After two weeks of preseason action the AFC North still has plenty of question marks. The Ravens sit at 2-0 in preseason play, but the starters on defense haven’t played well. Cleveland is getting some key players back from injury. Meanwhile, the Steelers might need to find a new backup for Ben Roethlisberger sooner rather than later.
Ravens shouldn’t be happy with 2-0 start
Many fans have figured out preseason win-loss records for teams don’t mean to much. The starters never play a full game, and teams never show their legitimate playbooks. While the Ravens sit at 2-0, the team knows there is still a lot of improvement left ahead of them, especially on defense.
"It's not good run defense for the Ravens to give up three yards. I don't want to hear about that, saying that's a good job, especially on our sideline, which I heard tonight a few too many times," John Harbaugh told The Baltimore Sun after the game. "One yard, two yards, I'm pissed even, but I can live with it. Three yards I can't live with. Zero yards is what we're looking for. We need to knock offensive linemen back and dominate up front. We've got the guys to do it. The competition is on. If you're dominating against the run and you're a defensive lineman, you've got a chance to make it on this team."
Harbaugh might have some unrealistic goals, but that is how dominant defenses are made. Complacency won’t help a team climb a ladder to greatness.
The other issue was Andrew Luck going eight for eight on pass attempts in the Ravens’ game against the Colts. Luck had time to do just about whatever he wanted, and that included doing a bunch of damage on the ground. Harbaugh might want to address that as well in his next press conference pep talk.
Former Bengal could be backup quarterback in Baltimore
Bengals fans are used to seeing some highlight plays in the preseason from Josh Johnson, but now the Ravens are seeing it first hand. Johnson is currently battling Ryan Mallett for the backup position behind Joe Flacco. Johnson has been lighting up second and third team defenses. Against the Colts, Johnson orchestrated a nice two-minute drill before the half where he ended it with a nice touchdown pass.
Mallett has looked solid in the preseason thus far though, and he took all the first team snaps when Flacco was out with injury. He also played well last season when Flacco went down. It is hard to imagine a couple flashy performances against bench players would be enough for Johnson to unseat him.
CB Jamar Taylor in line to start
One draft day trade is paying dividends for the Browns already. Third year cornerback Jamar Taylor was given the starting spot alongside Joe Haden in the last preseason game. The Browns traded for Taylor by swapping seventh round picks with the Dolphins in this years draft. Taylor was a former second round pick so moving back in the seventh was a low-risk move for the Browns.
"Anybody that we put out there first, they have a chance to claim what is theirs and what they want,” Hue Jackson told Cleveland.com. “That's all everybody wants is just an opportunity to show that they belong or that they should be one of the 53, one of the guys and one of the starters. He is going to get that opportunity, and he has to make the most of it.''
It appears while Taylor is listed as the starter, right now, that it isn’t written in stone. Taylor will continue to earn his spot in next week’s game.
Injured Browns getting healthy as season approaches
The biggest story for the Browns outside of Robert Griffin III has been the players who haven’t been playing in the preseason. However it seems their fortunes are turning at the right time. Haden, Joe Thomas, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman all returned to practice, and are all on track to play against the Buccaneers on Friday.
Thomas will help keep Griffin upright while Coleman and Gordon will help stretch the field. Gordon, of course, has to serve a four game suspension at the beginning of the regular season, but it’ll help to see if Gordon and Griffin have any of their Baylor chemistry remaining.
Preseason Week 3 is helpful for coaches to get a look at what their team will hopefully look like during the season in game action for the first time.
Le’Veon Bell gets suspension reduced
In what was a weird turn of events, the NFL Office came to an agreement with Bell to reduce his suspension by one game. It is strange to see a reduction of one game to a suspension. It isn’t as strange when we learned Bell reached a settlement with the league.
Bell will remain at the same level of the substance-abuse program (level 2). Which means if he fails another test, his suspension will only be four games. Bell reportedly missed a test due to travel complications, and he then failed to properly communicate that to the tester.
It’s also interesting to note the settlement was reached before an all or nothing decision could come down. Meaning we will never know how the league would’ve ruled on such an excuse. It turns out to be a solid deal for Bell who finds himself suspended to start off the season for the second straight year. Bell will miss the Steelers-Bengals Week 2 meeting in Pittsburgh.
Ben Roethlisberger has had quite the injury history, and he isn’t getting younger. Steelers fans have to feel pretty uneasy about that thought with the way backup Landry Jones has played so far this year. Jones had four interceptions against the Eagles. One throw was on the receiver for sure, but three interceptions isn’t good, and he’ll need to attempt to overcome that.
What is worse is that two of his interceptions were in the redzone. That’s a huge mistake for a quarterback trying to keep his spot on the depth chart. Bruce Gradkowski is dealing with a hamstring injury, but when he returns he might have a shot at jumping Jones on the depth chart.