities, although few, appear to be in coverage, but it’s probably too soon to effectively judge his capabilities there just yet. Bush’s lateral speed and play recognition ability serve to improve an already emerging game. I would expect the Steelers to continue to bolster the position, however, lest the proverbial lightning strike twice and render Bush unavailable for any reason.
Enjoy the week!