AFC North: Brandon Jacobs
To those Bengals fans who want the team to draft a wide receiver, you are not alone.
A.J. Green, the team’s first-round pick from a year ago and current No. 1 wideout, isn’t opposed to Cincinnati bringing in another target in the passing game.
“I hope so,” Green told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It would be nice to get someone else in here but if we don’t there are guys here who can step up. Whatever the team needs.”
The Bengals haven’t re-signed No. 2 wide receiver Jerome Simpson and have yet to add a wideout this offseason. Simpson received a three-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Hensley’s slant: Michael Floyd probably won’t slide into the bottom half of the first round, but the Bengals will have a chance to take a wide receiver with their second first-round pick (Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill) or their second-round one (Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle).
BROWNS: Wide receiver-returner Josh Cribbs was cited for driving 103 mph in a 60-mph zone last month, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cribbs addressed this on his Twitter account: “Yes I was pulled over for speeding, going too fast, luckily the police were on the job. Wasn't going that fast the entire time obviously but wrong is wrong, gotta face the music just like anyone else:(." Cribbs added, “Much Respect to the police officers who pulled me over! I will lead better on the road now as well as on & off the field!!!" Cribbs is scheduled to appear in court May 4. Hensley’s slant: Cribbs is the latest NFL player to go well over the speed limit (you should read about the reported high-speed caravan that included running back Brandon Jacobs). What Cribbs did was dangerous, but you have to be impressed with how he took responsibility for his actions.
RAVENS: The team believes it learned a lesson in drafting a wide receiver after finding success with Torrey Smith, a second-round pick from a year ago. “I think with Torrey, one of the biggest things is that he’s wired right,” director of player personnel Eric DeCosta told the team’s website. “Mentally, this is a guy who grew up in a tough environment. He grew up under difficult circumstances.” The oldest of seven children, Smith helped raise his siblings while his single mother attended community college during the day and worked at night. Before his last season at Maryland, Smith was once again parenting his younger siblings because his mother was locked up for six months after a family dispute turned violent. Hensley’s slant: Drafting productive wide receivers have been tough over the years for the Ravens, who have missed on such high picks as Travis Taylor, Patrick Johnson and Mark Clayton. The Ravens will see if they truly have learned about that position because they should take another wide receiver in this draft. I could see them taking a wide receiver-returner in the middle rounds.
STEELERS: General manager Kevin Colbert said 98 percent of the Steelers’ work for the draft is complete. He wouldn't discuss specific players but did speak to the team's draft philosophy. "Need is not a good word," Colbert said at the Steelers pre-draft press conference, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's 'want.' We want players. We don't necessarily need. We try to add from within. The subtractions we made were substantial from a leadership standpoint. We talked about that before. That will be replaced -- we don't know by whom or how long [it will take]. Coach [Mike] Tomlin will make a final decision of when a guy plays, but, quite honestly, there are not a lot of players in this draft that can come in and be immediate impact guys for us." Hensley's slant: Like it or not, the Steelers need offensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks. It would be surprising if Pittsburgh's first-round pick didn't address one of these positions.
Johnson has rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 consecutive games. He rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Matt, in general, how do you view this matchup between Johnson and Pittsburgh's defense?
Matt Williamson: Well, it's strength against strength. Johnson is as good as any player in the league. He's very elusive and a lot more powerful than people realize. He's an aggressive runner and he's not afraid of contact. The other thing is I think opponents stack the line of scrimmage too much. So when Johnson gets past that first and second level, he's gone. I think the Steelers might try to defend Johnson with seven because they are so good against the run. And Pittsburgh has guys like Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark to keep everything in front of them and eliminate the big plays.
How does Johnson continue to put up huge numbers when everyone knows he's getting the football?
MW: What's interesting is if you look at Johnson's numbers when Kerry Collins was the quarterback, he was good but it wasn't Pro Bowl-caliber. But when Vince Young got behind center, Johnson became great as a runner because it's so much harder to defend the run when Vince is in the game. If you're those Steelers outside linebackers, you can't just crash the inside run. You need to hold contain in case Young might pull it out of Johnson's belly and run. You're so afraid of Young that it opens things up for Johnson. And obviously he has supreme talent. He's such as a great runner and his line is very good. So are the peripheral players -- the tight ends, the receivers, the fullback. It's an awfully good formula, but it does amaze me that he continues to break so many long runs.
Can the Steelers duplicate last year's success, where they held Johnson to 57 yards on 15 carries?
MW: I think the Steelers have the best run defense in the league, and he's going to have a tough go at things. But Johnson can always break the 80-yard run, too. I think the Steelers do better against power running backs like Michael Turner and Brandon Jacobs, just because they're a pretty heavy front seven. If anything, I would say they're more physical than fast.
So what's your over/under for Johnson's rushing yards this week?
MW: He has 12 straight 100-yard games. But this is going to be as tough a test for Johnson as any. I would put the over/under around 90-95 yards, and probably another 30 yards as a receiver.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
PITTSBURGH -- Forget the numbers.
So how will the NFL's best back hold up against the league's No. 1 defense?
The answer to that question likely will determine Sunday's high-profile matchup between the Chargers (4-5) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).
"LaDainian Tomlinson is arguably the best in the world at what he does," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "[He's good at] not only running it, but catching it, throwing it -- he's capable of doing a lot of things and has and will for that football team. It's another good featured-runner challenge for our defense, and we've had some of late."
Pittsburgh has fared well against some of the top tailbacks in the NFL this year. The Steelers bottled up the NFL's second leading rusher, Clinton Portis of the Washington Redskins, Nov. 3 and held him to just 51 yards on 13 carries. Pittsburgh also slowed bruising New York Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs to just 47 yards on 18 carries Oct. 26.
In fact, no player has rushed for more than 100 yards on the Steelers this season.
But if anyone is capable of breaking that streak, it's Tomlinson. The Chargers' Pro Bowler seems to be gaining traction after a slow start, averaging 91.5 yards rushing the past two games. If Tomlinson is able to get similar numbers Sunday, it could spell trouble for the Steelers at home.
"We got to prepare ourselves and respect this process and respect what he's capable of," Tomlin said of Tomlinson. "I'm sure we will."
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Jacobs showed why Monday night.
The burly tailback scored New York's first touchdown and collected another victim along the way, running over Browns safety Mike Adams. Browns defensive lineman Corey Williams had some harsh words for Jacobs during the week.
Meanwhile, the Browns are throwing caution to the wind. Receiver Braylon Edwards got past Giants cornerback Aaron Ross for the second time to set up Cleveland's first touchdown. Jamal Lewis scored on a 4-yard run.
The Browns lead 10-7 as both quarterbacks and running games are clicking. Could we be headed for a shootout?