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Wake-up: Kirkpatrick sees time on defense

11/23/2012

Hope everyone had a better Thanksgiving than Rex Ryan. We'll resume our normal Friday coverage, which includes my predictions and the Final Word later today. Here is your wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Chargers linebacker Jarret Johnson will play against his former team for the first time Sunday. Johnson, who played 398 games for the Ravens from 2003 to 2011, said he would have preferred to finish his career in Baltimore but he realized it was time to move on in free agency. "I kind of knew the writing on the wall going into the year -- the way that [Paul] Kruger was coming on, the way things were kind of working out, other guys' contracts," Johnson said, via The Baltimore Sun. "You can't pay everybody. So I kind of expected it, and they made it pretty clear pretty early that it wasn't going to work out. I was just fortunate enough to have a team like San Diego. They were extremely interested in me." Johnson has 27 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble for the Chargers.

STEELERS: The most immediate impact from wide receiver Plaxico Burress should come in the red zone. He scored seven of his eight touchdowns last season inside the 20-yard line as the Jets were the NFL's top red zone offense. The Steelers need help in that area of the field, ranking 20th in red-zone efficiency. “He brings us size. Now we’ve got to get him up to speed,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “That’s the challenge.”

BENGALS: Rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, the 17th overall pick, saw his most extensive work on defense last Sunday, playing 26 snaps on defense, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. He recorded the first two tackles of his career in Kansas City. “It was pretty much my first time just getting thrown out there,” said Kirkpatrick, who missed most of training camp and the first seven games of the season with a knee injury. “I wanted to get used to the speed, and when I got used to the speed everything kind of slowed down for me. I wasn’t worried about those throws. As long as there weren’t any balls over my head and all the balls were contested balls and I was in the right position. So I felt pretty good out there.”

BROWNS: Cleveland has 27 sacks this season, five off last year's total. The Browns' seven sacks Sunday at Dallas were their most in one game since they sacked Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger eight times in a 13-6 victory Dec. 10, 2009. The increased pass rush was the result of interior linemen Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin playing together for the first time this season. One of the most damaging things about a pass rush when you have big, physical guys [in the middle] is the push in the quarterback's face," coach Pat Shurmur said, via The Plain Dealer. "When the pocket collapses in front of him, that's what restricts the quarterback's vision, more than what he knows is happening off the edges."