NFL Coaching Camp 2021: Three questions every AFC North workforce should reply earlier than begin of season

Rank the AFC North quarterbacks. Seemingly each fan has both been requested to do that on social media or determined to do it on their very own accord during the last a number of months. The rating of AFC North quarterbacks, together with being a method to kill time through the offseason, symbolizes the anticipation for what must be an thrilling division to observe through the 2021 season. 

Contemporary off of their finest season in over 1 / 4 century, the Cleveland Browns have their sights set on successful their first division title since 1989. Standing of their manner are the Baltimore Ravens, who final season gained their first playoff recreation with Lamar Jackson underneath middle. The Steelers, the defending AFC North division champion, are as soon as once more anticipated to be within the thick of issues so far as the playoffs are involved. In Cincinnati, followers are hoping {that a} stronger supporting solid will result in a breakout season for final 12 months’s No. 1 general choose, Joe Burrow

Every workforce nonetheless have some inquiries to reply earlier than the 2021 common season begins. Let’s check out the three greatest questions surrounding every workforce, beginning with the workforce that’s at the moment favored to win the division for a 3rd time since 2018. 

Baltimore Ravens 

What are the strengths/weaknesses of Baltimore’s re-vamped O-line?

Baltimore suffered an enormous blow after they had been pressured to commerce away beginning Professional Bowl sort out Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason. To assist change Brown, the Ravens signed former Steelers Professional Bowl left sort out Alejandro Villanueva. Whereas he has impeccable sturdiness (his 96 consecutive video games performed led the Steelers), Villanueva shouldn’t be pretty much as good in cross safety as he was throughout his Professional Bowl seasons of 2017 and ’18. He was additionally a part of an offensive line that produced the fewest dashing yards through the 2020 season. Villanueva attributed a few of final 12 months’s points to the Steelers’ predicable offensive recreation plan. He stated that he’s additionally excited to play for a run-oriented workforce after enjoying in pass-happy Pittsburgh for almost all of his profession. 

John Harbaugh should select his new beginning left guard earlier than the season-opener. Harbaugh not too long ago referred to as it a “vast open” competitors between rookie Ben Cleveland and veterans Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips. Bradley Bozeman, the workforce’s beginning left guard in 2020, is anticipated to exchange Matt Skura (now with the Dolphins) at middle. One other contemporary face on Baltimore’s offensive line is Kevin Zeitler, a nine-year veteran who was fairly presumably the Giants‘ greatest cap casualty. Harbaugh supplied glowing evaluations of each Villanueva and Zeitler throughout offseason exercises. 

Who’s the Ravens’ No. 3 WR?

Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins are anticipated to be the top-two receivers on Baltimore’s depth chart. Rookie Rashod Bateman must be thought-about the front-runner to be the Ravens’ No. 3 receiver, however he faces respectable competitors in second-year wideouts Devin Duvernay and James Proche II, fellow rookie Tylan Wallace and veteran Miles Boykin. Boykin was reportedly very constant throughout offseason exercises, whereas Duvernay and Proche seemed extra polished as they enter their sophomore seasons. 

Is Baltimore’s cross rush adequate? 

Baltimore was a pedestrian 14th within the league with 39 sacks in 2020. Matt Judon, the workforce’s chief with six sacks final season, signed with New England this offseason. The Ravens are hoping for a breakout season from Tyus Bowser, who recorded two sacks and three interceptions final season. Baltimore can be hoping for early returns from rookie Odafe Oweh, who didn’t file a sack throughout his remaining season at Penn State. Search for the Ravens to presumably discover signing a veteran free agent cross rusher in the event that they see indicators of weak spot from this a part of their protection throughout coaching camp. 

Have the Bengals accomplished sufficient to higher defend Burrow?

That is the largest query surrounding Cincinnati. The Bengals handed on drafting Penei Sewell (the consensus high offensive lineman prospect within the draft) and as an alternative chosen former USC sort out Jackson Carman within the second spherical. They chose one other sort out — D’Ante Smith — within the fourth spherical and middle Trey Hill within the sixth spherical. Carman is at the moment slated to start out at proper guard, the place he’ll play alongside veteran and new Bengals proper sort out Riley Reiff. The massive query right here is Jonah Williams, a 2019 first-round choose who struggled to remain wholesome throughout his first two seasons. Williams is at the moment projected because the Bengals’ beginning left sort out. 

Is there sufficient expertise at RB?

Whereas their offensive line additions ought to assist, the Bengals did not add a lot personnel to a operating recreation that was twenty fourth within the league in yards gained in 2020. Former 1,000-yard again Joe Mixon returns after lacking 10 video games final season with an damage. Cincinnati is assured that Samaje Perine (who averaged a team-high 4.8 yards per carry in 2020) may be an satisfactory substitute for Giovani Bernard. It seems that rookie sixth-round choose Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams (who rushed for simply 157 yards in 2020) will battle for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. A potential sleeper on this place battle is undrafted rookie Pooka Williams, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher at Kansas who ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.38 seconds throughout his professional day. 

Are Cincinnati’s beginning CBs adequate? 

Whereas they had been in a position to signal former Steelers nickelback Mike Hilton, Cincinnati bid adieu to William Jackson and Mackensie Alexander through the offseason. Trae Waynes is hoping to bounce again after lacking your entire 2020 season with an damage. Waynes will probably begin reverse former Cowboy Chidobe Awuzie, who inked a three-year take care of the Bengals in March. Additionally they signed former Giants first-round choose Eli Apple so as to add depth to the place. Whereas there’s actually potential, this unit should mesh comparatively rapidly earlier than the Bengals kick issues off towards the Vikings on Sept. 12. 

Cleveland Browns

How will Odell Beckham match into the Browns offense?

Final 12 months’s success has largely erased the stink of what was a very disappointing 2019 season for the Browns. Among the many greatest storylines that season was the decline of Baker Mayfield’s play regardless of the offseason acquisition of Beckham, a three-time Professional Bowler throughout his years with the Giants. The Browns had been 5-2 previous to his season-ending damage in 2020, however Beckham’s numbers (23 receptions on 43 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns) had been properly under his ordinary requirements. Count on Mayfield to spend a substantial a part of coaching camp getting in rhythm with Beckham, who seems to be again at full pace eight months after present process ACL surgical procedure.  

Is Cleveland’s inside D-line adequate? 

Cleveland parted with Larry Ogunjobi and former Professional Bowler Sheldon Richardson this offseason. Newcomer Andrew Billings had a so-so profession in Cincinnati earlier than opting out of the 2020 season. Fellow newcomer Malik Jackson was a Professional Bowler in Jacksonville after he performed an integral function within the Broncos‘ 2015 championship run. Jackson’s profession has been on a downward trajectory following his Professional Bowl season, nevertheless, as he has made simply eight begins because the begin of the 2018 season. The Browns are hoping to get some high quality snaps out of fourth-round choose Tommy Togiai, who put up stable numbers throughout his remaining season at Ohio State. 

Can Jadeveon Clowney be Robin to Myles Garrett’s Batman? 

After making an attempt unsuccessfully to land him in 2020, the Browns closed the take care of Clowney this offseason to the tune of a one-year deal that’s value as much as $10 million. After deciding to not retain Olivier Vernon, the Browns want Clowney to play higher than he did throughout his solely season in Tennessee. Cleveland as an alternative wants Clowney to be nearer to the participant who earned three consecutive Professional Bowl choices with the Texans. In Houston, Clowney took full benefit of getting J.J. Watt on his aspect. He’ll look to have comparable success enjoying alongside Garrett, who racked up 42.5 sacks throughout his first 51 common season video games. 

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Pittsburgh Steelers 

Did Pittsburgh do sufficient to retool the offensive line?

The Steelers did their finest to exchange 4 starters from final 12 months’s unit. They drafted middle Kendrick Inexperienced and sort out Dan Moore, gamers who will probably be key backups this season. Additionally they re-signed B.J. Finney, the workforce’s finest backup middle/guard through the 2016-19 seasons. Following David DeCastro’s abrupt launch, Pittsburgh rapidly signed Trai Turner, a five-time Professional Bowler throughout his first seven seasons. An enormous key to the unit’s success is the play of beginning tackles Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor. Banner returns after lacking 15 video games with a torn ACL. Chukwuma will look to be an improve from Villanueva, who protected Ben Roethlisberger’s blind aspect for the previous six seasons. 

Can Roethlisberger flourish in Matt Canada’s offense? 

The Steelers’ offense completed final within the NFL in dashing in 2020. Additionally they turned far too predictable, which led to the workforce selling Canada to offensive coordinator. Whereas Canada spent final season as Roethlisberger’s place coach, his offense can be vastly completely different from the one Massive Ben has operated for almost all of his profession. Thankfully for Roethlisberger, he has familiarity within the type of receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington and tight finish Eric Ebron. Canada’s offense can even focus extra on the operating recreation, which is able to characteristic rookie operating again Najee Harris. Roethlisberger should do his half, however Canada is hoping to take a number of the strain off of the 39-year-old gunslinger. 

Is Pittsburgh deep sufficient at CB?

The Steelers by no means really stuffed the void left by the discharge of Steven Nelson this offseason. Justin Layne, a two-year veteran who has but to start out an NFL recreation, is at the moment slated to start out alongside Joe Haden when the Steelers face the Payments in Week 1. Whereas they could have a possible sleeper in undrafted rookie Shakur Brown, cornerback stays the Steelers’ greatest query mark coming into coaching camp. Count on the Steelers to behave rapidly if they do not see what they’re on the lookout for out of this unit within the early levels of camp. One choice might be bringing again Nelson, who was initially launched as a result of Steelers’ restricted wage cap. 


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