Well here we are. The doldrums of the offseason. That terribly dreary stretch of time between the end of the draft and the beginning of training camp. Sure, there are a few minicamps here and there, but for the most part, the sport of football has retreated to it's cozy mountain lair like a fattened grizzly bear waiting out the long winter.
Bear analogies. Look what the offseason has reduced me to.
To keep our football minds sharp, however, it's never a bad idea to shift focus and take a look at how our division rivals are faring in this post-draft football wasteland. With that in mind, here are some of the top stories circulating at the moment around the AFC North.
- Baltimore Ravens: Ravens hire former head coach Steve Spagnuolo as a senior defensive assistant. In a move reminiscent of the Bengals' hiring of Hue Jackson as a jack-of-all-trades on their coaching staff, Ravens' head coach John Harbaugh brought Steve Spagnuolo into the fold on Friday as an assistant defensive coach. Spagnuolo was most recently the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, but was fired after a disastrous 2012 campaign in which his unit give up the most yards in NFL history. He was also the head coach of the Saint Louis Rams for three years before that and the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants when they won the Super Bowl in 2008. A close friend of Spagnuolo, Harbaugh hailed the move.
"He comes to a staff that we believe is very strong, and he makes us even better. His wealth of NFL coaching experience speaks for itself, and he’ll help us across the board. We think he can help with every position on the defense, and we’ll take full advantage of his knowledge and excellent teaching abilities.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones hopes to replace former Steelers great James Harrison. When the Steelers cut James Harrison as a cap casualty back in March, it opened up a gaping hole at the linebacker position in Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense. Harrison brought an aggressiveness and tenacity to the position that won't be easily replicated in Pittsburgh. Steelers' first-rounder Jarvis Jones, however, hopes to model his play after Harrison in an effort recreate his role for the Steelers.
"I don’t compare myself in no way to James Harrison," Jones said at the Steelers’ rookie minicamp today, via the Associated Press. "He’s a great player. Respect him. Never met him. But I love his game. I wouldn’t mind being an impact player like James Harrison."
- Cleveland Browns: Jason Campbell envisions a starting role for himself with the Browns. The starting quarterback spot is wide open in Cleveland, with head coach Rob Chudzinski declaring an open competition between last year's starter Brandon Weeden and the newly acquired veteran Campbell. For his part, Campbell believes the job is his to lose, but also won't rule out helping Weeden in his development should he finish second.
"It’s not about egos and things like that," he said. "I’m going to help Brandon as much as possible, but at the same time, I’m going to push him and compete."
Despite his fresh start in Cleveland, Campbell also admits to harboring some leftover feelings from his time in Oakland.
"I was off to the best season of my career," Campbell said. "To wake up and find out about the trade [for Palmer] and know I wasn’t starting anymore, it was a tough pill to swallow. . . . I feel I was really taking off, really blossoming, really having an opportunity to control the line of scrimmage and see some things and change a couple plays here and there based off what I’ve seen before and having experience in that offense."
From the sound of things, Weeden might have his hands full with Campbell. Weeden wasn't nearly as bad as many claim he was in 2012, but the new coaching staff clearly isn't sold on him and Campbell is approaching this season like he is the starter. This storyline is far from over.