Wake-up: Bengals' Leon Hall making strides

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
7:30
AM ET
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is on schedule to be ready for the start of training camp after a torn Achilles ended his season in November.

Hall won't participate in offseason minicamps, but he's already been doing some light running and jumping off boxes less than three months after his surgery.

"With the Achilles, and really with any injury, you don't want to come back too early," Hall told the team's website. "As important as I think the [offseason training activities] and minicamp are, it's just as important that you don't want to go into an OTA or minicamp practice and take a step back and miss the start of training camp. Early September, we'll answer some questions."

Hensley's slant: Getting Hall back at full strength is essential to the Bengals' defense. He is Cincinnati's best player on defense and is a difference maker. In the first nine games with Hall, the Bengals gave up eight touchdown passes. In the last seven regular-season games without him, they allowed 12 touchdown passes.

BROWNS: Tight end Ben Watson told the Boston Herald that he doesn't feel any residual effects from the three concussions that he suffered last season. He was placed on injured reserve in December but plans on playing his ninth NFL season. "I’m great," Watson said. "Three or four days after the last incident, I felt normal. I passed all my cognitive tests. I didn’t have any headaches." Hensley's slant: Watson's production dropped significantly in his second season with the Browns. His receptions went from 68 to 37 and his receiving yards plummeted from 763 in 2010 to 410 last season. The Browns might diminish Watson's role in favor of getting Evan Moore more involved.

RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston believes John Harbaugh gets overlooked as one of the NFL's top coaches. "He already has beaten the best, including [Pittsburgh's Mike] Tomlin twice last season," Preston wrote. "But Harbaugh gets left out because of the stigma attached to being a longtime special-teams coach, and he also happens to be the coach of one of the NFL's most dominating personalities, inside linebacker Ray Lewis." Hensley's slant: It's hard to question Harbaugh's record since he became the Ravens head coach. He became the fourth NFL coach since the 1970 merger to guide his team to the playoffs in his first four years and his 48 victories (including playoffs) ranks as the third-most in the league over the past four seasons. But the true test to Harbaugh's coaching will come when the Ravens make the transition from future Hall of Famers (and team leaders) Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

STEELERS: Cornerback Ike Taylor became the third player to restructure his contract to help the salary-cap strapped Steelers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The details of the new contract are unknown. Also, Steelers executive Omar Khan took himself out of the St. Louis Rams' general manager search, the Post-Gazette reported. Khan, 35, has been an executive with the Steelers and their chief contract negotiator the past 11 years. Hensley's slant: Both moves will really help the Steelers get out of their cap predicament, especially the return of Khan. My guess is it didn't take much convincing to get Taylor to restructure his contract. He was probably in a helping mood after how the playoffs ended for Pittsburgh.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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