Playmakers wanted… apply within.

Traditionally the AFC North has been known for its hard-nosed brand of football, good defense with a strong running game and a complimentary passing attack.  However, much has changed in recent years in the NFL, from rules changes to coaching philosophies, to accommodate QB’s and the passing game. The AFC North is adapting to these changes and 2010 promises to have more explosive plays.

Most notably, the Ravens and Bengals have been active in upgrading their passing game by signing and/or trading for veteran playmakers.  Both teams showed a lot of promise last season, featuring a good defense and a reliable running game.  Unfortunately, they didn’t fare well in the playoffs due to the lack of “splash plays” to help their strong running games and taking some of the pressure off their runners.

Baltimore traded for Anquan Boldin, re-signed Derrick Mason and added a vertical threat, by signing Donte Stallworth as soon as he was reinstated to the league.  Joe Flacco, the Ravens young and talented QB, will now have the weapons to stretch the field and help the running game.  They have a violent and versatile runner in Ray Rice that continues to make his mark in the NFL, 2010 will be his third season in the league.

The Cincinnati Bengals have also made headlines of their own, by signing Antonio Bryant.  And I say headlines since they picked Bryant over T.O.  Now, if you ask me, T.O can be a lot of things, but at least he keeps his nose clean… the same can’t be said about Bryant.  He’s known to have issues with coaches and he spent the 2007 season suspended by the league.  This one should be interesting to watch during Off-Season workouts, but if Bryant shows flashes of his 2008 campaign, Carson Palmer (Cincy’s QB) will have a dangerous play-maker to throw to.

I am not even going to bother with the Browns, they dumped both their starting QB’s who started for them the past two seasons.  Then traded for a career Backup in Seneca Wallace and signed Jake Delohmme to a big contract despite his TD-INT ratio of the past two seasons.  They’ve traded away most of their 1st round picks from recent years and have gotten little to nothing in return. Hence why I can always count on two wins for our Steelers every year.

And I leave the best for last… The Steelers.  Our Passing game was the highlight of 2009, the problem was we relied too much on Big Ben’s arm and wits and neglected our running game.  We have solid receivers in Ward, Holmes and Mike Wallace (who was a pleasant surprise last season in his rookie campaign).  However, going into 2010, we have to commit to the run and a well-balanced attack.  Mendenhall, our running back, is a tough, physical back but he was often pulled out of the game in favor of Mewelde Moore and his sure-hands, to help in the pass. Mendenhall couldn’t get into a rhythm. It’s been well documented; Art Rooney (owner and president) wants our running game to be consistent….. Got that memo Bruce?  Our Free Agent signings this off-season will likely be more noticeable in the Defense rather than the Offense.

All in All, every team in the AFC North (outside of the Browns, but again, they don’t count) have improved their teams quite a bit. From Speedy players that can stretch the field to solid veterans that can move the chains, the upcoming season promises a good dose of 40-yard bombs as well as a potential highlight reel of receivers getting blown up as soon as the ball is caught.  I am looking forward to watching Anquan catching the ball in the middle and Clark delivering a “welcome to the AFC North” hit…. kind of like the one he delivered on Welker last season… difference is, Anquan might just like it and ask for seconds…..


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