OTAs kicked off last week in the NFL, and the AFC North produced some interesting storylines. That includes Joe Flacco being a little overeager about one of his new receivers, the Steelers fighting among themselves, and the Browns are the ones doing something productive by helping out one of their former first round picks.
Here is what we have this week.
Joe Flacco is the guy who says “I love you after the third date”
Change is a constant in the free agency era of the NFL, so it should come as no surprise that the wide receiver spot has been a revolving door for Joe Flacco as a starting quarterback for the Ravens. The high point was when he could throw it up for Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin during the 2013 season when they won the Super Bowl. In the following seasons the Ravens would fail to bring back either receiver. Since then Flacco has been forced to throw to an older Mike Wallace. I can’t really include Breshad Perriman in that since the former first round pick really hasn’t been on the field enough.
The Ravens sought to correct this though after watching Flacco fail miserably for years to elevate any sort of receiver talent on the roster. They brought in John Brown and
Ryan Grant Michael Crabtree this offseason. Flacco already seems sold on Crabtree after only practicing with him a few times:
Woah slow down a little Flacco. You probably haven’t even met his family yet. In all seriousness though, I get you want to talk positively about a guy early on. However, everyone is still basically in shorts, and Crabtree had a real drop off season last year, only catching 58 passes and barely passing 600 yards last season.
Jabrill Peppers will be allowed to be bad closer to the line of scrimmage
Last season the Browns were forced to play their first round pick at the completely wrong position. To be fair, Jabrill Peppers was a bit of an outcast entering the NFL. He played a ton of positions at Michigan including (but not limited to) running back, linebacker, safety and I’m pretty sure he helped mow the grass from time to time. His overall athletic ability really stood out to teams though, and the Browns ended up being the team stuck with figuring out what position fits him best.
That position was not deep safety, which would’ve been obvious if you watched even a handful of his plays from Michigan. He was very good at making plays close to the line of scrimmage, but because the Browns were so thin at the safety position they had to play Peppers deep, which was a major reason for why so many teams were able to hit on big plays against the team.
The Browns made sure that wouldn’t be the case this season. They brought in Damarious Randall to play deep safety. They even traded their starting quarterback from last season, DeShone Kizer, to get him.
Now Peppers will be able to play more of a strong safety role where he can help in the run game, but still make some plays in the passing game, too. It was a huge concern for him coming out of college, and he didn’t do much to change that perception in his rookie year. If he doesn’t do it again this season then we could be talking about him changing positions again next season.
Guy who already got paid doesn’t understand why guy who didn’t isn’t showing up
It is no secret that the Steelers whine a lot. If you watch any game or postgame press conference, they always seems to be complaining about something. Sticking with the OTA theme it seems the Steelers are practicing their whining against their teammates much like they are practicing their plays against each other. Antonio Brown had this to say about Le’Veon Bell’s hold out as the running back once again isn’t showing up to OTAs.
“Well, the first rule of getting better is showing up,” Brown said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You can’t make anything better without showing up. So I think if you show up, I think everyone will understand where you want to be. That you wants to be here not just this year but for years to come. Come out here and show up, show you want to get better and show guys you’re serious.”
It is real easy for the guy who was made the highest paid receiver in the NFL following the 2016 season and then got his deal restructured again this offseason to have his 2018 salary fully guaranteed, tell the guy who is looking for a longterm deal to show up. I mean, Bell has been arguably the best running back in the league for the last few seasons, but I get the hesitation to give him a lucrative contract over an extended period of time. It just doesn’t work to pay running backs huge contracts in the NFL anymore. He has also had trouble with the law as well as suspensions from the league.
I still also get why Bell wants to skip OTAs. He has a $14.5 million franchise tag waiting for him. He also doesn’t want to risk injury when he doesn’t have that longterm deal to fall back on. Not to mention, why would he bother wasting his time watching Ben Roethlisberger get applauded for doing what he shouldn’t be told he has to do (work with rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph) when he can be making totally sick diss tracks to his haters. You know, those haters who say he isn’t focused enough on football, pushing him to make a song about it while not showing up to OTAs. Way to show them!