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Notebook: Sizing up the AFC North


Notebook: Sizing up the AFC North

With the exception of the winless Cleveland Browns, the rest of the AFC North is 1-1.

The Ravens aren't certain that safety Bernard Pollard (ribs) will play Sunday vs. the New England Patriots, with coach John Harbaugh saying that decision will be determined by he player's pain threshold.

Pollard, who guaranteed he would play vs. the Patriots, took a helmet to the rib cage from a teammate early in Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and didn't return.

Steelers: They knocked off the New York Jets 27-10 in their home opener, but they have serious question marks going forward.

Their rushing efficiency is dismal. They're averaging just 2.6 yards per carry through two games and have only one touchdown.

"It's tough finding holes, we're kind of struggling right now," running back Isaac Redman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But each game we hope to get better and better."

The Steelers averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season but are without Rashard Mendenhall, who is close to returning from knee surgery.

They didn't have James Harrison (knee) nor Troy Polamalu (calf) last week in practice or for the Jets game. Practice is Wednesday and both will be evaluated by doctors and are day-to-day, coach Mike Tomlin told the Post-Gazette.

Also according to Tomlin, Heath Miller (ribs), Marcus Gilbert (groin) and Jonathan Dwyer (toe) will be limited in practices.

Bengals: So much for making the next step after a 9-7 record and playoff appearance last season. Cincinnati's pass defense is in disarray, with changes on the horizon.

Its not good. Theres lots of things were not doing good right now Every aspect of it surprises me, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

They gave up 439 yards in Sundays 34-27 win vs. the Cleveland Browns.

Consider that Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden went 12-for-35 passing for 118 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions in his first game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Against the Bengals, Weeden threw 26-for-37 for 322 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Bengals, who were trounced 44-13 by the Ravens in Week 1, have allowed both opponents more than 400 yards of total offense. That's the first time that has happened since 1991, according to the Enquirer.

Giving up big plays have been the norm in Cincinnati. The defense has given up 37 plays of 10 yards or more, including 12 for 20-plus yards.

Its everything. Technique, discipline, effort, responsibilities, everything. Its a big problem, Zimmer told the paper. We dont pass rush, pass cover, stop the run, stop the pass. We dont tackle and play with enough effort.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) is close to returning as the Bengals are at the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

They put Jamaal Anderson, also a defensive end, on injured reserve after he tore his quad against the Browns. Wallace Gilberry was signed in his place.

Browns: Rookie RB Trent Richardson had his first 100-yard game and Weeden overcame a dreadful pro debut to put up solid stats vs. Cincinnati, but the Browns have no wins to show for that improvement.

Surprisingly, their strength is the defensive line. Cleveland has eight sacks, which ranks among the best in the NFL. They play at home vs. the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

According to the Plain-Dealer, the Browns are rotating eight linemen to keep the unit fresh. Linebacker D'Owell Jackson had three sacks in the loss Sunday. They also brought in ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker as free agents.

"It starts with the talent of the guys doing the rushing," coach Pat Shurmur told the Plain-Dealer. "I think at least in my time here, we've upgraded that position with guys where you can roll a few guys in there and I think that's important."

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst


Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 


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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."