Friday, September 4, 2009
AFC North cuts looming
By James Walker
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
This Saturday is the worst day in the NFL when it comes to job security.
It’s the time when every team in the league has to trim its final roster to 53 players.
That means each of the 32 teams will have to make some tough decisions on how to release approximately 20 players. After that, coaches and general managers also will scan the waiver wire to see what’s available to upgrade their team, making for one of the most fast-paced weekends of the summer.
With that said, here is a look at tough roster decisions for each AFC North team:
Position: Running back
Why: The Steelers already have a deep group at running back, which includes starter Willie Parker and backups Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore. But a relative unknown emerged this summer in rookie free agent Isaac Redman. With rest given to Parker and Moore over the summer, Redman has done a lot with his opportunities. He’s proven to be particularly good at scoring touchdowns within the redzone, which is something Pittsburgh has struggled with in recent years. Keeping four tailbacks active will be tough, so Redman is a candidate for the practice squad. But there are no guarantees another team won’t claim him this weekend.
Why: The Browns entered the offseason in desperate need of wide receivers. Therefore, they brought in as many new players at the position as possible and now it’s time to make a decision. Braylon Edwards and Joshua Cribbs are safe, as well as rookie draft picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. After that, things get dicey. The Browns likely will keep just five receivers. Of the remaining group, Mike Furrey had the best preseason and probably played well enough to make the team. Veteran David Patten has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and is on the bubble, but my guess is Patten doesn’t make the cut. Others at the position like Paul Hubbard, Lance Leggett and rookie Jordan Norwood are expected to be released Saturday.
Position: Running back
Why: In what was a weakness most of the last season, the Bengals suddenly have some quality depth at running back this season. So much is the case that the coaching staff has been mulling for weeks what to do with this group when it’s time to put together the 53-man roster. Starter Cedric Benson and rookie Bernard Scott are safe. But DeDe Dorsey and Brian Leonard are not. Both had good training camps and preseasons. It also doesn’t help that they are different styles of runners. Similar to Pittsburgh, it doesn’t appear likely the team would carry four tailbacks, likely making Dorsey or Leonard expendable.
Why: Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano have competed kick for kick since the spring, and Saturday’s decision will finally put an end to this competition. Most expect Hauschka to be the pick as he’s outperformed Gano in the preseason. But keep in mind the “Matt Stover factor” also looms large. The Ravens have not been afraid to admit that the longtime Raven remains on speed dial if the team’s current kicker slips up. So even if Hauschka is the choice Saturday, he can’t get comfortable.