- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown described Trent Richardson as an "ordinary" talent on draft day and he isn't backing down from his assessment of the team's first-round running back.
“I think the kid is a good working back, and if you’ve got everything else around him he can play his role,” Brown told ESPN WKNR in Cleveland. “But when it comes to outstanding, I don't see anything outstanding about him. It’s not said in a cruel manner. He’s very efficient, and that’s what you want.”
Brown added, "I’m not trying to be mean. There are certain people you look at and there’s something special about them. I don’t see it.”
Brown went on to criticize team president Mike Holmgren. “What have I said about the Browns other than the fact that Richardson is an ordinary back?," he said. "There’s so much I could say. So you tell all those people that want to look at me, look at what you’ve got. You’re sitting on a mess. You’ve got a guy that doesn’t give interviews except in other cities. I ask all the people in Cleveland, do you get the impression that Mr. Holmgren wants to be there? If you do, then tell me.”
Hensley's slant: From my viewpoint, Brown's criticism stems from the fact that he was fired by Holmgren as an executive advisor two years ago. There are many other analysts, including a former general manager in Bill Polian, who consider Richardson the best player in the draft. We'll see if Brown is wrong in a couple of years.
BENGALS: The AFC North blog would like to extend a happy 45th birthday to the Bengals franchise. The American Football League officially awarded a franchise to Paul Brown and Cincinnati on May 24, 1967. Brown named the team the Bengals after the Cincinnati franchise that played in the AFL in the late 1930s. Hensley's slant: The Bengals can really celebrate by winning their first playoff game in 21 seasons, which would end the NFL's longest drought. The team is certainly poised to do so by bringing back young talent like A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and putting together one of the best offseasons in the league this year.
RAVENS: A year ago, left tackle Bryant McKinnie ballooned to 400 pounds during the NFL lockout and was cut by the Minnesota Vikings. The 6-foot-8 lineman told the Carroll County (Md.) Times that he's down to 358 pounds with a target goal of getting down to 345 pounds. "I'm glad I'm here so I can go through this now instead of what happened last year," McKinnie said. "Last year, I felt like I was on Celebrity Fit Club." Hensley's slant: McKinnie started off strong in his first season with the Ravens before fading down the stretch. Maybe getting in better condition will allow McKinnie to be more consistent through the season. This is a big year for McKinnie, who is in the final year of his contract and turns 33 during the season.
STEELERS: Tight end David Johnson is now a full-time fullback, according to running back Isaac Redman. Johnson split his duties between tight end and fullback in Bruce Arians' offense. Now, Johnson has a different focus in Todd Haley's attack. "Instead of him being a tight end in the tight end room and kind of doing fullback as a second job, he's strictly focusing on fullback," Redman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think that will help him a lot." Hensley's slant: This move will definitely help the Steelers' running game. But I still see the Steelers as a pass-first offense. Haley tailors his system around the talent on the team, and the talent in Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller) says to throw the ball.