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Thursday, May 17, 2012
Wake-up: Phil Taylor a factor this season?

By Jamison Hensley

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

There's optimism that Phil Taylor will make a "significant impact" this season after the Browns defensive tackle underwent surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle Thursday, a league source told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Taylor is expected to be out "months, not weeks" after injuring himself while bench-pressing last week during the team's offseason conditioning program, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. Recovery can take between four to six months depending on the severity of the tear, so Taylor could return sometime in the first half of the regular season.

Hensley's slant: How long Taylor is out could determine whether the Browns add a veteran defensive lineman. The options are far from great. Rocky Bernard is a free agent who played six seasons (2003-08) under current Browns defensive line coach Dwaine Board, but he hasn't been a starter since 2008. Other free agents who could interest Cleveland are Aubrayo Franklin, who had a disappointing 2011 season with the Saints, and Tommie Harris, a backup for the Chargers last season.

BENGALS: Quarterback Andy Dalton is focusing on his deep passes this offseason. For Dalton, long throws start with the legs and not the arm. "My focus has been more on getting that fifth step and really getting that hitch, and really getting more into it," Dalton told the team's official website. "Rather than trying to feel a throw out there. Just let it go. There were so many times last year we were running by guys even if they were the off corner. A.J. [Green] and some of these other guys are going to get past them. It can be frustrating when you know you've got it and you just missed the throw. Hopefully it will happen a little less this year." Hensley's slant: Dalton completed 46.2 percent of his throws of longer than 21 yards, which ranked sixth in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But he also threw five interceptions on those deep passes, which was fourth-most in the league. So Dalton's focus should be limiting his mistakes.

RAVENS: Recently signed Jacoby Jones is putting his past behind him like he's done so many times before. "Change is good in life," Jones told the team's official website. "I left one high school, went to another and I was successful. I left one college and went to Lane College and was successful. And now I'm leaving Houston and I will be successful." In addition to being the team's No. 3 wide receiver, Jones said he likes returning punts and kickoffs "because it’s like playing in the backyard." Hensley's slant: Jones' previously announced two-year, $7 million was inflated with an escalator, according to the Carroll County (Md.) Times. His base salaries are $700,000 this year and $3 million in 2013, with $1.8 million coming as a signing bonus. Jones' deal is really $5.5 million over two years.

STEELERS: With Willie Colon's announcement that he's moving from right tackle to left guard, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette speculated Marcus Gilbert could still make his move from right to left tackle. "The knock on [rookie second-round pick Mike] Adams is that he’s a better run blocker than a left tackle protector, so the move may be to put Adams on the right side and go ahead with the move of Gilbert to the left," Bouchette wrote. "Mike Tomlin said that is Gilbert’s best side anyway." Another scenario is keeping Gilbert at right tackle and throwing Jonathan Scott in at left tackle until Adams is ready. Hensley's slant: If the Steelers don't think Adams can start immediately, the better move is to re-sign Max Starks as their stop-gap left tackle. Scott proved last season that he is a liability as a starter. Starks, who had knee surgery in January, said he is targeting mid-July to be fully recovered.