Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Wake-up call: Ravens better than last year?
By Jamison Hensley
All four AFC North teams are on the field today for more voluntary practices. The Cleveland Browns will hold their mandatory minicamp next week, and the rest of the division teams will do so in the second week of June. Now that your calendar is set, here's your wake-up call ...
RAVENS: The Ravens lost seven starters from their Super Bowl-winning team and added the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Matt Elam and Arthur Brown. Coach John Harbaugh was asked if this year's team is better than the one that hoisted up the Lombardi trophy a year ago. “That’s definitely the idea, our goal is to get better," Harbaugh told 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore. "The proof is in the pudding, we proved that last year. We’ll have a lot of work to do between now and then to prove it again this year. But, we have a chance, I like our young players.”
BENGALS: After two weeks of offseason workouts, special teams coach Darrin Simmons told the team's official website that he has been impressed with the overall team speed. "It's as high as it's ever been; maybe ever," Simmons says. "We had a couple of fast groups from '04-'06. We had some fast guys then. I think our team speed was fast then. I think we're (more) experienced, so we're even in a better place now." Safety Shawn Williams, a third-round pick, has stood out. "He's as natural as an instinctive guy -- as far as understanding football concepts -- as I've seen come out in a long time; really natural," Simmons said.
STEELERS: Despite not significantly improving the offense in his first year as coordinator, Todd Haley told the team's official website that the expectation this season is "to get to that confetti game, as Coach [Mike] Tomlin likes to call it.” To do that, the Steelers have to be better than 21st in offense. "I would expect great development up front (with the offensive line), and I think our quarterback is as good as anybody’s," Haley said. "We just need to do a better job of protecting him and him of protecting himself. And we need to run the ball more efficiently, because I think we’ll be able to throw it with anybody.”
BROWNS: As The Plain Dealer put it, when was the last time a Browns assistant lost two Pro Bowl players? That's the challenge facing special teams coach Chris Tabor, who watched kicker Phil Dawson and returner Josh Cribbs sign elsewhere in free agency. "It was obviously great to coach those guys," Tabor said. "I feel very fortunate. But at the same time I'm excited about this group and the challenges that lie ahead and the things that we can build upon. In some areas, we will start from scratch but that's OK. In my opinion as a coach that's the fun process."