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AFC North Preview

The Ravens were the best of the AFC North last year. Defense wins championships… The Bengals showed marked improvement without even using their first round pick, Carson Palmer. The Browns and Steelers fell apart and had disappointing seasons. This year, Baltimore again is the team to beat; however the Bengals might give them a run for their money. If the Steelers offensive line stays healthy this year, they may contend as well. Finally, without a QB controversy in Cleveland, the Browns should be markedly improved as well.

Baltimore Ravens (2003 Record: 10-6, lost in wild card round, 20-17)

The Ravens ran away with the division. Some may say there was no competition in the AFC North for the Ravens, but the Ravens played every game hard. The playoff loss was a tight, hard-fought struggle with the Titans. Kyle Boller should be better with an extra year of experience under his belt.

Added
CB Dale Carter (Saints)
WR Kevin Johnson (Jaguars)
QB Kordell Stewart (Bears)

Lost
WR Marcus Robinson (Vikings)
CB Tom Knight (Bucs)
TE John Jones (Dolphins)

Draft
2.19 DT Dwan Edwards(Oregon State)
3.19 WR Devard Darling (Washington State)
5.21 OLB Roderick Green (Central Missouri State)
6.22 QB Josh Harris (Bowling Green)
6.34 WR Clarence Moore (Northern Arizona)
7.43 WR Derek Abney (Kentucky)
7.45 OT Brian Rimpf (East Carolina)

Overall Outlook

Baltimore tried to upgrade with Terrell Owens, but it wasn’t meant to be. So, the Ravens picked up 3 WR’s I the draft. You never know, one of them could pan out, but probably not this year. Kevin Johnson is the answer for this year, he runs excellent routes and displays nice hands. Should be a blessing to whomever throws the rock for the Ravens this year. Also, the Ravens signed Kordell Stewart to backup Boller. We’ll see how that pans out. With decent play at the QB position, the Ravens are a superbowl contender.

 

Cincinnati Bengals (2003 Record: 8-8, huge improvement from 2002)

The Bengals had their best record in years, and at .500 had to have a joyful off-season. Corey Dillon was disgruntled, but Rudi Johnson showed up to do the work.

Added
LB Nate Webster (Bucs)
S Kim Herring (Rams)
WR Patrick Johnson (Redskins)
OG Bobby Williams (Eagles)
OL Larry Moore (Redskins)
CB Deltha O’Neal (Broncos)

Lost
CB Artrelle Hawkins (Panthers)
OL Mike Goff (Chargers)
OL Matt O’Dwyer (Bucs)
CB Jeff Burris (Patriots)
LB Riall Johnson (Cardinals)
RB Brandon Bennett (Bucs)
FS Mark Roman (Packers)
DT Oliver Gibson (Bills)
OG Scott Rehberg (49ers)
DT Glen Steele (Giants)
RB Corey Dillon (Patriots)

Draft
1.26 RB Chris Perry (Michigan)
2.17 CB Ketwan Ratliff (Florida)
2.24 S Madieu Williams (Maryland)
3.17 ILB Caleb Miller (Arkansas)
3.33 OLB Landon Johnson (Purdue)
4.18 DT Matthew Askew (Michigan State)
4.21 DE Robert Geathers (Georgia)
4.27 OT Stacy Andews (Mississippi)
5.17 WR Maurice Mann (Nevada)
6.18 CB Greg Brooks (Southern Mississippi)
7.17 QB Casey Bramley (Wyoming)

Overall Outlook

The Bengals have hope, hopeful of a north of .500 season. Unless Carson Palmer is really, really terrible, this should be an excellent for the Bengals (not the Bungles). Rudi should step in for Corey Dillon with no problems.

 

Cleveland Browns (2003 Record: 5-11, disappointing as the Browns were hoping to build on their success in 2002)

Ouch, there was a QB controversy that never was solved until the end of the season. Addition by Subtraction in the off-season, as now the QB position is solved with Jeff Garcia. The offensive line could seem to hold block, and the starting QB William Green was holding back his physical action for off the field activities. Total confusion, all the way around.

Added
QB Jeff Garcia (49ers)
Ebenezer Ekuban (Cowboys)
FB Terrelle Smith (Saints)
OG Kelvin Garmon (Chargers)
LB Warrick Holdman (Bears)
S David Gibson (Bucs)

Lost
RB Jamel White (Bucs)
OL Shaun O’Hara (Giants)
P Chris Gardocki (Steelers)
CB Lewis Sanders (Jaguars)
OL Barry Stokes (Giants)
QB Tim Couch (Packers)

Draft
1.6 TE Kellen Winslow (Miami)
2.27 S Sean Jones (Georgia)
4.10 QB Luke McCown (Louisiana Tech)
5.29 DT Amon Gordon (Stanford)
6.11 OT Kirk Chambers (Stanford)
7.7 RB Joe Echemandu (California)

Overall Outlook

The Browns ‘solved’ their QB confusion product by releasing Tim Couch, and signing Jeff Garcia. Jeff’s has a new best friend, Kellen Winslow as well. The next question(mark) is Willie Green. Hard to judge the RB at this stage of the preseason. While this team may be better than last year’s effort, they can’t count on the Bengals for 2 wins a year anymore.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2003 Record: 6-10)

The Steelers offensive line fell apart, Tommy Maddox played like Tommy Maddox. The cornerbacks played like the usual Steeler cornerbacks (toasted often). Not a good recipe for a strong season. Unfortunately, the fans had high hopes. One more year of this, and Cohwer could be on the unemployment line.

 

Added
P Chris Gardocki (Browns)
RB Duce Staley (Eagles)
DT Travis Kirschke (49ers)
CB Willie Williams (Seahawks)
DB Shane Walton (Rams)

Lost
CB Dewayne Washington (Jaguars)
RB Amos Zereoue (Oakland)
DE Rodney Bailey (Patriots)
FS Brent Alexander (Giants)
OT Mathias Nkwenti (Giants)
LB Jason Gildon (Buffalo)

Draft
1.11 QB Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio)
2.6 CB Ricardo Colclough (Tusculum)
3.12 OT Max Starks (Florida)
5.13 DE Nathaniel Adibi (Virginia Tech)
6.12 OT Bo Lacy (Arkansaw)
6.29 TE Matt Kranchick (Penn State)
6.32 DE Drew Caylor (Stanford)
7.11 DT Eric Taylor (Memphis)

Overall Outlook

If Pittsburgh gave straighten out it’s offensive line problems, the Steelers should compete for a playoff spot. I could happen though that the rookie QB is throw to the wolves in the later half of a crappy season. Bettis is getting older, and Duce is supposed to be the answer? I’ll believe it when I see it. A new Defensive coach (actually the old coach Dick LeBeau) returns with Blitzburgh. Take the Steelers defense in league requiring defense.

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