Friday, August 3, 2012
Wake-up: Haslam doesn't want to distract
By Jamison Hensley
It's good to be back on the blog after taking Thursday to concentrate on the family. I can happily report all is well, and the baby is still due in about five weeks. It's also about five weeks before the first AFC North team kicks off the regular season. So, let's not waste any time and get our wake-up call:
BENGALS: Despite going to his first Pro Bowl last season, tight end Jermaine Gresham told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he's "very, very average, below average right now." The reason for this harsh assessment comes from the play of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, who became the first tight ends in league history to produce over 1,300 receiving yards in a season. When asked if he could put up similar numbers, Gresham said: “I believe so, but until I do it, you can’t even compare. … I just put things in perspective.” Hensley's slant: Gresham will have a chance to put up career numbers this year. The Bengals lost two of their top three wide receivers last season (Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell) and don't have a clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver. That's why it's expected that Gresham will be the No. 2 target in the offense behind A.J. Green.
BROWNS: Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam III finalized his reported $1 billion-plus deal with Randy Lerner to take over the Browns. Haslam told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he won't make any decisions on changes until the league approves his purchase of the team, which is expected by October. "This is a critical time of year for the team and we don't want to be a distraction," Haslam said. "The story after today needs to be about the Browns, not about the change in ownership." Hensley's slant: I will provide my take on the change in ownership later this morning, but Browns fans should know that he will divest his ownership in the Steelers (between 10 percent to 16 percent) over the next couple of months. He'll bring some of the principles on building a team from the Steelers, just not a Terrible Towel.
RAVENS: With Bryant McKinnie still on the Non-Football Injury list, Kelechi Osemele is making a good impression at right tackle, which the rookie second-round pick considers his most natural position. "He’s going to just keep getting better, better and better for the next three or four years," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said, via the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "I would imagine he’ll be just like Michael [Oher], every snap get better, every day get better, every week, every game. It’s just a matter of getting his fundamentals down and getting him some game experience. As you guys know, we draft people around here for a reason. We’ve got us another one.” Hensley's slant: Osemele has a future with the offensive line and represents good insurance if the Ravens can't count upon McKinnie. But coach John Harbaugh's preference is to start the five best offensive linemen, so that means McKinnie, Oher, left guard Bobbie Williams, center Matt Birk and right guard Marshal Yanda.
STEELERS: In describing his running backs, offensive coordinator Todd Haley referred to having "sports car-type bodies that offer some different weapons." He's talking about Chris Rainey, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Florida who lacks size (5-foot-8, 178 pounds) but not speed (ran 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds). "He's going to be awesome," center Maurkice Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He's a smaller guy, but he's been dealing with that his whole life. We can use him like Darren Sproles." Hensley's slant: The Steelers would be ecstatic if Rainey gives them a Sproles-like presence. That would mean being the top receiver out of the backfield, a spark in the running game (averaging over five yards on a handful of carries per game) and a dangerous threat in the return game. That would be an impressive triple threat.