AFC North: Jerome Harrison

In our latest edition of "Poll Friday" in the AFC North, we ask our community who should be the starting fullback next season for the Baltimore Ravens?

Pending free agent Le'Ron McClain wants more carries in the offense and likely has to leave Baltimore to get it. That puts the Ravens in the market for a more traditional fullback, whose primary focus will be creating holes for starting tailback Ray Rice.

Baltimore has been linked this offseason to two of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL: Lawrence Vickers and Vonta Leach. Both are available, but which player is the better fit?

Would Ravens fans prefer Vickers, who is very familiar with the AFC North after spending five seasons with the Cleveland Browns? Vickers punished defenders in the division while paving the way for running backs like Peyton Hillis, Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis to have successful seasons. Can Vickers do the same for Rice in 2011?

Or would Ravens fans rather have Leach? He made his first Pro Bowl last season blocking for tailback Arian Foster, who rushed for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2010. Can Leach help Rice reach similar numbers?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on whether Baltimore should go after Vickers or Leach in free agency. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Top Browns draft since 2000

March, 10, 2011
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The AFC North blog continues its series on the top draft classes of the past decade. Thursday we take a look at the Cleveland Browns.

No. 3: Class of 2007

Best picks: OT Joe Thomas (first round), CB Eric Wright (second round)

Thomas

Thomas


Analysis: This was not a stellar draft for the Browns, but Cleveland has the slimmest pickings of all division teams. So 2007 made the cut. The Browns hit a home run with Thomas with the No. 3 overall pick. Thomas has been to four straight Pro Bowls and is one of the best at his position. Despite Wright's struggles this past season, he was a starting cornerback for Cleveland and turned out to be a decent second-rounder. The Browns also drafted cornerback Brandon McDonald in the fifth round, and he was a contributor for three seasons. The biggest miss in this draft was first-round quarterback Brady Quinn. He was expected to be the long-term solution, but was shipped to the Denver Broncos after three uneventful seasons for tailback Peyton Hillis.

No. 2: Class of 2006

Best picks: LB Kamerion Wimbley, LB D'Qwell Jackson, FB Lawrence Vickers (sixth round)

Wimbley

Wimbley


Analysis: The second draft of the Phil Savage-Romeo Crennel era in Cleveland turned out to be the best. The Browns landed two starting linebackers in Wimbley and Jackson. Wimbley never quite lived up to expectations, but recorded 26.5 sacks in four seasons with the Browns. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders last year and recorded nine sacks. Jackson led the Browns in tackles in 2008 and had two 100-tackle seasons before suffering a pair of pectoral injuries. Vickers is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL and a great find in the sixth round. The Browns also drafted fifth-round tailback Jerome Harrison, who showed flashes before falling out of favor in Cleveland and being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Regime changes resulted in some of these players having to switch teams, but this was a solid class.

No. 1: Class of 2010

Best picks: CB Joe Haden (first round), S T.J. Ward (second round), QB Colt McCoy (third round)

McCoy

McCoy


Analysis: I'm going out on a limb, but I think the 2010 class will be Cleveland's best of the past 10 years. As you can see, this class doesn't have too much to compete with. The first two picks -- Haden and Ward -- have great ability and project to be longtime starters in the secondary. McCoy showed some good things and is vying to be Cleveland's franchise quarterback, although he still has a lot to prove. The Browns also have two rookies in tailback Montario Hardesty and guard Shawn Lauvao who could turn out to be good players. Hardesty is coming off a torn ACL, and Lauvao got mostly backup time in 10 games last season.

On Friday we will conclude our series by ranking the best overall draft classes in the division.

Morning take: Jeff Reed spurns Bengals

November, 18, 2010
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:

  • After clearing waivers, the Cincinnati Bengals made an offer to former Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed. But he declined.
Morning take: Good idea for Cincinnati. Reed will take time off to recharge, but the Bengals could make another push next week.
Morning take: Vickers remains one of the most underrated players in the AFC North. Everyone he blocks for (Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison, Peyton Hillis) in Cleveland has success.
Morning take: Reed will be more dangerous when he gets healthy. We will have more on Baltimore's pass defense Thursday (hint, hint).
Morning take: Hamstrings can be tricky. The Steelers are without both starting defensive ends. So Keisel will be a welcomed addition if he's ready Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Walker's weekend mailbag

November, 6, 2010
11/06/10
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Let's dig into the weekend mailbag.

Mike from Severn, Md., writes: I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan living among all these Baltimore Ravens fans. But why do you think the Steelers didn't run the no-huddle offense to try to disrupt the New Orleans Saints' blitz?

James Walker: The Steelers are one of several teams that can run the no-huddle offense well, but we haven't seen it this year. In recent seasons, Pittsburgh had some success with it, and it has helped when the offense has sputtered. But I think quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension means Pittsburgh isn't trying to get too exotic right away. The Steelers need to focus more on getting in sync with the basics now that their entire offense is intact.


Nakaz from Honolulu writes: How much of a concern is the Steelers' pass defense? Should Steeler Nation be worried?

Walker: I wouldn't go overboard yet because Pittsburgh is still No. 5 in total defense. Recent opponents have learned to stop banging their heads against the wall trying to establish the run against the Steelers, when short and intermediate passes are more effective. Now that opponents have adjusted, it's up to Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to re-adjust those tendencies. We will see if the Steelers' defense can, starting Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals.


JC13 from New Lexington, Ohio, writes: Why do you think it's taking so long for the Bengals to fire Marvin Lewis and see if Mike Zimmer has what it takes to be a head coach?

Walker: We are getting this question a lot and it's really moot. Lewis is not getting fired by the Bengals. The Bengals will let Lewis finish out the season and his contract, and from there, it will be up to both parties to determine if they will work out an extension or go their separate ways.


Alex Zorniger from Dayton, Ohio, writes: Did the Bengals draft a bust offensive lineman in Andre Smith?

Walker: I have a pretty stern rule that I refuse to call any NFL player a bust after one year. I've seen too many rookies -- Troy Polamalu being a perfect example in the division -- look confused early but go on to be Pro Bowl players. But as we are halfway through Smith’s second season, he's closer to "bust" than "boom" in my opinion. Smith has made a few strides in his second year, but certainly not enough to warrant the No. 6 overall pick and a $42 million contract. Cincinnati missing on this pick didn't hurt the team last year. But I think it's coming back to really bite the Bengals during their struggles this season.


Farhaan Khalik from Baltimore wants to know the MVP so far for the Baltimore Ravens.

Walker: I'd give the nod to Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. He's been dominant in several games this season and surprisingly leads the Ravens with four sacks. But also don't overlook the contributions from quarterback Joe Flacco season and kicker Billy Cundiff .


Joseph J from Pittsburgh writes: I was just wondering, why did the Browns trade Jerome Harrison to the Philadelphia Eagles? I remember watching him at the end of last season and thinking he would be their RB of the future. What happened?

Walker: Browns president Mike Holmgren confirmed this week that Harrison grew unhappy with his role in Cleveland. He expected to have a big season and be the full-time starter. But that wasn't the case and he ended up in the doghouse and with few opportunities. Instead of keeping an unhappy player, the Browns made a trade.

Comment and complaint department

Here are some comments and complaints from our AFC North community.

Matt from Chester, Va., writes: I know that I have all of Steeler Nation backing me up when I say that on every down linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are held. If you don't believe me, watch the Saints' drive capped off with a pass to Lance Moore. Literally every down there is a major hold right in front of the umpire.

NN from Cleveland writes: Will Ben Roethlisberger ever have the option of just throwing the ball away when he's about to be sacked for a loss? Even as he's about to land on the ground, he is looking for a receiver and is down for a loss of yards.

Walker: Matt, we get this complaint a lot in the AFC North blog. For the most part, we ignore it for a few reasons. First, we typically stay away from officiating issues because refs miss calls throughout the year with every team, and to some degree it balances out. We could probably discuss a couple of bad calls every week in the blog, and I don't want to go down that road. Second, the Steelers get different officiating crews every game and those holding calls Pittsburgh fans have complained about for years aren't flagged. So according to the majority of officials, most of those blocks are not considered holds. NN, that's just Roethlisberger's style. He's always looking to make a big play and more often than not he pulls it off.


Mike from Columbus, Ohio, writes: James, I know this might not be the popular thing to say, but I believe they should keep the QB depth chart the way it was at the beginning of the season. Jake Delhomme No. 1, Seneca Wallace being the backup and Colt McCoy the third QB. Jake has only played one half this year healthy and you signed him to a large deal. He is a proven veteran and he deserves a chance to be the starter. Seneca is and should always be a No. 2. The Browns should go back to letting McCoy sit for this year unless needed again.

Walker: Mike, I was surprised by the number of people this week who felt Delhomme deserved another chance. It wasn't a large group, but I didn't think any Browns fans felt this way. But I disagree. There are valid points to play Wallace and McCoy, but I see no point in playing Delhomme again this year. He doesn't help your future and there's no evidence that he gives the Browns the best chance to win in the present. McCoy will get his third consecutive start Sunday against the New England Patriots. My second choice would be Wallace, because he played decently in four starts.


Martin Stanberry from USA writes: Almost everyone seems to have an opinion about Carson Palmer's play. Whenever he has big games people say "He only threw so many touchdowns and for so many yards because they were playing catch-up all game." There is some truth to this. His biggest games have come when they are down big, but the better question is why is this the case?

Walker: It's true that Palmer's best halves this year came against the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons when Cincinnati was trailing big. I have a couple theories. The pacing was more up-tempo in both cases, and Cincinnati took more shots downfield. More opportunities equaled more big plays. Also, the defenses bring less pressure when opponents have big leads and play more "prevent" not to allow big plays. Cincinnati's pass protection has been inconsistent picking up blitzes, and the Bengals face less pressure when they're down by two or more touchdowns.

AFC North Homer of the Week

For the first time, we have a back-to-back winner for AFC North Homer of the Week.

Enjoy.

John W. from Denver writes: Ok, so my Bengals lost to Miami. I was wrong. I still believe they are the best team in football. I don't count them out yet. Look at what the Titans did last year. I'm feeling a hot streak coming on for the Bengals. They will go to the Super Bowl and prove all the haters wrong!

Walker: Keep hope alive, John. You should go for a record three straight Homer of the Week awards next week.

Mike Holmgren on QBs, Randy Moss, more

November, 2, 2010
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BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren met with the media Tuesday to discuss the state of the team.

With a quarterback controversy, questions at head coach and the team at 2-5, there were plenty of topics to address. Here were some highlights:
  • Let's start with the question on everyone's mind: Who will Cleveland start at quarterback between Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme? Holmgren rarely dodges questions. But he avoided this one Tuesday, deferring to Browns coach Eric Mangini.
"That's a question I'm not going to answer," Holmgren said. "That's a coaching decision."
  • Unsurprisingly, embattled receiver Randy Moss is not on Cleveland's radar. Holmgren admits he would like more production from his receivers, but it's more important for the Browns to develop players they have on their roster.
  • In terms of the future of Mangini, Holmgren strongly hinted that he likely won't make a decision until the season is over. Cleveland is 2-5, but the team is playing hard for Mangini, who is 7-16 since joining the Browns.
"The important point there is I think any coach, any staff, will be judged at the end of season," Holmgren said. "It will take thoughtful thinking ... I think it's important that you take some of the emotion out of it if you can. At the end of the year, everyone catches their breath a little bit, think about it and hopefully make a thoughtful decision."
  • Holmgren said former starting running back Jerome Harrison was increasingly unhappy with his role in Cleveland, and that led to his trade to the Philadelphia Eagles. Holmgren said Harrison is a good person and there are no hard feelings, but it was best for Harrison to get a fresh start.
  • In terms of possibly coaching again, Holmgren said he's happy with his role as president but it's tough sitting still on Sundays.
"Does it sound like I want to coach?" Holmgren said, prompting laughter. "I'm doing OK. The challenge of this is really something. I'm enjoying the challenge. But I'd be less than honest if I didn't say I get fired up watching the games. I did that for too long. But I also recognize what I was hired to do."
Here are some notes and observations from Week 8 in the AFC North:
[+] EnlargeTroy Polamalu
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyWhile they had bright moments, Troy Polamalu and the Pittsburgh defense struggled against Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday.

  • Even Troy Polamalu occasionally has bad games. The Pittsburgh Steelers' do-it-all safety had his worst game in years during Sunday's 20-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Polamalu and Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees were involved in a chess match, and Brees won most of those matchups by catching Polamalu out of position several times for big gains. Polamalu struggled to get a read on Brees and was a step or two late on big plays. Polamalu also missed tackles he usually makes in what was a rare, subpar performance by his standards.
  • The Superdome was the loudest stadium I've heard all season. The raucous atmosphere definitely bothered Pittsburgh (5-2), which had won its first three road games this season. The communication on offense was shaky because of the crowd noise, and the defense eventually succumbed to the pressure of trying to carry the team for four quarters.
"We better get used to these kind of environments; it comes with the territory when you're trying to be world champs," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We've got to play good people in their place and play better than that moving forward."

  • I'm baffled as to why the Steelers failed to successfully attack New Orleans' blitzes. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks at beating pressure packages. The play calling was one step behind. The Steelers didn't run many screens, couldn't execute hot routes and didn't take many shots deep against single coverage. That would have made New Orleans think twice about bringing extra defenders. But Pittsburgh's offense never figured it out. So credit the Saints for continuing to bring the heat.
  • Expect the spotlight to be on the future of coach Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals playing their first national game on "Monday Night Football." This topic has been somewhat quiet in Cincinnati since the start of the regular season. But with the Bengals' postseason hopes in dire straits, the chatter will certainly pick up. How will this impact the locker room? Will the Bengals play hard, knowing Lewis could be coaching out his final nine games under contract? Or will they pack it in? We will find out how Cincinnati responds, starting on Monday against Pittsburgh.
  • That brings us to our next point: what team is more capable of playing spoiler, Cincinnati (2-5) or the Cleveland Browns (2-5)? Both teams are heading in opposite directions. The Bengals have the talent to be dangerous, but their execution has been awful during their four-game losing streak. Cleveland plays more efficiently with less talent and also could be a tough out. Keep an eye on both division teams.
  • Here is an odd stat: Punter Reggie Hodges (one carry, 68 yards) is Cleveland's second-leading rusher behind tailback Peyton Hillis. Hodges' fake punt last week against the Saints was Cleveland's longest running play this season. But it's also another indicator of the Browns' lack of depth at running back. Last month, Cleveland traded Jerome Harrison and released James Davis. Cleveland hopes it gets help from new acquisition Mike Bell, who didn't show much in his Browns debut but hopes to improve after the bye.
  • Receiver Donte' Stallworth (foot) is expected to return this week. He should add needed speed to the Baltimore Ravens' offense. When healthy, Stallworth is one of the fastest players in the division. Outside of receiver Anquan Boldin, Baltimore hasn't had enough long passing plays this season. Boldin has seven receptions of 20 yards or more, which is solid. But receivers Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have combined for just six 20-plus-yard receptions in seven games.

Morning take: Ravens' starting CB?

October, 26, 2010
10/26/10
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Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North:

  • Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wouldn't say whether benched cornerback Fabian Washington will keep his starting job after the bye week.
Morning take: Washington has played decent this season but is coming off his worst performance as a Raven Sunday. The best thing for now is to evaluate both Washington and Josh Wilson in practice the next two weeks.

  • The Cincinnati Bengals don't have much to say after their 2-4 start.
Morning take: The time for talking is over. Cincinnati has to win Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, or you can write the Bengals off for 2010.
Morning take: Pittsburgh hasn't done well without Smith in the past, which is why this is a major concern. First-round pick Ziggy Hood's growth and maturity will be huge.
Morning take: Davis has shown flashes but didn't get much opportunity in Cleveland. The Browns have now sent Jerome Harrison and Davis packing in the past few weeks.

Jerome Harrison exits Browns' doghouse

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
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As much as Browns head coach Eric Mangini denied Jerome Harrison was in his doghouse, that was the case in Cleveland. It's the primary reason the Browns traded Harrison to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Mike Bell Wednesday.

Harrison
Harrison
Bell
Bell
Harrison, after a great finish to the 2009 season, never got off on the right foot in 2010. He was unhappy with his contract and held out for much of Cleveland's offseason program. In the process, the Browns traded for Peyton Hillis and drafted Montario Hardesty in the second round to add competition for Harrison's job. Harrison unhappily settled for a one-year tender.

After a sub-par training camp and preseason in which Harrison developed a fumbling issue, he fell further out of favor with the coaching staff. Hardesty's season-ending knee injury gave Harrison a brief chance to start, but the Browns had already lost trust in the running back. As soon as Hillis got hot, Cleveland didn't think twice about relegating Harrison to the bench, where he's been most of this season.

Bigger backs are what Mangini wants and Harrison didn't fit the mold. Harrison has talent but is better running outside than between the tackles and is shaky with picking up blitzes. With Hillis battling a quad injury, Cleveland gets another running back in Bell to provide depth. Bell has a clean slate and a better opportunity to gain the trust Harrison lost with the Browns.

A fresh start was best for both sides.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:
  • Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco says blame him for the offensive struggles.
Morning take: Credit Ochocinco for trying to take the pressure, but he's not the biggest reason the offense is stagnant. Poor pass protection and shaky quarterback play are two more important factors.
  • Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison is unsure of his role now that Peyton Hillis is the featured tailback.
Morning take: Harrison failed to take advantage of his opportunity earlier in the season, and Hillis did. That's how it goes sometimes in the NFL.
Morning take: And they should, for the simple fact they are carbon copies. For one team not to respect the way the other plays football would be disrespecting the team in the mirror.
Morning take: Rice isn't talking, but he is a gamer and definitely wants to play in this game. We will know more by the end of the week.

Morning take: Ray Rice hurts knee

September, 27, 2010
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Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC North: Morning take: It's unknown if Rice will play next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0). But the Ravens will need all of their best players for this huge rivalry game.
Morning take: Anyone who can rush for 144 yards on Baltimore's defense deserves kudos. In my opinion, Hillis earned the right to be the starter over Jerome Harrison.
Morning take: Although it seemingly took 20 minutes, Keisel made it exciting with a 79-yard return for a touchdown. It was one of many good plays by the Steelers.
Morning take: The Bengals are winning with defense, but the offense should be caught up by now with so many weapons. Quarterback Carson Palmer isn't playing up to par, and neither is the running game.

How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesThe Bengals threw Joe Flacco off his game, collecting four INTs off the Ravens' quarterback.
1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens quarterback: Flacco had the worst game of his career and it came at a bad time during a 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It's inexcusable for any quarterback to throw four interceptions, especially in a close game when every possession counts. Several Bengals defenders told me afterward that Flacco was frustrated and pressing, which is not the norm for "Joe Cool." But every quarterback has bad games. It will be key for Flacco to bounce back this week in another AFC North matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

2. Brian Daboll, Browns offensive coordinator: Browns president Mike Holmgren -- an offensive guru -- has to be getting headaches watching Cleveland's offense this season. In a 16-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Browns couldn't get anything going consistently and were shut out in the second half for the second consecutive week. Daboll fails to make the proper halftime adjustments, and the play calling often is predictable and poorly executed. Daboll's struggles are not limited to just the past two weeks. The Browns were ranked last in total offense in 2009.

3. Jerome Harrison, Browns running back: This is a big year for Cleveland tailback Jerome Harrison to prove he can be a full-time starter in the NFL. But he's off to a slow start. Harrison rushed for just 33 yards on 16 carries (2.1 yard average) against Kansas City. He also lost a fumble, which has been an issue for Harrison dating to the preseason. Browns coach Eric Mangini said this week that he will not tolerate bad football and players will be subject to the bench for continued mistakes. Mangini didn't mention players by name, but Harrison could be a candidate if he keeps putting the ball on the ground.

RISING

1. Bengals' defense: It's amazing the difference one week can make. Cincinnati's defense looked tentative and confused in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. But last week the Bengals reverted back to their 2009 form against the Ravens. Cincinnati left no big plays on the field and picked off Flacco four times. The team also kept defenders in Flacco's face the entire time, impacting his decision-making and accuracy. Now the Bengals need to keep up that defensive momentum Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

2. James Harrison, Steelers linebacker: There were at least a half-dozen Pittsburgh defenders with great performances last week against the Tennessee Titans. But Harrison made the most big plays. He recorded 11 tackles, two sacks and recovered a fumble. Harrison also did a solid job of setting the edge of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense to contain Pro Bowl tailback Chris Johnson, who rushed for just 34 yards on 16 carries.

3. Mike Nugent, Bengals kicker: Cincinnati could not score an offensive touchdown, but its kicker went 5-for-5 in field goals to preserve a big division win over Baltimore. Nugent, who beat out Dave Rayner in the preseason to win Cincinnati's kicking job, made field goals of 36, 30, 46, 38 and 25 yards. He was awarded AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 17, Browns 14

September, 12, 2010
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Here are some thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

What it means: It means the Browns continue their trend of losing season openers. Cleveland is 1-11 in Week 1 since returning to the NFL in 1999, and every year it prevents the team from getting off to a good start. The Browns, perhaps more than any other division team, needed an early win for their confidence but failed to do it against Tampa Bay, which struggled mightily last season.

What I liked: Cleveland's running game averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and I'm a little surprised the Browns didn't go to it more often. Starting tailback Jerome Harrison rushed for 52 yards on nine carries (5.8 yards per attempt) and Peyton Hillis added 41 yards and a touchdown. Cleveland led 14-3 in the second quarter, yet the team's pass-to-run ratio was 38-23.

What I didn't like: I didn't like the Browns’ turnovers. Cleveland doesn't have the talent to make up for a lot of mistakes and needs to play smarter and more efficient to win. Instead, the Browns were sloppy and turned the ball over three times. Cleveland quarterback Jake Delhomme threw two interceptions against Tampa Bay, and it comes at a time when he was starting to quiet some doubters after a solid preseason. Obviously, many doubts remain.

What's next: I usually don't call anything a must-win in Week 2. But if the Browns want to make any noise this season, they must beat the Kansas City Chiefs next week. Cleveland is in the easiest part of its schedule and already came up short in a winnable game against Tampa Bay. An 0-2 start against the Bucs and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks would be a nightmare scenario for the Browns.

Morning take: Ravens uncertain at RT

September, 7, 2010
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Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North:
  • The Baltimore Ravens are unsure about the availability of right tackles Jared Gaither (back) and Oniel Cousins (concussion) Monday against the New York Jets.
Morning take: This is a big position to monitor this week. The Jets bring plenty of pressure off the edge, and the Ravens need their best players to protect quarterback Joe Flacco.
Morning take: The Bengals will run so many three-receiver and two-tight end sets that you probably won't notice. Backup tight ends Daniel Coats and Reggie Kelly also can handle blocking duties when needed.
  • Lost in the hoopla of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger losing his captaincy, it should be noted that kicker Jeff Reed lost his captaincy title, as well.
Morning take: Similar to Roethlisberger, Reed also faced trouble off the field. There's your common link between the two players.
Morning take: Peyton Hills also will share carries. But ball security will be important for Harrison, who fumbled three times in his last two preseason games.

Should Peyton Hillis start in Week 1?

September, 1, 2010
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Jerome Harrison has fumbling issues, and rookie Montario Hardesty missed all of training camp with a knee injury.

Therefore, should Peyton Hillis be the starting tailback in Week 1 for the Cleveland Browns?

Hillis has taken advantage of his opportunities. Acquired this offseason from the Denver Broncos in the Brady Quinn trade, Hillis leads the Browns in rushing this preseason with 80 yards and a touchdown. He's also showed nice hands with nine receptions for 86 yards and is impressing Cleveland's coaching staff with his versatility.

The Browns are implementing ways to use Hillis, but should his role be expanded as their starter? It may depend on his competition's progress.

Harrison, who led Cleveland with 862 rushing yards last year, is the incumbent but looks listless so far. He's averaging just 3.1 yards per carry in three exhibition games. In addition, Harrison's three fumbles the past two games are concerning. The Browns cannot afford to have their primary rusher displaying poor ball security.

Meanwhile, Hardesty was unable to follow up an impressive minicamp with a knee sprain. This year's second-round pick could be the long-term solution in Cleveland, but Hardesty has fallen behind and likely is out of the running to start in Week 1. He will make his NFL debut in Thursday's preseason finale against the Chicago Bears.

That leaves Hillis, who is Cleveland's most productive running back so far. He may not be the fastest or most flashy, but Hillis might be the Browns' safest option to start the season.

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