Saturday, December 10, 2011
AFC North mailbag
By Jamison Hensley
If you have a question about the AFC North, send it to my mailbag. It's Saturday morning, so let's open up some mail ...
Edgar from Austin, Texas, writes: Love the blog. It helps me keep up on my Browns and the team I hate, Steelers. My question is this: Do you think Colt McCoy could be the future for the Browns if they give him a better supporting cast? I mean, the offensive line is a joke, the running game has been terrible especially with the injuries (good thing Peyton Hillis didn't get that extension), and the receiving corps is average at best. How good of a chance do you think the Browns have at grabbing both Justin Blackmon and Trent Richardson in the first round with those pair of draft picks they got last year?
Jamison Hensley, from AFC Headquarters, responds: There's no doubt that McCoy would be putting up better numbers with a strong supporting cast. It's obvious that the Browns lack playmakers. Just look at that Thursday night game: the Steelers have wide receivers who can turn short passes into touchdowns and the Browns have wide receivers who have trouble catching short passes. The problem is, McCoy hasn't shown the ability to stretch the field on a consistent basis and has made some poor decisions and throws (and that has no bearing on his supporting cast). The Browns' biggest decision is figuring out whether they are a better offense with more playmakers around McCoy or a better offense with another quarterback who can elevate the play of those surrounding him.
Taylor from Baltimore writes: How confident can the Ravens be with kicker Billy Cundiff who has struggled mightly after signing a big contract in the offseason?
Hensley responds: The Ravens should still be confident in Cundiff, who could miss Sunday's game with a calf injury. Most of his misses have come from pushing the ball wide right from the right hash mark, which is a technique issue and a correctable flaw. The eight misses, though, are alarming since he was nearly automatic last season. Still, Cundiff is 12 of 13 this year in the second half (including 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter), which tells me that he can be counted on to make the pressure kicks.
Erik from Charlotte, N.C.: After reading your article on James Harrison's "vicious" hit to Colt McCoy I just wanted to clarify something. You act as if Harrison is continuing his "illegal"style of play that he penalized frequently for through midseason last year. But since his last personal foul penalty on Fitzpatrick on Nov 28th 2010, Harrison has played in 16 games including playoffs and 2011 season and this is his first personal foul penalty in 16 games. That's equivalent to a whole season with one personal foul penalty. So don't you think to act as if he hasn't learned and should be suspended is a little overboard? Did you write the same article saying Dunta Robinson of the Falcons should be suspended for his "vicious" concussion causing hit after he did it again earlier this year after doing the same thing last year? Or did you say Ray Lewis should be suspended for his "vicious" hit on Hines Ward that caused a concussion earlier this year?
Hensley responds: It's going to take longer than one season to show Harrison has changed his ways or changed his reputation for that matter. Harrison was fined $125,000 last season for illegal hits. If I lost that amount of money, there is no way I would do that act again and I wouldn't come close to putting myself in a situation where they could fine me again. All Harrison had to do was lead with his shoulder. That way, there would be no gray area. Instead, you could see him lowering his helmet and striking McCoy with the crown of it. Now, the reason I didn't suggest Ray Lewis shouldn't be suspended earlier this season is simple -- Lewis is not a repeat offender. Players who commit the same mistake over and over again are subject to more severe discipline each time.
Adam from Columbus, Ohio: Do you think A.J. Green is a bad matchup for Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph? I feel A.J. could have a big day if the line holds. Also, do you think the Bengals would have any interest in Jonathan Stewart next year or do you not see that really being a good fit?
Hensley responds: Green is going to be a bad matchup for any cornerback in this league. When he is focused on running precise routes (and not committing carless penalties), it's tough for any cornerback to shut him down for an entire game. Green can leap over defenders to make the catch and is physical and fast enough to break big plays after making the catch. Joseph is having a strong season with the Texans, but Green is the best receiver suiting up on that field Sunday. As for the running back spot, the Bengals need to get younger and faster at that position. Stewart would be an intriguing possibility. He doesn't have great elusiveness but he has legitimate speed. Plus, he's 24 and doesn't have a lot of wear and tear being the backup in Carolina. There's only one problem: Stewart isn't a free agent until 2013. The Bengals have been building this offense through the draft and should stick with that philosophy by picking a running back at some point next April.
Steve from Chicago: Love the blog. Looking to February: If you had to predict today, who will be playing in the Super Bowl? It's hard to imagine the Packers blowing it at this point, but in my opinion, a healthy Steelers team is just as unstoppable. What are the chances of a Super Bowl XLV rematch?
Hensley responds: I've been saying for the past month that there are four teams that have separated themselves in my estimation. The Packers, Ravens, Steelers and Saints have been my favorites to make it to Indianapolis in February. I would be shocked if a team other than these four makes it to the Super Bowl. As for the exact matchup, I will wait until the end of the regular season before revealing that.