As a division is finished in the State of the Franchise series, there will be a State of the Division article that follows. It won’t be as much of an analysis as it will be an article to engage the readers of Sports Unbiased and get a sense of how they feel about the division and its teams. My goal for these division articles is to get fans talking and get some debate going on this site. I believe what puts sites like SB Nation and Bleacher Report (I got a bad taste in my mouth writing that name) on another level as sports sites is the fact that their fans cause commotion in the comments. Lets get some chatter people.
The articles have been written, and maybe read, so it’s time to talk AFC North. It’s safe to say the AFC North plays some pretty tough defense, but their offenses will not be confused for putting up astronomical amount of points. The division is home to two franchise quarterbacks, a potential franchise quarterback, and Brandon Weeden. I like Brandon Weeden, but he does have a very limited window for success.
Two team have their guys at running back with the Browns’ Trent Richardson and the Ravens’ Ray Rice, but the other two seem to be searching still. The Steelers used to have Rashard Mendenhall, who was a first round selection, but he couldn’t stay healthy. The Steelers let him walk and he is now part of a woeful Arizona Cardinals backfield. The Steelers picked up Le’Veon Bell with their second round pick, and they expect him to produce right away after the departure of Mendenhall. The Bengals were rolling with The Law Firm (BenJarvus Green-Ellis), but he is not much of a threat for a home run. The Bengals did select Giovani Bernard with the 37th pick overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, and I like to compare his running style to Philadelphia Eagle LeSean McCoy.
I am going to say A.J. Green is the best receiver in the AFC North, but I could be wrong. Torrey Smith is coming nto his own in Baltimore, but this will be the year that he proves he can be Joe Flacco’s go to man. Outside of that the Steelers don’t have much after letting Mike Wallace walk and the Browns have a handful of young receivers but they will need to prove themselves first.
In the AFC North there aren’t any tight ends like Gronk or Graham, but this division does feature some quality tight ends. Heath Miller is the veteran and probably the most complete of the group which is exactly what the Steelers offense needs. Miller can make catches in traffic and set the edge on running plays making him an asset for the Steelers. The Bengals now have a flexible pair of pass catchers in Jermaine Gresham and newly drafted Tyler Eifert. If Ed Dickson signs his tender Baltimore can expect another year with two good options for Flacco. Dennis Pitta and Dickson will provide good security blankets with the loss of Anquan Boldin. Cameron Jordan will probably be holding down the starting position for the Browns again this year, but new comer Kellen Davis will push for the starting job.
I feel bad for Joe Thomas and the Browns line in general. They are above average, and could be elite with a good guard, and I would bet they become elite before the Browns get it together. The Ravens offensive line returns in 2013 pretty much as it was in 2012 and that is always a good thing for a cohesive unit. Maurkice Pouncey is the leader of the Steelers offensive front and he will have to get returning rookies Mike Adams and David DeCastro on track for this offense to produce. They also need to stay healthy. The best thing the Bengals did was re-signing right tackle Andre Smith and drafting two tackles to groom for the future.