Pittsburgh has been working hard to rationalize reaching for Artie Burns in the first round. Baltimore has lost to the Bengals five straight times, but is it time to think that could change? The Cleveland Browns are giving back and all eyes are on an offense that hopes to be more potent than the last regime's.
The Ravens currently have six running backs on their roster. Justin Forsett, the starter from last season will certainly return, but after him, the order of the depth chart and available roster spots get interesting. Javorius Allen was a fourth round pick from 2015 who provided a little spark out of the backfield when Forsett got injured. Allen had modest numbers though, only rushing for a 3.8 yard average, and his issues with fumbles cost him a few weeks of time, but he seems almost certain to make the roster based off experience in the system alone. Then the Ravens spent a fourth round pick on Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech in this year's draft. Most teams don't cut fourth round picks right away so his spot on the team seems safe, but he could easily challenge Allen for touches given his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. That spot behind Forsett, who is 31-years-old, will be one to watch this offseason.
Then comes the question of whether either of the former Browns running backs can make the team. It was known far before it was official that the Ravens had an interest in bringing back Trent Richardson. The former third overall pick is facing possibly his last opportunity in the league. It's hard not to feel bad for the guy who has essentially become a joke around the NFL. Terrance West, who joined the team last season, hopes he can parlay that audition into a spot on the roster after a rocky career that started with him being outplayed by an undrafted rookie, Isaiah Crowell, and then booted out of a crowded Tennessee backfield. Lorenzo Taliaferro, the second longest tendered Ravens running back, seems like a long shot at this point given his injury history. After his last two seasons being cut short by injuries and Baltimore continuing to draft running backs, it may be time the team finally decides to cut its losses.
Ultimately Forsett, Dixon, and Allen will easily make the team, and if West or Richardson can provide something on special teams, much like Cedric Peerman does for the Bengals, they'll have a chance at convincing the Ravens to keep them around. No team keeps a fourth running back on their roster for their running back abilities alone, after all.
November 10, 2013. That was the last time the Ravens celebrated a victory over the Bengals. Ironically that was the game where this unbelievable play happened. The teams have met five times since then, and while they've all played out differently, the result has been the same. Somehow, the Bengals have gotten the Ravens number, and we are all happier for it. But could this be the year that changes?
Who knows. Sure, the Ravens had a great draft this year, and acquired guys like Benjamin Watson and Eric Weddle in free agency, but it is far too early to tell if those additions will gel together on the field like planned on paper. The Ravens lost a key offensive lineman, but then drafted Ronnie Stanley in the first round. Baltimore Beatdown seems to take the stance that with a team coming back healthy and all these shiny new pieces the Bengals will stand no chance.
However, all teams are constantly changing in the NFL. The Bengals may have lost two key receiving threats during the offseason, but just like Ravens fans are hoping their additions pan out, Bengals fans are looking forward to seeing what Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell can do. Maybe Jeremy Hill recovers from his sophomore slump, to boot.
"Name the last big-time receiver to win a Super Bowl," Farmer said via the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2014. "Name the last mega-guy. (Josh Gordon) matters to me because I like the guy and I think he's a really good player, but at the end of the day, when you look at the teams that have these mega-receivers, name the last guy that won a Super Bowl?... There are none. The last guy that really helped his team get there was T.O. (Terrell Owens).'
It showed how little value he stows in receivers. The most obvious scenario was in the 2014 draft when, knowing Josh Gordon was facing a huge suspension for the league, the Browns didn't draft a single wide receiver which was already a position of need before losing Gordon. To further prove the last regime's lack of understand of the position, they dealt out a huge contract for Dwayne Bowe in free agency who failed to have any impact on the offense, and was released this offseason.
Cut to the present front office which includes Sashi Brown as GM and is assisted by Hue Jackson as head coach, and you'll see a complete 180. Whether it is a culture change or simply cleaning up the past regime's mess, the Browns went out and drafted five wide receivers including one of the draft's best in Corey Coleman. Doing so has created quite the competition going into camp. The Browns now have nine receivers on their roster, and aside from Coleman, it is really up to the rest of the guys to earn their spots.
There is also quite a bit of intrigue wrapped up in the quarterback competition this year. Can Robert Griffin III return to his rookie year success, and can Cody Kessler transfer his accuracy to the NFL? Griffin who is now doing everything he can to keep that bust label off of him decided teaming up with Hue Jackson this offseason was his best option to return to his early success. Meanwhile, Kessler needs to show why the Browns selected him over quarterbacks who were rated higher than him like Connor Cook, Dak Prescott, and Cardale Jones. Ultimately Kessler will likely sit most of the year unless Griffin struggles mightily or gets injured.
Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam, is giving back to the community. The Browns will refurbish five high school football fields in the Cleveland metropolitan area. It's stories like this that I point to when people criticize sports. Sure, there are a lot of ugly aspects to professional sports, but stories like this remind you that there is still so much good that can come from them. This will help schools who were struggling to maintain their fields. It helps gives kids a safe field to play on as well. Who knows, maybe a future Brown will play on one of those fields; but even if they don't, it's always nice to hear about a team giving back.
Pittsburgh drafted Bud Dupree last season in the first round. After recording four sacks early in the year, his production fell off. However, Ike Taylor sees promise. He picked Dupree to be his year two breakout candidate on defense. Taylor points to the fact that Dupree had a year to learn under James Harrison and that coaching staff. Jeff Hartman of Behind the Steel Curtain, had this to say on Taylor's prediction:
Dupree jumped onto the scene as a rookie in 2015 by garnering 4 sacks in his first 5 games as a professional. Although Dupree failed to be credited for another sack for the rest of the 2015 season, his improvement was noticeable. Going from a backup to Arthur Moats to being the starter at the left outside linebacker position saw Dupree make major leaps in run support, coverage and even rushing the passer. Dupree might not have actually brought down the passer after his surge to start the season, but he was disruptive.
Players do occasionally make such a leap, but the lack of production down the stretch is troubling. While sacks aren't everything, you'd think more opportunity would lead to more sacks, not less. The Steelers aren't without misses among linebackers. After all, Jarvis Jones has yet to record more than two sacks in a season in his three years in the NF. But as Hartman writes, only time will tell.
Steeler nation is still reeling a little bit from the Artie Burns selection in the first round of the Draft. Steelers fans have come to their own conclusions about whether the Steelers wanted William Jackson III over Burns, as seen in this fan's reaction video and this post suggesting the Bengals fell for the Steelers' smokescreen. Both are equally funny.
However a new theory has come out, and the person sharing it has even more of a reason to make the pick look good, he is Burns' agent, Melvin Bratton.
"You're getting a mature kid at 21, Bratton said via DKonpittsburghsports.com. "A lot of times you draft a kid in the first round and have to wait for him to grow up, worrying about what's going to happen. Not Artie."
Bratton went on to explain how teams run prospects' credit and if they have a decent amount of debt, they'll stay away. Meanwhile, Bratton explains Burns has only purchased a nice family car. This is almost as absurd of a reason to judge a player as whether or not he can cook.
Now, I'm not saying it hurts that a player is a good guy or is good with money, but you can't blame some of these kids for building up debt while they can't make money in college. Also you better hope that kid can fit into what your scheme does. Now, we won't know about how this pick ends up for a few years, but you can't say this pick wasn't a reach. The value simply wasn't there, especially with better players out there. Whether it was the right pick or not, we will see.