Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Training camp sleepers
By James Walker
The AFC North blog has made it to three training camps thus far. We saw the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals up close to get a feel for the division in 2011.
Here are three unheralded players who caught our eye:
Player: Baron Batch, running back
Analysis: Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin won't admit it, only saying "He's a rookie," but Pittsburgh's seventh-round pick is showing toughness and a good burst at tailback. Batch's pass blocking also is solid. But making a veteran team like Pittsburgh is going to be tough. Tailback Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore are proven. Pittsburgh may have to keep four running backs for Batch or place him on the practice squad.
Player: Colin Cochart, tight end
Analysis: Cochart is a personal favorite of mine during this week's visit to Bengals camp. The undrafted rookie tight end from South Dakota State is gritty and doesn't give an inch. Cochart's best asset is his run blocking. He's strong and keeps a good base at the point of attack. I've seen Cochart make two pancake blocks this week, including Tuesday against Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker. Cochart could be a sleeper to make the Bengals as a third, blocking tight end.
Player: Branndon Braxton, offensive lineman
Analysis: Braxton was undrafted in 2009 and played well in the UFL for two seasons. He is hungry to make the Browns' 53-man roster this year. Braxton has a good chance at right tackle, which is a thin spot for Cleveland. Braxton has good size (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) and is holding up well in pass protection. He is surprisingly pushing veteran right tackle Tony Pashos in Browns camp.