Sunday, August 1, 2010

AFC North Training Camp

AFC North Training Camp's...who? what? where? maybe why? the "when" being Training Camp...let's have a look...

This Division gets a shot in the arm as far as WR go...We know the T.O. Show has popcorn business booming in Ohio...but of course great WR Anquan Boldin joins Baltimore, and in Pittsburgh Santonio Holmes is out, but lets watch the progression of 2nd year Steelers WR Mike Wallace...I think Wallace is a 1,000 yard WR...all the while the Browns counter with CB Joe Haden (#7 overall pick from Florida) to shut down all of these guys, and then some (Joe Haden is good)

rookie TE Jermaine Gresham
From Day 1 I thought T.O. to Buffalo was a huge mistake...wrong Offensive Line to protect the wrong QB on wrong plays called by the wrong Head Coach in the wrong climate is sure to equal little-to-no production from an aging WR like Owens...ever notice how there are stretches of time where it appears almost awkward as his QB's seemingly feel the need to try to get the ball to T.O. even when that means forcing the ball to T.O.?  I mean in every single stop, but especially the recent stops like Dallas and Buffalo, but Cincy may be different...this is a QB who welcomes T.O. and was instrumental in getting T.O. a 2nd look with the Bengals...remember Cincy wondered who to sign between Owens and Antonio Bryant a few months ago...they went with Bryant at 4 yrs $28 million, and now get an unwanted Owens for 1 year $2 million...

Let's see what Training Camp brings with this new WR group in Cincinnati looking to improve a pass offense that was terrible in 2009...there is a ton of talent here for QB Carson Palmer in 2010...Terrell Owens joins Chad Ochocinco...plus Bryant...plus talented rookie TE Jermaine Gresham (1st rounder out of Oklahoma - hoping to return to 100% health)...add 3rd year WR Andre Caldwell...oh yeah, also rookie WR's Jordan Shipley (3rd round out of Texas) and Dezmon Briscoe (6th round Kansas)...throw in 2nd year TE Chase Coffman (from Peculiar Missouri)...a wild-card for me is WR Matt Jones...6'6" Jones is one of numerous reclamation projects in Cincinnati this season and I have always liked his upside...if he could just find consistency his skills are there... runs a 4.40 40 yard dash when in his proper shape/conditioning which he should be this year after being out of the NFL in 2009 (multiple arrests, plus suspensions have soured the League on Jones)...this guy should be ready/motivated and we will see in Training Camp what sort of QB/WR chemistry (if any) will blossom here, but I do think that Palmer may really get to like Matt Jones...

Speaking of reclamation projects how about what RB Cedric Benson has been able to do as a member of Who Day?!?!  The running game is Top Ten and Cedric is the workhorse here...as the kids say Cedric is on his grind son...only 5 RB's in the entire NFL carried the ball more than Cedric in '09...Training Camp will be an opportunity for 2nd year RB Bernard Scott to show that he can take on an increased workload

On the Offensive line lets watch 2nd year Tackle Andre Smith...Smith was taken #6 overall a year ago...Training Camp is our first look at him on his surgically repaired left foot...big time ability and upside

On Defense a much simpler story...the ol' Keep on Truckin' applies here...under Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer this team is a Top 5 Defense...just keep doing what you've been doing...2nd year beast Antwan Odom returns from season ending surgery after week 6 of 2009...he will be a key in Training Camp to watch as the injury was an Achilles injury...still under 1 year ago so there is likely no guarantee that the explosive nature he was showing in his rookie season will be able to continue...this month will also be a chance to further develop 2nd year LB Ray Maualuga (USC) and 3rd year LB Keith Rivers (also USC)...same goes for DE Michael Johnson

The Bengals also will be using Training Camp to develop their rookies on D like DE Carlos Dunlap (2nd round Florida) and DT Geno Adkins (4th round Georgia) plus LB Roddrick Muckelroy (4th round - Jordan Shipley teammate at Texas)

This organization is in terrific hands at the CB spot for many years to come...CB Leon Hall and CB Johnathan Joseph are really good...rookie CB Brandon Ghee (Wake Forest Demon Deacons) will get a shot at adding depth in the secondary, while Adam "Pacman" Jones gets another chance to earn a living as an NFL player...as we said before Cincinnati and Marvin Lewis have taken on several reclamation projects in the hopes that things work out...

On Special Teams look for Jordan Shipley to have a chance to win the Kick Returner job

Mike Wallace
Training Camp is a time to prepare the likes of Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, and newcomer Byron Leftwich to get a ton of playing time games 1 through 6...Big Ben Roethlisberger will be out for the beginning of the season due to NFL suspension...if NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell sees fit he can reduce the suspension all the way down to 4 games...in this Division the Steelers will have to get production from one of these QB's to hold down the fort until the return of Roethlisberger...cannot just lolly-gag out to a 1-3 start with the Bengals and Ravens in your Division...    

WR Mike Wallace seems like a 1,000 yard type of reciever to me...2nd year player is sure to suffer on some level from losing WR Santonio Holmes, but Training Camp is a chance for Wallace to show that he can be more involved in the offense...big play guy on an offense with not many...we will also get a look at rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders (3rd round SMU - also a big play guy)

At the RB spot Fast Willie Parker is out and Training Camp will show us who the RB group will be...surely Rashard Mendenhall will get the bulk of the carries, but young RB's like Stefan Logan (former BC Lion), Isaac Redman, and rookie Jonathan Dwyer (6th round Ramblin' Wreck of Georgia Tech) will be given an opportunity this month to show that they can contribute too

On Defense the Steel Curtain will be looking at a few key players during Training Camp...the continued development of  LB Lawrence Timmons will be something to watch...as will the health of DE Aaron Smith...there are a lot of talented rookies on Defense in Training Camp for Pitt...LB's Jason Worilds (2nd round Va Tech) and Stevenson Sylvester (5th round Utah Utes) plus CB Crezdon Butler (5th round Clemson) will have a chance to add depth right away

Stefan Logan set a franchise record last year for Kick Return Yards but did not take one to the house


Good news / Bad news to start the 2010 Baltimore Ravens campaign...Good news - WR Anquan Boldin is in...Bad news is we will have to wait to see rookie LB Sergio Kindle (pictured here) as he is out for a little while at least with a head injury suffered in a fall down 2 flights of stairs

On Offense let's watch the development of QB Joe Flacco and WR Boldin...the 6'1" 225 stud is a real-deal WR...he can make the physical catches required in this Division...Ravens also add fast WR Donte' Stallworth fresh off a March 2009 Manslaughter...NFL Commish Roger Goodell suspended Stallworth for the 2009 season...the TE spot has 2 rookies in the mix with Ed Dickson (3rd round Oregon Duck) and Dennis Pitta (BYU - 4th round)
The running game is in great hands with guys like RB's Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, plus FB Le'Ron McClain
On Defense the team will look forward to seeing Kindle, and fellow rookie DT Terrence Cody (2nd round Alabama)...Mount Cody is 6'4" 360 and has potential as a very good run-stuffer in this league
Young LB's like Jason Phillips, Danelle Ellerby, and Tavares Gooden will all get a shot in Training Camp to prove they can become part of the LB rotation going forward...

In the Secondary just about everyone had off-season surgery on something and will be using Training Camp as their first test to the surgically repaired body parts...too many CB and Safety combinations to mention...who will show that he is healthy and can take on the NFL 16 game season as a healthy contributor? The guys we are talking about are guys like Ed Reed, Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, Chris Carr, Domonique Foxworth, Carey Williams, Tom Zbikowski, Travis Fisher, Haruki Nakamura, Dawan Landry

It should be an open audition for starting Kick Returners...not a lot to choose from so Baltimore hoping to see someone step up in Training Camp

For a franchise that has been so bad lately there sure is room for optimism for the initial Training Camp of the Mike Holmgren era in Cleveland...

On Offense out with the old and in with the new...the old being QB's Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn...the new being QB's Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace...those 2 will be asked to lead the offense until such time as 3rd round rookie Colt McCoy (Texas) is ready to run the show...

Young WR's Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiske, along with WR's like Chansi Stuckey, Syndric Steptoe and Jake Allen, plus rookie Carlton Mitchell (6th round South Florida) and of course explosive Josh Cribbs will all have an opportunity in Training Camp to show that they can help turn around the absolute worst passing offense in the 2009 NFL season

Add free agent Benjamin Watson as a new Red Zone threat for the Browns

rookie RB Montario Hardesty
The running game is actually a Top 10 success...RB Jerome Harrison will be looking for a backfield mate as Jamal Lewis is gone...Training Camp will give RB's like Chris Jennings and rookie Montario Hardesty (2nd round Tennessee) a chance to show that they can be the #2 guy

On Defense Holmgren used his first Browns draft picks to try to upgrade a terrible Defense with CB Joe Haden (#7 overall from Florida) and Safety T.J.Ward (2nd round Oregon)...Haden is a real-deal CB...add veteran CB Sheldon own to the mix, plus CB Eric Wright and there is some talent there...the unit will need to use Training Camp to develop chemistry

Last years Sack leader Kamerion Wimbley (6.5 Sacks led the team in '09) is in Oakland's Training Camp now leaving...Browns have a need here to find a new pass-rusher amongst the likes of young DT's Brian Schaefering and Ahtyba Rubin to go with veterans like Shaun Rogers and Kenyon Coleman...11 year vet Robaire Smith is in the mix too...all-in-all fairly slim pickings here...

On Special Teams we know no mystery in Training Camp here...Josh Cribbs is simply as good as it gets in the NFL

The rest of the AFC Divisions are below...scroll down, trust me they are there...if your fav team is in the NFC then you are up next...questions? comments? concerns? drop me an email - craig.ballard@hotmail.com