AFC North: Suggs package

On the radar: Troy Smith

July, 1, 2010
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

Troy Smith is a perfect example of how quickly things can change in the NFL.

Two years ago, Smith was the favorite to be the starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens. He was within weeks of winning the job before a tonsil infection knocked him out the competition and gift-wrapped it for then-rookie Joe Flacco, who ran with the opportunity.

[+] EnlargeSmith
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireTroy Smith's future in Baltimore remains uncertain.
Two years later, Smith is in limbo and he could be trade bait. He's the projected third quarterback behind Flacco and recent acquisition Marc Bulger heading into training camp.

"It's a part of the game," Smith recently told Mike Duffy of "The situation, there's not much that we as players can do about it."

Smith seems to be taking the high road despite his unsure future with the Ravens. This offseason, his representation made it clear that Smith would like the opportunity to try to earn a starting role elsewhere. He only carried a fifth-round tender but there were no takers.

Now the question is would teams reconsider Smith if there's an injury? Would the Ravens lower their asking price to a sixth- or seventh-rounder in 2011? Or would Baltimore be content to keep Smith around as the emergency quarterback?

Smith's biggest contribution to the team was his ability to run the "Suggs package," which was Baltimore's variation of the Wildcat offense. But as the No. 3 quarterback, Smith by rule could not play unless Flacco is benched or injured for the remainder of the game.

Barring injury, there just isn't much room for Smith to contribute to Baltimore this year. Sure, a team can never have enough quarterbacks with starting experience. The Ravens have four: Flacco, Bulger, Smith and John Beck. But at least one has to go before the Sept. 13 opener against the New York Jets.

That leaves either Smith or Beck as the odd man out, and the trade market for Smith could be the determining factor.

Final Word: AFC North

November, 27, 2009
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:

[+] EnlargeDennis Dixon
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesDennis Dixon will be making his first career start for the Steelers.
Replacing Big Ben: Pittsburgh Steelers second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon will make his first career start Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Dixon has thrown just one career pass in two years, but was thrown into action after Ben Roethlisberger (concussion) was pulled from the starting lineup Saturday morning. This puts a lot of emphasis on the running game and tailback Rashard Mendenhall. The Ravens have only allowed four touchdowns in the past three games and are playing some of their best defense of the season.

Covering kickoffs: The Steelers finally made moves to boost their fledgling kickoff coverage by signing cornerback Corey Ivy and linebacker Rocky Boiman. Both players could make an impact Sunday on a unit that’s allowed four returns for a touchdown this season and two in the past two weeks. Both players are veterans and have a wealth of special teams' experience. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin also added he will not be afraid to use more starters on his kickoff team as well.

Where is the Suggs package? In the midst of Baltimore's recent struggles in the red zone, perhaps the biggest offensive mystery is the disappearance of the "Suggs package." Baltimore's variation of the Wildcat offense, led by backup Troy Smith, worked very well last year as a changeup to its power running game. It was also used as a form of protection for then-rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. But since Flacco's development in Year 2, the Ravens have virtually moved away from the innovative package and stuck to their conventional offense. Now that Baltimore is struggling to score touchdowns, it may be time for the team to dig back into its bag of tricks.

Quinn tries to do it again: Was last week's performance for Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn the start of something special or merely a farce? We will find out this week when Quinn and the Browns take on the first-place Cincinnati Bengals. Quinn had a career-best performance in a loss to the Detroit Lions, throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns. He did a lot of nice things, but it came against a Lions defense that has allowed more than 29 points per game. Cincinnati's defense is a much stiffer test.

Bengals need to make statement: With their long history of losing, it was evident after last week's 20-17 loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders that the Bengals (7-3) are still learning how to be winners. This is the best team Cincinnati has had in a while. Yet, the Bengals are not good enough to completely sleepwalk against an inferior opponent and still pull out a win on the road. Cincinnati needs to make a statement against Cleveland, another inferior opponent, that it will no longer play down to its competition in order to be taken seriously as a title contender. The Browns, who lost in overtime, almost upset the Bengals earlier this season in Cleveland.