AFC North: JaMarcus Russell
While I'm n0t endorsing the Ravens signing Russell, I can't say this development surprises me. The Ravens don't have established backups behind quarterback Joe Flacco. Tyrod Taylor has completed 18 passes in two NFL seasons, and Caleb Hanie has four career starts in five NFL seasons.
And the Ravens were impressed with Russell when he was coming out of LSU in 2007.
“We did a pretty decent job, and obviously they continue to do a phenomenal job in Baltimore, with [general manager] Ozzie Newsome and his group,” former Ravens coach Brian Billick said last year. “JaMarcus Russell was the highest-rated player I’ve ever seen on any of our boards."
Russell has worked hard on his conditioning, losing nearly 50 pounds. But he reportedly hasn't lost any arm strength.
“We’ve worked with over a dozen NFL quarterbacks, and the strongest arm I’ve ever seen is Joe Flacco’s,” Brian Martin, founder of the TEST Football Academy, told Fox Sports. “JaMarcus’ arm right now is as strong and as accurate as Joe’s.”
It remains to be seen whether Russell will back up Flacco.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to expand Heinz Field by 3,000 seats, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board signed off on the resolution to explore the addition, and the Steelers can now take that proposal to the NFL for approval next month.
All seats would be added in the stadium's south end zone near the scoreboard. While the team has yet to decide how to pay for construction of the new seats, the Post-Gazette reported that possible sources could include revenue from a surcharge on tickets.
In other news, versatile backup offensive lineman Trai Essex re-signed on a one-year deal and left guard Doug Legursky signed his $1.26 million restricted free-agent tender.
Hensley's slant: It's surprising that the Steelers haven't expanded sooner. In terms of capacity, Heinz Field (65,050) is the seventh-smallest venue in the NFL and the smallest in the division -- ranking behind Cleveland Browns Stadium (73,200), Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium (71,008) and Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium (65,535). I'm sure kickers would like the stadium to expand by another 10,000 seats if that means enclosing the open-end part of Heinz.
BENGALS: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is making it seem like recently signed free agent cornerback Terence Newman could make a bigger impact than many expect. Newman turns 34 during the season and was reportedly picked on by quarterbacks toward the end of last season. "If he can still run and get out of breaks, I know he can do some big things for us in this defense," Zimmer told the team's official website. "I don't know what's happened lately, but all I know is I've talked to enough people in Dallas that I trust that say he can still run. And I'm talking to people who saw him every day in practice and that means more to me than anything. We'll see how he is when he gets here, but I'm excited to have him." Hensley's slant: With the most salary-cap room in the NFL, the Bengals aren't hurting themselves by adding Newman and seeing firsthand whether he can still contribute. But he has something to prove. According to Pro Football Focus, Newman rated 57th out of 66 cornerbacks who played at least half of his team's snaps.
BROWNS: Pro Football Weekly analyst Nolan Nawrocki doesn't think the Browns will take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the fourth overall pick, but he believes the team has Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden on its radar. “I do think Weeden is a guy they are targeting, and whether they select him with the 22nd or the 37th pick, I think he would definitely bring more size to that position,” Nawrocki told the Akron Beacon Journal. “He ran a similar style offense at Oklahoma State. I think he’s flown under the radar a little bit." Hensley's slant: I'm in favor of upgrading the Browns' quarterback position, but Cleveland missed out on its best chance to do so when it failed to trade up for Robert Griffin III. The Browns' focus should be on upgrading the talent around the quarterback position. If the right prospects are available, the Browns should attempt to get a running back, wide receiver and right tackle with their first three picks.
RAVENS: Former Ravens coach Brian Billick revealed that one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history was the one the team liked the most. In talking about how quarterbacks rise up draft boards, Billick told ESPN Radio (via the Baltimore Sun): "We did a pretty decent job, and obviously they continue to do a phenomenal job in Baltimore, with Ozzie Newsome and his group. JaMarcus Russell was the highest-rated player I’ve ever seen on any of our boards. So we all missed on JaMarcus Russell. Make no mistake.” Billick was Baltimore's head coach for nine drafts (1999 to 2007). Hensley's slant: This is nothing more than a cautionary tale because the Ravens drafted No. 29 in the 2007 draft and never had a chance at taking Russell. While the Ravens were off on Russell, that was a draft where they picked up two Pro Bowl guards in Ben Grubbs (first) and Marshal Yanda (third) as well as Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain (fourth round).
Nick from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Do the Cincinnati Bengals have a backup plan at quarterback?
James Walker: Nick, the Bengals are in the same boat as most NFL teams, where if the starting quarterback goes down they're in trouble. There are not enough good quarterbacks in the league for teams to stash away two or three quality starters anymore. Some teams don't even have one proven quarterback. Reportedly the Bengals have looked at adding JaMarcus Russell, but nothing has come to fruition. Like last year, J.T. O'Sullivan and Jordan Palmer are the backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati.
K from Anacostia, Washington D.C., writes: With all the talk about Jared Gaither, I would like to know why there has been no talk of starting him at right tackle for this year and then giving him the franchise tag next year.
Walker: The NFL is such a year-to-year league, K. If Gaither struggles or is injured this season, the Ravens wouldn't be interested in putting the franchise tag on him. But the tag is a possibility. If the Ravens are unwilling to pay Gaither a large contract extension this offseason -- and it seems that is the case -- the best move for Gaither might be to try to convince the Ravens not to tag him if he agrees to play out the season without incident. That way, Baltimore can focus on its 2010 season and Gaither will get his money from the Ravens or somewhere else next year.
Vinnie from Atlanta writes: I wanted to ask a current Cleveland resident what the pulse of city is like? Yes, this question is about the Cavs and LeBron James' future. How is the city doing?
Walker: The city of Cleveland is not doing well, Vinnie. It's a Browns town, but right now all the conversation is about LeBron James. Is he leaving? Where is he going? What happened against the Boston Celtics? The consensus here is that it would be a bit of an upset if James stayed. On top of that, expectations are not very high for the Browns, and it doesn't help that several new players are demanding new contracts. It's simply a bad run for Cleveland sports right now.
Don from Camp Hill, Penn., writes: With the storm that Ben Roethlisberger has drug into Pittsburgh, are the Steelers looking at a major decline of performance?
Walker: Don, in my opinion, the only reason Roethlisberger is still on the team is because of his ability to perform at a high level. If Roethlisberger was a second-string tight end or a fullback, the Steelers probably would have cut bait. Roethlisberger needs to perform well this year. If his performance no longer outweighs the headaches he is causing the franchise, the Steelers may consider finding a replacement.
Aaron from Johnson City, Tenn., writes: Do you think the Steelers would sign T.O.? I know I'm crazy, but I think he could be a good slot receiver.
Walker: Aaron, I think every team in the division wanted Terrell Owens at one point or another. It's not happening in Pittsburgh. Let that one go.
RJ from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: It seems like every week you hear about another NFL player complaining about their contract, skipping workouts, thinking they deserve more money, etc. It's become pretty standard. Are they not acting ENTITLED?
Walker: Unfortunately the business side of the NFL is very ugly, RJ, and it goes both ways for the team and the player. When a player underperforms on a contract, the team cuts him without fanfare. Also, when a player outperforms his contract, he usually wants a raise. That comes with the territory when contracts are not guaranteed.
David from Los Angeles writes: I realize that this is a copy-cat league. But why are so many teams trying to make the transition to the 3-4 defense when so few teams actually have the right players to implement it?
Walker: Good question, David. Success of the 3-4 defense has provided more opportunities to implement the scheme and for more 3-4 coaches to get jobs as defensive coordinators and head coaches. The Bill Belichick tree, for instance, recently produced Romeo Crennel (Browns, Kansas City Chiefs) and Eric Mangini (New York Jets, Browns), who both brought their defensive philosophies to other teams. For most coaches, their philosophy is what they unequivocally believe in. So they will try to make it work regardless of the roster. Eventually, each coach feels they can shuffle in the right players over time.
- The Cincinnati Bengals lead the NFL with 31 arrests since 2000.
- Linebacker/defensive end hybrid Terrell Suggs is looking to have a bounce-back year for the Baltimore Ravens.
- The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders have one thing in common: quarterback woes.
- Defensive end Aaron Smith, who suffered a shoulder injury last season, is back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Scratch the Ravens. They have no issues at quarterback.
Scratch the Steelers. Yes, they need a starting quarterback because of suspension of Ben Roethlisberger. But it's clear that Russell is not an NFL starter. After dealing with so much quarterback drama this offseason with Roethlisberger, there's no way Russell would appease Pittsburgh and its large and rabid fan base.
That leaves Cincinnati, which may be the only shot Russell has in this division. The Bengals need a backup behind starter Carson Palmer, and everyone knows owner Mike Brown is famous (infamous?) for taking on reclamation projects, especially if it comes at pennies on the dollar. If Russell, who already made a lot of money in Oakland, is willing to accept a dirt-cheap deal, there could be a chance in Cincinnati. With the potential signing of controversial free-agent cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, you can't put anything past the Bengals at this point.
So let's continue that hot streak and take a look at Baltimore Ravens quarterback and restricted free agent Troy Smith, who has just a fifth-round tender. Interest should pick up for Smith soon as most of the decent unrestricted free-agent quarterbacks are signed.
Skinny: Let me first say that I don't believe this will happen. But the fact Smith himself made it clear Cleveland, his hometown team, is his first choice makes it worthy to put on the list. But the feeling doesn't seem mutual and the Browns appear ready to move on with Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace.
4. St. Louis Rams
Skinny: The Rams need everything, particularly a quarterback. Whether the team takes rookie Sam Bradford with the top pick, quarterback depth is still needed on the roster. But Smith may not fit their system.
3. Carolina Panthers
Skinny: Matt Moore is the starter in Carolina, but who knows if he's the real deal. Smith wouldn't be a bad second option for a fifth-rounder in case Moore falters or gets injured.
2. Buffalo Bills
Skinny: I'm convinced Trent Edwards is not a starting NFL quarterback. In a head-to-head competition, Smith might be able to beat him out.
1. Oakland Raiders
Skinny: Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson coached Smith in Baltimore and could want a familiar face who knows the system. A possible competition among Smith, JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski would be interesting.
Sources tell ESPN's Michael Smith and Adam Schefter that Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson accepted an offer to become offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders. Jackson spent most of last week in Oakland meeting with the team. He also was scheduled to interview with the Chicago Bears before taking the job with the Raiders.
Jackson has done very well in Baltimore developing Flacco, a first-round pick in 2008, and that went a long way in helping secure the new gig with Oakland. To date, the Raiders have failed to develop former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, who has been a colossal bust in three seasons.
For Baltimore, a search for a new quarterbacks coach begins this week. This will be an important hire as Flacco continues his development in his third year.
Here are the best responses from our AFC North inbox:
Marc from Troy, Mich., writes: The Browns next, and ONLY, win will be at home vs. the Oakland Raiders, the second most pathetically run organization next to the Browns, of course. The stadium will have about 30,000 people in it and Eric Mangini will be starting Brett Ratliff, who is better than JaMarcus Russell. Browns win 9-3. Mangini declares that his "process" is starting to show progress in Cleveland. Overcome with confidence, Browns lose the next week to Jacksonville 27-6 to lock up the 1st pick in 2010 draft.
Dave from San Angelo, Texas, writes: I think the Browns could possibly beat the Detroit Lions this week. But Brady Quinn needs to get on the practice field this week and learn how to throw the mid-range ball and the deep ball! I know that is a sad statement considering that he is a first round QB! After the Detroit game, I think that the Browns only other shot would be against Oakland.
Jack from Kent, Ohio, writes: James, my roommate is a die-hard Lions fan and I'm a die-hard Browns fan. (Yeah, a lot of happy Sundays around here.) This being the case, I've watched every game this year of both teams and can confidently say that the Lions are at least 10 points better than the Browns. They have actual playmakers (Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith) and the Browns have nothing. That said, I honestly can't say I see the Browns winning another game this season. The Raiders have a decent defense which stops the pass well with Nnamdi Asomugha. The Chiefs at least have a decent D-line and a creative coach. I'm predicting a 1st Overall selection for my Brownies next season and a 1-15 finish. Ouch.
Kraig Bishop Ironton, Ohio, writes: Mark my words: Browns win all three of these cupcake games and go 4-12 if Brady Quinn figures out how to throw more than two yards. Browns lose all three of these cupcake games and go 1-15 if he plays like he played against the Ravens and earlier in the year. You don't want to believe one player makes that much of a difference, and I'm sure play calling has something to do with this, but he just looks scared in the backfield and checks down EVERY TIME!
Jeremy from Findlay, Ohio, writes: I completely expect the Browns to get to three wins this year. First off, the defense is outperforming the offense. That leads me to believe that the Lions with a rookie QB won't be successful on offense. The Lions are giving up an abysmal 29.3 ppg and I expect Quinn to perform better than he has against the top tier defenses he has faced. It is a close one and the Browns win by seven points. The second game I expect them to win is against Oakland. It is a home game for the Browns and the Raiders will be jet lagged coming from the west coast. Not to mention the Raiders are not extremely talented on either side of the ball. The Browns match up well in this aspect.
Jeff from Richmond, Ky., writes: I really think that the Browns will pull off their second and final win of the season at home vs. Oakland on week 17. With the way Cleveland plays on the road I do not believe they will beat either Detroit or Kansas City. Their best chance will be a home game and since the Raiders are their only "cupcake" left on the home schedule that's where I see it coming. It will probably be another 6-3 game like the Buffalo one, too.
Joshua Steward from Enoch, Utah, writes: In response to the next Browns win, I would say not this season. With two QB's that can't make throws, receivers that can't catch well, and a running game weaker than a mouse fight, I don't see the Browns winning anything else this season. By the way I am a Browns fan and have been for 25 years.
Matt D from Lima, Ohio, writes: Will the Browns win another game this year? At the beginning of the year I saw the schedule and said well they should win against the Bills, Lions, Oakland, K.C., Jacksonville, and maybe steal one from Cincinnati or Baltimore. Now after seeing this offense and the play calling I'm not so sure on any of these games.
AFC North Final Say
James Walker: The Browns are every bit as bad as their 1-8 record. But they have enough cupcakes left on their schedule to catch lightning in a bottle at least one more time this year. It could come Sunday against Detroit, but I’m picking the Lions in that one. I agree with most in our community that the Raiders coming to Cleveland is the Browns’ best shot to get their next win. This might be an interesting matchup between 2007 first-round quarterbacks in Quinn and Russell, who was recently benched. Neither player has worked out in three years, which is a major reason these teams are in their current states.
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Anderson has the lowest passer rating (40.6) of any NFL starting quarterback. JaMarcus Russell (47.2) of the Oakland Raiders is second, and he was pulled over the weekend.
Yet, the Browns stuck with Anderson throughout their 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He played every snap and completed 12 of 29 passes for 99 yards and an interception. Anderson also will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears. The good news is the Bears allowed 45 points last week to the Cincinnati Bengals.
It hasn't been a good start to the season for rookie Brian Robiskie. It took Robiskie weeks to work his way off the inactive list, and now that he’s playing he hasn’t made any impact.
Last weekend, Green Bay Packers cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris schooled the second-round pick. Robiskie struggled to get open and was shut out for zero catches, despite being targeted five times.
It was a good learning experience for Robiskie, who has to keep working at his craft to help get the Browns out of their offensive struggles.
It was a tough day for the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary in general against the Minnesota Vikings. But Gay had the toughest day in a 27-17 victory for Pittsburgh.
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre (334 passing yards) tested Gay, who had nine tackles and one pass defensed. But the toughest play for Gay was Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson trucking him to the ground in what will surely be a season highlight. It was the football equivalent of being "posterized" in basketball.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
The defending Super Bowl champions made a huge statement by being the first team to knock off the Minnesota Vikings (6-1). The Steelers (5-2) did it in unconventional fashion by scoring two defensive touchdowns.
But the game marked the biggest victory of the season for Pittsburgh and its fourth win in a row. After a slow start, the Steelers appear to be rounding into form. Pittsburgh now has a bye week to get healthy and prepare for its next game against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 9.
Palmer had the most efficient game of his career in Cincinnati’s 45-10 thrashing of the Chicago Bears. He completed 20 of 24 passes for 233 yards and five touchdowns. Palmer's passer rating of 146.7 was a career high.
It’s scary to think of the numbers Palmer could’ve put up if he hadn't been pulled early in the fourth quarter. He was in the zone in terms of reading coverages and getting the ball to his receivers with pinpoint accuracy. It will be interesting to see if Palmer maintains this momentum following Cincinnati's bye week.
Benson was equally as good running the football for the Bengals. He was motivated to have a big game against his former team and set a career high with 189 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries.
The Bengals had no problem giving Benson every opportunity to stick it to his former team. It will probably be a game Benson will never forget. With Palmer airing it out and Benson running the ball, Cincinnati’s offensive performance against Chicago was as close to a perfect game as you will find in the NFL.
|AP Photo/Tony Tribble|
|Cincinnati's first-round draft pick Andre Smith has finally signed with the team.|
As the second-to-last rookie to sign a contract, Cincinnati Bengals rookie tackle Andre Smith knows he has a lot of catching up to do. Smith ended the 30-day stalemate Sunday evening when he agreed to a contract worth a maximum of six years and $42 million.
In the spring, it was a given that Smith would be the starting right tackle in Week 1 when Cincinnati plays host to the Denver Broncos. He had taken all the first-team reps in minicamp and team workouts.
But months later Smith has suddenly become an unknown commodity -- at least for the time being. Smith has missed all of training camp and three preseason games to date. This week is the first time Bengals coaches are allowed to evaluate Smith to see where he currently stands physically and mentally.
"It was like, more or less, being a freshman out there getting back to football, running around and having fun with the guys," Smith said Sunday via telephone. "I'm talking about every single play to the coach, because I'm trying to catch up. So it's actually exciting."
Smith, the No. 6 overall pick, said all he wanted to do from Day 1 was play football. But the NFL is big business and usually that takes precedent before anything else can happen on the field.
Smith was one of just two draft picks who missed all of training camp and the first three preseason games. San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, the No. 10 overall pick, remains unsigned.
Ironically, the contract for No. 7 overall pick-Oakland Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey affected negotiations for Smith and Crabtree. Each felt he deserved more money than Heyward-Bey's $38.25-million deal. Oakland gave Heyward-Bey a great deal that provided a significant raise for the seventh pick, which altered the market.
Smith's agent Alvin Keels naturally felt his client deserved more as he was slotted one spot higher than Heyward-Bey. That led to a major snag in what was already a tough negotiation with Cincinnati, which was not willing to bend as easily as Oakland. A month later a compromise was reached in an incentive-laden deal that satisfied both parties.
With the dollars out of the way, now it's time to make sense of where Smith fits with the team.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is high on Smith's abilities and has left the door open for Smith to contribute right away. Anthony Collins has taken all the first-team reps this summer and is the team's starting right tackle. But really it's all up to Smith, who spent the summer working out independently in Alabama, to prove his readiness.
Ideally the Bengals would like Smith to see his first NFL action Thursday in the preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts. That will help the team evaluate where he stands before the regular season begins Sept. 13. Cincinnati won't make the determination this week until Wednesday at the earliest once the coaches had a chance to monitor Smith through several practices.
"He has a lot of work to do," Lewis said. "But he knows the challenge ahead of him to make an impact on our team as soon as possible."
History is not on Smith's side.
This is the third consecutive year a rookie has held out for 30 days or more, and the two previous examples didn't work out very well.
Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell (42 days) and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Derrick Harvey (33 days) both missed at least the first month with their teams and went on to have meager rookie campaigns.
Russell was the top pick in 2007 and didn't see playing time until late in the season. He threw for just 373 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions and is still struggling to find his way in his third NFL season. Harvey, the No. 8 overall pick in 2008, recorded just 19 tackles and 3.5 sacks his first year as Jacksonville finished a disappointing 5-11.
Even within Smith's own locker room, he can turn to horror stories from new teammates Keith Rivers and Cedric Benson.
Similar to Smith, Benson missed all of training camp when the Chicago Bears made him the fourth overall pick in 2005. His career never got off the ground as Benson rushed for just 272 his rookie year and was released two seasons later. Last season, Rivers missed a relatively modest 10 days of training camp and played well. But his rookie year was cut short via injury after seven games.
According to Smith, getting up to speed physically will be his biggest adjustment.
"I expect probably a little bit of the physical [challenges], because you have to be in football shape," Smith said. "I'm actually a great learner as far as football. I came from a great system coming out of college and I've been through OTAs and rookie minicamp. So I'm actually not that far behind the guys. I think it's more or less the physical aspect."
On the HBO series "Hard Knocks," the Bengals poked fun of Smith's absence. The contract dispute was a serious situation, but teammates made light of it through skits that aired on national television, which Smith said he's taking in stride.
"It was all fun and games," Smith shrugged. "Anyone could easily be [upset] about the situation, but not me. I was OK with it. It was funny. It was entertaining. So I had a great time watching it."
Now those teammates have to deal with the 335-pound Smith every day in practice, as well as the rest of the NFL on Sundays. If Smith is able to avoid the perils of past rookies with long contract disputes and catch up to speed quickly, he could end up having the last laugh.
"Our vision of him is simply as a physically dominating player on our offensive line," Lewis said. "And we know that this guy wants to be very, very good."
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The AFC North blog received a tremendous response in our inbox from our first "take your pick" week in the division. Thanks for your participation on various topics throughout the week.
Here is a healthy sample:
Amr from Toms River writes: I agree with Bobby that the Browns have just as much if not more potential than the Bengals. They recognize that in this division is more important to be able to run up the middle (a power back in Jamal Lewis and a new center) than it is to be able to pass the ball. The Bengals have been moving away from the team that got them to the playoffs which ran the ball first and passed second. The Browns have restored the career of Jamal Lewis, and have adapted a defense-first attitude. They say it is a copy-cat league, and this is more important in the AFC North that any other division.
John from Paulding writes: The game is won and lost in the trenches. If you look at things this way (and you should), then the Browns will be the obvious choice to be a better team this year. They probably won't turn many heads, but they have a better chance of improving under Eric Mangini. He has better talent in the trenches to work with than the Bengals, and he's already keeping his team in check more than Marvin Lewis has in his half-decade of coaching the Bengals.
Erik from Washington DC writes: Hey James, I'm responding to the "take your pick" segment. I agree with you that the Bengals will be deceptively good this year. It might take quite a while for teams to start taking them seriously which is good for them. They get Carson Palmer back and had a great draft for their improving defense. I do think T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be missed a lot more than people are expecting though. I also agree that the Browns will be among the worst in the league. A new coach, a QB controversy, zero receiver depth behind Braylon Edwards, Jamal Lewis is getting old, and no one besides Shaun Rogers on defense to speak of. I think it's going to be a long season for Mangini and the Browns.
Austin from Charleston, SC writes: James, for the take your pick argument, I agree with you that the Bengals could be potential sleepers. They have a top 10 quarterback in Carson Palmer, an ok defense, not to mention one of the league's best draft classes this year. Obviously the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will finish ahead of them, but I would take the Bengals over the Browns.
Mike from Ewa Beach, HI writes: Brady Quinn in a landslide. He took a beating his first two years in college, all four times he played USC and in both bowl games. So he's tough. He may not have as strong an arm but he's more intelligent, hard working and more accurate.
Dustin from Pittsburgh writes: Hey James, on Quinn vs. Russell I believe the success of each QB hinges on the franchises each plays for. Oakland is one of, if not the most, dysfunctional NFL franchise. Al Davis still think all he needs is a strong-armed QB and a fast, deep threat at wideout. I see Russell having no success in Oakland, as that franchise has a knee-jerk reaction to everything and does not consider a long-term solution to its problems. Quinn on the other hand looks to be the starter for the Browns in '09. I really like what Mangini is doing with the Browns (not easy for me as a Steeler fan to say that). He's instilling a new type of culture and this is only going to help Quinn--and all the other younger players--mature and develop.
Dustin from Pittsburgh writes: Hey James, in response to the "take your pick," I can see Ochocinco having a better year statistically than Holmes. The Bengals offense is designed to pass more than the Steelers and the Bengals are likely to have to play catch-up at the end of games where they'll pass more. The depa
rture of Houshmandzadeh is going to force double coverage to Ochocinco's side, but if he's as motivated as he says he is I like Chad over Santonio.
Jim from Zanesville, OH writes: James- In the Holmes v. Ochocinco debate, the hands down winner is Holmes. He is a Super Bowl MVP, caught the game winner in that game, is a dangerous (if not often used returner), and is five-years younger. Even though he was a distraction at one point during the year, he bounced back to get the SB MVP and make the biggest catch of the season. Meanwhile Ochocinco just disappeared. Santonio is a "Holmes" -run hitter.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
It was the biggest debate of the 2007 NFL draft, and two years later the AFC North blog is revisiting it as we continue "Take Your Pick" week in the division.
Quinn and Russell were first-round quarterbacks of the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Both also had lengthy contract holdouts as rookies, which hurt their ability to produce early in the NFL. Yet both players also are favorites to lead their franchises in 2009, despite competition from a pair of former Pro Bowlers in Derek Anderson and Jeff Garcia.
Quinn and Russell were inconsistent in their second seasons, but the third year is huge for young players. So which quarterback will have more success this season and beyond?
Take your pick.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
|AP Photo/Rob Carr|
The Baltimore Ravens and the representation for rookie first-rounder Joe Flacco are expected to meet again next week in an effort to work out a five-year contract.
Flacco clearly understands the importance of being on time for training camp when the Ravens report July 21. The two sides opened negotiations May 12 and have met four times total. The two sides have taken steps forward with each meeting.
"We're progressing," Flacco's agent Joe Linta said Tuesday. "Hopefully we can continue to make progress as we aim to get him into camp on time."
Last year a pair of first-round quarterbacks -- JaMarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns' Brady Quinn -- had lengthy holdouts that affected their rookie seasons. Both players missed part or all of training camp and were trying to play catch up their entire first season.