2010 AFC North Training Camp Preview

Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco is the starting QB. Marc Bulger will be a veteran presence and mentor to Flacco as his backup. The Ravens would prefer to trade Troy Smith rather than keep him as a 3rd QB, but they need a partner to deal with. Ray Rice is the primary RB and needs to prove he can get into the end zone to keep Willis McGahee from vulturing a lot of touchdown like McGahee did in 2009. McGahee is a talented runner though with surprising speed and power so he’ll be the complimentary RB to Rice. Jalen Parmele is the 3rd RB, but the Ravens would trust FB Leron McClain to be a third rusher if necessary more than Parmele as McClain has proven he is capable in the past. Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason will be the starting WR’s with Donte Stallworth as the third. Mark Clayton is likely to be the 4th, leaving Demetrius Williams, David Reed, and Marcus Smith fighting it out to be the 5th. Boldin, Mason, and Stallworth are the only ones that are fantasy worthy. It’s said Todd Heap is going to be the starter, but the Ravens are clearly looking to move on from the oft-injured Heap as the drafted two talented pass catching TE’s in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Both are capable so it’s worth keeping an eye on whether either one can replace Heap as the starter. Shayne Graham will compete with Billy Cundiff for the kicker job, but Graham would have to really fall flat on his face to lose out to Cundiff.

Cincinnati Bengals

Carson Palmer’s arm strength isn’t what it used to be, but he is still the starting QB. He’s in no danger of losing that job to backups J.T. O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer (Carson’s younger brother) though. Cedric Benson is the feature RB and unless he gets suspended for a night club altercation, he is the only RB to have. Both Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard are behind Benson, but neither is more than  handcuff to him and while it’s likely Leonard is more of a reliable 3rd down type of RB, Scott offers more explosive playmaking potential. It’s not so much one is the clear backup and both would get work if Benson were to be suspended for a couple of games. Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant are the starting WR’s. Andre Caldwell and rookie Jordan Shipley will battle it out to be the 3rd WR with the loser becoming the 4th. Jerome Simpson is likely to be the 5th WR, but could be pushed by another rookie Dezmon Briscoe. Reggie Kelly may be totally over his Achilles injury, but it’s likely he falls behind rookie Jermaine Gresham in the bid to be the 2010 starting TE. Disappointing 2009 draftee Chase Coffman will battle for the third TE spot with Daniel Coats, but Gresham is the only one of the group to have any potential fantasy value. Long time kicker Shayne Graham is gone and it will be a battle between Mike Nugent and Dave Rayner for the kicking duties. Both sport strong, but historically inaccurate legs. Nugent is a slight favorite to win the job.

Cleveland Browns

Jake Delhomme has been anointed the starting QB over Seneca Wallace. Wallace will be the top backup with rookie Colt McCoy the #3. Rookie Montario Hardesty is expected to be the #1 RB over Jerome Harrison. A strong training camp by Hardesty could even push him into more of a featured role than the primary in a RBBC with Harrison. Last year’s rookie, James Davis, while talented, isn’t expected to be more than the #3 RB. Chris Jennings would need an injury to be any more than 4th. While Peyton Hillis was signed from Denver, and rumors were he could figure into the mix, it’s unlikely he fits in anywhere besides FB. Mohamed Massaquoi is one starting WR, and it’s expected Josh Cribbs will be the other, but he could be pushed by Brian Robiskee in training camp. Robiskee was a huge disappointment as a rookie last year but surprised in OTA’s and he could either push Cribbs for a starting job, or find himself fighting with Chansi Stuckey, Bobby Engram, and Carlton Mitchell to round out WR’s 3-5. The strength of the Browns offensively is actually their TE’s. They acquired Ben Watson and while he’s expected to start, he’ll be pushed by last year’s late season surprise Evan Moore, along with Robert Royal and Alex Smith. Watson has historically shown inconsistent hands as a pass catcher, and Moore is the best pass catcher of the group. Phil Dawson is disgruntled with his contract, but unless the Browns bring in a veteran kicker to compete with him in training camp, Dawson is in no danger of not being the Browns kicker again in 2010.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is the starting QB, but will miss the first 4 weeks of the season while serving a suspension. Byron Leftwich is considered the favorite to start until Roethlisberger returns but he will be pushed hard by Dennis Dixon, and who ends up starting week 1 won’t be determined until preseason games have been played. Charlie Batch is the 4th QB but is at a point where he is nothing more than a veteran insurance policy. Rashard Mendenhall is the feature RB. Mewelde Moore is the top backup and occasional 3rd down RB. There are rumors the Steelers may replace Mendenhall at the goal line sometimes in 2010, and if that were to happen (something I doubt myself) it would come down to a battle between Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, and FB Frank Summers. Mike Wallace had a surprisingly strong rookie season in 2009. So strong that when the team traded Santonio Holmes, instead of trying to find someone to be a starter opposite Hines Ward, the Steelers promoted Wallace to being a starter. Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle were brought in, but both will be competing for #3 WR duties. Rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown will push for the 5th WR spot. Heath Miller is one of the most underrated starting TE’s in the league both as a receiver and blocker. Sean McHugh is his backup with Matt Spaeth battling David Johnson for the #3 TE spot. Kicker Jeff Reed may have his issues, but he is unchallenged for the duties and always seems to produce solid fantasy numbers.