AFC North: Jeff FitzGerald

Links: Big jump for Bengals' A.J. Green

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
8:35
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Baltimore Ravens

Matt Vensel of The Baltimore Sun continues his opponent previews with a look at the Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens are well represented on NFL Network's top 100 list.

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver A.J. Green made a huge jump up the rankings this year, coming in at No. 16.

Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com: "The run of productive undrafted backers that began with Dan Skuta in 2009 during defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's second season with the club not only highlights his coaching powers, Zimmer's eye for development with former position coach Jeff FitzGerald and current linebackers coach Paul Guenther, and the depth of scouting by player personnel, it also reflects an area of expertise in the head coach's office."

Cleveland Browns

Matt Florjancic of the team's website goes in-depth with an early preview of Cleveland's matchup with the Chicago Bears.

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora: "If we weren't already convinced that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner had a major undertaking ahead, well, one look around now closes that case. Make no mistake, none of this has anything to do with the Joe Banner/Mike Lombardi/Rob Chudzinski regime now in place, but after this spring it's increasingly clear just how little they inherited from preceding drafts. And Turner -- maybe the NFL's best offensive play-caller -- will need all of his creativity to overcome a dramatic lack in talent on that side of the ball."

Pittsburgh Steelers

Safety Ryan Clark has made it known he would like to end his career playing for the Steelers.

Should the NFL draft leave New York City, team president Art Rooney II would like to see the Steelers considered as a possible host.

AFC North coaching updates

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
9:15
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Here are some coaching moves around the division:

BENGALS: Cincinnati needs to fill the void left by defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who became the defensive coordinator with the Dolphins. It's expected that Cincinnati will also replace linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald. Rod Woodson has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the defensive backs coaching job.

RAVENS: The team hired Don "Wink" Martindale as their new inside linebackers coach. Martindale, the Broncos' defensive coordinator in 2010, takes over for Dean Pees, who became the Ravens' defensive coordinator. Colts coach Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, hired two Ravens assistants: assistant special teams coach Marwan Maalouf and defensive assistant Roy Anderson. Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who was rumored to be leaving, attended the Ravens' State of the Team address.

STEELERS: In his introductory news conference, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said "it was a great ride" when looking back at his five seasons as the Steelers' offensive coordinator. ... With linebackers coach Keith Butler staying, defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky interviewed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' linebackers coaching job, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. If Butler had left, Olsavsky would have become the Steelers' linebackers coach.

Bengals' Rivers on the rebound

June, 19, 2009
6/19/09
3:00
PM ET
 
  Evan Pinkus/Getty Images
  Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers is recovered from a broken jaw and ready to start his second season in the NFL.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CINCINNATI -- Second-year linebacker Keith Rivers isn't worried about getting revenge on a certain member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cincinnati Bengals' 2008 first-round pick is more concerned about making sure he develops into one of the top linebackers in the AFC North this season.

Keith Rivers
#55 LB
Cincinnati Bengals

2008 STATS
TACK SOLO FF INT SACK
37 24 1 1 0.0
The Bengals have high hopes for Rivers. Early last season he was challenging for defensive rookie-of-the-year honors with a Cincinnati unit that finished No. 12 in 2008. But a crushing block by Steelers receiver Hines Ward broke Rivers' jaw in Week 7 and ended his rookie campaign prematurely.

The rival Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XLIII while Rivers spent seven weeks last winter unable to eat most solid foods because his mouth was wired shut.

It was not the type of NFL welcome Rivers had anticipated.

"It's not a great feeling, but you got to move on and learn from it," said Rivers, whose injury prompted a rule change prohibiting helmet-to-helmet contact on blindside blocks. "In actuality it's kind of negative energy [to think about it]. I just got to focus on me getting better and becoming a better player. I can't focus on me being hurt and feeling sorry for myself or getting mad."

Rivers also had offseason surgery to clean up his ankle and says he's 100 percent healthy. His inability to eat solid foods caused him to lose approximately 20 pounds, and Rivers said the biggest challenge was to make sure the weight returned in the proper areas, particularly the muscles in the upper body.

During an interview this week, a teammate walked by and jokingly mentioned how skinny Rivers looked in the face and shoulders after the injury. In terms of weight distribution, Rivers wants to have everything completely settled by the start of training camp so he can focus strictly on football.

"This last month is going to be a big deal," Rivers said.

Meanwhile, Rivers is making a great impression on his coaches. The former USC star entered the 2008 draft as one of the most pro-ready players and lived up to that billing by starting for the Bengals in Week 1. He had 37 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble in only six games. (Rivers was injured in the first defensive series against Pittsburgh.)

Projecting those numbers over 16 games, Rivers was on pace for about 98 tackles and three interceptions.

"He's got his goals in terms of helping this defense," Bengals linebacker coach Jeff FitzGerald said. "He felt bad about being out last year, and he felt bad because he felt like he was letting his teammates down by having that injury. It's not that he had any control over it, but that's how he felt."

Despite the broken jaw, Rivers continued to attend every meeting with his team. Instead of practicing and playing, he was taking mental reps in the film room in preparation for this season.

The extra work helped Rivers hit the ground running with the Bengals this offseason.

"He's really a guy who is smart enough to understand what he's supposed to do and how he's supposed to get it done," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.

Playing in a division with the likes of the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis, who is a future Hall of Famer, and current NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's very easy to get lost in the AFC North shuffle of quality linebackers. But Rivers says it's going to be his job to "make big plays on the big stage when you're playing against those guys" in the division.

This is expected to be a big year for the defense, Rivers and the Bengals as a whole. Sitting on the sidelines for more than half of his rookie season also gave Rivers a lot of time to build anticipation for this year.

"That added a lot of drive to what he does, not that he needed that much more," FitzGerald said. "But it added to the flame that already burns in his belly and maybe made it a little hotter."

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