Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Wake-up: Bengals' Dunlap wants to start
By Jamison Hensley
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
The Bengals' Carlos Dunlap is looking to unseat Robert Geathers, Cincinnati's starting left defensive end for the past six seasons.
Dunlap, the Bengals' top pass-rusher, has recorded 14 sacks in two seasons. He participated in 43 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season because of a hamstring injury and wants to boost his participation to 60 percent this year.
"I'm looking to start," Dunlap told the team's official website. "I know Uncle Geathers isn't going to give it away. That's why I have to earn it in training camp."
Hensley's slant: You get the feeling that Dunlap is only scratching the surface of his potential so far. The Bengals should get Dunlap on the field more as long as it doesn't diminish his effectiveness as a pass-rusher. He had 13 quarterback hits and 29 quarterback pressures last season to finish as a top-five defensive end in the Pro Football Focus ratings.
BROWNS: Travis Benjamin, the only receiver drafted by the Browns this year, provides a different look at that position for Cleveland because he is smaller and quicker. The challenge for the 175-pound Benjamin is to get stronger, according to George McDonald, who served as the Browns’ wide receivers coach in 2009-10 before coaching Benjamin at the University of Miami. “[He needs to] get in the weight room just to develop that strength to take some of the hits that he’ll take there,” McDonald told the Akron Beacon Journal. “I think the biggest [adjustment] that most college receivers have to deal with when they come to the NFL is just to continue to work on their route-running skills and creating separation at the top of their breaks, because everything happens a little bit faster there.” Hensley's slant: Benjamin has a good chance to contribute immediately as the Browns' slot receiver as well as help out Josh Cribbs on returns. There's no question that he can stretch the field. You just have to wonder how his small frame will hold up when he takes some hits.
RAVENS: Cornerback Cary Williams told the team's official website that he's 80 percent recovered from offseason hip surgery. He expects to be fully recovered in time for the team's minicamp, which starts June 11. "That's already set in stone," Williams said. "I'm eager to get out there and run with the guys. My body is saying, 'Yeah, it's that time.' But I just can't. I'm just trying to stay within the limits and take it slow." Hensley's slant: Williams, who started all 16 games last season, knows he can't afford to miss too much time this offseason. Jimmy Smith, the team's first-round pick from a year ago, is expected to move into a starting role this season. Williams has to be on the field to compete if he wants to remain starting opposite Lardarius Webb.
STEELERS: The Steelers aren't voicing any concern over weight issues for rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, the team's fourth-round pick. Ta'amu weighed in at this past weekend's rookie minicamp at 346 pounds and has been as low as 320 pounds. “Here, with the nutrition plan we have in place and with working every day, that’s not going to be a problem,” defensive line coach John Mitchell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It doesn’t bother me.” Hensley's slant: Ta'amu probably wants to lose about 10 pounds to get down to his playing weight at Washington. One of his strengths is a burst off the snap. Extra weight could slow him down in that regard.