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Thursday, August 30, 2012
AFC North BustWatch 2012

By Jamison Hensley

There are players that fans love to hate like Ray Lewis or James Harrison. Then there are those players that make you scratch your head. Those are your favorite teams' busts, the players who fail to live up to expectations and make you wonder where it all went wrong. Earlier this week, I asked for your thoughts on the biggest potential busts currently on the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers. This is result of that collaborative effort:

BENGALS: The popular choice here was linebacker Rey Maualuga. He was a second-round pick in 2009, the 38th overall pick in that draft. Injuries have limited his effectiveness, and the move to middle linebacker last season didn't work out as well as originally planned. I'm on the fence whether I totally agree with this selection because Maualuga has been a productive player. He just hasn't been as productive as many projected and it hasn't helped that his other USC teammates, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing, have established themselves as star defensive players. The problem is, there really is no one else to give this label on the Bengals. The obvious choice would've been linebacker Keith Rivers, but he was traded to the Giants this offseason. A case could be made for linebacker Dontay Moch, but he was a third-round pick. I prefer to limit "busts" to the first or second round.

BROWNS: Running back Montario Hardesty was the people's choice, especially after this preseason. It's never a good thing to fumble. Hardesty, a second-round pick in 2010 (59th overall selection), coughed up the ball both times inside the Browns' 22-yard line, setting up easy touchdowns. It's been a rough initiation to the NFL for Hardesty, who missed all of training camp as a rookie with a knee injury and then tore his ACL in the preseason finale. Injuries then forced him to miss six games last season. With Hardesty failing to establish himself, the Browns had to use a first-round pick on running back Trent Richardson just two years after drafting Hardesty. And remember, the Browns gave up picks in the third and fifth rounds to move up in the draft to get Hardesty.

RAVENS: Sergio Kindle is looking like the biggest current bust in the division. There's a good chance that Kindle won't survive the final major cutdown Friday. He's battling Chavis Williams for the eighth linebacker spot. The Ravens were excited about his pass-rush potential when the first-round talent slid to them in the second round of the 2010 draft (43rd overall). Expectations for Kindle changed three months later when he fell down two flights of stairs and fractured his skull. The accident has caused permanent hearing loss in his right ear. It looked like he was headed for a comeback with a hot start to this year's training camp. But a shoulder injury has limited him in practice for most of the past two weeks. The preseason finale is a big game for Kindle.

STEELERS: The overwhelming selection here was linebacker Jason Worilds. He's no Limas Sweed, but he's no where close to being LaMarr Woodley, a linebacker taken in the second round just like Worilds. The transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker hasn't been a smooth one for the 52nd overall pick of the 2010 draft. In seven starts last season, when he filled-in for the Steelers' injured linebackers, Worilds collected 32 tackles and three sacks. That's not horrible. But it wasn't the impact that many expect from a player who was drafted as the eventual replacement for James Harrison. With Worilds missing all of training camp with a wrist injury, there's been more buzz about the play of linebacker Chris Carter, a fifth-round pick in 2011.