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Around the AFC North: The good and bad from the Steelers’ second preseason game

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The future looks bright at the quarterback position for a few AFC North teams, but one team may need a few more seasons for their young guy to develop.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of the preseason is has passed, and we learned a little bit more about what the rest of the AFC North will be fielding in 2018.

The Browns’ Hard Knocks drama is always fun to check in on, and the Ravens vertical passing attack was clearly on display in their second game. Also, the Steelers have had some young guys shining in the preseason.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens going deep

A big point of emphasis for the Ravens this offseason was to try and create a more vertical attack for Joe Flacco to utilize. They brought in an almost brand new receiving group made up of John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. You could tell from the box score alone that it is working out fairly well.

Crabtree caught a 30-yard pass, and most of the receivers averaged over 20 yards per reception. Flacco finished his drive with a touchdown to the Ravens’ fullback Patrick Ricard, and it looks like the Ravens are returning to their successful roots. They have receivers forcing defensive backs downfield, which is opening up things underneath for tight ends, fullbacks and running backs.

Obligatory check in on Lamar Jackson

Jackson’s stats aren’t going to jump out at you, but he had a very solid outing against the Rams. He started by leading a touchdown drive that ended with a highlight reel juke for a touchdown. After that, the offense struggled a bit. Overall, Jackson was seven of 18 for 119 yards passing, and he added 21 rushing yards and a touchdown on five carries.

Jackson’s struggles started when the Ravens switched over to their full second unit. His receivers started dropping passes and having communication issues. Jackson also struggled on several designed runs. He failed to get the edge on the Rams’ linebackers and defensive ends, which is something to keep an eye on.

Cleveland Browns

Quarterbacks are looking good for Cleveland

Both Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield shined in their first action for the Browns. Taylor was a perfect five for five in his two series on offense. He had great ball placement, and he showed great decision making by trying to get what he could with his feet when there was nothing open. His lone touchdown came on a 36-yard play to tight end David Njoku who caught the pass on a seam route and proceeded to out run the defense to the end zone.

Mayfield showed some signs of being a rookie. He had a few over throws and ill-advised passes, but overall, it was shocking how well he maneuvered in the pocket. His ball placement on most throws was actually good as well. He had several throws that went incomplete where he threw it where only his receiver could make a play on it.

Also, on slant routes, he did a pretty good job of leading his receivers. That was on display when he put the ball out in front of Antonio Callaway (who was being forced to play as a punishment) on a slant that allowed him to out run the defense for a touchdown.

That’ll show Callaway.

Cleveland’s coordinators get into it

The Brown’s coordinators are already at each other’s throats after sharing this exchange recently at practice after the Browns defense touched Mayfield.

It seems fairly obvious that you shouldn’t have guys going anywhere near one of your team’s quarterbacks. The risk reward ratio doesn’t benefit the team at all. It seems pretty ridiculous that Haley even had to say anything.

Obviously, Williams was infamously involved in the Saints’ bounty program. He is obviously a more throwback type coach who likes tough players being tough, but at some point, common sense has to prevail.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The good and bad from the Steelers’ second preseason game

The Bad

  • Quarterback Mason Rudolph: He was five of 12, but the worst part was his start. His first pass was intercepted and instantly returned for a touchdown by the Packers’ defense. Rudolph attempted to throw the ball late to the outside, which is a huge no-no in the NFL. Rudolph’s bright spot was a touchdown pass to Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, but it is clear that even running with a lot of the first team that Rudolph needs some serious work.
  • Safety Terrell Edmunds: He was one of the most shocking first-round picks from this draft. Edmunds had a rough go against the Packers’ first-team offense as he gave up what was pretty much a toss and catch at the NFL level for Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham. His highlight was forcing and recovering a fumble while covering a kickoff, but you kind of expect your first-round pick to be more than just a special teams guy.

The Good

  • Wide receiver James Washington: After watching his college quarterback struggle, Washington came in and showed why he was a second-round pick. He made two fantastic contested catches for touchdowns while recording over 100 receiving yards on five catches. He looks to be the next in line of a long line of productive Steeler receivers.
  • Running back James Conner: He filled in for Le’veon Bell on the first team offense, and he finished the game with several big runs. He had five rushes for 57 yards including one touchdown. He looked like a man who refused to go down at any point. Given the Steelers’ situation with Bell, Conner could end up being the future for Pittsburgh in the backfield.