Thursday, August 11, 2011
AFC North Week 1 preseason preview
By James Walker
The 2011 NFL preseason will begin Thursday night with several games, including the Baltimore Ravens of the AFC North against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here are four preseason storylines this weekend:
1. Cleveland Browns unveil new offense, defense against Super Bowl champs
Analysis: Cleveland could not pick a better measuring stick for a preseason opener. The Browns will debut their new West Coast offense and 4-3 defense against the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay is the NFL's top preseason team, according to ESPN.com's Power Rankings. Many eyes will be on Cleveland second-year quarterback Colt McCoy. The 2011 season is huge for McCoy to prove he's the future of the franchise. His season-long journey starts Saturday at Browns Stadium.
2. Andy Dalton era begins for Cincinnati Bengals
Analysis: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis made Carson Palmer wait a full season to make his first NFL start. But Lewis believes his team is ready to be led by a rookie quarterback in 2011. Second-round pick Andy Dalton will get his first career start for the Bengals Friday against the Detroit Lions. Lewis said the young offense will play longer than expected for a preseason opener.
3. Baltimore Ravens LB Sergio Kindle makes debut
Analysis: Kindle was Baltimore's prized draft pick in 2010. But a fractured skull last summer ended his rookie season. Kindle will make his debut one year later against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Ravens hope Kindle stays healthy and improves their pass rush. Baltimore had just 27 sacks in 16 games last season.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers evaluate young players
Analysis: The reigning AFC champions do not have anything to prove in the preseason. Pittsburgh's opener is more for evaluating young players. The Steelers took advantage of the preseason last year. They gave plenty of reps to inexperienced players Ziggy Hood, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. By midseason, this trio contributed to Pittsburgh's Super Bowl run. This year the Steelers want extended looks at rookies such as defensive end Cameron Heyward, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and cornerback Curtis Brown to see if they can eventually earn spots in the rotation.