Of 90 to 53. For a permanent or rotational position, there are many candidates, for few elected. Because competition means emulation, apart from a few executives, NFL staff all experience battles during training camps. Today a division more open than ever: AFC North.
Dominated by two great quarterbacks and possibly a third (Watson), the AFC North division is brutal. More uncertain than ever, the annual competition between four historic franchises will soon begin. But in the meantime, it is between them that they will fight.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Quarterback
In 2021, the Steelers did not perform well, especially in the first two quarters: Pittsburgh was trailing by 7 points or more at halftime, in 13 of their 18 games! They nevertheless managed the feat of finishing with a positive record (9-7-1) to go to the playoffs. If the offensive coordinator remains the same, the offense will be different in 2022. Matt Canada could not conduct his offense as he wanted because Ben Roethlisberger preferred a system where he felt comfortable. With a new starting quarterback, this time it will be up to the player to adapt to the system, and not the other way around. Two offer more mobility in the pocket, but which will start the season?
Mitchell Trubisky is the favorite, so far. Although he failed to justify his draft choice (2nd in 2017), he played 57 NFL games including 50 as a starter and this experience gives him a definite advantage. Moreover, he is the most athletic among the three contenders. With a runner as talented as Najee Harris, if coaches can rekindle the “real cookie” running ability, then the former Bears could revive his career. A new environment could be beneficial to him, but whoever says rookie says that he must learn new concepts. Mason Rudolph has for him the advantage of already knowing the playbook as well as the characteristics of the main teammates. In 2019, he had his chance with 8 games as a starter: he had not convinced!
It is a third thief who could ultimately win. rookies, Kenny Pickett will realize that the level of play and the speed of execution are much higher in NFL than in CFB (College FootBall). In college, he was a very reliable quarterback, but for a more vertical offense, to exploit the speed of receivers Chase Claypool, Calvin Austin and George Pickens, his completion percentage was much lower on long passes in the NCAA. More so when he was under pressure and he will be in the NFL. However, his mobility in the pocket as well as his skill in throwing on the move, should get him the job. Yes, but when ? Last quarterback in camp: the rookie Chris Oladokun. After 6 NCAA seasons with 3 different universities, he is a mobile player with a powerful arm. But the technical work remains important, as does improving his decision-making. His place in 2022 will be in the training team.
Ben Roethlisberger will not be easy to replace. He is a quarterback having brought two league titles and although he was in decline in 2021, he had still given 7 winning drives* on the 9 victories of the Steelers! Crucial position if any, the battle to be the new quarterback of the Steeler Nation will rage.
*getting a win on the last possession of the game
Prognosis : Mitch Trubisky
Also : Center, 34 Defensive-end, Cornerbacks,
Baltimore Ravens: Number 2 Receiver
Yes the Ravens go through the ground a lot, but they also have to throw! Certainly they target tight-ends a lot. But in addition to the expected advent of Rashod Bateman, Lamar Jackson will need a second player at receiver. Choosing instead to strengthen the offensive line in the offseason, the Ravens hope that a receiver already present in the workforce will prove to be.
Marquise Brown having left, the 3rd most used receiver in 2021 must rise in the hierarchy. Devin Duvernay has so far mainly shown himself as a special team, to return punts and engagements brilliantly. A fast player with sure hands, his role in attack should increase. The explosive James Close will compete with it (and complement it). The “X factor” being Tylan Wallace. Chosen in the 4th round in 2021, this receiver was already worth much better than that. His precision in the lines made him a prospect of great talent. Injury concerns during his course made the NFL staffs wait during the draft. Mainly used to defend and to block in a special team in 2021, he will have an opportunity to seize during training camps.
Tight-end Mark Andrews will once again be Lamar Jackson’s preferred target. So with Rashod Bateman second. Rookie Charlie Kolar (TE) should also have his share of calls. Especially in a system where coordinator Greg Roman says he wants to find more “13 Personnel”. But to go far, Baltimore also needs to find a WR2 for its offense. Of course, by July 26 and the start of camp with all players (rookies since July 19), Baltimore could also sign a receiver with more experience (Julio Jones, TY Hilton and Odell Beckham among the players still available ).
Prognosis : Devin Duvernay
Also : left guard, edge rushers
Cincinnati Bengals: Cornerback 2
Yet well helped by a pass rush efficient, the Bengals’ air defense was average in 2021. Arrived from Dallas, Chidobe Awuzie performed well. The pair of safety Jessie Bates-Von Bell is one of the best in the NFL. Mike Hilton is very effective in the slot. Three reasons why this secondary is among the most intimidating. Yet this was not the case. Playing the majority of the time with 5 defensive backs, it was therefore necessary for the Bengals to improve the 5th spot. On paper, Eli Apple is a good cornerback: size, athletic qualities, stats (13 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 71 tackles in 2021). But on the ground, the impression is different.
With their pick in the 1st round of the draft, many were waiting for the selection of a cornerback. Especially since some highly rated were available: Roger McCreary (Titans), Kyler Gordon (Bears) and Andrew Booth (Vikings). The Bengals have yet chosen a safety. Well, not exactly. Daxton Hill played 70% of his 2021 defensive snaps as a nickel cornerback (on the inside). A hyper-athletic player, he can follow the fast receivers raging in the slot. His lack of size makes it more difficult for him against certain tight-ends, but his commitment is undeniable. A complete player with significant room for improvement, Daxton Hill does not however have the profile of an outside cornerback but that of a nickel or a safety. (an insurance if the disagreement with Jessie Bates continues).
Chosen in the 2nd round, Cam Taylor Britt is a cornerback with the term “physical”. A leader with the University of Nebraska, he was able to confirm his athletic abilities during the draft process. He showed he could play man-to-man in the tough Big Ten. It will be more difficult in the NFL but he has the potential. In addition, he also knows how to play in “zone”. Star of his state at the position as a quarterback in high school, he uses this expertise of the position to “read” the opposing pitchers. Ability illustrated in the tweet below, where he demonstrates knowing how to let go of his marking, depending on the intentions of the quarterback. Nicknamed “Cam Juice” for his activity and his banter, he is the one who must take over from Eli Apple.
Prognosis : Cam Taylor Britt
Also : Punter, Linebackers, Safety
— Wally the dog (@pff_wally) May 5, 2022
Cleveland Browns: Center
To free up more payroll, the Browns terminated JC Tretter’s contract. Surprising choice but 8 million savings were not too much for their ambitious free agency, especially as quarterback. Who to replace this successful player?
Drafted in 2020, Nick Harris has since been a substitute in the squad (23 games played but only 2 as a starter). A very mobile player, he seems perfect for playing in the zone of the Browns offensive line. As an insurance policy, the Browns brought in Ethan Pocic and his 40 NFL starts. They also added two rookies with Dawson Deaton (7th round) and Brock Hoffman (undrafted, which Gregory Richard tells you about here).
There are two types of philosophy on the offensive line: Power Where Area. Keeping in mind that the patterns are always more or less mixed, the Browns use the second way. Rather than defend against a particular opponent, each of the 5 Olinemen is assigned an area. The goal is to join forces and open a breach for a runner to infiltrate. The profile of Nick Harris fits precisely this pattern. It’s up to him to show it.
Prognosis : Nick Harris
Also : Safety, receiver 2, defensive tackles
— Joel W. Cade (@TheLeftGuard) October 1, 2020