Outsiders: AFC North offseason needs

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
4:00
PM ET
Football Outsiders Insider analyzed the biggest holes facing each AFC North team going into the offseason. While I can't reveal everything because it's an Insider post, I'll provide the most interesting nugget of information for each team.

BENGALS: Running back, guard. This is a no-brainer because the starting running back (Cedric Benson) and the three guards that started the most games (Nate Livings, Mike McGlynn and Bobbie Williams) are unrestricted free agents. Best note from Football Outsiders: Livings and McGlynn combined to blow seven run blocks that directly resulted in negative yardage.

BROWNS: Running back. Honestly, Football Outsiders could have named every position on offense. Running back stands out because of injuries and ineffectiveness. Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya all failed to provide big plays in the running game. Best note from Football Outsiders: The Browns ranked 30th (2010) and 32nd (2011) in second-level yards by running backs. They also ranked 24th (2010) and 31st (2011) in open-field yards.

RAVENS: Interior offensive line, special teams. Everyone knows the Ravens could have major holes with center Matt Birk and left guard Ben Grubbs becoming free agents. The best observation was the struggles of the special teams, especially the coverage teams. It could get worse because four of Baltimore's top five tacklers on special teams are set to become unrestricted free agents: Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Jameel McClain. Best note from Football Outsiders: According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens' special teams went from a No. 4 ranking in 2010 to 30th this season, which has to bother a former special-teams coach like John Harbaugh.

STEELERS: Defensive line. Nose tackle Casey Hampton is coming off ACL surgery, and defensive end Brett Keisel severely hurt his groin in the playoff loss at Denver. Backup nose tackle Chris Hoke retired and defensive end Aaron Smith could be next. Best note from Football Outsiders: Early indications suggest that Ziggy Hood will slide over to nose tackle in place of Hampton, Cameron Heyward will start in Hood's old spot on the strong side, Keisel will return at right defensive end.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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