Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: AFC North

Best player available analysis by Sean McCormick
Remainder of Four Downs by Ryan Wilson

(Ed. note: For the next round of Four Downs, we're pleased to present Sean McCormick's "Best Player Available" analysis for each division, along with the usual gang commenting on other moves by each team before and since the draft. The reasoning behind BPA analysis is explained in this article. Each player drafted is listed along with his position on four different independent draft boards and the Best Player Available according to each of those boards. Please note that two of these boards only ranked 100 players.)

Baltimore Ravens

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
12 DT Haloti Ngata 8, 8, 9, 11 DT Haloti Ngata (2), DT Broderick Bunkley, OT Winston Justice
56 C Chris Chester 79, 81, 111, UR DB Richard Marshall (2), OT Eric Winston, DB Ashton Youboty
87 DB David Pittman 87, 116, UR, UR G Max Jean-Gilles, DT Gabe Watson, DB Ko Simpson, DB Ashton Youboty
111 WR Demetrius Williams 50, 53, 58, 59 WR Demetrius Williams, DT Gabe Watson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
132 RB P.J. Daniels 196, 223, UR, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
146 DB Dawan Landry 187, 270, UR, UR DT Babtunde Oshinowo (2), DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson
166 TE Quinn Sypneiwski UR, UR, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson
203 P Sam Koch UR, UR, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
208 DB Derrick Martin 87, 96, 137, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
219 DE Ryan LaCasse 186, 233, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall

The good news is that Baltimore got their man when they traded up a spot to nab mammoth Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The bad news is that they gave their division rival a draft pick for no reason whatsoever. The Ravens essentially bid against themselves for Ngata's services -- if Cleveland had truly been interested, it's doubtful they would have moved down for a sixth-round pick -- but at the end of the day, Baltimore was able to address their need for an interior presence with one of the best players on the board. Ngata's new job is to do everything possible to keep Ray Lewis clean and free to chase the ballcarrier: take on opposing offensive linemen, do the Lewis family dry cleaning, vacuum his carpets, whatever.

General manager Ozzie Newsome was able to find good value throughout the draft. In addition to Ngata, who was considered a minor steal on all four boards, the Ravens also did well with wide receiver Demetrius Williams, cornerback Derrick Martin and defensive end Ryan LaCasse. Newsome has had a blind spot when it comes to identifying receivers, but he may have found a good one in Williams, whose speed and hands made him a standout at the Senior Bowl. Williams graded out as one of the best picks in the fourth round. Derrick Martin has the size and speed teams are looking for at the corner position, but he would have been better off returning to Wyoming for his senior season, as his technique needs work. Seventh-rounders are expendable, so Martin won't have much margin for error in training camp.

Ryan LaCasse is too small to stay at defensive end, so the team will try him out at weakside linebacker. Baltimore has also moved last year's second round pick Dan Cody to the weak side, which suggests that they are looking to generate pass rush from the position. LaCasse has good upfield speed, but it's not clear he has the necessary athleticism to drop into coverage.

Recent Free Agent News

Since the last edition of the AFC North Four Downs the Ravens have signed veteran punter Leo Araguz to compete for the starting job now that Dave Zastudil is in Cleveland, added depth in the secondary with CB Corey Ivy, and inked the former Pro Bowl special teams standout, defensive end/linebacker Gary Stills.

The big free agent signing -- the one the Ravens are still hoping to make -- involves Steve McNair. Last week an arbitrator ruled that the Titans, McNair's current employer, couldn't change the locks on him to keep him from showing up for work. According to the Tennessean, McNair was scheduled to make $9 million in base salary in 2006, but the Titans, who have some salary cap issues, offered a reworked deal that totaled $5.5 million. The Ravens, currently playing the role of the bridesmaid, already have a five-year deal on the table that would pay McNair $12 million next season.

Tennessee contends that they are very interested in bringing McNair back for 2006, but if actions speak louder than words, McNair will open the season in purple and black, much to the delight of everyone in Baltimore except Kyle Boller.

(Ed. note: Of course, the Ravens and Titans finally completed their trade on Wednesday.)

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

With the quarterback position currently in flux, UCLA standout Drew Olson is currently listed third on the depth chart after Boller and Brian St. Pierre. During his senior season, Olson finished third in the nation in passing efficiency, threw 34 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He's a solid pocket passer but struggles when he is forced to make throws on the run ... Iowa's Ed Hinkel was one of the best possession receivers in college football but he was released after he failed his physical due to a broken arm suffered during the 2005 college season ... Currently Baltimore has very little depth in the secondary -- especially at safety -- but the team only signed one defensive back in the post-draft scramble, and that was cornerback Ronnie Prude.

Cincinnati Bengals

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
24 DB Johnathan Joseph 23, 24, 29, 30 OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams
55 OT Andrew Whitworth 50, 65, 65, UR DB Richard Marshall (2), OT Eric Winston, DB Ashton Youboty
91 DE Frostee Rucker 173, 246, UR, UR G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
123 DT Domata Peko UR, UR, UR, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
157 LB A.J. Nicholson 152, 220, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson
193 QB Reggie McNeal 154, 167, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
209 WR Ethan Kilmer UR, UR, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
231 WR Bennie Brazell UR, UR, UR, UR DB Dee Webb (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall

Cincinnati has built a division champion primarily on the strength of its first day drafting, but it is unclear if this year's haul is going to provide the same kind of impact. In the first round, the Bengals jumped into the run on cornerbacks, tacking South Carolina cover man Johnathan Joseph. The Gamecocks have been something of a cornerback factory recently, turning out both Dunta Robinson and Sheldon Brown, and Joseph's skill set compares favorably with those players. He is very raw, however -- Joseph came out early after only one season as a starter -- and the learning curve for the position is a steep one. In the second round, Cincinnati took the quick-rising Andrew Whitworth as insurance against the potential departure of longtime right tackle Willie Anderson after this season. Whitworth is not a good athlete, but he's a mountain of a man and he excelled in the rugged SEC. As with the Joseph selection, Whitworth was decent value but not the best player on the board, or even the best player at his position. Cornerback and offensive tackle were two areas where good talent slipped during the first day, and a combination of Winston Justice and Richard Marshall or Jimmy Williams and Eric Winston would have graded out substantially higher than the players the Bengals ended up with.

Things went quickly downhill after the first two picks. Defensive end Frostee Rucker might be popular at the local Wendy's, but none of the boards thought he was worth more than a sixth-round pick; Cincinnati grabbed him at the end of the first day. Three of the Bengals' five picks on day two didn't merit a grade on a single draft board. Linebacker A.J. Nicholson had major character concerns heading into the draft, concerns that his recent arrest on burglary and vandalism charges did nothing to alleviate. Reggie McNeal, the player who draft guru Corey Chavous quixotically insisted was the best quarterback in the draft throughout the NFL Network's television coverage, was the only one of Cincinnati's second-day picks to be considered a steal on two boards, and he's a candidate for a position change. The Bengals envision McNeal as an Antwaan Randle El type, and they'll be working him primarily at receiver.

Recent Free Agent News

Chad Johnson's getting some new gold fronts. The Bengals restructured his contract -- giving him an extra $10 million over the next year -- and Johnson will now be in Cincinnati through 2011.

Less publicized but almost as important as the Johnson deal, Cincinnati also re-signed guard Bobbie Williams. The Bengals' offensive line was one of the best in the league last season (they were fourth in Adjusted Line Yards and second in pass protection) and the front office also hopes to re-sign two other important contributors, each entering the last year of their respective contracts: tackle Levi Jones and guard Eric Steinbach.

In other news, the team made Jeremi Johnson the highest paid fullback in the league when they restructured his deal in April. The Bengals also replaced quarterback fourth quarterback Craig Krenzel with Dave Ragone and signed Anthony Wright to serve as Carson Palmer's backup, with Doug Johnson third on the depth chart.

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

Erik Meyer (Eastern Washington) adds more depth at quarterback and is a good scrambler, but he needs to work on his mechanics ... Eric Henderson registered 25 sacks at Georgia Tech and could add depth at defensive end ... Despite losing Matt Schobel to the Eagles, the Bengals have already released the three tight ends they signed as free agents: Greg Estandia, Ryan Hamby and Bristol Olomua.

Cleveland Browns

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
13 DE Kamerion Wimbley 13, 15, 21, 21 DT Broderick Bunkley (3), OT Winston Justice
34 LB D'Qwell Jackson 35, 41, 41, 79 OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams
78 WR Travis Wilson 57, 68, 76, 77 G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
110 LB Leon Williams 120, 158, UR, UR WR Demetrius Williams, DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
112 OT Isaac Sowells 118, 124, UR, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
145 RB Jerome Harrison 70, 125, 138, UR  DT Babatunde Oshinowo (2), DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson
152 DB DeMario Minter 54, 81, 101, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (2), DB DeMario Minter, DE Mark Anderson
180 RB Lawrence Vickers 162, 196, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), RB Andre Hall
181 DT Babatunde Oshinowo 49, 71, 72, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), RB Andre Hall
222 DB Justin Hamilton UR, UR, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall

Cleveland fans who watched in horror as former coach Butch Davis give away a second-round pick so he could move up one spot in the draft and select Kellen Winslow II shed tears of joy when they saw the Browns trade down a spot in this year's draft. It's not that the Browns made out like bandits; they only nabbed a sixth-round pick for their troubles. But getting an extra pick, any extra pick, while still drafting the player they wanted all along has to qualify as a tremendous success considering the team's appalling recent draft history.

The additions of Willie McGinest and Ted Washington in the offseason gave the team some flexibility as they continued the switch to a 3-4 defense. Broderick Bunkley carried the highest grade on three boards, but in the end general manager Phil Savage decided (correctly) that the supply of pass rushers would dry up before the supply of linemen, so he opted for fellow Seminole Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley is explosive off the edge, and he has the necessary athleticism to play in space. He's already penciled in to start opposite McGinest. Cleveland added two interior linebackers as well, drafting D'Qwell Jackson and Leon Williams. Opinions ranged on Jackson, who was productive at Maryland but is extremely undersized for a 3-4 inside linebacker, and Williams was generally considered an underachiever at Miami.

While Cleveland didn't get exceptional value out of their linebacker selections, they did superbly just about everywhere else. Travis Wilson didn't have a big senior season due to the unsettled quarterback situation at Oklahoma, but he's a big, rangy target who runs crisp routes, and he was excellent value in the middle of the third round. Scatback Jerome Harrison and fullback Lawrence Vickers were well regarded on most of the boards, and each has a good chance to make the team. From a value standpoint, Savage's two best picks were Georgia cornerback DeMario Minter and Stanford defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo. Minter has some character red flags stemming from a drug arrest his freshman season, but there's no questioning his measureables or his production. Minter has good size and an excellent closing burst, and he is solid in run support. Oshinowo was even more of a bargain, as he was considered a second- or third-round pick on three of the boards. Oshinowo isn't a playmaker, but he is able to consistently hold his ground and tie up blockers. The fact that Cleveland was able to land such a promising nose tackle prospect in the sixth-round makes their decision to pass on top end linemen like Bunkley and Haloti Ngata seem very sound.

(Ed. note: From an intelligence and personality standpoint, I thought Oshinowo was the most impressive interview I sat in on when Michael David Smith and I were at the combine in Indy. The guy actually used his last year of eligibility on classes toward a Masters in electrical engineering. When you get to the NFL, where every single player is physically talented, intelligence can definitely make a difference. I know some people thought he was out of shape at the combine, and he's entirely built for absorbing blockers in a 3-4 defense rather than making plays in a 4-3, but people will be kicking themselves in a couple years.)

Recent Free Agent News

After a flurry of activity early in the free agency signing period (LeCharles Bentley, Kevin Shaffer, Ted Washington, Willie McGinest), things have been pretty quiet at Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio. Prior to the draft the Browns traded safety Chris Crocker to the Falcons for a fourth-round pick that was eventually used to take offensive lineman Isaac Sowells.

Tight end Aaron Shea signed with the Chargers, and Cleveland signed Darnell Dinkins, formerly of the Ravens, to add depth behind Kellen Winslow.

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

Running back Chris Barclay (Wake Forest) only weighs 175 pounds but was the 2005 ACC Player of the Year and scored 40 touchdowns during his career ... Quarterback Darrell Hackney (UAB) is 6'0'', 240 pounds, but finished his career as the school's all-time passing leader (9,886 yards) with 71 touchdowns and 33 interceptions ... Wide receiver Steve Sanders (Bowling Green) is a long shot to make the team, but if football doesn't work out he can devote his full attention to running the Peach Pit After Dark.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pick Players Player Rankings Best Player Available
25 WR Santonio Holmes 19, 24, 25, 33 OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams
83 DB Anthony Smith 75, 82, UR, UR G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
95 WR Willie Reid 129, 232, UR, UR G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
131 G Willie Colon 208, UR, UR, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DB Ko Simpson, DE Mark Anderson, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
133 DT Orien Harris 67, 93, 104, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DB Ko Simpson, DE Mark Anderson, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
164 QB Omar Jacobs 160, 164, UR, UR DT Babtunde Oshinowo (3), RB Andre Hall
167 TE Charles Davis 216, UR, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), RB Andre Hall
201 C Marvin Phillips 205, 227, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
240 RB Cedric Humes 158, 198, UR, UR RB Andre Hall (2), DB Anwar Phillips (2)

Pittsburgh has been bleeding away talent at the receiver position for the last two seasons, so the team made a major move to restock, trading up seven spots to land Ohio State speedster Santonio Holmes. Three of the draft boards agree that the Steelers got Holmes at the proper point in the draft, but all four boards had him as the second-rated receiver behind Chad Jackson, who would have been available for Pittsburgh if they had stayed put. Instead they traded away third- and fourth-round draft picks for Holmes. While the price seems high, Holmes does fit the offense well. Pittsburgh uses their second receiver as a vertical threat to open up room for Hines Ward to work underneath, and Holmes has both the acceleration to run past cornerbacks and the hands to make tough catches down the field. While the Steelers hope they found their Plaxico Burress replacement with Holmes, they also went looking for a replacement for Antwaan Randle El, drafting Florida State's Willie Reid in the third round. Reid is a bit undersized to play on the outside, but he has an ideal skill set for a slot receiver. Reid may not see the field regularly with the offensive unit, but look for him to contribute right away as a return man.

The Steelers lost depth at safety, quarterback, running back, and defensive line during the off-season, and they used the draft to replenish each of those positions, beginning with their selection of Syracuse safety Anthony Smith in the third round. While Troy Palomalu has the strong safety spot locked down until further notice, the team needs free safeties who can cover, and Smith's forte is pass defense. Orien Harris was an undersized defensive tackle at Miami, but in the Steelers' 3-4 defense he will play right end. One of the attractive things about playing a 3-4 is that it allows teams to draft 'tweener prospects who don't fit in a conventional 4-3 scheme, and Pittsburgh is hoping that Harris will be able to develop as a run-stuffing end who can still provide some inside pass rush. In the sixth round, the Steelers finally put an end to Omar Jacobs's catastrophic slide. Jacobs had no business opting to leave early for the draft after a lackluster junior season, and his footwork and throwing technique will need major work. It will be up to quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple to get Jacobs acquainted with the fundamentals of the position in time to replace fading veteran Charlie Batch as the backup quarterback. Cedric Humes was a bargain at the back end of the draft, and he fills the team's need for a short-yardage back in the post-Jerome Bettis era. What is notable about each pick is that while they were clearly addressing team needs, they were doing so with tremendous value, as all four players were considered minor to major steals on at least two boards. That's how you restock your roster.

Recent Free Agent News

Pittsburgh re-signed almost all of their free agents before the draft, with Antwaan Randle El, Kimo von Oelhoffen and Chris Hope being the notable exceptions. Linebacker James Harrison also earned a new deal and adds depth at both linebacker positions. Defensive lineman Rodney Bailey returns to the team after spending one season in New England and another in Seattle.

Last year, undrafted free agent rookie wide receiver Nate Washington so impressed the coaches that he made the team out of training camp at the expense of fourth-rounder Fred Gibson. Washington only caught one pass all season, but could emerge as the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver when training camp breaks. Not bad for a Tiffin University alum who, prior to the 2005 draft, ranked as the 145th best college wideout in the country (out of 201).

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

Defensive end/linebacker Mike Kudla (Ohio State) has a very good chance to make the team as a linebacker. You might remember Kudla as the guy who bench pressed 225 pounds a mind-boggling 45 times at the NFL Combine ... Defensive end Lee Vickers (North Alabama) is listed at 6'6", 285 pounds and runs the forty in 4.57 seconds. He could make the team as the special teams wedge buster as he learns the defensive end position in the Steelers' 3-4 alignment ... Just in case Brown alum Sean Morey doesn't make the team again, Pittsburgh also signed Princeton tight end Jonathan Dekker to improve the odds of an Ivy Leaguer on the 53-man roster.


82 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2006, 2:52am

1 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

"In the sixth round, the Steelers finally put an end to Omar Jacobs’s catastrophic slide...all four players were considered minor to major steals on at least two boards."

This makes me wonder if the board projections listed for Jacobs are accurate. Getting picked at 164 after being projected at 160/164/UR/UR is neither a catastrophic slide nor a steal on two boards.

2 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

So when IS the book coming out? Amazon still says August 1.

3 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

RE 3

I heard that FO was hoping to have it ready to go by the middle of July. But with shipping I probably will not see my copy until Aug 1st.

4 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

That's what I heard too.

So on a side note, apparently every team with a pick after round 5 didn't pick the best player (Anwar Phillips). I think that this throws off the article a little bit.

5 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

to replace fading veteran Charlie Batch

Batch fading? Why he looked bigger than ever on my TV screen.

6 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Well, good news for the book then - PFT is reporting that McNair has in fact been shipped to Baltimore for a 4th rounder.

7 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

But the other thing that the article should look at is that half of the teams in this division were sucessful this past year. one has about another year of rebuilding/retooling under thier new head coach. and the other one well.... they have won the superbowl once in this new century. but that aside I think that in the lower rounds that HC's and GM's may fall of the BPA theory a little bit and start looking for people that can fill roster spots and provide some depth for thier veterans in certain positions.

8 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Getting picked at 164 after being projected at 160/164/UR/UR is neither a catastrophic slide nor a steal on two boards.

I don't think they meant a slide compared to his board value. I think they meant a slide compared to his self-perceived value. Note the next sentence - "Jacobs had no business...". I'm sure to him as he was watching the draft, he was thinking "why did I go out for the draft again?"

Then again, he did get drafted (better than Marcus Vick) so maybe it was worth it to him.

9 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

RE 6

So is Jay Glazer for fox sports. the trade is a 4th round on condition that McNair passes a physical for the ravens.

10 Re: Four Downs: AFC North is reporting that McNair has been traded toBaltimore pending his passing a physical.

11 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

The Ravens are to be congratulated for having the patience to wait this out and still get the vet QB they wanted. With Boller at QB the Ravens didn't seem particularly threatening. Now they have to be considered a legit contender in a very tough division.

12 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Thank you, Ravens and Titans. I thank you on behalf of myself, Ryan and Ned who didn't want to re-write whole chapters, the Workman editors, and the layout guys.

13 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Re: #11

Agreed. I really don't like the Ravens, but they showed a great deal of patience and prudence, not giving in to the Titans' demands for a higher pick. They got the QB they wanted at the price they wanted, so nice job.

And, assuming McNair can stay on the field throughout the season, I think the Ravens just became a legit contender for the division title.

14 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Sorry for the double post, but I just thought of the add-on comment: the Titans probably just dropped out of the running for this year's AFC South title. So that division will probably come down to IND and JAX.

15 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Why stop at division title for the Ravens? With Jamal Lewis having a normal offseason working out as opposed to being in jail, McNair coming in and reuniting with Mason, and a healthy Heap, they have a very good offense. Then if Ngata can do his job and let Ray Lewis make plays, plus Ed Reed making plays in the secondary, Baltimore is a very intriguing team to watch this season.

16 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

errrr... RE #14, I think it was probably always sorta between Indy and injuries. Kinda theirs to win, you know?

17 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Kachunk, as a practical matter, you're probably right.

My point was: with Steve McNair in a Titans' uni, the AFC South looked like a 3-horse race (with IND being the obvious, odds-on favorite), at least nominally. But with McNair in BAL, one of those horses just pulled up lame.

18 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

RE 17

what have you no faith in the almighty QB Vince Young?

19 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Re-#15...I think your getting a little carried away, although they will be better for sure,the only way the ravens even make it to the playoffs is if they beat out cincy for the wildcard...Ray's problem wasn't having to deal w/ to many blockers, it was the fact that he got older real fast and lost more than a step. Pittsburgh is a more complete team this year than last and the only thing that would keep the division title from them is Ben getting hurt and missing a substantial amount of time

20 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Re 19...that or the Bengals. If Palmer's doing well they're every bit as good as the Steelers. In fact they match up well, given the strength of their secondary, and the fact that it looks like Pittsburgh is going more pass oriented this year.

If McNair performs well, then the AFC North has just become a very strong division.

21 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

re 17 and 18:

Billy Volek has proven himself every time McNair has been injured. Volek is a capable starter and it is time he got his chance. Vince Young won't start this year. If FIscher gets his way, he won't even take a snap.

22 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Brandon Jacobs did nothing wrong in coming out for this draft. He had a crew of Senior OL & WR's graduating and he would've most likely been picked in the same round or lower next season. Pittsburgh won't really be much more pass oriented this year (53% Run 47% pass my guess). What they're attempting to do is open games more aggressively with the pass, build a lead and run out the clock. An example of this philosophy is the '98 Denver Bronco's. Also, Pitt's games last year were very much balanced until they built a lead and then they sat on it. They're also going to incorporate the no-huddle for portions of games. Not like Indy and Cincy (at least not to start with) but more of a thing to jump start the offense. Mularkey did this in '02 with Maddox at QB when the O was in a slump as well as on the road. You'll notice that when your the road team and you go no huddle the home crowd isn't as much of a factor as they can't sustain the noise consistently.

24 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Sorry, but I am in a nitpicking mood...the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Andrew Whitworth in the second round, not Andre Whitworth.

25 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

props to brad for sharing menaingful non-statistical insight. usually the meaningful info on this sight is in the form of better/new stats.

26 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

RE 21

but it may not be up to Jeff Fischer. I can't recall how much they paid for Steve McNair when the first got him, but the owner probably just shelled out a crapload of money for VY. I just think that both Fischer and Chow will be hogtied and forced to play VY at some point this year. The way that people above Fischer handled the McNair issue just leads me to belive that the Titans are in for some rough years ahead.

But I will give props to both Fischer and to McNair about being men about the whole stupid situation and not making any TO like comments.

27 Re: Four Downs: AFC North


That was suppposed to be, "I can't recall how much they paid Steve McNair when the Team first aquired him

Sorry about that

28 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

So mcnair is on the ravens
which means they will be in the afc championship game for sure

New Orleans(reggie bush)vs Dallas (owens)

Baltimore(mcnair) vs oakland (moss)

the championship games are pretty much set

29 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Is there some sarcasm there that I'm missing? O.o

30 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

I'm just annoyed that this guy isn't named "Bob" or something.

31 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

To say that the Ravens will now have a good offense and be division, and or (hand over ears), super bowl contenders, is whacked.
Their offense has been terrible forever. They won the super bowl with a much better, much younger defense than they have today. If they do get better on offense then it will take them at least half the season to get it going. I would love to say that Cinci's defense, because of their additions, is going to be good enough to get to the super bowl but they have been sub-standard for so long that it would be extemely foolish to do so. So it goes with these Ravens.

32 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

re 20, the secondary of the bengals are only a strength if they dont have to tackle anybody. in fact with the games I watched last year that seems about true with anyone on the bengals defense not named odell. ( i give madieu williams (sp?) a pass as he was hurt)

33 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

oh and seriously, does anyone think that mcnair wont be injured by week six?

34 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

oh and seriously, does anyone think that mcnair wont be injured by week six?


It's not like McNair has a history of being injured for entire seasons, like Rex Grossman.

35 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

""the secondary of the bengals are only a strength if they dont have to tackle anybody.""
You probably didn't know it but Deltha was the ONLY Cb in the league last year that didn't give up a pass longer than 20 yards. With Adams keeping bodies off of Odell, look for Odell to put up Ray Lewis numbers and for Pollack to put up Terrell Suggs type of numbers. All in all I think the Bengals defense is going to be a top 10 defense and with a healthy Palmer...
The Ravens are still respectable, but they are also old and fading..

36 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Oh, look, more GIGO. Thought it's nice to see some other people are beginning to question the "wisdom" of the draft boards used to bash the clubs in light what all 32 clubs did, versus some hack who can't get/keep a job in the NFL.

37 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

If McNair actually played the entire season, I think the Ravens would have a legit shot at 10-6, maybe 11-5, assuming a reasonable amount of health. It wouldn't be a reach to suppose they could beat the Steelers once, the Bengals once and the Browns twice, and go 6-4 or 7-3 against everyone else.

Look at their competition for a moment. Setting aside the Browns, who are a year away, the Steelers and Bengals are returning substantially the same teams they fielded last year.

The Bengals defense still seems... well, not bad, but flawed. They'll still be trying to outscore you, and they'll still succeed more often than not.

With a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are the best team in the league, but without him, they're merely good. If he plays all year, the division belongs to the Steelers, but he seems to have a propensity for getting nicked up.

The Ravens should be in the mix, but what they really need to have a playoff opportunity is for Roethlisberger or Palmer to miss a big chunk of time with injury, plus for McNair to play all or most of the season.

And this is obviously about the Ravens last chance, as they certainly are an aging team. Two years is about all they have to make a run.

38 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

oh and seriously, does anyone think that mcnair wont be injured by week six?
If the Ravens are smart, they will injure him in training camp, keep him in the starting lineup, and watch as he gets a co-MVP trophy.

39 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

As a Ravens fan I want to believe they'll be a legitimate contender this year, but as a realist I have to admit I'm pretty skeptical. The defense is probably alright. They lost a lot of depth on the line through free agent losses, but Halota will probably be a big improvement, and Dan Cody could be very good (missed all last year with injury). The secondary is VERY thin, especially at safety.
The offensive line is aging, slow, and very poor at pass protection, sweeps, and screen plays. Without a good offensive line, I doubt the offense will function very well.
The Steelers are still formidable, and very likely make the playoffs either as division winner or wild card. The Bengals have a dangerous offense, but with their collection of criminals and turds perhaps reaching a critical mass, it wouldn't shock me to see them fall back to the pack this season. (I know, I know, the Ravens have hardly been pure in this regard. I'm not trying to start a gratuitous fight on this point. But I think a lot of knowledgable observers are expressing the same concern about the Bengals. Just read PFT for instance. Written by a Steelers fan, I think, but Florio seems pretty knowledgable and objective as an analyst.)
The Browns still have to show me they're ready for prime time. Still predicting them for 4th place in the division, but it wouldn't shock me to see them make a great leap forward either this year or next.

40 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

It's also worthwhile to note that the Bengals' defencive stats last year are a bit skewed due to the insane number of INTs they snagged, largely against bad teams. I don't think they did a great (but they didn't do a terrible) job of addressing their D through the draft. I like the addition of von Oelhoffen, but I don't think they're going to do as well as they did last year, this year.

41 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

I like the [Bengals'] addition of von Oelhoffen, but I don’t think they’re going to do as well as they did last year, this year.

Unless there's been a deal with the Jets, Kimo is with Jersey/B, not Cincinnati.

42 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

#41: Thanks, I'm tired and somehow got "injuring your star player" confused with "signing on for the next season." Go Jersey/B. Or something.

43 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Disclaimer: I am a bengals fan. Bengals didn't sign Von Oelhoffen, rather Sam Adams. Their D should actually improve I think for a number of reasons. One, their best defensive player, MWilliams, played very little last year plus they went through many strong safeties due to injury last year as well. I cant count how many times I hollered at the TV due to missed tackles by Ohalete (sp?) The Bengals signed Jackson from Tampa to play strong and Williams is reportedly healthy. This should be a big boost to the secondary. Secondly, both Thurman and Pollack played quite a bit as rookies and will likely be better simply from gaining experience last year. Thirdly, if Adams can stay healthy for 20 or so snaps a game, it becomes tougher to run on the Bengals, which has definitely been their achilles...

Regarding the Steelers, they are the class of the division as much as I hate to write it.

The Browns are better, and in the NFC might actually be a fringe playoff team, but in the AFC North, they are not quite there.

About the Ravens. McNair makes them better, but their biggest problem I thought the past few years was the o-line. Lewis won't return to form not because he has aged (although maybe partly so) but because the line is no longer that good. McNair will make the passing game better at times, but he is no longer mobile enough or young enough to keep it rolling enough and or to stay healthy. I see the offense putting together a good series or two, and thing a bad series or two.

I'd have to guess at this point that the Browns look like the 4th place team, the Ravens 3rd, and the Bengals/Steelers fighting it out and the winner being the one that stays the healthiest during the year. Given the questions around Palmer's knee, I'd have to give the edge to the Steelers at the moment...

Just my two cents...

44 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

42 hey there was, at least, lots of speculation of von oelhoffen going to the bengals as a fa this year.

Also Im sorry Carson. The Steelers and Bengals for the forseeable future shall be good highly even games. But you are never going to get it to rival the steelers-ravens.

45 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

#44: Indeed. However, I'm a PIT fan and should not let even fatigue make me forget the fate of Dark Lord von Oelhoffen.

46 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

#44. All of that speculation was just that, speculation. Bengals fans would never forgive the team if they brought Kimo von Wilkes Booth back to Cincinnati.

47 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

#46: Funny, if I recall correctly, the OL whose fault it was is still around. Or do we only blame convenient people? ;P

48 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

I would love to agree with you about the bengals D. In many ways I do agree. The additions that you noted will all help, especially Madieu Williams, but until they can get their defense to perform at a top 10 or even 15 level they will continue to be a hopefull playoff team with no real shot at advancing very far.

49 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

All right.

I think the bengals are going to win this division.

Carson Palmer is well on schedule with his knee and is already throwing passes and running lightly.

Chad Johnson is an AMAZING receiver and Rudi Johnson has had 1400 yards the past two seasons.

The steelers lost a lot with the leaving of Jerome Bettis and Randle El, and Kimo Von oelhofenlenhonfenfelen, plus chris hope.

the browns added a lot of defense over the off season (keyword defense, however their offense is pathetic.

And the ravens, suck. Mcnair isnt as good as he used to be. HES INJURY PRONE. Their defense might be okay, but thats it.

50 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Chad Johnson is an amazing receiver. Except against the Steelers. Then he disappears.

The steelers lost a lot with the leaving of Jerome Bettis and Randle El, and Kimo Von oelhofenlenhonfenfelen, plus chris hope.

All of these players were replaced, and in some cases, likely upgraded. The only significant loss, in my opinion, would be Bettis' emotion. And that's just an intangible aspect that may or may not actually have any importance.

51 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

As in almost every football game ever played, the final outcome between the Bengals and the Steelers (lets face it, although the Browns may be better they aren't a contender and the Ravens have this year, and this year only and they still don't have enough) will come down to the offensive and defensive line's. The Steelers have a clear edge defensively and and the Bengals have the edge on offense. Therein lies the outcome.

52 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Oh, and one more thing about the Ravens. I think that they are actually taking a step backward with the signing of McNair. He can't have much left and they will soon be in the position of having to revamp the core of both their offense and defense at the same time.

53 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

McNair is definitely not a step backwards. A bent stick might be a step forward from the Kyle Boller we saw playing in games that actually mattered. Beyond that, McNair will bring authority and credibility (a.k.a. "leadership") to the huddle -- receivers will probably lay out for a pass from McNair more often than they would for one from Boller, and when he tells them something, they will listen.

Will he stay healthy all season? I doubt it. Will he play through some injuries anyway? Of course.

They probably overpaid, and he probably won't last as long as they want, and he probably won't improve the offense as much as they think, but there will be some improvement.

54 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Here's what I don't get. The illustrious Steve McNair, who may or may not be on his last legs, is supposed to take a team that went 6-10 last year and according to some is now going to single-handedly hoist the Ravens on his back, carrying them to a 10-6 or 11-5 record in one of the toughest divisions in football. Our proof? Well, let's look at his win-loss record from last year: 4-10. Not exactly the stuff of single-handed hoisting. So if he couldn't pull the Titans on his coattails last year, how is he supposed to take a marginally better team and be the primary force in turning them around?

55 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

It's all part of the annual overrating of the Ravens' talent. It happened last year, too.

The fact is, the Ravens are a mediocre team. They're good enough to beat most of the bad teams, and good enough to steal a win here or there against a better team, if the circumstances are right. But that's it. Even with Steve McNair, they are still a 6-9 win team.

56 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

The outcome of this division hinges on Carson Palmer's health. If he is healthy and plays 10+ games the Bengals should repeat as division champs. If not, they will need some luck to make the playoffs. They have a tough schedule to start with games against playoff hopefuls (KC, Balt., Atl.) and proven winners (N.E., Pitt, Carolina, Tampa Bay). They close out against Indy, Denver, and Pittsburgh. I take it back. Palmer needs to be healthy and one of the top 3 QBs in the league for the Bengals to advance. I don't know if that is the toughest schedule in the league, but it has to be up there.

57 Re: Four Downs: AFC North







58 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

#57: Check Caplock!

Unfortunately, it likely will continue to be the Steelers and the Bengals for the foreseeable future in the AFC North with the Browns potentially giving everyone fits over the next year or two... until they stabilize/upgrade their QB situation.

Despite the addition of Steve McNair, it's hard to see the Ravens doing better than 9 or 10 wins this season. The only "good news" is that if Kyle Boller were running the offense, the Ravens would probably have only a 3 or 4 win season.... and good is in quotes because it would be terribly embarassing for the team. But, if they did have a really poor season, they would:

a.) fire Billick (not saying he's a bad coach... just seems that the players have stopped responding to him)
b.) start the inevitable cap purge a year early... which not only changes expectations, it also provides an opportunity to get rid of some folks who haven't been performing well, who are expensive, and who provide "chemistry problems".
c.) have a shot at another early round QB.


59 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

57: I almost thought you were serious. The 50 years gave it away -- if you'd put 20, this post would have been an actual rebuttal, which would just be silly.

60 Re: Four Downs: AFC North


Primary answer: Heath Miller. Plus anyone else you can free up because after those two double coverages, you only have seven defenders.

61 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Truce, guys:

ESPNRadio is reporting that Ben Roethlisberger crashed his motorcycle on the 2nd Avenue Bridge (?) in Pittsburgh. He was not wearing a helmet, and has reportedly been taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital.

He needs a major dose of prayers and luck if this is true. This Raven fan is hoping he gets all he needs.

62 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

#61: Yeah, the 10th St. Bridge right by 2nd Avenue. Apparently he went over his handlebars and head-first into the car's windshield.

63 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Primary reports seem to indicate that Roeth was proceeding through a green light when an elderly woman pulled out in front of him. The severity of the injuries is unclear, except for that they are "non-life-threatening," but he definitely suffered some sort of head/scalp injury and was bleeding (as scalp cuts are wont to do.)

Sorry if this ends up being a double-post. Something is up with the server.

64 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

YESSSSSSSSSS big ben goes down

Great for the Ravens, we are excited in Baltimore

66 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

In all seriousness, Roethlisberger's injury cooks the Steelers (assuming it keeps him off the field for awhile), which does leave the door open for the Ravens if McNair can stay out of the trainer's room.

67 Re: Four Downs: AFC North


I'd disagree with a fair bit of this characterization.

1. McNair doesn't have to carry the Ravens singlehandedly. Their defense was 7th in DVOA last year.

2. I don't think it's fair to say the Ravens were only marginally better than the Titans (discountining the QB position). While the Ravens were #7 in defensive DVOA, the Titans were #30. But QB performance was essentially the reverse of this (McNair was #13 while Boller was 27).

I think the questions/concerns about the Ravens OL are reasonable. But even with that, I think QB play in the top 40% combined with defensive play in the top 25% is enough to merit playoff aspirations.

68 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

no robo-punter discussions..afc north you let me down.

69 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Re: 64
As a Ravens fan, I have to say this comment is sick. It's a freaking game.

70 Re: Four Downs: AFC North


Carson Palmer is going to recover, Big Ben is not. He is going to get released and signed by the Seahawks who will then use him as a back up to Matt Hasslebeck and use him in games only in goal line situations of two yards or less for the TD, so then he can dive it in, and convince the officials it was a touchdown. After 2 seasons, they will release Matt Hasslebeck who will then work for Visa, in promotion of their new NO HASSLEbeck credit card. Ben Roethlisburger will then be released two seasons later for being a Jew. He will then sue the NFL, and the 23 jewish players in the nfl (22 of them are 5th string punters) will go on strike, and burn down tagliabooboo's house.


71 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

64, I hope that in real life you aren't nearly as much of an asshole as that comment makes you look.

72 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

70 (Stephen Yang), how will the Steelers get rid of Roethlisberger? He signed a 6 year, $40 million dollar contract. Are you aware of the cap hit Pittsburgh would take if they released or traded him? Judging from your ALL CAPS POST BEFORE, I seriously doubt that the economics of the NFL is a topic you are informed about.

Ben's head injuries were severe, but there were no internal injuries. And with regards to his knees, he didn't damage anything internally there, either. There was talk of him being ready for the season.

They are joking here in Chicago that Roethlisberger will play more games than Grossman this year.

Ben is going to have a nice scar and some fake teeth. Carson's injury is going to take a lot longer to heal, and could potentially cause problems in the short term, even after his recovery. I can't say for sure if Roethlisberger is going to be back in time for this season, or if he's going to be 100%, or if missing time before the season is going to affect is performance. This crash is going to seriously affect him.

But I do know this. Don't pay attention to racial stereotypes. Stephen Yang is proof of this!

Not all asians are smart.

74 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

73, I don't think so. It's working perfectly. But what works even better than my sarcasm detector is my retard detector.

I'm open to the possibility that Stevey Y (the ALL CAPS AZN POSTER, not the hockey player) might actually be an intelligent person capable of coherent thought, writing at at least a high school level, and intelligent football analysis. He could be messing with us. His poorly crafted posts, mundane analysis, and tendency to post in ALL CAPS might just be an elaborate ruse. I admit that I could very well be wrong in my own analysis of Yang.

However, I've frequented enough internet forums to know someone with a double-digit IQ when I see one.


But, in keeping with the spirit of the topic, I'll throw in some football talk.

This division is going to be extremely competetive because the two heavyweights have taken some hits, the Ravens have improved themselves with the acquisition of McNair, and the Browns should be mediocre enough to keep things interesting. However, I doubt you will see two teams from this division make the playoffs. Not surprisingly, the team that wins the division will do so depending on whether or not their QB can stay healthy. Palmer is coming back from injury, Roethlisberger we all know about, and McNair is notoriously brittle... although, of those three, I think Steve might end up being the one who has the most relative success because I feel he is the one is going to want to prove to everyone that he can do it.

Having said that, if Carson comes back, he could very well be the top QB in the league. Though, Cincy's defense is suspect... if they don't address that side of the ball, they will find themselves exiting the playoffs pretty quickly yet again.

Offense is great for people who play Fantasy Football... but it doesn't win Championships.

75 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

Browns fan: I can't believe I'm seeing the negative comments on Charlie Frye. He had no weapons: see Antonio Bryant (now with the 49ers) they wouldn't have let him go if he was going to help Charlie. I admit he's not great now, and may never be. But, in this system, with good weapons; see KII this year and Braylon next year, a line, a good running game (Rueben Droughns, 1200 yds) we'll be fine with Charlie. Another wide receiver and the continued advancemet of the defense , which you know will happen with Phil Savage and Romeo, we'll be there sooner than you all think!

76 Re: Four Downs: AFC North






77 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

76, Roethlisberger did not have any clauses in his contract regarding dangerous conduct. As I said before, if the Steelers cut him, they'll have to take a huge cap hit. And why would they cut him? There's a lot of talk about him playing this season. Who would they replace him with? Charlie Batch?

Ben's injury will affect him this season, but his career is going to continue past this season. Most GM's think beyond just the current season. But apparantly, retarded people who post on internet forums don't.

This, Stephen, is why you fail.

Also, sarcasm is classified as either satirical or ironic remarks. Your posts, while strangely hilarious due to their stupidity, contain no irony and you are not making any satirical references. If anything, you are being facetious... not sarcastic. Your lack of understanding of these concepts only further illustrates your overall ignorance and proves that it is not limited to matters of pigskin.

Hmmm... your caps lock is stuck because you were chewing gum? So one could say you are unable to type and chew gum at the same time?


78 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

woo, anyone who thinks i was serious in that whole storyline should go check themselves in at the nearest mental hospital. thats all i have to say.

79 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

God damn! Charges for another Bengal. For 2007 they should make the stripes horizontal.

80 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

ravens suck.
browns suck.
steelers are pretty good.
bengals are winning this division.

81 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

RE: 19

Pittsburgh is worse than last year, and last year they didn't win the division. I don't think it's a given they make the playoffs, let alone win the division.

82 Re: Four Downs: AFC North

I just noticed the top two sack leaders are named Aaron Schobel and Aaron Kampmann - so much for stereotypes.

Jay Fieldler is Jewish
not sure about Big Ben