AFC North: Kevin Williams

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts want to improve on being 26th in the league in stopping the run last season.

There’s no better place to start than at nose tackle.

Aubrayo Franklin is a free agent after starting there last season.

The Colts are still high on Josh Chapman, but that’s a position where you need multiple bodies.

A name to keep an eye on once free agency starts Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET is Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones. Colts coach Chuck Pagano is familiar with Jones from when he was defensive coordinator of the Ravens.

Jones had a career-high 53 tackles to go with four sacks last season. Franklin and Chapman combined for 44 tackles and zero sacks last season.

The Colts have the salary-cap space to pay Jones, who is only 27 years old.

“He has definitely put himself in a position that teams could definitely bid on him very high because if you put the tape on, they’re going to like him a lot,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters during the NFL scouting combine last month. “… It’s probably the one contract that he’ll have a chance to sign, a real big one. Guys that sign two big contracts, that’s very unusual. Three almost never happens, so you never feel bad about a guy getting an opportunity.”

Here’s a look at some other defensive tackles who will be on the market:

AFC North: Final Word

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
4:00
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Pittsburgh expects to have a healthy Troy Polamalu for the first time since Week 1.
Men of Troy: After injuring his knee in Week 1, Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) safety Troy Polamalu is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (1-4). This will be a huge boost to a defense that’s been unable to finish games and create turnovers consistently this season. Even without Polamalu, the Steelers enter this weekend ranked No. 4 in total defense. But that’s mostly due to solid performances in the first three quarters of games. Look for Polamalu to bring that closer element back to Pittsburgh.

Browns out: Is this the final game for key members of the Browns? Cleveland has been at the center of trade rumors with the deadline to move players approaching on Oct. 20. Trade talk involving return specialist Joshua Cribbs, tailback Jamal Lewis and quarterback Brady Quinn, who recently put his house on the market, have all made the rounds, but any major trade appears unlikely.

Containing Johnson: One reason the Cincinnati Bengals have won four in a row is because of the team’s ability to shut down top receivers. In back-to-back wins, Baltimore Ravens No. 1 receiver Derrick Mason and Cleveland's Edwards were both held to zero receptions. The Bengals have arguably the NFL’s most underrated secondary, and they will get another test in Houston Texans star receiver Andre Johnson, who had eight catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Arizona Cardinals.

It’s a snap: Keep an eye on special teams this week as long-snapper Clark Harris makes his debut for the Bengals. The past 10 seasons, Brad St. Louis handled those duties but got into a major funk this season that included bad snaps in four of the team’s five games. Cincinnati tried to remain patient but finally moved on after St. Louis had two bad snaps (one called back via penalty) in last week’s win over the Ravens.

Balance in Baltimore: Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says he has no regrets for the team’s astounding pass-to-run ratio of 84-to-35 in consecutive losses to the New England Patriots and Cincinnati. Starting tailback Ray Rice is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and deserves more opportunities. Backup Willis McGahee also got just one carry against the Bengals. Running this week will be a tall task against the front seven of the undefeated Minnesota Vikings (5-0), who have three Pro Bowl caliber defensive linemen in Jared Allen and Pat and Kevin Williams.

Morning take: Oher nervous

September, 9, 2009
9/09/09
7:00
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Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker


Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North:
  • Baltimore Ravens rookie right tackle Michael Oher expects to have some nerves before Sunday’s season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Morning take: Based on his play in the preseason, he will be fine. I’m more worried about Oher in Week 12 and 16 based on his prior comments.
  • Receiver Chad Ochocinco says the Cincinnati Bengals will go 12-4 this year.
Morning take: Ochocinco predicted months ago the Bengals were going to the playoffs. Now we know he anticipates (possibly) going as AFC North champ.
  • Tennessee Titans receiver Nate Washington (hamstring) may be fine to play in Thursday’s season opener against his former team in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Morning take: When I talked with Washington Sunday, I got the sense that he was optimistic about his chances. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he made it back for this game.
  • The “Williams Wall” for the Minnesota Vikings was cleared to play in Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
Morning take: First, quarterback Brett Favre returns right before the regular season and now this happens. The Browns just can’t catch a break.

Inside the AFC North

June, 1, 2009
6/01/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here are several notes and observations from within the division:

     
      AP Photo/Gail Burton
      Joe Flacco's arm appears to be holding up well to the rigors of being an NFL quarterback.
  • The AFC North blog has great news for Baltimore Ravens fans: Quarterback Joe Flacco's arm doesn't get fatigued. Since January's AFC Championship Game, we've asked numerous people about this because Flacco played 16 games as a rookie in 2008, plus three playoff games and offseason workouts. Every quarterback is different in how his arm responds to the yearlong grind, but those around Flacco say he's the type of player who can "throw all day." His effortless motion is one reason Flacco hasn't suffered any stress on the arm. Flacco's age (24) also helps.
  • We recently had a good chat with Cleveland Browns great Doug Dieken during the team's organized team activities (OTAs). The topic was Cincinnati Bengals No. 6 overall pick Andre Smith and the decision to play the rookie at right tackle. According to Dieken, who made the Pro Bowl as a left tackle in 1980, the major difference in the two positions is the ability to move in space, which is vital when protecting the blindside of a quarterback. Dieken surmised that the Bengals probably are more confident in Smith's physical strength as a run-blocker than his feet and pure athleticism to pass protect for Carson Palmer. Dieken also said it's much easier to make the transition from left tackle to right tackle than vice versa. That begs the question if Smith can successfully switch to the left side, if needed, later in his career.
  • Speaking of the Browns, they would get a big boost if the suspension of the "Williams Wall" is upheld in court. Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are both facing four-game suspensions at the start of the 2009 season following the use of StarCaps, which in it contained a banned supplement. Cleveland hosts Minnesota in the season opener. The NFLPA is currently appealing the suspensions.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was at a recent Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game cheering for LeBron James & Co. While it may seem odd at first, it's sometimes easy to forget that Roethlisberger is an Ohio native who happens to star for the Browns' biggest rival. Pittsburgh is by no means a basketball town, but a decent number of NBA fans in Steelers country actually root for the Cavs and occasionally make the easy trip to attend games. It turns out Pittsburgh's starting quarterback is one of them. The Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday by the Orlando Magic.

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