AFC North: Sergio Kindle

The Baltimore Ravens have traded back in the first round in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Could they do it again in 2014?

The Ravens will likely have the opportunity to do so. In the past, teams have wanted to trade up in the draft because of quarterbacks. This year, teams will be looking to move up to the Ravens' No. 17 spot for a wide receiver, especially if LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is sitting there.

The Philadelphia Eagles (No. 22), New Orleans Saints (No. 27) and San Francisco 49ers (No. 30) are potential trade partners with the Ravens. What could the Ravens expect to get in return? The Eagles would need to give up a third-round pick to move up five spots, and the Saints and 49ers may need to hand over second-rounders.

Still, is trading back worth it for the Ravens? Let's look at the three previous times they moved back in the first round:

2008 DRAFT

The Ravens dropped from No. 8 to No. 26 and received two third-round picks (Nos. 71 and 89) and a fourth-round one (No. 125) from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens needed to trade one of those third-round picks (No. 89) to move back up to No. 18 to make sure they got quarterback Joe Flacco.

The net result of moving back was linebacker Tavares Gooden (No. 71 pick overall) and cornerback Fabian Washington (acquired for the No. 125 pick from the Oakland Raiders). Gooden started 12 games in three injury-filled seasons with the Ravens, and Washington started three seasons before being benched.

2010 DRAFT

The Ravens moved out of the first round, going from No. 25 overall to No. 43. In return, the Ravens got a third-round pick (No. 70) and a fourth-round one (No. 114) from the Denver Broncos.

Those extra picks became tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, both of whom were fixtures in the offense for the past three seasons. While Dickson is considered a disappointment, Pitta has become one of Flacco's go-to receivers.

But the top picks didn't work out for the Ravens or the Broncos. Denver traded up to get quarterback Tim Tebow, and the Ravens selected linebacker Sergio Kindle in the second round. Kindle was the worst top pick in Ravens' history.

Still, the Ravens likely wouldn't have fared much better if they stayed in the first round. The Ravens were eyeing pass rusher Jerry Hughes, who struggled his first three seasons before recording 10 sacks last season.

2012 DRAFT

Like the Ravens did in 2010, they moved out of the first round. This time, the Ravens fell just six spots from No. 29 to No. 35 and received a fourth-round pick (No. 98) in return.

The Ravens were still able to get linebacker Courtney Upshaw, their possible selection in the first round, even though they dropped into the second round. That fourth-round pick became center Gino Gradkowski, who started last season but is expected to be a backup this year.
You thought the AFC North blog would be one of the Tebow-free places on the site. Well, you thought wrong.

Tim Tebow officially signed with the New England Patriots, the team announced on Tuesday. How does that have anything to do with this division?

Tebow reunites with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was Tebow's coach in Denver. McDaniels wanted Tebow so much in the 2010 draft that he traded three picks to the Baltimore Ravens in order to get the unconventional quarterback with the No. 25 overall pick.

The Ravens certainly made out on that deal. Baltimore used those picks on linebacker Sergio Kindle (second round), tight end Ed Dickson (third round) and tight end Dennis Pitta (fourth round). While Kindle never got his career on track after falling down two flights of stairs before his first training camp, Dickson and Pitta have become key components of the offense. Pitta caught 61 passes and seven touchdowns last year, and Dickson had 54 receptions and five touchdowns in 2011.

Before getting traded to the New York Jets in 2012, Tebow did win a playoff game, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. He threw for a career-high 316 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime for a 29-23 victory.

Some members of the Steelers defense told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week that Tebow belongs in the NFL.

"He won some games, had some success,” linebacker Larry Foote said last week when Tebow had been sitting on the free-agent market for over a month. “We know it first-hand. I think he should be somewhere at least competing for a job. I think he's earned that.”

Said cornerback Ike Taylor, who gave up that winning touchdown: “Tim Tebow is real decent,” Taylor said. “As far as being a competitor, he's one of the best competitors I've seen.”
On the eve of the NFL draft, let's take a look back at the past three drafts for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers:


Total picks: 27. Picks still on roster: 20 (74 percent). Picks who are currently projected starters: 9.

Best player: Wide receiver A.J. Green (first round, 2011). The fourth overall pick in 2011 was taken after Cam Newton, Von Miller and Marcell Dareus. He has 162 catches in his first two seasons, which is the second-most in NFL history.

Best value: Defensive tackle Geno Atkins (fourth round, 2010). He's the best interior pass-rusher in the game with 20 sacks over the past two seasons.

Biggest disappointment: Linebacker Dontay Moch (third round, 2011). Injuries and migraines have limited him to one game in two seasons.


Total picks: 27. Picks still on roster: 22 (81 percent). Picks who are currently projected starters: 13.

Best player: Cornerback Joe Haden (first round, 2010). The best player could turn out to be running back Trent Richardson by the end of the 2013 season. In three seasons, Haden intercepted nine passes and broken up 47.

Best value: Guard Jason Pinkston (fifth round, 2011). He made starts in the first 22 games of his career before a blood clot in his lung sidelined him.

Biggest disappointment: Running back Montario Hardesty (second round, 2010). The 59th overall pick of the draft three years ago has more career fumbles (three) than touchdowns (one).


Total picks: 23. Picks still on roster: 22 (95 percent). Picks who are currently projected starters: 6.

Best player: Wide receiver Torrey Smith (second round, 2011). He's averaged 17.1 yards per catch and scored 15 touchdowns in two seasons. Now, Smith will become the No. 1 receiver with Anquan Boldin gone.

Best value: Tight end Dennis Pitta (fourth round, 2010). Pitta had a breakout season last year when he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns (which tied Todd Heap's 2005 team record for tight ends).

Biggest disappointment: Sergio Kindle (second round, 2010). Kindle created more headlines off the field, from fracturing his skull after falling down two flights of stairs to his drunken driving arrest. He played a total of three games and is the only player from the past three drafts currently not on the roster.


Total picks: 26. Picks still on roster: 18 (69 percent). Picks who are currently projected starters: 9.

Best player: Center Maurkice Pouncey (first round, 2010). The 18th overall pick three years ago has been named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team every season.

Best value: Wide receiver Antonio Brown (sixth round, 2010). Over the past two seasons, Brown has totaled 135 catches for 1,895 yards and seven touchdowns. He is now the go-to receiver after Mike Wallace signed with the Dolphins in free agency.

Biggest disappointment: Linebacker Jason Worilds (second round, 2010). He hasn't been a bust, but he hasn't lived up to the expectations of being a second-round pick. In 10 career starts, he has four sacks. This is why many project the Steelers taking Jarvis Jones in the first round.
Just a heads up, you can expect to see more posts this week on the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns than the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. That's just the reality of the situation. The Ravens are in the playoffs and the Browns are in a coaching search. Once the offseason gets in full swing, namely free agency and the draft, there will be more balance in terms of posts. Thanks for understanding. Here's your wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Baltimore moved quarterback Joe Flacco out of the pocket more against the Indianapolis Colts, which is why he was only sacked once and hit twice. It's a strategy that they might use against a Denver Broncos team that sacked Flacco three times last month. "Whenever you have great edge pass rushers, you need to move the pocket," coach John Harbaugh said, via The Baltimore Sun. "They have been working hard on that, whether it's stepping up in the pocket making plays or stepping outside and making plays when the pass rushers lose contain and then keeping the play alive and trying to make some throws while he's doing that. Joe can run. He's faster than people think." The Ravens also released linebacker Sergio Kindle, their top pick in the 2010 draft, off their practice squad.

BENGALS: Andy Dalton isn't worried about the criticism after a second straight poor performance in the playoffs. “Not that we’re satisfied where we’re at, but we went to the playoffs in my first two years that I was here. That’s something that hasn’t happened in 30 years," Dalton said, via The Cincinnati Enquirer. “To go from 4-12 before I got here to 9-7 and now 10-6, we’re getting better and going to be better next year.” As I wrote Monday, it's valid to question whether Dalton is a franchise quarterback. The 2013 season is shaping up to be a big one for Dalton.

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Alan Robinson offers 10 ways to fix the Steelers. High on his list is to find a way to stay healthier. Some suggestions include making sure safety Troy Polamalu stays slimmer in the offseason and getting linebacker LaMarr Woodley's hamstrings in shape. “I think winning eight games with all the injuries they had is almost mind-boggling, to do as good as they do,” former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly told the paper. “To me, the No. 1 issue with this team was being decimated by injuries.”

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer reported that it's unclear whether the Browns will go after big-name coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban in the team's rebooted search. According to the paper, no sources close to the search have scoffed at speculation that the Browns will go after Saban, who led Alabama to their third national championship in four seasons. The Browns are reportedly set to interview Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and CFL coach Marc Trestman. The Browns' meeting with Trestman will happen at some point, but it didn't occur Monday as previously reported by ESPN Radio in Cleveland.
It's Wednesday and you know what that means: It's time to get some feedback from you. The weekly AFC North poll will get posted later today and we'll sit down for our usual midweek chat at 2 p.m. Speaking of our routine, it's time for your wake-up call, which deals with three rookies and a departing executive:

RAVENS: After getting fined nearly $20,000 this season for weighing more than 270 pounds, rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has shed weight via diet and exercise to get down to 266 to 268 pounds, according to The Baltimore Sun. Upshaw told the paper that he hasn't been fined since Week 5 of the season, which was just earlier this month. "I didn't even look at the fines," Upshaw said. "I just knew they were taking my money. That started getting me down." Upshaw, who has started seven games this year, is trying to avoid becoming the latest second-round disappointment on the defensive side of the ball. Sergio Kindle, who is on the practice squad, and Terrence Cody, who lost his starting job, were drafted in the second round in 2010.

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette brings up the possibility that rookie second-round pick Mike Adams could remain the starting right tackle even when Marcus Gilbert recovers from an ankle injury. Adams has performed well in seven quarters since replacing Gilbert and drew rare praise from coach Mike Tomlin, who usually doesn't give out such compliments to rookies. "We're optimistic about his talent level and what he's capable of being," Tomlin said. "He didn't do anything to hurt that assessment. I think he's continuing to be a guy on the rise. I think his performance was a solid one. I thought he was good in the run game. I thought he was good on the second level, some combination blocks, and I thought he represented himself well in pass pro[tection]. It's a nice next step for him."

BENGALS: With the Bengals short on wide receivers (Armon Binns has an ankle injury and Marvin Jones is out with a knee injury), rookie Mohamed Sanu will see increased playing time at the No. 2 spot. He recorded his first career catch Sunday night, which interestingly enough came a month after he completed his first pass. “The thing I've always said about Mo is he's a gamer,” wide receiver coach James Urban told CBS Sports. “I thought that coming out of college. The more football the kid plays, I'm talking about game football on Sundays, the more you'll like him.” Sanu's size and strength compliments Andrew Hawkins, the Bengals' slot receiver.

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto believes Mike Holmgren was never comfortable in his undefined role as team president. "So this franchise with its amazingly loyal and beat-down fan base continues to wait for someone to give them a real reason to believe in a winning future for the orange helmets," Pluto wrote. "It's now in the hands of (Jimmy) Haslam (a rookie owner who oozes passion and love for his adopted city) and Joe Banner (an experienced football CEO). It's a promising combination. Now, maybe, just maybe, things will change ... and change for the better. If nothing else, Browns fans can always hope so."
The Ravens' Paul Kruger is inactive for today's game at Philadelphia with a back injury.

That means the Ravens will be without Kruger and Terrell Suggs, the two projected starting outside linebackers for this season. Suggs tore his Achilles this spring and is out indefinitely.

Courtney Upshaw, the team's top pick in the 2012 draft, is expected to replace Kruger. Upshaw was considered the front-runner to replace Suggs after he was taken in the second round, but he was beaten out by Albert McClellan for that spot. Sergio Kindle, who is active, could also be a factor as a pass-rusher.
Injuries, suspensions and even contract disputes (the Ravens' Bryant McKinnie) have taken over the headlines in the AFC North leading up to the season opener. If you're anything like me, you're always kind of "questionable" in terms of getting out of bed. Well, I hope today's wake-up call will get you on the right track ...

BENGALS: As expected, the Bengals placed center Kyle Cook (high ankle sprain) on the new injured reserve-recall list. Under that designation, Cook will be eligible to return to practice as early as Week 7 and will be eligible to play as early as Week 9. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cook had started the last 50 regular-season and postseason games, which had been tied with left tackle Andrew Whitworth for the team's longest current streak. The Bengals recently signed Jeff Faine to fill in for Cook, who hasn't disclosed a timetable to return.

BROWNS: While cornerback Joe Haden awaits word on his suspension, there is a chance that linebacker Scott Fujita could be removed from the suspended list this week. The NFL Players Association has asked a federal judge for a temporary restraining order that would allow players suspended in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation to rejoin their teams in time to play regular season openers. Fujita has been suspended for three games for his alleged role in the Saints' bounty scandal.

RAVENS: Injuries to Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Courtney Upshaw (sprained shoulder) played a role in Sergio Kindle making the season-opening roster. “Sergio’s potential as a pass rusher is something that’s really important,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, via The Baltimore Sun. Kindle, the team's top pick in the 2010 draft, has yet to show the same potential since he fell down two flights of stairs before his rookie training camp. “He’s got some talent, obviously," Harbaugh said. "He’s still probably on his way back from a really bad brain injury. It’s remarkable how far he’s come, and we’re not ready to give up on him. We never would ‘give up on him’ -- that’s probably a bad choice of words -- but we’re still looking at him as a pass-rusher and a physical edge-setter as an outside linebacker.”

STEELERS: Linebacker James Harrison has never been known as a conversationalist. That's why it wasn't surprising to hear how he communicated the status of his knee. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Harrison, who wasn't wearing a brace on his knee, gave the "A-OK" sign when he was asked how it reacted to treatment. "I know that if it's within his power to be there and perform and, particularly for his teammates, he will be," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I have had no reservations about him in that regard. The issue is just whether or not he gets a clean bill of health from our medical staff. He has to this point in terms of being able to practice. We'll see how his body responds to that work and let that be a determinant about how we move forward."
Click here for the complete list of Baltimore Ravens roster moves.

Significant move: The Ravens surprisingly kept linebacker Sergio Kindle, their top draft pick in 2010, purely on his potential as a pass-rusher. Kindle's lasting impression from the preseason was a roughing-the-passer penalty in the finale that allowed the Rams to convert a third-and-22. Never showing any burst, Kindle didn't record a sack in the preseason and finished with four tackles. With Terrell Suggs out indefinitely with an Achilles injury, the Ravens probably don't want to part with anyone who can help pressure the quarterback. Kindle hasn't been the same player since falling down two stairs and fracturing his skull before his first training camp. On his reaction in making the team, Kindle said, "Jump for joy and do a back flip if I could. Wouldn’t want to land on my head though." ... Baltimore also released Curtis Painter and chose to go with Tyrod Taylor as its backup quarterback. Painter, who threw six touchdowns this preseason, threw countless interceptions in training camp.

Onward and upward: Undrafted safety Omar Brown is a likely target to return as a member of Baltimore's practice squad. He lacks ideal size for the position (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) but he has a knack for being around the ball. Brown had arguably the best preseason on the team, finishing third with 10 tackles, recording three fumble recoveries, intercepting one pass and recovering an onside kick. The Ravens need depth at safety because of the uncertainty surrounding Sean Considine, who has sustained two concussions in two weeks.

What's next: Don't be surprised if the Ravens look for an upgrade on the offensive line. Their depth at tackle is questionable with backups Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood. Reid has been limited all summer with a calf injury, and Harewood surprisingly made the team after spending the past two years on injured reserve. The Ravens also may look to add a defensive lineman. The team could move rookie defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson, a seventh-round pick, to the practice squad.
Nearly all the AFC North teams played it safe in Thursday night's preseason finales. Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Brandon Weeden all sat out and watched the backup quarterbacks play.

The only starter who played, the Bengals' Andy Dalton, left in the first quarter with an injury but it's not considered serious. Dalton said his hand went "a little numb" after getting hit in the arm but it's "no problem at all." Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, "Andy’s fine. He’ll be fine for Baltimore. He would have gone right back in this game if it had been the regular season.” So, crisis averted.

If you couldn't watch all four division teams play simultaneously, you're in luck. I had my eye on each one and here are some observations:


In the 20-16 loss at Indianapolis, Dalton was hurt on the opening drive after getting sandwiched. Offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Dennis Roland both got beaten for sacks on the play. It hasn't been a great preseason for Whitworth, who is the second-best left tackle in the division.

The Bengals didn't play their top two running backs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott, because both are recovering from injuries and are getting ready for the regular-season opener. For once, Cincinnati's run game didn't suffer. Brian Leonard ran hard and broke tackles for 27 yards on three carries. Cedric Peerman, who makes more of an impact on special teams, looked good on a 13-yard run up the middle.

No one wants to see Dalton hurt. The Bengals, though, have to feel comfortable with backup Bruce Gradkowski. He finished 12 of 19 for 95 yards and led his fourth touchdown drive of the preseason.

Rookie wide receiver Marvin Jones displayed some resiliency in the second quarter. On the same drive in which he dropped a touchdown pass, he came back to catch a back-shoulder throw from Gradkowski and ran into the end zone. Jones is making a push for some playing time this year.


In the 28-20 loss to Chicago, Colt McCoy watched his strong preseason take a nosedive. In his first start this summer, McCoy was 2 of 5 for 16 yards for a 9.1 quarterback rating. That's going to put a dent into McCoy's 119.1 rating from the first three games. McCoy was also intercepted on a high pass that was thrown with no pressure around him. The Browns will let everyone know what they plan to do with McCoy on Friday.

The Browns have a concern at linebacker after rookie James-Michael Johnson left with an oblique injury. With Chris Gocong out for the season with an Achilles injury and Scott Fujita facing a three-game suspension from the NFL, Cleveland planned to depend on Johnson and Kaluka Maiava. The Browns might need Fujita to win his appeal to avoid going deeper on the depth chart. Johnson was having a strong performance before getting injured on an open-field tackle.

Backup running back Montario Hardesty had trouble getting back to the line of scrimmage because he got little help from his blockers. He finished with 24 yards on six carries and he didn't fumble for the first time since the preseason opener. Brandon Jackson fared much better, gaining 48 yards on seven carries.

Cornerback James Dockery was flagged twice for pass interference in the second quarter. The second one eventually led to a touchdown. Rookie cornerback Trevin Wade was physical and had good coverage in allowing the first touchdown of the game.

As if the Browns needed something else to worry about, they have to iron some things out on special teams. Reggie Hodges got his second punt blocked this preseason.


In a 31-17 loss at St. Louis, Sergio Kindle hurt his chances of surviving Friday's cutdown. He hit quarterback Sam Bradford a full second late, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty to help the Rams convert third-and-22. Kindle, a 2010 second-round pick, was on the bubble entering this game.

Continuing Thursday night's trend of rookies getting hurt, second-round pick Courtney Upshaw will have an MRI for his strained shoulder, according to coach John Harbaugh. Upshaw has been backing up Albert McClellan at outside linebacker.

Veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had his worst game with the Ravens. Working with the first-team defense because most of the starters sat, Ayanbadejo struggled against the run and got lost in coverage. It was so bad that he apologized for his performance on Twitter.

What I like the most about Tyrod Taylor, who started in place of Flacco, is his ability to make plays with his legs. Even though he focused more on being a pocket passer, Taylor wasn't hesitant to take off for a 22-yard scramble. He did get stripped from behind earlier in the game, but it was the result of a third-string lineman (Cord Howard) getting beat by a former first-round pick (Robert Quinn).

Looking at Curtis Painter's up-and-down performance, I'm not sure he convinced the Ravens to keep three quarterbacks. He threw two touchdowns and was intercepted three times. One interception was returned 76 yards for a touchdown.

Justin Tucker missed his first kick of the preseason, but it's difficult to be critical of him. It was a 57-yard attempt. He later hit a 49-yarder in the third quarter.


If this was Charlie Batch's last game with the Steelers, he made it a memorable one, or at least as memorable as the preseason gets. In the 17-16 victory over Carolina, he completed 11 of 14 passes for 102 yards. Batch showed great touch in leading Emmauel Sanders out of double coverage for a 37-yard touchdown. The new rule regarding injured reserve helps Batch's chances of sticking around Pittsburgh for an 11th season, but there's no guarantee that he'll make the cut.

For the second consecutive week, a Steelers draft pick went down with a serious knee injury. With two minutes left in the third quarter, linebacker Sean Spence hyperextended his knee while chasing quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Spence's knee bent awkwardly underneath him, and the third-round pick needed to be carted off the field. Spence was expected to make an impact on special teams this season and could have received playing time if there were injuries at inside linebacker. Unlike David DeCastro's knee injury, this one happened on the natural grass of Heinz Field.

This isn't a newsflash, but rookie running back-receiver-returner Chris Rainey is a game-changer. He twice scored on punt returns in one quarter, only to have both brought back because of penalties. This would've given him the touchdown trifecta. The fifth-round pick had scored on a 41-yard run and a 57-yard catch this summer.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton made his preseason debut after having ACL surgery in January. His presence was felt immediately as he got off a block from guard Mike Pollak and made a tackle. Hampton's return was good to see for the Steelers, even though Steve McLendon has played well enough to start.

Jonathan Dwyer solidfied himself as the primary backup to Isaac Redman, and the Steelers could need him based on Redman's durability. Dwyer was physical (even delivered a stiff-arm) and showed good feet to elude tacklers. He finished with 63 yards on 13 carries, a 4.8-yard average.

AFC North BustWatch 2012

August, 30, 2012
There are players that fans love to hate like Ray Lewis or James Harrison. Then there are those players that make you scratch your head. Those are your favorite teams' busts, the players who fail to live up to expectations and make you wonder where it all went wrong. Earlier this week, I asked for your thoughts on the biggest potential busts currently on the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers. This is result of that collaborative effort:

BENGALS: The popular choice here was linebacker Rey Maualuga. He was a second-round pick in 2009, the 38th overall pick in that draft. Injuries have limited his effectiveness, and the move to middle linebacker last season didn't work out as well as originally planned. I'm on the fence whether I totally agree with this selection because Maualuga has been a productive player. He just hasn't been as productive as many projected and it hasn't helped that his other USC teammates, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing, have established themselves as star defensive players. The problem is, there really is no one else to give this label on the Bengals. The obvious choice would've been linebacker Keith Rivers, but he was traded to the Giants this offseason. A case could be made for linebacker Dontay Moch, but he was a third-round pick. I prefer to limit "busts" to the first or second round.

BROWNS: Running back Montario Hardesty was the people's choice, especially after this preseason. It's never a good thing to fumble. Hardesty, a second-round pick in 2010 (59th overall selection), coughed up the ball both times inside the Browns' 22-yard line, setting up easy touchdowns. It's been a rough initiation to the NFL for Hardesty, who missed all of training camp as a rookie with a knee injury and then tore his ACL in the preseason finale. Injuries then forced him to miss six games last season. With Hardesty failing to establish himself, the Browns had to use a first-round pick on running back Trent Richardson just two years after drafting Hardesty. And remember, the Browns gave up picks in the third and fifth rounds to move up in the draft to get Hardesty.

RAVENS: Sergio Kindle is looking like the biggest current bust in the division. There's a good chance that Kindle won't survive the final major cutdown Friday. He's battling Chavis Williams for the eighth linebacker spot. The Ravens were excited about his pass-rush potential when the first-round talent slid to them in the second round of the 2010 draft (43rd overall). Expectations for Kindle changed three months later when he fell down two flights of stairs and fractured his skull. The accident has caused permanent hearing loss in his right ear. It looked like he was headed for a comeback with a hot start to this year's training camp. But a shoulder injury has limited him in practice for most of the past two weeks. The preseason finale is a big game for Kindle.

STEELERS: The overwhelming selection here was linebacker Jason Worilds. He's no Limas Sweed, but he's no where close to being LaMarr Woodley, a linebacker taken in the second round just like Worilds. The transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker hasn't been a smooth one for the 52nd overall pick of the 2010 draft. In seven starts last season, when he filled-in for the Steelers' injured linebackers, Worilds collected 32 tackles and three sacks. That's not horrible. But it wasn't the impact that many expect from a player who was drafted as the eventual replacement for James Harrison. With Worilds missing all of training camp with a wrist injury, there's been more buzz about the play of linebacker Chris Carter, a fifth-round pick in 2011.

Observation deck: Ravens-Lions

August, 17, 2012

If the Ravens secondary wants to reach an elite level, the defensive backs have to hold their own against the top receivers. Baltimore's 27-12 preseason loss to the Lions on Friday night showed once again that the secondary has a lot of room to improve.

The Ravens allowed Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to catch five passes for 111 yards and one touchdown. And that was in less than one full half of work. That comes one week after Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had six catches for 109 yards and one touchdown in a little over one quarter.

Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith, who are battling for a starting job, both took turns getting beat by Johnson. The Ravens' first defensive series of the second quarter began with Johnson running past Williams for a 57-yard catch and ended with Johnson leaping over Jimmy Smith for an 18-yard touchdown. Smith later held Johnson when the receiver went past him on the next drive.

Here are some other thoughts on the Ravens' second preseason game of the year:
  • The Ravens continue to show a new look on offense. Baltimore is opening up the playbook with a no-huddle attack that spreads out defenses with three wide receivers. This is the second straight game for the Ravens' no-huddle offense.
  • Joe Flacco played much better than his statistics indicate. He finished 7-of-12 for 79 yards, but his receivers dropped three passes. With Torrey Smith out with a sprained ankle, Flacco went to LaQuan Williams three times in the red zone and didn't connect one time.
  • Undrafted rookie Justin Tucker continues to outshine Billy Cundiff in the kicker competition. Cundiff converted from 33 and 44 yards, but Tucker drew bigger cheers from the home crowd when he boomed a 50-yarder. Tucker later added a 45-yard field goal. Cundiff, though, had more distance on his kickoffs.
  • The best battle of the night was Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda going against Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. There were many instances when they kept pushing and shoving after the whistle.
  • The Ravens are still telling Bryant McKinnie that he has to earn back his starting job, keeping him on the second team. Baltimore started Michael Oher at left tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele on the right side. Oher hurt one drive when he was called for holding on second-and-goal from the 7-yard line.
  • One of the worst plays in Ravens history has been the end-around to a wide receiver. It never worked with Mark Clayton or Donte Stallworth. But Baltimore finally had success when Jacoby Jones broke free for a 35-yard gain. That's 35 more yards than the Ravens ever gained on that play before.
  • Courtney Upshaw, the team's top pick of the 2012 draft, remained on the second team while Albert McClellan started at outside linebacker. Upshaw didn't help his case with a rookie mistake. The Lions' first drive of the second quarter should have ended with a field goal, but Upshaw was called for offside on third-and-2 from the Baltimore 28-yard line. That led to the Johnson touchdown.
  • It was another frustrating night for Sergio Kindle. His holding penalty negated a 55-yard kickoff return by Deonte Thompson late in the second quarter, and then Kindle left in the third quarter with a left shoulder stinger.
  • It's hard to overlook undrafted rookie safety Omar Brown because he keeps making plays. His fumble recovery in the second half was his fourth turnover (three fumble recoveries and one interception) in two games.
Mel Kiper Jr. is doing his summer audit for every division, and the ESPN draft guru addressed the AFC North on Thursday. You'll need a subscription to read the entire breakdown (which includes names to watch for each team in the 2013 draft), but here's a portion of Kiper's analysis for the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers:


Newcomer to watch: BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't a remarkable upgrade but is certainly a better running back than Cedric Benson, who couldn't turn gaps into big plays. Green-Ellis never puts the ball on the ground, and you can see this offense becoming a mistake-free group as Andy Dalton matures.

Big question: Last season, the Bengals improved on the defensive side of the ball, and I wonder if they are ready to become one of the better defenses in the NFL in 2012. People will look at Cincy and want to see progress from wide receiver A.J. Green as he emerges into a star, more from Dalton as he becomes fully settled and a better run game. But don't be surprised if the best defense in the AFC North isn't from Pittsburgh or Baltimore in 2012.


Newcomer to watch: If right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (second round) adjusts quickly, the offensive line should be a strength. Teams will need to bring numbers against the run, and it'll be up to Weeden to make them pay.

Big question: Greg Little had a pretty solid rookie year, with 61 catches and more than 700 yards, when you consider how average this pass offense was in 2011. The question is whether he and Mohamed Massaquoi are enough for Weeden. If Little doesn't take the next step, wide receiver becomes a big need headed into the 2013 draft.


Newcomer to watch: It wouldn't surprise me if Kelechi Osemele (second round) is starting at guard before long. He played tackle in college, but I've always said he'd be better inside; I think the Ravens feel the same way.

Big question: Can Paul Kruger continue to improve as a pass-rusher? Can Sergio Kindle finally emerge and become the player the Ravens believed they were drafting in 2010?


Newcomer to watch: In drafting David DeCastro, the Steelers have a Steve Hutchinson-like plow at guard. He and Maurkice Pouncey could quickly become the best center-guard tandem in the NFL.

Big question: My question is whether some of the younger personnel [on defense] can make that next step and become dynamic. Lawrence Timmons is already exceptional, but it's time for guys such as Cameron Heyward, Jason Worilds and Steve McLendon to become names.
The Cleveland Browns have a strange history with pectoral muscle injuries (D'Qwell Jackson and Phil Taylor), and the Baltimore Ravens' pass-rushers now have one of their own.

It was reported over the weekend that Michael McAdoo is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, the same injury that has sidelined Terrell Suggs. I considered McAdoo a dark-horse candidate to replace Suggs, but he was either going to be a backup or find his way to injured reserve this year.

This injury has the Ravens crossing their fingers that Paul Kruger can stay healthy (and keep his Achilles intact). Kruger is the one who has been running at Suggs' rush linebacker spot at offseason workouts. (Second-round draft pick Courtney Upshaw has taken Jarret Johnson's outside linebacker job.)

There's going to be a drop-off from Suggs to Kruger. Suggs had a career-high 14 sacks last season, which is 7.5 less than Kruger's career total. But Kruger is clearly the best option. Honestly, he's their only option.

If something were to happen to Kruger, the Ravens would really be hurting now that they're without Suggs and McAdoo. It's difficult to count on anything from Sergio Kindle, the team's top draft pick in 2010 who has played two games since fracturing his skull in an offseason accident. Kindle is still trying to overcome hearing loss in his left ear.

There's really no other outside linebackers on the Ravens' roster with any NFL experience, although Jameel McClain or Albert McClellan could shift out there in a pinch.

As far as McAdoo, he still can have a place on this team in the future. Despite missing his second season with an injury, he is the youngest player on the Ravens' roster at age 21 (he was born in July 1990).

The Ravens likely won't have linebacker Terrell Suggs for the 2012 season after the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year tore his Achilles' tendon, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. One source told Schefter that Suggs suffered the injury playing basketball, but another source wasn't positive that Suggs tore his Achilles tendon that way. Another source told Schefter that Suggs thinks he could be back in October.

However long Suggs is out, it will be a challenge for the Ravens to replace him. He's the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He's been to five Pro Bowls. He's the franchise's leader in sacks (82.5).

While the initial reaction is to say the Ravens' first-round draft pick, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, will step into Suggs' spot, he is the replacement for Jarret Johnson. Upshaw is expected to set the edge against the run.

Here are the top candidates to take over for Suggs:

Paul Kruger: He's been looking for a spot in the starting lineup since he was selected in the second round in 2009. Kruger stepped up in the pass rush last season with a career-high 5.5 sacks. At this point, he would be the leading candidate because of his experience.

Sergio Kindle: The Ravens had high expectations for Kindle when they made him their top pick in the 2010 draft. But he fractured his skull after falling down two flights of stairs before his rookie training camp and he's only played two games since. Teams officials have said it's their "mission" to get Kindle on the field in what will be his first full offseason in the NFL.

Michael McAdoo: He is a raw yet intriguing prospect from North Carolina who was ruled ineligible in 2010 for academic fraud. The Ravens signed him to a deal in August 2011 and kept him on injured reserve as a redshirt season. At 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, he is an athletic and rangy pass-rusher who projects to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. His challenge will be to bulk up.