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Bengals Bytes (7/4): Need for speed

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The Bengals’ offseason has had a clear focus, becoming more athletic. Isaiah Crowell believes the Browns are going to “shock the world.” Marshawn Lynch plays in a charity soccer game, and it as entertaining as you’d expect.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-John Ross Press Conference Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals are betting on speed in 2017
The Cincinnati Bengals could go in one of two directions this season. They could show last year’s 6-9-1 finish was an aberration, or they could turn the losing into a trend. In 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals set a franchise record with an 8-0 start to the season. They went on to finish 12-4, made the playoffs, and had eight players voted to the Pro Bowl. Just a year later, down an offensive coordinator (Hue Jackson) and a few key weapons (wideouts Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu), the Bengals sputtered on offense. Their scoring declined from 26.2 points per game to 20.3, and they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Cincinnati Bengals 2017 Up and Comer: OLB Nick Vigil
Every NFL season features players that come into their own after a slow start to their careers. It’s tough to tell when each performer’s coming-put party will take place. Some are immediate successes. Others take longer due to numerous circumstances, but they prove to be worth the wait. Here we will try and pinpoint a player from each team in the league that we feel is on the verge of putting it altogether.

Bengals 50: Bruce Coslet saw it all with the Bengals
Bruce Coslet's Bengals career started after he worked out and caught passes from a Stanford junior quarterback named Jim Plunkett in a workout in 1969. Sight unseen, Paul Brown signed Coslet – only to cut him. Coslet would be re-signed and played eight games in his rookie season, the start of an eight-year playing career on the riverfront. Former Bengals assistant Bill Walsh got Coslet into coaching in San Francisco in 1980 before Paul Brown and new Bengals coach Forrest Gregg hired Coslet the next year - but not without another workout.

Would fewer catches for A.J. Green help the Bengals?
A.J. Green knows about big numbers, but the Cincinnati superstar is not necessarily worried about wracking them up. He even suggested recently that if he caught fewer passes, the Bengals might be better -- kind of like the Falcons improved last season as wideout Julio Jones had fewer receptions than before.

AFC North Bytes

Ravens DT Brandon Williams: I need to get my sacks up
Williams is one of the best interior run defenders in the NFL. His prowess against the run is what earned him the massive pay increase. What he isn't is a sack maven, with just 4.5 quarterback takedowns in four seasons. The 28-year-old lineman wants to become better at bringing down passers in 2017.

Crowell: '[Browns are] going to shock the world'
Within the confines of the Cleveland Browns' Berea headquarters, cautious optimism is building. Some of the excitement is escaping into the public. Running back Isaiah Crowell “I feel very good about it,” Crowell said via the Ledger-Enquirer. “I feel like we’re building something special. A lot of people are underestimating us, but I feel like we’re going to shock the world.” Crowell signed a restricted free agency tender worth $2.746 million after just falling short of a 1,000 yard rushing season.

Are the Steelers tight ends good enough to exploit defenses, or just merely average?
When you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, there aren’t many weaknesses. One of the better quarterbacks in the NFL in Ben Roethlisberger, a loaded wide receiving corps anchored by Antonio Brown, the best all-around running back in Le’Veon Bell and an offensive line which is beyond stellar.

Random Bytes

Former 49ers Punter Max Runager Dies at Age 61
Former San Francisco 49ers punter Max Runager died Friday at the age of 61. According to the Associated Press (via ESPN), he was found dead in his car in a parking lot, although no foul play is suspected. Runager played for three NFL teams during his 11-year NFL career. The South Carolina product was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the eighth round in 1979, where he spent the first five years of his career. He was part of the 1980 squad that reached the Super Bowl before losing to the Oakland Raiders.

Jamison Crowder Could Be the NFL's Top Breakout Player of 2017
Earlier in the offseason, looking up and down the Washington Redskins' wide receiver depth chart felt like the final moments in line for some rickety carnival ride: There was a lot of excitement and a healthy dose of crippling anxiety. Sure, the ride in either case will be fun and fast. But can you be certain all the parts will function together and the whole contraption won't fall apart?

Marshawn Lynch Picks Up Soccer Ball, Runs into Net and Steals Ref's Red Card
Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch probably does not have a second career coming as a professional soccer player. Lynch had one of the more entertaining moments of Sunday's Zakuani & Friends charity game hosted by the Seattle Sounders, barreling his way into the goal and then stealing the referee's red card

Jeff Fisher wants to “get back on the sideline”
The second season of Amazon’s All or Nothing includes a visit with (spoiler alert) former Rams head coach Jeff Fisher on a piece of land he owns outside of Nashville that seemingly covers more than 100 acres. He’s still thinking about the thing that covers only 100 yards.