NFL Nation: Brandon Thompson

The Film Don't Lie: Bengals

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Cincinnati Bengals must fix:

It's starting to reach broken-record status on this one, but the most glaring issue the Bengals continue to have is the one pertaining to a lackluster rush defense. Ahead of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Bengals must finally start addressing the problems they have had stopping opposing ball carriers. It would be beyond troubling if this trend continues against the NFL's 25th-ranked rushing offense.

In the past five games, in particular, the Bengals have had trouble keeping opposing teams to under 100 yards rushing. The Ravens kept that streak alive when they collected 107 yards on the ground in Cincinnati's 27-24 win. The two-man tandem of Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro sparked Baltimore's productive day on the ground. Forsett rushed 17 times for 68 yards. Taliaferro had only 27 yards on seven carries, but he had a pair of rushing touchdowns near the Bengals' goal line. Twice he sprinted through holes barely touched for easy 8- and 10-yard scores.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cincinnati is tied with five teams for the third-highest number of rushing touchdowns allowed this season at eight. All eight of the rushing scores the Bengals have allowed have come inside the red zone. Only the Falcons, at 13, have allowed more rushing scores inside their own 20.

Since their Week 3 win against Tennessee, the Bengals have allowed an average of 158.8 yards per game on the ground. Across that same stretch, the league has allowed an average of 110.3 yards per game.

Perhaps the Bengals will get a break this week, though. They should get one of their top run-stopping defensive linemen back when reserve tackle Brandon Thompson returns from a knee injury that has kept him out since Week 2. The Bengals also are facing a Jaguars offense that, paced by Denard Robinson, is averaging just 97.3 yards per game on the ground entering this week's game. Again, if the Bengals struggle with them, it could be a sign that their rushing defense has very grave issues.
CINCINNATI -- With their Sunday night game at New England looming, the Cincinnati Bengals returned to practice Monday afternoon and did so at near-full capacity.

Only three players not on injury lists -- linebacker Vontaze Burfict, defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler -- did not practice. Everyone else participated in the workout in some capacity. It's unclear who was limited and who participated fully since the team wasn't required to submit an official injury report.

The Bengals normally stay off the practice field Monday and use the day for film review, but last week's bye gave them an opportunity to go outside a little earlier in the week than normal. The NFL still won't require them to submit an injury report until Wednesday.

Burfict, Thompson and Zeitler each missed the Bengals' Week 3 game against the Titans. The week before, Burfict had suffered his second concussion in two games. Thompson had been run from the Bengals' Week 2 win against the Falcons with a knee injury, and Zeitler picked up a calf injury in the same game.

Those three weren't at practice during the 30 minutes media were permitted to watch, but receiver Marvin Jones and defensive end Margus Hunt were among those who were. Jones was working out for only the second time since breaking his foot in the preseason. He practiced last Tuesday in the lone workout of the week. Hunt was banged up in the Week 3 game, but appears likely to participate in Week 5.

Along with those two, running back Rex Burkhead and linebacker Sean Porter also practiced for only the second time since the preseason. Burkhead said Monday that he wasn't sure what his exact role would be in the running back rotation as a reserve behind Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

"Whatever role the coaches want me to have and whatever they want to use me for, I'm up for that," Burkhead said. "Whatever way I can get out on the field."
It's been written about often since Halloween night 2013, and a few more tomes on the subject are sure to come between now and the Cincinnati Bengals' Sept. 7 season opener at Baltimore.

[+] EnlargeAtkins
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe impact of Geno Atkins' injury last season could be felt in the yards-per-carry average allowed by the Bengals without him.
Still, it is worthwhile to continue pointing out just how much the Bengals missed defensive tackle Geno Atkins after he tore his ACL during a Thursday night game at Miami. It's important because when he comes back, his presence alone ought to provide a much-needed jolt to the defensive line's interior this season.

His recovery from that injury is progressing and has the Bengals hoping he'll be ready long before the opener.

As we look briefly at the impact Atkins' injury had last season, let's bring up the Friday factoid: 4.3.

Whenever Atkins was off the field last season -- both pre- and post-injury -- the Bengals allowed opposing offenses 4.3 yards per carry, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's a high pace that exceeded the NFL's combined rushing average for the year of 4.17 yards per carry.

What makes the 4.3 figure even more alarming is the fact that Cincinnati gave up just 3.7 yards per rush when Atkins was on the field in 2013. That's a difference of 0.6 yards when he was in a game compared to when he wasn't. That might not sound like a lot, but add up all the yards the Bengals gave up when Atkins wasn't playing and you can see the impact.

You don't even have to do that, though. Just take a look at the Bengals' rush defense numbers from before his injury and after it.

Only three times in the eight games before Atkins' injury did the Bengals allow 90 or more rushing yards. Including the game Atkins was hurt, the Bengals allowed teams to gain 90 or more rushing yards six times in nine games (including the playoff loss) following his ACL tear.

Before Atkins went down, the Bengals allowed 90-plus yards vs. the Packers (182) , the Bills (130) and the Jets (93). After Atkins' injury, Cincinnati's defense allowed 90-plus rushing totals of 157 (at Miami), 102 (Cleveland), 91 (at San Diego), 106 (at Pittsburgh), 115 (Minnesota) and 196 (San Diego, wild-card playoff game). In fairness, the Cleveland and Minnesota rushing totals also came in blowouts in which the Bengals had sizable second-half leads. Some of their second-team units were playing late in those games.

The playoff game against San Diego was the game in which Atkins' absence was most exploited. The Chargers not only ran to a season-high 196 yards, but did so by continuing to run up the middle into the spaces Atkins likely would have been occupying.

It should be noted that even though Atkins' replacements, Brandon Thompson and Devon Still, weren't able to hold their own as well as Atkins could, they still did something right. The Bengals did, after all, rank fifth in the league in rushing defense and third in total defense, allowing just 1,544 yards on the ground. With that in mind, imagine if Atkins had played the whole season healthy. Just how good might that rushing and total defense have been?

Those possibilities are what the Bengals are hoping to see when a healthy Atkins returns this season.
CINCINNATI -- Aside from the one or two random shouts of anger that arose from one particular corner of the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room late Thursday night, quiet conversations and hush-toned interviews dominated the sound levels inside the space.

The Bengals were looking for answers and searching for direction mere minutes after returning to their cramped Sun Life Stadium quarters from a 22-20 overtime loss to the Dolphins. The heartbreak didn't end there. As reporters began hopping between interview subjects, news began spreading throughout the room that yet another key defender was being lost for the season. Preliminary tests had showed that All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins had torn an ACL in the game.

Hours later, back home, those fears were confirmed when an MRI came back positive.

[+] EnlargeCincinnati's Marvin Lewis
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsMarvin Lewis is confident the Bengals can keep winning despite their injury woes.
In the days after Atkins' season-ending injury was revealed, coach Marvin Lewis felt his team needed a lift. He believed it needed some kind of pep-talk and pick-me-up that might let all involved know that everything was going to be OK.

So he did a little research.

"I explained, I showed our guys that if you look at the last four or five Super Bowl champions and the amount of people that went on IR, they've overcomed it," Lewis said. "If you go all the way back to 2009 with the New Orleans Saints, and you go each year, you look at those teams, and those teams put double-digit numbers of players on injured reserve."

He's right. The research and math adds up.

Last season, the Baltimore Ravens had 13 players on IR entering their Super Bowl showdown with the San Francisco 49ers. The New York Giants had 11 before winning the Lombardi Trophy the year before. A year before that, the Packers had 14 on IR. And in 2009, the Saints had 16 on IR when they beat the Colts.

Lewis' message to his team: injured teams can be winners, too.

With Atkins' addition to the IR, the Bengals now have eight players unable to compete the rest of the season. He joined cornerback Leon Hall, defensive back Taylor Mays and defensive end Robert Geathers as key contributors who have been added to the list since the season began. In the preseason, linebackers Sean Porter, Brandon Joiner and Emmanuel Lamur were placed on IR, along with defensive tackle Larry Black, the Cincinnati native whose ankle injury was chronicled on HBO's "Hard Knocks." Black was trying to make the team, and had begun really catching the coaches' attention just prior to the injury.

It is Lewis' opinion that with each of those Super Bowl-winning teams, it was the intangibles that eventually surfaced and helped carry those talented groups all the way to their respective championships.

"Their leadership of the team, the maturity of the team, it all plays out," Lewis said. "The playmakers of the team have to step up and win, and the coaching of the team."

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, whose unit has been hit hardest by these injuries -- each of the players on IR are defensive players, and another two, linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive tackle Devon Still, are still battling through injuries that will have caused them to miss significant time once they return -- had a similar message this week.

"We've got competitors that like to compete," Zimmer said. "So they don't want me to say, 'We can't win now because we don't have Geno, and Leon, and this guy.' They don't want to hear that. Imagine if I walked in that room and said that to these guys. 'Oh no, we can't win now. What are we going to do?'"

If Zimmer had relayed such sentiments to them, some Bengals say they would have simply ignored him. One of them, defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, believes he and the rest of a now more inexperienced defensive line can only remain focused on trying to win games.

As badly as Thompson feels for his friend and mentor Atkins, he knows he has a real opportunity to make a name for himself and to keep this top-10-ranked defense on track.

"Injuries are a part of the game," Thompson said. "We lost one of our best defensive tackles, but we've got to push forward and keep doing what we're doing, which is come out there every day and work hard, and be the best team we can be."

Along with Thompson, the Bengals' new Atkins-less pass rush will feature a rotation that eventually includes second-year players Still and Kheeston Randall. Still said Wednesday that he was rehabbing from an elbow injury that arose in the win at Detroit three games ago, but was hopeful that after this week he'll be close to full strength. With Still continuing to work through his injury, the Bengals signed Randall to the 53-man roster Tuesday in an effort to shore up depth on the line.

As odd as it might seem, the Bengals really are motivated by the bevy of injuries that have ransacked their roster. Just as Lewis believes his team can live up to its lofty expectations and obtain the greatness that he believes still exists, the players themselves view the hurt-filled past few weeks as motivation, too.

"Geno and Robert, those are our brothers," Thompson said. "We grind with those boys every day. We spend more time with them than their own families do. So we grow a bond, and seeing those guys go out, it makes us want to work harder and become better for those guys. We're ready for this."
CINCINNATI -- OK, so technically the season's midpoint was last week for the Cincinnati Bengals, but considering how jam-packed the week was with the Thursday night game, and that most of the NFL is hitting the halfway mark this week, we decided to look at how the Bengals have progressed so far.

Be on the lookout for more midseason analysis throughout the day on all the ESPN NFL Nation blogs.

Cincinnati kicked off the second half of its season at Miami last Thursday with a 22-20 overtime loss that also saw it lose arguably its best defensive player. Without defensive tackle Geno Atkins out, Brandon Thompson becomes the next man up and takes on a role similar to what Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Wallace Gilberry took on when Leon Hall and Robert Geathers went down, respectively.

[+] EnlargeGeno Atkins
AP Photo/Scott BoehmThe loss of Geno Atkins will change the way offenses attack the Bengals the rest of the season.
The bevy of injuries that have hit the Bengals are among the first-half storylines that will spill over into the second half. How they handle those losses could have an affect on how the remainder of the season goes. The injuries aren't their only questions, though. As they continue the season with this weekend's game at Baltimore, here are a few others to keep in mind:

1. How possible is a 5-2 finish over the final seven games? This is a tough question to answer because, obviously, anything can and will happen down the stretch of any season. Through their first eight games, the Bengals were a play or two away from being 4-4 or even 7-1. Instead, they were 6-2 and still put the entire league on notice. Expectations were high in the preseason, and for the most part, the Bengals matched them with an impressive first half that included a four-game winning streak. Last week's loss to the Dolphins brought Cincinnati back down to earth a bit. But with games against the struggling Steelers, Ravens and Vikings coming up, the Bengals have opportunities to post another winning mark across the final seven games. With a bye the week before they travel to San Diego, they should be rested enough to handle that challenging cross-country trip. If they win that one, beat the Vikings, split the remaining two games against Steelers and Browns, and win both games against the Ravens, they will get to five wins. A sixth could come when they host the Colts on Dec. 8. A win in that game certainly could create momentum as the Bengals make their final playoff push. A 5-2 mark is a very strong possibility.

2. How might injuries frame the rest of the season? The absence of Atkins, Hall, Geathers, safety Taylor Mays and linebacker Rey Maualuga -- for possibly another two weeks -- could be the difference between wins or losses the rest of the way. Without Atkins on the defensive line, offensive lines likely will scrap their double-team plans and start going man-to-man when blocking the Bengals' four-man front. As a result, there could be more bodies to pick up blitzing defenders, meaning the Bengals might have to temper some of their blitzing plans. The lack of the Pro Bowl pass-rusher could lead to an adverse domino affect for the rest of the team.

3. How will Giovani Bernard be used in the second half? Calls have been coming all season for Bernard to be given more touches. They still are. Even though his snap counts have mostly stabilized since Week 2 -- he's had fewer than 30 in only three games since -- there still is a belief that the rookie running back needs to be an even bigger part of the offense. Should the Bengals listen to those calls? Probably not. As much as many of you may want Bernard to have 20 carries and 10 receptions a game, it's not going to happen. He averaged 9.0 rushes per game and 3.3 receptions after nine games. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis also at tailback and the slew of playmakers at receiver and tight end, there really is no need for Bernard, particularly in his first year, to carry the offense to that extreme. It'll be interesting to see if a rib injury suffered last week causes the Bengals to back off using Bernard as much.

4. Will A.J. Green lead the NFL in receiving? That would be a no. But it's not a firm no. After sneaking into the top 5 of the receiving charts after a couple of comparatively quiet games in the first half, Green currently ranks first in receiving with 862 yards. That's 39 more than the No. 2 receiver, Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson. Detroit's Calvin Johnson ranks third with 821 yards. Keep in mind, Green has already played in nine games. Johnson, in addition to missing one game because of injury, is coming off his team's bye. So Johnson will have eight games in order to pass Green. Still, as long as he doesn't drop passes, the Bengals' big target will continue to rack up the yards as defenses start having to respect the rest of Cincinnati's pass-catching standouts like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert and Andrew Hawkins.

5. Why should we believe in Andy Dalton? We'll be answering this question in a host of ways down the stretch, but for now, Dalton deserves a measure of belief because he hasn't been all bad this season. Of course, he hasn't been all good, either. As long as he doesn't start making bad games like his 206-yard showing against Cleveland the norm, the Bengals have to believe he can help them rally through the final few games of the season. They have no choice. If they have any plans of going 5-2, 6-1 or even 4-3 in these seven games, they will need Dalton to play the best ball he has played his entire career. Then, they'll need him to be even better in the postseason as he tries to earn his first playoff win. Watch how he comes out against Baltimore this weekend. If he plays worthy of a QBR as low as last week's 13.5, then the belief has good reason to fade. It's all about consistency for him.

CINCINNATI -- The glass door opened. When it did, a new phase of Geno Atkins' football-playing life began.

Whether his Cincinnati Bengals teammates knew it or not, at the very same time, a new era started for them, too -- particularly for those who occupy a now suddenly thin defensive line.

With a backpack strapped around his shoulders, a pair of metal crutches tucked underneath his armpits and a massive tape job that stretched the length of his right leg and was covered by a bulky plastic brace, Atkins ever-so-gently tiptoed through the doorway, smiling and nodding hello to a nearby observer.

Just before his exit from the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium locker room Friday, the defensive tackle had just been given news he and others around the organization were dreading. Yet, there he was, smiling. It was the kind of smile that said, "I'm not worried, I'll beat this. Everything is going to be just fine. It'll only be a matter of time until I'm back."

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsGeno Atkins' participation in practice had the Bengals pumped on Wednesday.
It wasn't the kind of smile you'd expect to see from a 25-year-old who had just been told he had suffered an ACL tear in Cincinnati's overtime loss Thursday at Miami and was being put on the shelf for the rest of the season, slated for return as early as next summer. There was good reason for him to feel crestfallen and to look that way, too. He was stepping into an uncertain realm, unsure if he will return from the knee injury the same player, a better player or a worse one.

Similarly, the Bengals defensive line's overall future isn't very clear, either.

Without Atkins, Cincinnati's hope for interior-line success now rests squarely on the shoulders of veteran Domata Peko and reserve Brandon Thompson. When Devon Still returns from an elbow injury, he will add depth at the tackle positions, too. It's still unclear when Still will be able to return from the injury that sidelined him at Detroit three games ago, but according to coach Marvin Lewis, that day could come sooner rather than later.

"Devon is well on his way to progressing back," Lewis said during his news conference Friday. He didn't want to say whether he thought Still would be healthy enough to play at Baltimore next weekend.

When Still gets back in the mix, the Bengals will be incorporating an interior front that will feature a heavy rotation of the two young linemen. Both Still and Thompson are in their second seasons and are still growing in the Bengals' aggressive system. If one of them or Peko goes down, the once-deep defensive-tackle pool turns into really slim pickings. If that happens, it could cause Wallace Gilberry to shift away from his defensive-end duties and slide into tackle responsibilities.

It might take quite the domino fall for that final scenario to occur, but it's a possibility. Gilberry has rotated into tackle responsibilities at times as he helps give a new look, and some depth, to the Bengals' style of play on the inside.

Another reason Atkins' departure has some uncertainty attached to it is because the Bengals still aren't yet sure if they are going to go out and add a defensive tackle or two in free agency to fill the 300-pound player's spot. If a move comes, it likely would come by Monday, or some other day next week. Whenever it happens, it should correspond with the announcement of the Bengals formally placing Atkins on the injured-reserve list. It doesn't appear that will come this weekend.

"We came in heavy and now we'll be thin," Lewis said about his line. "We'll have to look at some kind of adjustment."

One defensive lineman whose spot Cincinnati never did fill was end Robert Geathers. He suffered an elbow injury during Week 2 and was immediately placed on IR. With a strong, deep stable of defensive linemen, the Bengals didn't think they needed to get another at the time. They had other positions that needed shoring up first.

When Atkins does eventually join the IR list, he will become the fourth Bengals player to end up on it this regular season. Along with Geathers, cornerback Leon Hall and defensive back Taylor Mays are already there.

Absent Atkins, a potential run-stopper who has a knack for getting into the backfield on passing downs, the Bengals will go through a bit of uncertainty across the next two weeks as they begin transitioning to this new post-Atkins defense. Will the rest of the interior line share the optimism Atkins appeared to have as he started walking with crutches Friday? Or will Atkins' previous successes prove to be too much for the rest of the line to live up to?

Just as Atkins hobbles through the door and makes his exit, the Bengals are hoping others step up quickly and make their own entrances.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who is one potential breakout player for each AFC North team in 2013?

Baltimore Ravens: Kelechi Osemele. It can be argued that Osemele did, in fact, break out at the end of his rookie season. And it could be argued that the Ravens’ shuffling of their offensive line -- moving Osemele to left guard from right tackle, Michael Oher from left tackle to right tackle and inserting Bryant McKinnie at left tackle -- was the single biggest reason for their spectacular Super Bowl run. But while the argument holds true that Osemele excelled at left guard, I believe he is just scratching the surface and will become a Pro Bowl-caliber player and one of the elite guards in the game. Still new to the position, Osemele is a massive human being with extremely long arms and huge, powerful hands. But unlike some offensive tackles who move inside, leverage and pad level is not a problem for this extremely talented young man.

Cincinnati Bengals: Mohamed Sanu. There wasn’t a Bengals player who jumped up as a breakout candidate, unlike with the other three teams. That isn’t to suggest that Cincinnati has drafted poorly. I view young players Kevin Zeitler and Vontaze Burfict as already having broken out. Last year’s first-round pick, Dre Kirkpatrick, certainly is a candidate, but we haven’t seen enough at the NFL level to judge him. The same is true for Devon Still and Brandon Thompson. That left receivers Sanu and Marvin Jones, who logged about double the snaps as Sanu in 2012. Either could develop into a quality second option opposite the great A.J. Green, but Sanu is the better prospect in my opinion. While he isn’t a perimeter burner like Green, he is a sure-handed, big-bodied wideout who fits well with Andy Dalton, who gets the ball out quickly and allows his receivers to perform after the catch. Like the defensive players mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of film of Sanu to go off. He caught just 16 passes before a Week 12 foot injury ended his rookie season, but he should be penciled in as a starter and see plenty of favorable matchups.

Cleveland Browns: Jordan Cameron. There were easier choices for the Browns than Cameron, namely on the offensive side of the ball, from their impressive rookie class from a year ago. Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and even Mitchell Schwartz all have extremely promising young careers after impressing as rookies. I expect all three to drastically improve and for Richardson to be one of the top running backs in the league in 2013. But I went with Cameron, a relatively unknown tight end, because of his abilities, the coaching and a major increase of snaps. Cameron is the typical athletic former basketball player with the long frame to really excel against safety and linebacker coverage. But why do I really expect this breakout? Look no further than Cleveland’s new head coach, Rob Chudzinski. Going back to his days as the tight ends coach at the University of Miami, Chudzinski has a spectacular track record for developing great talent into great production at this position. Cameron is his latest project; expect it to go very well.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cortez Allen. Recent first-round selections David DeCastro and Cameron Heyward crossed my mind for this honor, but I went with Allen over those linemen. Allen fits the mold of what Pittsburgh does at cornerback to a T. On a regular basis, the Steelers draft big, developmental cornerbacks in the middle rounds. Those players tend to have nondescript rookie seasons while making their bones on special teams and learning “The Steeler Way” in Dick LeBeau’s defense. In Year 2, these cornerbacks often take a step forward, playing in sub packages and filling in for injured starters. And if that development goes well, as it did for last year’s starting cornerbacks, Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, they take over a starting position. It’s Allen’s turn to do exactly that. The Steelers allowed Lewis to leave for New Orleans, showing they have all the faith in the world in Allen. They did sign William Gay -- another corner they once drafted and who fits this mold -- but Gay is a depth player who is obviously familiar with the system and franchise. Allen gets the opportunity to step up. Expect big things.
The best way to follow the draft is ESPN's DraftTracker. Here's a sampling of that in an AFC North roundup of the second and third rounds:


Second round: 53. DT Devon Still, Penn State. DraftTracker: The Bengals like to use a deep DL rotation and they prefer to attack the QB without a lot of blitzes, although they will as necessary. The thing that makes Still unique is the fact that he has some good inside penetrating skills that can disrupt a quarterback.

Third round: 83. WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers. DraftTracker: Their need is for a No. 2 guy outside. They have some decent slot candidates for their No. 3 receiver, but that's where Sanu may actually fit. He can also help them on third down and in the red zone.

Third round: 93. DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson. DraftTracker: The Bengals continue to build the inside of this defense with two defensive tackles and they already have decent starters. They now have the luxury of having an excellent inside rotation with Thompson as a strong inside penetrator.


Second round: 37. OT Mitchell Schwartz, California. DraftTracker: Schwartz is a big, physical guy who will likely step in immediately as a starter at right tackle to pair with Joe Thomas. He will be a better run blocker than pass protector.

Third round: 87. DT John Hughes, Cincinnati. DraftTracker: This was a bad run defense a year ago and they were not physical enough inside in their 4-3 scheme. Hughes is a power-type guy who should be able to clog the middle and give them a little better inside rotation than most people realize.


Second round: 35. OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama. DraftTracker: He is the perfect fit for Baltimore's aggressive 3-4 aggressive defense. He should be excellent off the edge as a pass-rusher and run defender.

Second round: 60. OT Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State. DraftTracker: This offensive line is in a little bit of a transition phase at LOG, where the Ravens lost a good player in Ben Grubbs in free agency. They thought about moving one of their OTs inside to fill the hole, but Osemele takes away that need. He will be expected to step right in at LOG and become an immediate starter.

Third round: 84. RB Bernard Pierce, Temple. DraftTracker: His main role appears to be to give Ray Rice some carries off and not make Rice carry the entire load. Pierce has good size and should be a nice complementary two-down back but don't expect much out of him in the passing game.


Second round: 56. OT Mike Adams, Ohio State. DraftTracker: He is a big, gifted athlete. You would think they could move Gilbert back to ROT and insert Adams at LOT.

Third round: 86. OLB Sean Spence, Miami. DraftTracker: With James Farrior gone, they really need to develop the depth inside. Their young guys right now are mostly on special teams. With Lawrence Timmons able to play inside or outside, Spence is an inside guy that might be able to play all three downs and contribute in pass situations.