The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals couldn't have put together two more completely different performances in Thursday night's preseason games. Behind an impressive throwing display by Joe Flacco, the Ravens dominated the out-classed Jaguars in a 48-17 win. The Bengals, meanwhile, spent the night watching Aaron Rodgers run for touchdowns and their offense go nowhere in a 27-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
The Cleveland Browns are the only AFC North team playing Friday night. Cleveland is facing the Eagles, the same team that the Browns will open the season against on Sept. 9.
BENGALS: For the third straight game, a starter left with an injury. This time it was outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who injured his hamstring. "He had a muscle pull," coach Marvin Lewis said after the game. "I don’t know how severe it is.” The Bengals' official team website predicts tight end Jermaine Gresham and linebacker Rey Maualuga, both of whom have sprained knees, won't play in the preseason finale but will be available for the regular-season opener. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) is expected to start in the opener and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) to be questionable, according to the website.
BROWNS: Most starting quarterbacks go into the third quarter in the third preseason game, and rookie Brandon Weeden needs the reps to develop. How much time the backups receive will be an interesting story line because that's where the real competition is. Colt McCoy (quarterback rating of 105.1) and Seneca Wallace (102.6) have put up some good numbers in the preseason. "They're both guys here who are fighting," coach Pat Shurmur said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "They're trying to develop themselves to be the starter and when it all settles out, we'll see where they line up ... they're similar in a lot of ways."
RAVENS: Lost in the Ravens' preseason rout of the Jaguars was the return of defensive end Pernell McPhee. Excused all week after the death of his father, McPhee came back to block Josh Scobee's 30-yard field goal. "That's one thing about this team is everybody loves everybody," McPhee told the Baltimore Sun. "As soon as I got back, everybody surrounded me like I was home and put a smile on my face and said they were happy to see me back. They're proud of me that I took it like a man."
STEELERS: When Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Indianapolis was involved in "serious" trade talks, some speculated it could involve disgruntled Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace. But that apparently isn't the case. The Indianapolis Star is reporting the Colts are targeting a cornerback. Getting rid of Wallace makes no sense for the Steelers because he's an important piece to what should be a Super Bowl-contending team. And why would the Steelers want to help former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who is now with the Colts, anyway?
In other news, the Steelers fired special teams coach Al Everest and replaced him with assistant Amos Jones. The timing is peculiar because teams don't typically remove coaches midway through the preseason. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the decision was not based on the performance of the special teams.