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Tuesday, October 6, 2009
How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

By James Walker
ESPN.com


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Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker


Falling

Edwards
1. Braylon Edwards, Browns receiver

Edwards was held without a reception for the first time as a starter in the NFL during a 23-20 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Edwards was targeted five times by Browns quarterback Derek Anderson and came up empty.

Edwards dropped two of those passes and had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was offsetting. If Cleveland wants to start winning games this season, Edwards needs to get more involved in the offense. He has only 10 receptions in four games.

In addition, Edwards' alleged off-the-field misconduct has drawn the ire of NBA superstar LeBron James, which is not a good move in Cleveland.
Clayton

2. Mark Clayton, Ravens receiver

There were a lot of key plays during Baltimore's 27-21 loss to the New England Patriots. But perhaps none were bigger that Clayton's costly drop to end the game.

On fourth-and-3, while the Ravens were driving for a potential game-winning touchdown, Clayton dropped a sure first-down pass to lose possession. It was a perfectly thrown ball by quarterback Joe Flacco that hit Clayton in the numbers and bounced off his chest.

At the end of the game when concentration has to be at its highest, Clayton needs to finish the play next time.

3. Bengals special teams

Whether it’s bad snaps or blocked kicks, Cincinnati’s special teams need to get their act together. It was one of the major reasons Cleveland nearly pulled off the upset against the Bengals.

Cincinnati had two kicks blocked by Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers Sunday. One was a field goal attempt and the other was an extra point that could have won the game in regulation. There are also major concerns about long snapper Brad St. Louis after four bad snaps in three games.

The Bengals cannot continue to leave points on the field via special teams if they want to remain a contender in the AFC.

Rising

Mendenhall
1. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers running back

Mendenhall quickly went from the outhouse to the penthouse.

In Week 3 against the Bengals, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin refused to play him on offense because of poor practice habits. Mendenhall straightened up and got the message, and Pittsburgh had no issues giving him 29 carries, which he turned into 165 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-28 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Mendenhall showed tools that we haven’t seen from him at the pro level. He displayed very good vision and quickness to explode through the holes, and lowered his shoulder consistently to fight for tough yards. He was also solid in pass protection. If Mendenhall shows this kind of consistency, he might be the future of Pittsburgh’s running game.
Rice

2. Ray Rice, Ravens running back

Rice has to share carries with two other tailbacks in Baltimore, so he doesn’t get as many opportunities as other featured backs. But Rice is making the most of his chances.

Against New England, Rice rushed for 103 yards on only 11 carries. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry and consistently made the first defender miss to pick up extra yardage.

The game plan Sunday was definitely pass-heavy, and it’s questionable whether Rice should have received more work with the way he was carving up the Patriots’ defense. He could have had even bigger numbers.
Massaquoi

3. Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns receiver

Edwards' struggles opened the door for other Browns to get involved in the passing game, and Massaquoi was the biggest beneficiary. The rookie second-round draft pick set new career highs with eight catches for 148 yards.

Massaquoi and fellow first-year receiver Brian Robiskie were largely ignored in Cleveland’s offense the first three games. Robiskie is having trouble getting on the field and Massaquoi had just two catches in his first three games.

Perhaps this performance will jump-start Massaquoi’s development, which is sorely needed in a Browns offense struggling to score points.