AFC North: 2011 nfl preseason week 4

Steelers, Ravens Week 4 preseason recap

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
10:00
AM ET
The reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens concluded their 2011 preseason Thursday night.

Here are some observations:

Steelers 33, Panthers 17

The Good
  • The Steelers played their final preseason game without any significant injuries. That was the most important thing for Pittsburgh in this game. The Steelers rested most of their starters and even got receiver Emmanuel Sanders (four receptions, 60 yards) some reps before the regular season. Sanders had been out with a foot injury.
  • Backup running back Jonathan Dwyer completed a nice turnaround this summer. He began training camp out of shape and finished as one of Pittsburgh's biggest preseason surprises. Dwyer rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He has shown a good burst and tough running between the tackles. The Steelers are very deep at running back.
The Bad
  • The Steelers were playing with backups, but the third-down efficiency could have been better. Pittsburgh scored a lot of points but was 4-of-13 on third down. Ben Roethlisberger should improve those numbers in the regular season. But the Steelers would've liked to see more production in that area from backup quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch.
Ravens 21, Falcons 7

The Good
  • First-round pick Jimmy Smith had his strongest game of the preseason. He recorded five tackles and one pass defense. Smith has made a few rookie mistakes in the preseason but bounced back strong Thursday night. The Ravens are expecting Smith to be the team's No. 1 corner this season.
  • Fellow rookie cornerback Chykie Brown made his case for the 53-man roster. Brown recorded three tackles and a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown. Brown is on the bubble but certainly helped his standing. Baltimore is already deep at corner but probably wants to keep its fifth-round draft pick.
The Bad
  • Ravens rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw an interception in limited playing time. He only played two series and those drives didn't produce any points. He finished 2-of-3 for 16 yards and a pick. I would have liked to see the rookie sixth-round pick play longer. But a shoulder injury forced him out of the game and leaves questions at backup quarterback.

Browns, Bengals Week 4 preseason recap

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
8:41
AM ET
The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals wrapped up their 2011 preseason Thursday night.

Here are some observations:

Bears 24, Browns 14

The Good
  • Backup running back Armond Smith likely secured a roster spot with a solid performance against the Chicago Bears. Smith ran hard and finished with 47 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Smith was in a tight battle with Quinn Porter for the third tailback spot behind Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Porter rushed for 17 yards Thursday night and is a candidate for the practice squad.
  • Third-string quarterback Jarrett Brown showed flashes. Brown was 10-of-15 for 92 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Brown is raw but proved he's worth keeping around. He probably has the strongest arm on the team. Cleveland has to decide if it wants to keep three quarterbacks. At the very least, Brown did enough this summer to earn a spot on the practice squad.
The Bad
  • I don't see a lot of quality depth in Cleveland. I've been harping on this point for weeks. Browns backups have been outplayed all preseason. That was the case again versus the Bears. Chicago's backups jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the Browns got their first points. The Bears showed their depth by thoroughly outplaying the Browns in the first half. Cleveland's starters have been decent this summer. But the Browns could be an injury or two from major trouble this season.
  • Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace struggled. His timing and accuracy was off. Wallace was 4-of-9 for 52 yards, but two of those incompletions were nearly intercepted. Cleveland's backup offensive line played poorly and didn't do Wallace any favors. But I expected more from a nine-year veteran against backups and some opponents who won't be in the league next week.
Colts 17, Bengals 13

The Good
  • Starting tailback Cedric Benson was not in the lineup but the running game still looked strong. This is good news for the Bengals. Backup running back Brian Leonard had his most productive game of the preseason. He rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries. The offensive line provided big holes for Leonard. Benson is serving a 20-day jail sentence for an assault charge in 2010. He is hoping to get out early for good behavior in time for Cincinnati's Week 1 matchup against Cleveland. If not, Bernard Scott and Leonard have to carry the load.
  • Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson finished the preseason strong. He showed a good motor and recorded a sack and forced fumble in limited playing time. Johnson was a nuisance for Colts quarterback Kerry Collins. Fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) has been hurt most of the preseason. The Bengals need Johnson to provide a pass rush if Dunlap is hurt or ineffective in Week 1.
The Bad
  • Cincinnati's offense needs to eliminate turnovers. The group only played sparingly and still had a fumble in the red zone. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton connected with fellow rookie A.J. Green deep in Indianapolis territory. But Green tried to do too much and fumbled the football. These are the types of growing pains you can expect from Cincinnati's young offense. The group has made a habit of turning over the football in the preseason.
  • Third-string quarterback Dan LeFevour may not have done enough for a roster spot. He threw for 45 yards and had one interception and one fumble that was recovered. Similar to the Browns, the Bengals have to decide if it's worth keeping three quarterbacks. Cincinnati could be leaning toward using that roster spot to help another position.

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