Weekend mailbag: Impact rookies

May, 13, 2012
5/13/12
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Cole from Ontario, Canada, writes: I'm a huge Ravens fan and though I like Jacoby Jones as a player we all know that Cam Cameron's offense barely acknowledges the third wide receiver. With that being said, why would they pay a two-year, $7 million deal to a guy who is going to be a return specialist? I just don't understand the move.

Jamison Hensley: I didn’t know the Ravens’ fandom crossed the border. As for your question, I don’t think Cam Cameron has ignored a third wide receiver. I get the feeling that the Ravens want to become a more pass-oriented team as Joe Flacco progresses. The problem has been Baltimore catching veterans at the end of their careers -- T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Lee Evans -- who never lived up to expectations as the No. 3 receiver. You saw toward the end of last season that the Ravens put more of a focus on getting Evans the ball. Baltimore showed that it wanted to spread the ball around. And while Jones will never be a primary target, he has more years left than Houshmandzadeh and Evans. The reasons for the size of the contract are: Baltimore needed more experience at the receiver position and it had to pay that much so it wouldn’t lose Jones to the Panthers.


Zach from Ohio writes: Looking at all the players drafted by AFC North teams, what three offensive and defensive players do you think will have the best season and biggest impact on their team?

Hensley: For offense, Browns running back Trent Richardson is a no-brainer. He is my pick for offensive rookie of the year. The easy picks for the other two would be the two guards, the Steelers’ David DeCastro and the Bengals’ Kevin Zeitler. If you want to go beyond the first round, I would keep my eye on Steelers running back Chris Rainey and Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones.

On defense, Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw will have to step up in place of the injured Terrell Suggs. The same goes for Browns defensive tackle Billy Winn, who has a chance to fill in for the injured Phil Taylor. Those two likely will make the biggest impact on their teams. While many will point to Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, I can see defensive tackle Devon Still playing a big role in Cincinnati’s rotation up front.


Michael from Oldenburg, Indiana, writes: What do you think about the Bengals potentially adding Braylon Edwards to their suddenly crowded wide receiver position?

Hensley: I'm not saying it would be a move that would definitely work out, but it's a move Cincinnati should explore. Unlike a lot of teams, the Bengals have the cap room to take a chance on Edwards. Cincinnati needs a No. 2 wide receiver and a target with experience. As I pointed out in a "Wake-up Call" this week, no wide receiver on the Bengals has more than 65 career receptions. Edwards has 341 catches (but just 15 last season) and has averaged 15.6 yards per reception for his seven-year career. One question is whether he would ready for the season. He is still rehabbing a knee injury and expects to participate in training camp.


Frank from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., writes: As a regular follower, I was a little nervous about the changing of the guard at first, but you have done a fine job since taking over our division's blog. Keep it up. My question revolves around the best rivalry in football, the Steelers and Ravens. As a Steelers fan, last year’s rivalry games were miserable for us: A Week 1 blowout making me want to cry, and a Week 9 loss that the Ravens stole from us with eight seconds to go. With the additions to the offensive line for the Steelers, and not any "significant" additions to the Ravens, do you see the sweep going the other way, in favor of the Steelers, this year? Also, since the two games are played in a span of 15 days, do you think momentum will be a force here? If Suggs is back in time, will he be the difference maker?

Hensley: To start off, I think it’s absolutely crazy that the NFL schedule makers put the Steelers-Ravens games so close together. There should be a rule where they play one game early and one game in December. That will allow the teams to gauge where they stand in the first half of the season and to fight for a playoff spot (or division title) at the end of the season. As far as predictions go, I usually say it will be a split. It’s tough for these teams to sweep one another. The health of Suggs is a major factor. He plays some of his best games against Pittsburgh. Suggs also has the distinction of sacking Ben Roethlisberger more times than anyone else.


Kenneth from West Salem, Ohio, writes: Just had a question involving the statement of Colt McCoy being able to compete for his starting role. If Brandon Weeden struggles early does it open the door for a quarterback controversy? My thoughts are a resounding yes. The Browns should have just released him. We gave a third rounder [for McCoy], but gave a first for Weeden. The fans would not be chanting Seneca nearly as quickly.

Hensley: If Weeden gets the starting job -- and I believe everyone can agree this is going to happen -- it would take a major rut for the Browns to turn back to McCoy. Browns fans can chant for McCoy all they want, but the team knows the importance of Weeden playing this season. Weeden would have to throw a lot of interceptions, lose composure and look lost in the offense for the Browns to pull him.

Head coach Pat Shurmur would have to be convinced that Weeden’s confidence would be damaged if the Browns left him in there. Just remember that Cleveland averaged 13 points per game with McCoy as the starter last year and the Browns didn’t bench him. And, just like last year, Cleveland has to figure out if Weeden is the franchise quarterback. I don’t see the Browns sitting down Weeden unless there is an injury.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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