AFC North: James Sanders

Here's an AFC North programming note: I will be taking the next three days off for the holiday. But there still will be posts on the blog Friday and Saturday. So, to keep updated with all of the news, please check the headlines on the NFL main page. I will catch up on Monday and give my take on any happenings. Have a safe weekend. Here's the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: The lack of depth on the defensive line forced Haloti Ngata to play out of position at defensive end last season. With the additions of Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, Ngata expects to go back to playing either defensive tackle or nose tackle. “All the space, I just don’t like it because they can read you that much longer,” Ngata told the team's official website. “I’m good with whatever, but if I have to go play nose or inside more, that would be awesome. I would rather stay inside than outside. That’s where I’m more comfortable.”

BENGALS: Head coach Marvin Lewis seemed to be particularly interested in the pro day workout of North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard, a source told CBS Sports. Bernard showed quickness and burst during his positional drills, the website reported. The Bengals are looking to add speed to their backfield and get a backup who complements BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard ran for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, ranked 11th nationally by averaging 122.8 yards per game and led the country by averaging 16.4 yards per punt return. He is the >fourth-ranked running back by Mel Kiper Jr. and could be targeted by the Bengals early in the second round.

STEELERS: Free-agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw left his visit in Pittsburgh without a deal but the sides will continue to talk, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. What's likely holding up an agreement is Bradshaw's health. He had surgery to replace a screw in his right foot in late January and wasn't expected to make any free-agent visits until the middle of April. It also looked like Bradshaw had either a walking boot or brace on his right leg when he posed for a photo with wide receiver Antonio Brown outside the Steelers facility. Bradshaw and the Steelers could get a deal done when the 27-year-old running back is full recovered. Unlike James Harrison, the Steelers are going to keep the door open for Bradshaw. Also, free-agent safety James Sanders, a backup last year with the Cardinals, visited the Steelers.

BROWNS: Chief executive officer Joe Banner said Brandon Weeden enters the offseason as the No. 1 quarterback but the starter for the season opener has yet to be determined. The Browns signed veteran quarterback Jason Campbell to a two-year contract earlier this week. "Brandon's the starter, and there's competition,'' Banner told ESPN Radio in Cleveland, via The Plain Dealer. "He'll have to come in and play well and work hard and prove that he deserves to maintain the position he starts in." Campbell's $1.5 million salary in 2013 nearly doubles Weeden's salary ($757,436). Banner said quarterback is "a to-be-determined position" but added that Weeden is "going to get every chance to prove he has the ability to take us to the next level.” The Browns also announced they signed free-agent punter Jake Schum.

Seven-step drop: Avoiding the Patriots

November, 15, 2010
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 10 in the AFC North:
  • After watching quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots dominate the Pittsburgh Steelers again, I'm convinced this is the one team Pittsburgh doesn't want to face in the postseason. Brady, who improved 6-1 against the Steelers, has their number. Pittsburgh struggles against the short and intermediate passing game, which happens to be Brady's strength. He's one of the few quarterbacks who also has a beat on Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's zone-blitz scheme, as the Steelers allowed a season-worst 39 points Sunday night. The New York Jets (7-2) and Baltimore Ravens (6-3) match up better against New England. It's clear the Steelers want to avoid the Patriots if Pittsburgh makes the playoffs.
  • [+] EnlargeHines Ward
    Jason Bridge/US PresswireHines Ward suffered a concussion in Sunday night's loss to the New England Patriots.
  • Steelers receiver Hines Ward, knocked out of the game with a concussion, saw his streak of 186 straight games with a reception end. Ward nearly kept the streak alive when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger zipped the ball into coverage and Ward was hit on the side of the helmet by Patriots safety James Sanders and lost possession. Ward was woozy walking off the field. He felt he could've returned to the game, but Pittsburgh's doctors wouldn't allow it. "I remember everything," Ward said. "Me, as prideful as I am, I want to get up fast. I probably should've just laid there for about a minute and just walked it off."
  • Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens is having a great season. But there are occasional moments, like the two that took place in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, that make you scratch your head. It didn't appear Owens went as hard as he could for the football on quarterback Carson Palmer's third interception. Owens cut off his route and avoided contact instead of trying to knock down the football. Also, on the final drive, there wasn't much urgency by Owens to get back to the line of scrimmage after Palmer was sacked and the clock was running. There was no reason to waste time there with a lack of hustle.
  • I liked what I saw from Bengals first-round pick Jermaine Gresham. The tight end's nine catches for 85 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis could generate some momentum for the second half of the season. Gresham had a big fumble in the fourth quarter that put an end to Cincinnati's rally. But it was a rookie mistake made at full speed while trying to fight for extra yards. This is the time when first-year players often take the next step. I also felt second-round defensive end Carlos Dunlap (two tackles, one sack) showed flashes. With little to play for this season, Cincinnati must see progress from its younger players while the team figures out what direction to take in 2011.
  • The Cleveland Browns played well but at times, but they blundered in an overtime loss to the Jets. The Browns could have easily played for the tie near the end of overtime by running the ball three times. Instead, the Browns tried to throw from their on 3-yard line when it was unlikely a rookie quarterback (Colt McCoy) would drive the length of the field with little time. Instead of the tie, Cleveland suffered a tough loss when great field position led to Santonio Holmes' winning touchdown for New York. The Browns also tried to get too tricky in the first quarter with a failed onside kick that gave New York more solid field position and its first points (a field goal) of the game.
  • The Baltimore Ravens hope linebacker/defensive end hybrid Terrell Suggs has turned the corner. Suggs had a vintage performance against the Atlanta Falcons, recording four tackles, two sacks and four additional hits on the quarterback. It was his first multi-sack game of the season. Suggs was a terror and much-needed boost to Baltimore's pass rush, which has been inconsistent this season. A better pass rush also helps Baltimore's shaky secondary.
  • Recent additions at wide receiver are helping the Ravens. Veteran Donte' Stallworth and rookie David Reed made an impact against Atlanta on offense and special teams, respectively. Stallworth, who recently came off the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury, showed his speed with two nice reverses for 34 yards. Reed had 64 yards in kickoff returns, continuing to show growth in the role.