NFL Nation: Laveranues Coles

Jets at Patriots inactives

December, 6, 2010
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are the inactives for Monday night's game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.

New York Jets
New England Patriots

New York Jets cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of roster moves.

Biggest surprise: The Jets' roster was about as set as you could get heading into training camp. Only a couple reserve roles and special-teams spots were available. So there weren't any surprises, unless you want to count the development from earlier in the week. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens avoided being released by restructuring his contract to remain on the roster behind Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell. That meant the Jets cut Kevin O'Connell, which wasn't a surprise regardless of what Clemens did.

No-brainers: With the Jets keeping two fullbacks (Tony Richardson, John Conner) on the 53-man roster, there was no room for Jason Davis despite a strong summer. Linebacker Brashton Satele never got on the field, resulting in the memorable "Hard Knocks" quote from special teams coach Mike Westhoff: "Let him open up his freakin' pizza shop in the Bronx and leave me alone."

What's next: Aside from convincing cornerback Darrelle Revis to end his holdout and figuring out who they'll dump once receiver Santonio Holmes' four-game suspension is up, there's not much to address. General manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan will comb the waiver wire to see if they can improve the bottom of the roster. They also could bring back receiver Laveranues Coles after the season opener to avoid guaranteeing his salary for the year.

Rex Ryan implores Jets to show leadership

September, 1, 2010
Rex Ryan is the face of the New York Jets and the star of the HBO series "Hard Knocks."

The head coach apparently is wary of not only being in front as a leader, but also alone.

In the latest episode of "Hard Knocks," an exasperated Ryan scolds his team for a growing lack of professionalism and a dearth of demonstrable leadership.

Previous scenes showed offensive coaches bemoaning a lack of confidence, veteran pass-rusher Jason Taylor showing up late multiple times and defensive players groping into a McDonald's bag for cheeseburgers during warmups for a practice at Hofstra University.

Ryan's speech to his players the night before playing the Washington Redskins:
"You guys know me, that I'm about as positive a guy as there is. I believe our team is better than every [expletive] team in the league. I believe our players are better than any players in the league, right? Those are true statements. That's how I believe.

"But the team's only going so far if I'm the only guy that leads. The team is only going so far. I'm not a great leader, OK? I'm not a great leader. I can't lead myself, this whole group of men. We ain't going to win, guys, if it's about me.

"I'm sitting back for us, waiting for us to understand the team that we said we're going to be. What the hell are we waiting on? What are we waiting on? Do you want it or not? Do you understand there's a price to pay?

"Can we have fun? You're damn right. I demand that we have fun. Now there's a difference between having fun and being a jackass. Our defense was a jackass when we went to Hofstra, eating a bunch of [expletive] cheeseburgers before we go stretch and all that. That's being a jackass.

"You can be a world champion, but not like this. We won't win it. We'll sit back and say 'Why didn't we do it?' We didn't do it because 'Where were our [expletive] priorities?' How about our offense? When are we going to put it together? Can we not run the ball down their throats every snap? Can we not throw it any time we want to [expletive] throw it?

"Let's make sure we play like the [expletive] New York Jets and not some slap [expletive] team. That's what I want to see tomorrow. Do we understand what I want to [expletive] see tomorrow?"

Earlier in the show, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer admits his players aren't showing much assertiveness. Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh and running backs coach Anthony Lynn agree.

"We have some really talented guys," Cavanaugh says. "But none of them motivate vocally the group. So they all kind of look to each other like 'Yeah, we're pretty talented. Somebody's going to make a play here,' instead of saying 'I'll take this [expletive] game over.' "

Other highlights on this episode (there's only one more):
  • Nose tackle Kris Jenkins telling the rest of the defense in Washington they needed to force a turnover because Mark Sanchez needed more work.
  • Ryan's man crush on rookie fullback John Conner and the possibility veteran Tony Richardson will be released.
  • A close look at how much rookie left guard Vladimir Ducasse is struggling and concerns that position will get Sanchez hurt.
  • Ryan telling former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden that Santonio Holmes might be the best player on the field.
  • How backup quarterback Kellen Clemens avoided being cut.
  • Releasing receiver Laveranues Coles and reserve quarterback Kevin O'Connell.
  • Flabbergasted general manager Mike Tannenbaum trying to decipher where Tim Cowlishaw's infamous report about Darrelle Revis was coming from.
  • Ryan on the first three games against the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins: "We open the season with three of our toughest games right out of the gate. But the great thing is if we end up kicking ass, that's going to send a frickin' message to the rest of the league. 'Oh, [expletive]!' "
How do you explain signing a major free agent and then cutting him before he plays a game?

In one word: strange.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Bryant
AP Photo/Al BehrmanThe Bengals gambled that Antonio Bryant would recover from his knee injury.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been known to do odd things with personnel over the years. But signing receiver Antonio Bryant to a four-year, $28 million contract in March and releasing him five months later before the regular season is near the top of the list.

There were red flags with this signing from the beginning.

Bryant had offseason knee surgery and never looked right in minicamp. I covered Bryant in 2005 when he played with the Cleveland Browns and remembered thinking at the time that something wasn't right. He didn't look nearly as explosive.

It turns out Bryant's knee never healed properly. The Bengals rested him during a portion of minicamp and were very cautious with him during training camp. Then the organization got eerily quiet when questioned about Bryant's progress -- more red flags -- and the rumors began to swirl.

Cincinnati ended speculation by cutting ties with Bryant on Sunday. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, $8 million of Bryant's contract is guaranteed. Between Bryant and Laveranues Coles, the Bengals have wasted a lot of money at wide receiver. Both signed $28 million contracts and neither lasted more than a year in Cincinnati.

But the Bengals were fortunate in several ways.

First, Cincinnati will not take a salary cap hit because it's an uncapped year. An educated guess is the Bengals may have stuck with Bryant to see how he recovers had there been a stiff cap hit for the life of the contract.

Second, signing Terrell Owens and drafting Jordan Shipley made Bryant expendable. Both receivers have looked superior to what Bryant showed in Cincinnati with a bad knee.

Owens' and Shipley's production will likely make Cincinnati forget about Bryant. But that doesn't make Bryant's signing and quick release this year any less strange.

Jets: Pace to have foot surgery; Coles cut

August, 29, 2010
New York Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace will be out at least as long as the four games he missed last season.

Pace will have foot surgery that will sideline him four to six weeks. He missed the first four games in 2009 because of a suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Jets did all right without Pace. They went 3-1, beating the Houston Texans, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans before losing to the New Orleans Saints.

Vernon Gholston replaced Pace in the starting lineup last season. Pace's proxy this time around will be six-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Jason Taylor.

The Jets' first six opponents this season:
In other Jets news, they released receiver Laveranues Coles and waived receivers Aundrae Allison and Marcus Henry and defensive lineman Rodrique Wright.

Coles is expected to retire. He was brought in to compensate for Santonio Holmes' four-game suspension to start the upcoming season.

Apparently, head coach Rex Ryan couldn't count on Wright after imploring him in last week's "Hard Knocks" episode. Ryan, upon learning defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua had torn his Achilles tendon against the Carolina Panthers, approached Wright on the sideline.

"Hey, you going to make this [expletive] team?" Ryan said to Wright. "This kid just tore his [expletive] Achilles. Or do I need to pick somebody else up?"

Stage set for Mark Sanchez to shine

August, 20, 2010
There are a lot of reasons to love Mark Sanchez, and most of them don't have to do with Sanchez.

So writes John Clayton in his latest column for

Clayton examines the upside for Sanchez with the New York Jets compared to Detroit Lions classmate Matthew Stafford and St. Louis Rams rookie Sam Bradford. Clayton notes "Sanchez might be the least talented of the trio," but predicts he will look far better early in his career because of his situation.

Sanchez, similar to Ben Roethlisberger's arrival to the Pittsburgh Steelers, has an enviable supporting cast. The Jets have an elite offensive line, a talented receiving corps and the top-rated defense from a year ago. As long as Sanchez can stay out of his own way, the Jets should win a lot of games.

Clayton explains his "Theory of 50," a premise that a good offense can add up its number of completions plus rushing attempts and reach 50. A great offense can hit 52. In Sanchez's rookie season, the Jets averaged 51.

A year of maturity plus the additions of receivers Santonio Holmes and Laveranues Coles and LaDainian Tomlinson as a threat out of the backfield (something the Jets didn't have for most of last season when Leon Washington broke his leg) will give Sanchez the chance for a big 2010.

Camp Confidential: New York Jets

August, 18, 2010
PM ET NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 7

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- There's a healthy chance you're already sick of the New York Jets.

You're sick of their loudmouth coach, sick of their hotshot quarterback, sick of their trash-talking defense, sick of their wheeler-dealer general manager, sick of hearing about their HBO series, sick of their delirious fans.

Get used to it all. They're not going away.

Every team wants to kiss the Lombardi Trophy, but the Jets have drawn the disdain of 31 other teams and their fans by being so cocksure about their plans.

Whether the Jets win a championship or crash and burn on their approach, they'll remain the NFL's most fascinating team in 2010. Win or lose, they're going to be a season-long story.

"That's our own expectations," Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said on the first day of training camp at SUNY Cortland. "That's why we feed off of it. It's our own mentality, that Super Bowl-champion mentality. That's what we want, and that's what we're striving for. ... Now, we need to do it every day and prove it."


[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireThe Jets are hoping Mark Sanchez has matured as a quarterback heading into his second season.
1. Can Sanchez handle the pressure? There's a lot of skepticism surrounding the man at the controls. Sanchez threw 20 interceptions last year as a rookie. He fumbled 10 times and lost three of them. He was so befuddled at one point, the Jets had to give him a color-coded wristband to help him comprehend the plays.

The Jets hope he matured considerably over the offseason. To help him along as a passer, they added receivers Santonio Holmes and Laveranues Coles and out-of-the-backfield target LaDainian Tomlinson.

Sanchez still has to make the right calls and decisions. Coaches and teammates note his indefatigable work ethic.

And there's no disputing how impressive he appeared down the 2009 homestretch. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer corralled him in time to salvage the season. Although Sanchez had more than 20 attempts in only three games after Thanksgiving, the Jets won six of those eight outings, two of them on the road in the playoffs.

Sanchez will need to shoulder much more responsibility this year. How he handles being the leading man of a Super Bowl contender will determine the Jets' fate.

2. How will Darrelle Revis' holdout affect the season? There's a belief among the Jets their defense will take care of itself. As nose tackle Kris Jenkins pointed out before training camp began, fans swooned when he suffered a season-ending knee injury six games into last season, but the Jets still finished with the NFL's top-rated total defense, scoring defense and pass defense.

Revis, of course, played an integral part. Maybe the most integral part.

All he did was establish himself as the preeminent shutdown cornerback. Revis was so good at shutting down the other team's top receivers, the Jets never had to worry about double-covering. That, in effect, gave them an extra defender to use however they wanted.

The Jets have cornerback depth to help them cope if Revis holds out into the season. They traded for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a sensational cover corner (though not nearly the run defender Revis is). Dwight Lowery and first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson are capable.

But none of them are as good as Revis is. His return would provide invaluable peace of mind.

[+] EnlargeSantonio Holmes
AP Photo/Bill KostrounSantonio Holmes was just one of the Jets' high-profile offseason acquisitions.
3. Did the Jets ruin a good thing with too many roster moves? The Jets came within a half of the Super Bowl, taking a lead into the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts -- in Lucas Oil Stadium, no less. It was a young team on the make, the type of roster you'd like to keep as intact as possible.

Or so you would think. Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum got rid of a few starters with big voices in the locker room. Gone were the lead running back on the NFL's top ground attack (Thomas Jones), a perennial Pro Bowl left guard (Alan Faneca), a starting safety (Kerry Rhodes) and a respected kicker (Jay Feely).

The Jets made some high-profile acquisitions, too. But perhaps the two biggest moves, Holmes and Cromartie, were poaching other teams' misfits. They also signed Tomlinson and outside linebacker Jason Taylor, classy veterans but with question marks about what they have left.


Other than references to his nickname, not much was written or said about Kentucky fullback John Conner when the Jets drafted him in the fifth round. The Jets had re-signed Tony Richardson for a 17th season, and they wouldn't bring him back if he wasn't going to keep his job, right?

Richardson might be on the bubble. Ryan has been diplomatic in speaking about Richardson's value to the Jets as a locker-room leader, but there's no doubt Ryan loves The Terminator. Conner has been a thumper in camp. Conner will make the team, and keeping two fullbacks is a luxury.


Revis' holdout is a shame on multiple levels. Both sides are standing by principles that are fully understandable. Revis is the NFL's best defender and wants to be paid as such. The Jets, meanwhile, have a signed contract that lasts three more years and refuse to consider as any kind of standard the Oakland Raiders' ridiculous deal with Nnamdi Asomugha, the league's highest-paid cornerback.

Unless they can reach a compromise or the Jets win the Super Bowl without him, both sides will forever regret this dispute. The Jets have a chance to win their first championship in four decades, and Revis might never get this kind of shot to win a title regardless of where he finishes his career.

Vernon Gholston
William Perlman/The Star Ledger/US PresswireNew York is comfortable with Vernon Gholston at defensive end in passing situations.

  • An overlooked roster maneuver that could prove significant is the decision not to bring back trusty long-snapper James Dearth. The Jets brought in youngster Tanner Purdum, who has been inconsistent. Jets kicker Nick Folk doesn't need his rhythm disrupted.
  • I'm not saying Braylon Edwards' problems with drops have been solved, but he displayed great hands in the practices I saw. Maybe receivers coach Henry Ellard has helped him figure it out.
  • Undrafted rookie tight end Jeff Cumberland looks like the total package at times. He's 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at his Illinois pro day. He does make an occasional mental error, but he popped out in team drills.
  • Shonn Greene will have to catch a few passes to keep defenses honest. Greene has terrible hands, something he and Ryan have joked about. But if he's going to be the featured back, he'll need to grab one here or there.
  • I'm hesitant to believe Ryan's glowing comments on Vernon Gholston two training camps in a row, but I will say Gholston seems to have a role he can handle as a defensive end on passing downs. He can just chase the quarterbacks. But after two years at outside linebacker, he is versatile enough to drop into coverage if the Jets want to get tricky.
  • It's fun to listen to backup quarterback Mark Brunell bark out the signals. He's a master of the hard count, a skill Sanchez is trying to learn. When Brunell walks to the line of scrimmage, there's a good chance the equipment managers will commit a false start.
  • Overheard from a fan along the rail at SUNY Cortland: "Check out No. 58 in his sweatpants. You know Shonn Greene's going to run him over. Guy's got no shot." Sweatpants in the sweltering heat aside, Jets fans need to remember No. 58 is starting outside linebacker Bryan Thomas. He swapped out of his usual No. 99 for Taylor.
  • I predict the second-most important defensive acquisition -- behind Cromartie -- won't be Taylor, but safety Brodney Pool. The free-agent pickup from Cleveland is dangerous on a blitz and will get his hands on some passes.
  • The New England Patriots didn't make a mistake when they dumped quarterback Kevin O'Connell last year, 16 months after drafting him in the third round. The Detroit Lions claimed him on waivers and traded him to the Jets. They kept him on the roster as their fourth quarterback. He would appear to be in line for a promotion to third string, but O'Connell has looked no better this summer than he did when he was fresh out of San Diego State.

Report: NFL won't suspend Jets' Edwards

June, 26, 2010
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez should have flashbacks to his NFL debut when they open the upcoming season.

He'll have one of the two high-profile receivers the Jets acquired since then.'s Rich Cimini, citing an unnamed league source, reports Braylon Edwards will not be suspended for that altercation with a LeBron James crony in Cleveland just before the Browns dealt Edwards to the Jets. Cimini added Edwards likely will be only fined and that the development means the Jets probably will lose whatever interest they had in bringing back Laveranues Coles.

The Jets won't have Santonio Holmes for the first four games. The NFL suspended Holmes for violating the substance-abuse policy before the Pittsburgh Steelers traded the 2009 Super Bowl MVP for a fifth-round draft pick.

Had Edwards been suspended, the Jets would have gone into their opener against the Baltimore Ravens on "Monday Night Football" with Jerricho Cotchery as the top target and a mixed bag that includes David Clowney and Brad Smith.
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


Baltimore Ravens' cornerback depth: Baltimore did not address its cornerback situation last week in the draft. The position remains one of the team's biggest question marks. The Ravens have cornerbacks. The problem is two of their top three players at the position, Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington, are coming off major knee surgeries. Will either cornerback be ready for training camp? Will both be healthy enough to play in Week 1? Could they struggle with the injuries throughout the season? It's a process Baltimore has to continue to monitor and eventually decide if it's a worthy investment to sign a veteran. The draft was very deep at cornerback, particularly in the first three rounds. But the Ravens addressed other needs like defensive line, outside linebacker and tight end. According to most draft experts, Baltimore had one of the league's better drafts. But pass defense remains one of the few questions for this otherwise stacked team across the board.


Cincinnati Bengals' passing game: Conscious of its struggles throwing the football at the end of last season, Cincinnati put on the full-court press to improve in that area this offseason. It started with the acquisition of free-agent receiver Antonio Bryant to replace Laveranues Coles. Then the Bengals capped it off with drafting two highly-touted prospects in tight end Jermaine Gresham and receiver Jordan Shipley. Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer should be very happy. He has struggled getting production in the middle of the field since the loss of receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Gresham and Shipley specialize in wreaking havoc over the middle and should open up the entire field for Palmer and No. 1 receiver Chad Ochocinco. In seven years, Palmer has never had a legitimate threat at tight end. But he does now.

So much Jets change has been in the air

April, 12, 2010
In the span of six measly months, the New York Jets' top three receivers went from this:

1. Jerricho Cotchery

2. Chansi Stuckey

3. David Clowney

To this:

1a. Braylon Edwards

1b. Santonio Holmes

3. Cotchery

What an upgrade. The Jets continued their metamorphosis Sunday night, sending a fifth-round draft choice to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Holmes.

In a short time, the Jets went from wondering how their passing game would cope without Laveranues Coles to boasting a crew that features three 1,100-yard receivers.

Go back a year and the Jets' passing game was even more dubious. Brett Favre was gone. Some believed Brett Ratliff had a shot at the job.

Among the receivers, Cotchery had with the highest pedigree. He was a fourth-round draft pick. Stuckey was a seventh-rounder. Clowney was a waiver-wire pickup.

Now the Jets have a pair of first-rounders with some hardware. Edwards, the third overall selection in 2005, is a Pro Bowler. Holmes, the 25th pick in 2006, was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII.

Cotchery is the oldest of the three. He'll turn 28 in June.

Think second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez might be excited about throwing a little more this year?

Sanchez also has tight end Dustin Keller, another first-rounder. The backfield options are LaDainian Tomlinson and Leon Washington, two fellows who can catch.

The Jets had the NFL's top rushing attack last year. Their 37.9 carries per game were 5.1 attempts more than the second team and about 10 more than the league average.

At the league owners meetings last month in Orlando, Fla., Jets coach Rex Ryan said, "We might not run it as much as we did last year, but we’ll be pretty close."

When you consider the talent the Jets continue to assemble, that's getting increasingly harder to believe.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Can new receiver Antonio Bryant jump-start the Cincinnati Bengals' passing game?

This much we know: Bryant is an upgrade over former Bengals receiver Laveranues Coles.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Bryant
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireThe Bengals are banking on Antonio Bryant rebounding from a subpar season in 2009.
But by how much remains an interesting topic of debate.

After recently agreeing to a four-year, $28 million contract, it's clear the Bengals are hoping for the 2008 version of Bryant, who caught 83 passes for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns. The $7 million average per year, which is similar to Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin's contract, only adds to the pressure for Bryant to produce.

But what if Cincinnati gets the 2009 version of Bryant?

Last season Bryant had the franchise tag with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fought through a knee injury and underachieved with 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns. Coles had four more receptions (43) and one more touchdown (five) than Bryant last season and was released by the Bengals.

Bryant has qualities in his game that should help the team. He has pretty good quickness and size, which quarterback Carson Palmer likes, and toughness to go over the middle and make catches in traffic. That element has been missing in Cincinnati since the departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh after the 2008 season.

This will be a new role for Bryant as the No. 2 receiver. The Bengals desperately need a legitimate threat opposite Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco, and Bryant has a solid 15.3 yards per catch average for his career that should strike fear in most defenses.

If Bryant has a bounce-back season in 2010, adding him to the mix and possibly drafting a receiving tight end would give Cincinnati the offensive balance that it needs.

Bengals say no to T.O.

March, 10, 2010
Despite various pleas from Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals went against his advice.

Cincinnati passed over Terrell Owens and signed free agent receiver Antonio Bryant Wednesday to a four-year contract. According to senior writer John Clayton, the deal is worth $28 million, which is very similar to the numbers the Bengals gave Laveranues Coles last season.

Meanwhile, barring an unforeseen spending spree, Owens is out in Cincinnati. It has been speculated for weeks that the Bengals were interested and things reached a climax during this week's visit. Ochocinco also put on a full-fledged recruiting campaign for the Bengals to sign his good friend, but Bengals management didn't take the bait.

Bryant, who turned 29 this week, is seven years younger than Owens and an upgrade over Coles as a No. 2 receiver. Cincinnati now needs to add a play-making tight end and some help on the offensive line for quarterback Carson Palmer. With Cedric Benson running the ball and Ochocinco and Bryant at receiver, this unit should be more balanced next season.

Coles wants to return to Jets

March, 5, 2010
Laveranues Coles wants to finish his career with the New York Jets.

It's an interesting thought. The Jets need help at receiver, and although Coles had a disappointing season with the Cincinnati Bengals, he could be a contributor if he comes at the right price and is willing to be the tertiary option behind Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery.

The Bengals released the 32-year-old Coles on Thursday. He told Newark Star-Ledger reporter Dave Hutchinson the Jets would "be the first team we call to see if they're interested."

The Bengals signed him to a four-year, $28 million contract after he negotiated his way off the Jets' roster -- he forfeited $6 million guaranteed in exchange for his release -- in a search for greener pastures.

He failed to develop chemistry with Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. Coles had 43 receptions for 514 yards and five touchdowns, his worst stats since his rookie season in 2000, when he didn't start a game.

"I didn't fit into the offense at all," Coles told Hutchinson. "Carson wasn't comfortable with me. He likes tall receivers. He told the coaches he wasn’t comfortable throwing to me."

The Buffalo Bills were interested enough in Coles last year to bring him in for a visit before they signed Terrell Owens.

Bengals free-agency notes

March, 4, 2010
The Cincinnati Bengals are making moves before the start of free agency.

First, the team offered six restricted free agents tenders Thursday afternoon. Those players are cornerback David Jones, defensive end Frostee Rucker, guard Evan Mathis and linebackers Brandon Johnson, Rashad Jeanty and Abdul Hodge.

Second, the team terminated the contract of veteran receiver Laveranues Coles, who spent just one season in Cincinnati. The Bengals signed Coles to a $28 million contract in an effort to replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But Coles never was a good fit and will become an unrestricted free agent.

Cincinnati already was in the market for receivers, but look for that to be even more magnified following Coles' departure.

AFC North: Got offense?

February, 25, 2010
Dez Bryant/Jermaine Gresham/Arrelious BennUS Presswire/Icon SMIOffensive weapons like Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham and Illinois' Arrelious Benn could help spice things up in the AFC North.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Three of the NFL's top five defenses were from the AFC North last season. Therefore, don't expect any major turnover defensively from the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

But when it comes to offenses in the division, it's a totally different story.

The AFC North was filled with inconsistencies, weaknesses and limitations on that side of the ball in 2009. Whether it was the offensive line in Pittsburgh, the passing games in Baltimore and Cincinnati or the rotating quarterbacks with the Cleveland Browns, offensive deficiencies prevented each team from getting to the next level.

So look for this usually defense-oriented division to search for the best offensive talent it can find at this week's NFL combine. The AFC North blog teamed up with Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson to examine every team's offensive weakness and preview which college players your favorite teams could be looking at to fill those needs.

Baltimore Ravens

Offensive needs: Wide receiver, tight end

2009 recap: As the season went on, it became obvious that Baltimore's lack of big-play receivers would prevent the team from competing for a championship. There was no way the Ravens could keep up with the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees by running the ball 52 times, which is what Baltimore did to win its opening playoff game. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome admitted that his goal moving forward is to build a team that can win offensive shootouts as well as defensive struggles. So this offseason is mostly about surrounding quarterback Joe Flacco with the proper weapons to make sure he reaches his full potential.

Potential offensive targets: Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn, Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate

Scouts Inc. analysis: "Baltimore needs pass-catchers. I want to see someone who can really get deep, because Flacco has a huge arm. Not only do they need an over-the-middle, move-the-sticks, red zone guy, but they also need somebody who's really going to threaten you deep outside the numbers. Maybe there's a chance that Donte' Stallworth is that guy. That signing could be helpful, but it's not nearly enough. Derrick Mason is not a No. 1 [receiver] anymore. Even if he comes back and everything is gravy with him, he's your move-the-sticks guy. But they need pass-catchers bad. There are a couple of tight ends that are interesting and could be [available] at the end of the first round like Gresham. Aaron Hernandez, he's not really their style. But they can get creative, detach him and use him like a Dallas Clark-type. I also think Arrelious Benn's stock is really going to grow over the next few days at the combine. But I don't know if Baltimore sits in a really good spot to fill their [offensive] needs in terms of value." -- Matt Williamson

Cincinnati Bengals

Offensive needs: Wide receiver, tight end, offensive guard

2009 recap: Last season's division champs were much different offensively from the Bengals in 2005, which was the last time they made the playoffs. Cincinnati ran the football extremely well and finally looked like a true AFC North team. The problem was, when the Bengals had to throw the football, they couldn't do it with any consistency. Receiver Chad Ochocinco had a solid season with 72 receptions for 1,047 yards, but there was a tremendous drop-off after that. No. 2 receiver Laveranues Coles didn't live up to his hefty contract, and the team didn't get much production from its tight ends.

Potential offensive targets: Gresham, Benn, Hernandez, Tate

Scouts Inc. analysis: "I would say the Bengals' biggest need is wideout, because historically they don't use the tight end. They used a high pick on Chase Coffman last year. So maybe their big-picture plan is to incorporate the tight end into their passing game, but they just didn't get the opportunity because their top three guys got hurt. If they can get Gresham and they dedicate themselves to throwing the football to him, that could be great. But considering Ochocinco's age, the uncertainty around Matt Jones and Jerome Simpson hasn't panned out at all, wide receiver would be a great first-round pick for them. Or, they can make a free-agent acquisition." -- Williamson

Cleveland Browns

Offensive needs: Wide receiver, quarterback, tight end, right tackle, right guard

2009 recap: When you're ranked last in the NFL in total offense, there is nowhere to go but up. Besides the left side of the offensive line and fullback, a case can be made that Cleveland needs an upgrade at every offensive position. The Browns couldn't pass all year and struggled running until the second half of the season. That's where new team president Mike Holmgren comes in. He has a tremendous offensive pedigree and led two teams to Super Bowls, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. Offensive options with the No. 7 overall pick are somewhat limited. But with 11 total picks, the Browns have an opportunity to plug a lot of offensive holes.

Potential offensive targets: Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford

Scouts Inc. analysis: "They've got nothing at tight end, and they might have the worst wide receivers in the whole league. I like Mohamed Massaquoi, but I think at best he's going to be a very good No. 2 [receiver]. It would be great for the Browns to get Dez Bryant -- someone who is a stud, someone who is a potential Andre Johnson and someone who can really change the game for them. But that doesn't matter if you don't have a quarterback. That's the biggest issue: What do you do at quarterback and what offense are you going to install? Are you running a West Coast offense? Do you give Brady Quinn a shot for another year? Will you pick up a vet? Those questions are hard to answer from where we sit right now." -- Williamson

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive needs: Offensive tackle, guard, center

2009 recap: Pittsburgh's offense was very good in 2009. They had a 1,000-yard rusher (Rashard Mendenhall), two 1,000-yard receivers (Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes) and a 4,000-yard quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger). But despite the gaudy numbers, the Steelers sputtered in the red zone and averaged only 23 points per game. Pittsburgh needs to get much tougher near the goal line, and it starts up front. The Steelers struggled to get the tough yards because their offensive line is below average and they have no dominant force to run behind when it's time to punch it into the end zone. Although cornerback help is probably the team's biggest need, a dominant offensive tackle or guard wouldn't hurt.

Potential offensive targets: Idaho guard Mike Iupati, Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams, Florida center Maurkice Pouncey

Scouts Inc. analysis: "If you look at their offensive line, there isn't one position that I would say, 'Wow, they are brutal there. Boy, do they need a center, or boy, do they need a tackle.' But if they could get one stud, if they can get one Alan Faneca or Dermontti Dawson and live with the other four, I think their O-line would go from below average to above average. Guys like Willie Colon, Max Starks and Chris Kemoeatu would all of a sudden be a little better. I don't want to see them use a third-round pick on a guard or a center. Either go get the lineman that is a potential Pro Bowler or don't even bother, because I don't think it's going to make that big a difference. There are so many great interior defensive linemen in this division that you can't be average up the middle. You need to be really, really good. Use the first-round pick on a guy like Iupati from Idaho or don't even bother. Just go back with what you have and use your resources somewhere else." -- Williamson


Roster Advisor