Friday, January 18, 2013
Wake-up: Gruden staying with Bengals
By Jamison Hensley
I will be traveling to New England tomorrow for the AFC Championship Game, and Foxborough is going to feel like Miami compared to Denver last weekend. The high temperature for Sunday is 44 degrees, which is more than 30 degrees warmer than the AFC divisional playoff game a week ago. The biggest problem for the teams could be the wind, which is expected to reach 22 miles per hour Sunday. Barring any major news, the rest of the day will focus on the Ravens, who are one game away from reaching the Super Bowl. Here's your wake-up call ...
RAVENS: If the Ravens want to run the ball, they have to find a way to block Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, according to The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston. "A lot of teams try to run to the perimeter on New England because there is no room to run inside," Preston wrote. "If you think he is just some blob who clogs up the middle, then you're wrong. He also has three sacks and has knocked down six passes. He is the complete, big package. Ravens center Matt Birk has had an outstanding career, but clearly is no match for Wilfork. Osemele and Yanda need to have big games where they work combination blocks with Birk and then scrape off and try to pick off a linebacker in the second level."
BENGALS: With the Cardinals reportedly hiring Bruce Arians as their head coach, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is staying with the Bengals. This offseason, Gruden interviewed with the Cardinals, Chargers, Eagles and Jaguars. But all of those teams have now hired head coaches, with the Cardinals being the last to do so. This will mark Gruden's third season with the Bengals.
STEELERS: If I were Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, I would expect increased competition next season for the starting running back job. General manager Kevin Colbert sounded extremely displeased by the running game, which produced its fewest yards in nine seasons. "Where we were in the running game last year was indicative of the talent at the position," Colbert said, via The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "That group of players didn't produce the way we anticipated they would."
BROWNS: Quarterback Brandon Weeden is running out of excuses if he fails to produce under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. "Maybe Weeden will fail as an NFL quarterback. Or maybe he will improve next season simply because he's no longer a rookie, and experience is critical," The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto wrote. "And maybe that West Coast Offense was not the right fit for Weeden in 2012 because it was very different from his scheme at Oklahoma State. But this much is certain: If Weeden doesn't produce with these two coaches, he has no long-term future as a starting quarterback."