Big decisions looming on roster spots

August, 29, 2008
8/29/08
3:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

 
 Frank Victores/US PRESSWIRE
 Rudi Johnson believes the Bengals are shopping him around the league.

Now that the preseason is officially over, all 32 NFL teams will huddle in their respective war rooms and make major decisions before Saturday's cut deadline and next week's season openers.

Let's look at four major questions in the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens: Should Joe Flacco be the starter?

The Ravens may not have a choice in the matter. Kyle Boller (shoulder) is not healthy and Troy Smith (viral infection) continues to be bedridden. If Smith doesn't perk up in the next week or so, Flacco will be under center Sept. 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He has shown gradual improvement in the preseason but not enough to where the Ravens are confident in making him the unquestionable starter of this team. It should be an interesting eight or nine days in Baltimore.

Cincinnati Bengals: Should they trade Rudi Johnson?

The Bengals are denying trade reports, yet Johnson himself is convinced he's being shopped. The fact that he didn't play in the preseason finale Thursday night certainly is reason to side with Johnson on this one. Cincinnati may not find a viable suitor to give them a quality receiver, so it might be a moot point. Even if Johnson isn't the starter, it's still risky to count on Chris Perry for a full season based on his injury history. So keeping Johnson might not be a bad idea.

Cleveland Browns: Will the offense click?

Derek Anderson is a rhythm quarterback. He can either get very hot or very cold. Not playing in two preseason games due to a concussion likely will hurt his timing when he returns, and the Browns need him at the top of his game to beat the Dallas Cowboys in week one. The offense as a whole has been off with tailback Jamal Lewis (hamstring) and receiver Braylon Edwards (foot) missing significant time this preseason. It will be interesting to see if the offense can suddenly pick up where it left off last season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Should they keep four quarterbacks?

This is a tough one. Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and rookie Dennis Dixon will all make the 53-man roster. But what about Charlie Batch? The longtime backup is recovering from a broken collarbone and reports out of Pittsburgh indicate he should be ready by mid-to-late September. Pittsburgh could keep four quarterbacks on the roster and just leave Batch idle for a few weeks, or put him on the physically unable to perform list until mid-October. Although the PUP designation may give him more time than he probably needs, there's nothing wrong with being extra cautious. Plus, the Steelers could use that extra roster spot to help a position of bigger need.

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