AFC North: Jermain Gresham

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 13

December, 2, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 17-10 win over the Chargers:

Dalton's second half: Paced by a running game that rediscovered itself in the second half, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had his own resurgence of sorts in the final 30 minutes of Sunday's game. After stumbling to a 5-for-10, 41-yard, 21.2-passer rating performance through the first half, he bounced back in the second, completing nine of his final 13 passes and connecting with receivers for 149 yards. He also threw a key third-quarter touchdown and didn't turn the ball over, helping push his end-of-game passer rating to 83.6 -- his highest in five games. His 44.4 QBR also was his best since his career-high 98.9 that came in Cincinnati's 49-9 win over the New York Jets in Week 9. Part of what helped Dalton amass those final numbers was the Bengals' decision to recommit themselves to the run in the last two quarters. Cincinnati rushed for more than 150 yards (164) for the first time since its Week 7 win at Buffalo.

Huber's (healed) left leg: Wednesday, punter Kevin Huber sent a chill through the Bengals' fan base when he appeared on the injury report for the first time this season. He barely practiced the rest of the week after being limited for part of the week by an injury to his left ankle. He kicks with his left leg. Apparently it wasn't feeling too badly. Huber had four punts in the game and sent them an average of 55.5 yards from the line of scrimmage. The first two, 75- and 56-yard blasts, set the tone early. He routinely flipped field position in the game, even pushing the Chargers up against their own goal line with his first one. That subsequent series resulted in San Diego's own need to punt. With the ball in decent field position, the Bengals drove 67 yards for a touchdown on their following possession.

Quiet secondary: It was easy to praise Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for his strong 13-tackle, play-through-an-injury performance, but he wasn't the only one on the back end of Cincinnati's defense who had a big day. Linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was returning from his own lengthy knee injury, finished with 10 tackles, including a sack. Although he was beaten a couple of times on passes across the middle, he was a run-stopper much of the day, helping plug his share of holes. Along with their linebacker play, the Bengals also had quietly good performances from defensive backs George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, who each forced fumbles. Iloka's ended up preceding the Bengals' final possession of the game -- a nearly five-minute drive that included four first downs and ended with back-to-back kneel-downs.

Winning without Gresham: For the first time this year, the Bengals won a game in which tight end Jermaine Gresham didn't catch a pass. The only other time they even had a game in which Gresham went reception-less, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. It wasn't as if Cincinnati was trying to completely avoid Gresham, though. He was targeted twice. Since a clear emphasis was being placed on the running game, Gresham ended up factoring in that department instead, helping open holes along the edges for running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to run right through.

AFC North rookie rankings

October, 22, 2010
As we approach Week 7 in the NFL, it's time to provide an update on how rookies are performing in the AFC North.

Here is our first installment of rookie rankings:

1. T.J. Ward, safety, second round, Cleveland Browns

Stats: 54 tackles, one forced fumble

Skinny: Ward has made his presence known as the best draft pick so far for Cleveland president Mike Holmgren and first-year general manager Tom Heckert. Ward is a fierce hitter with good instincts and is always around the football. He’s great in run support and plays hard all the time, which is what Cleveland needs. Ward still makes rookie mistakes but does it at full speed. He will only get better, as the Browns have someone in the secondary to build around.

2. Maurkice Pouncey, center, first round, Pittsburgh Steelers

Stats: Five starts

Skinny: Pouncey was impressive enough to earn the starting center job from Day 1. He helped bring a power running game back to Pittsburgh, which was vital in the team's 3-1 start without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pouncey has had one poor game so far against the Baltimore Ravens and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. But Pouncey has been solid otherwise.

3. Jermaine Gresham, tight end, first round, Cincinnati Bengals

Stats: 22 catches, 158 yards, two touchdowns

Skinny: Who would have thought Gresham (2 TDs) would have doubled Chad Ochocinco's touchdowns after five games? With Ochocinco getting so much coverage, Gresham and teammate Terrell Owens have been the biggest beneficiaries, combining for 53 receptions. Gresham needs to improve on getting more yards after the catch. But Cincinnati's first-round pick has been productive and is on pace for a 70-catch season.

4. Colt McCoy, quarterback, third round, Browns

Stats: One start, 281 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions

Skinny: McCoy responded well to a very tough situation against Pittsburgh. Despite the loss, McCoy showed toughness and leadership, and that shoots him up the rookie rankings. McCoy is expected to get his second straight start Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. It's very early, but McCoy at least offers hope that Cleveland may have finally found their quarterback of the future.

5a (tie). Joe Haden, cornerback, first round, Browns

Stats: 18 tackles, one interception, four pass defenses

Skinny: Haden is getting better every week after a slow start. His ball skills and playmaking abilities are starting to shine through, as evident by his 62-yard interception return last week against Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Haden relied on his natural athleticism his entire career in high school and college, and now Browns coach Eric Mangini said Haden is learning to put it all together in the classroom in the pros. Haden, Cleveland's No. 7 overall pick, has a chance to be in the starting lineup by season's end.

5b (tie). Jordan Shipley, receiver, Bengals

Stats: 15 catches, 190 yards

Skinny: Shipley is Cincinnati's second rookie cog in the passing game. He’s averaging a respectable 12.7 yards per catch from the slot as quarterback Carson Palmer's safety valve. Shipley missed one game because of a concussion after taking a big hit from Ward in Week 4. Shipley will return to action Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Take your pick recap: Ravens vs. Bengals

September, 17, 2010
This week's "Take your pick" focused on the biggest AFC North matchup of Week 2. We asked our community who will come out on top between the Baltimore Ravens (1-0) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-1).

The Bengals are putting their seven-game division winning steak on the line that dates back to 2008. Baltimore was the last AFC North team to beat Cincinnati and will try to put the reigning division champs in an 0-2 hole.

Here were the responses from our division inbox and AFC North Twitter:

Bengals win!

Rob Maxwell from Cincinnati writes: The Bengals have owned the Ravens. And when the Bengals go no-huddle in the single-back set, as they did last Sunday against the New England Patriots. Who's going to cover Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham? Good luck to Baltimore's depleted secondary. Cincinnati 21, Baltimore 10.

Jack from Newark, Ohio, writes: I see this game as not even a really close one, with the Bengals bouncing back from last week's very disappointing game and beating the Ravens by 17 (31-14, Cincy). My reasoning is that Mike Zimmer's defense never plays a poor in back-to-back games, and also I really think with how our passing game looked last week, Carson Palmer will torch the Ravens' secondary the entire game. The Ravens will bring a lot of questions to their supposed "Super Bowl run" with this loss to the Bengals. Count on it.

Kyle from Southgate, Ky., writes: I've got the Bengals all the way, and not just because I'm a homer. The Bengals offense got moving against the Patriots in the second half of their Week 1 game, and Palmer put up some big numbers. Call my glass half full, but I think our passing game won't be stopped by anyone in our division, starting with the Ravens. Just when teams think they've got Chad Ochocinco and T.O. locked up, Shipley and Gresham will make the plays.

Nadfflictar via Twitter writes: I guarantee the Pittsburgh Steelers get crushed this week, and the Bengals will be on top of the standings after Sunday.

Jamie from West Chester, Ohio, writes: Lifelong Bengals fan here, and I know their historical tendencies. So I say the Bengals win this week simply because they lost to the Pats last week. It's strange, but that's how they roll. Plus this team was built to compete against two teams only: Ravens and Steelers.

Patrick Larmore from Longmont, Colo., writes: As a Steelers fan, I hope they both loose (can I hope for a tie?). I'm picking the Bengals in this one. There's no specific reason except that the Bengals must rebound from a poor showing in New England, and I think the Ravens will not be able to recover in a short week after a brutal defensive battle in New York.

Kwmeyer via Twitter writes: Bengals. We get this every time they face each other. Bengals can't match up to the Ravens. Yet, Cincy still manages to win.

Ravens win!

Josh from Baltimore writes: RAVENS!!!! We beat the New York Jets in a hostile environment against a nasty defense. Cincy laid an egg against the Pats. The Jets have a better defense than the Bengals. Ravens will be able to score more this week and beat the Bungals!

BigDave from Severna Park, Md., writes: The Ravens will finally put it all together offensively, using the pass to set up Ray Rice and the running game. The defense will remain strong, with the not-so-questionable-anymore secondary shutting down the Bengals' passing attack. Ravens by 17, final score 27-10. I can't wait!

Ravensgohard via Twitter writes: Ravens! Cincy's going to put up a fight, but I just don't think that offense is physical enough for the Ravens' D.

DrTarzin via Twitter writes: Ravens show their prolific offense off, 34-28 RAVENS!!

Eddie from Beaufort, S.C., writes: Carson needs a low-scoring affair to win. Unfortunately, Cincy has too many problems on D. Expect more of the same when Baltimore comes to town.

Davon from Baltimore writes: The Ravens are definitely taking this one. Two losses last year. Plus, you seen Ray Lewis? He's in midseason form. Expect a lot more from the offense. It will be fun but I think the ravens are more mentally focused at this point that the Bengals

DanCorl via Twitter writes: I've got the Ravens winning in overtime, 30-27.

AFC North finals say

James Walker: Coming off a stellar Week 1, "Walker's AFC North picks" will predict this game and others in the division Friday. Stay tuned.

More thoughts from Chad Ochocinco

June, 18, 2010
CINCINNATI -- You haven't covered the NFL until you've done a Chad Ochocinco news conference. The Cincinnati Bengals' Pro Bowl receiver is unpredictable and prone to say just about anything.

Earlier this week, Ochocinco compared himself to birth control and also trash-talked the Baltimore Ravens. But those weren't the only entertaining answers.

Here are some additional snippets from this week's minicamp:

On how much longer he wants to play football:

Ochocinco: I'm going to play until I'm 44. Forty-five is a bit far-fetched. If [Brett] Favre can get to 40, I know I can get four years on him. So that will be fine.

On adding WR Antonio Bryant and TE Jermaine Gresham:

Ochocinco: It can get very ugly. It's going to be nice. We added something to a certain position that hasn't ... I can't say that.

On his offseason:

Ochocinco: Nothing's different. If it wasn't dancing, I'd be boxing. I'm doing a dating show. OK, it's on TV. But if it wasn't on TV, I'd still be doing it off the field. What's the difference? I'm still doing the same stuff I'm normally doing, but one is on ABC and one is on VH1. I'd be doing the same things, but it'd be off camera.

On Ochocinco's dating show:

Ochocinco: The dating show is a great experience. It's something different I've never done before. It lets people see a different aspect of me -- how I interact when it comes to dealing with women. It's in a graceful way. It's not normally what you'd see when you see other dating shows. You have to remember -- I'm always unpredictable. It's like touching the field on Sunday.

Draft Watch: AFC North

March, 17, 2010
NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest needs revisited.

Baltimore Ravens

Going into the offseason, Baltimore's biggest need was clearly at wide receiver. But following the recent acquisitions of Anquan Boldin, Donte' Stallworth and re-signing Derrick Mason, that is no longer the case. The Ravens could still use a blazer, but no one could blame them at this point if they decide to address another need such as cornerback. Baltimore has health issues with Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington. Both players are rehabbing knee injuries and may not be 100 percent by the start of training camp. Look for the Ravens to address this position at some point in the draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati had the same issue as Baltimore, which was a need at receiver. Signing Antonio Bryant to a four-year contract filled a huge void to get help for Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco. Now the Bengals' biggest focus should be getting a pass-catching tight end. It's been a long time since the Bengals had a quality player at the position who can stretch the field. A case can be made that quarterback Carson Palmer has never had that luxury during his career. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham and Florida's Aaron Hernandez are two good tight end prospects who could fill that void in the draft.

Cleveland Browns

As we pointed out Tuesday, the Browns patched some holes in free agency but still have work to do to climb out of the basement of the AFC North. It's hard to pinpoint one need on this team. But with the shift at quarterback to established veteran Jake Delhomme, let's go with secondary help just edging the receiver position. The Browns need a big-time corner and/or a play-making safety. They may be able to get a difference-maker like safety Eric Berry or Earl Thomas in the draft. Both players are highly coveted on a lot of teams' draft boards. There also are good cornerbacks available after the first round.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh's primary need still hasn't changed since the beginning of free agency. It's no secret by now that I believe the cornerback position is the biggest void on Pittsburgh's roster. But there might not be a prospect worth taking at No. 18. So if a stud offensive tackle or guard (Mike Iupati?) is available to Pittsburgh, that wouldn't be a bad choice either. The Steelers could use a mauler in the running game to get the tough yards when needed.

Morning take: Steelers' Reed tagged?

February, 24, 2010
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North: Morning take: This means Reed can seek other deals in free agency and the Steelers will have the right to match. The potential to lose Reed would create some extra intrigue for Pittsburgh.
Morning take: Look for teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens to watch Gresham's progress closely this week. Injuries kept him out of football last season.
Morning take: Monachino worked with Terrell Suggs in college. Let’s see if he can help Suggs bounce back with a great year in 2010.
Morning take: By now AFC North readers should be familiar with my hard rule to never draft a receiver in the top 10. The Browns have too many holes to fill before they should consider Bryant.