Each AFC North Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

 

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help.  Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks.  Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player.  I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the AFC North:

  1. antonio-brownPittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers have a rapidly improving defense, one of the top offensive lines in the league, and a trio of offensive play-makers who are able to dominate any given game on any given weekend.  They have had success in drafting Artie Burns in the first round as he has improved greatly over the season and has high upside as the future lock down #1 corner for the team.  Their receiving corps were weaker this year than it could have been, but that is partially due to Martavis Bryant being suspended for the season, but he is likely to return for next season as long as he doesn’t mess up again.  Their biggest weakness on defense is at inside linebacker next to Ryan Shazier.  Lawrence Timmons has been a great leader for the Steelers for years, but his play on the field doesn’t reflect his leadership.  He is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason so the team might not bring him back and the linebackers under him don’t have the necessary speed to cover sideline to sideline that is needed in today’s NFL.  If they grab a strong coverage linebacker here, then the Steelers defense can go back to living up to the standards of the Steel Curtain.
  2. cj-moselyBaltimore Ravens- The NFL is losing possibly the greatest receiver to ever have a Napoleon complex this year with Steve Smith retiring.  Throughout his career he has been one of the toughest and quickest to anger players in the league which has also made him one of the most fun players in the NFL over his career.  Now the Ravens still have their qb in Joe Flacco and there is already a known formula for a successful offense built around him.  They need a receiver who can stretch the field and either catch long balls or cause defensive pass interference penalties and they have that in Mike Wallace.  They need a running game that can produce yards on the ground, but also able to produce in the short passing game and the combination of Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon provides that for them.  And finally they need a big guy in the mold of an Anquan Boldin to make the tough move the chains type of catches, which is something the team is severely lacking.  At tight end they have a high round pick in Maxx Williams who just plain hasn’t been able to produce.  At wide receiver they have a Breshad Perriman who has had to deal with injuries, but is best suited for the same role as Mike Wallace who is just plain better in that role.  This draft is deep at tight end so I’d like to see them go in that direction so they can go back to playing Ravens football on both offense and defense.
  3. aj-greenCincinnati Bengals- Oh how the almost mighty have fallen.  Before this season, the Bengals had made it to the playoffs for 5 consecutive seasons only to lose in the first round.  In 2015 they started out even better than normal and looked poised for a first round bye until Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury.  Then they ended up losing both their #2 and #3 receivers in free agency so they had to replace them with Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell who worked fairly well at their spots.  But there is another player they lost during the offseason who they weren’t able to replace, and that was their former right tackle Andre Smith.  Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher combined to play terribly at right tackle all season for the Bengals.  This led the team from having one of the top offensive lines in the league to having one in the middle of the road.  If they can add a top offensive tackle prospect this year who can end up eventually developing into a left tackle since Andrew Whitworth is in the last few years of his career, then the Bengals can once again find themselves in the playoffs, and maybe even making it past the first round.
  4. danny-shelton                        Cleveland Browns- The Browns have 3 studs in place on their roster who can be trusted to be good next season, left tackle Joe Thomas, corner back Joe Haden, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.  Those are the only 3 guys who are safe in their spots on the entire team as long as none of them are traded away.  This means that their biggest need will be whoever the best player they can get is.  If I were the Browns, I wouldn’t take a quarterback first overall to stick them behind an offensive line with one great piece and 4 average at best pieces with no true receiving threats, little to no running game, and a defense that wouldn’t be able to hold onto a lead.  So I think the biggest need for the Browns is a pass rusher who will be able to make the rest of their defense better.  They are moving to more of a 4-3 scheme with Greg Williams as the defensive coordinator, so with Danny Shelton stuffing the run on defense, an edge rushing defensive end who can also play the run would be able to help boost the play of their defensive backs in the pass game and help their limited linebackers in the run game.  This probably won’t make them a great team quickly, but it will likely give them their best shot at a franchise quarterback in the 2018 draft.

Previous articles in this series: AFC East

Can The Ravens Turn it’s Season Around?

By Billy Clemmons

Losing sucks.

Think that’s something we can all agree on.

Losing an NFL game sucks even more

Part of the intrigue and popularity of the NFL is that one game means so much, and it’s why the 32 teams are closely evaluated every single week.

And, when a loses, they are held accountable by you, the fans, and, of course, members of the media. In fact, the first thing we do after a loss is face the music with reporters. It’s mandatory. They are required to open our locker room to reporters within 10-12 minutes of the game ending.

No doubt, it is hard. Look, if you’re fortunate to play or coach in the NFL, it means you are very good, elite in many ways. To get to this level, you are driven. Winning means something. That’s part of why you reached the pros. Losing is startling. It’s not what you expect. You can’t get a loss back.

And, you have to talk about that defeat with people whose job it is to serve as a conduit between us and you, the fans. Reporters ask some of the same questions you would ask: “What’s the deal with all the penalties? What were you thinking going for it on fourth-and-goal? It looked like so-and-so and so-and-so got beat on the Odell Beckham winning touchdown, right?”

The Ravens have gotten a lesson in the NFL’s game of inches so far this season.

If the Ravens want to turn their season around, they know they have to close out games and make plays in critical situations – both on offense and defense.

As for Forsett being released, although the move was a surprise, it wasn’t exactly a shock. The three knocks on Forsett is that he’s an aging running back with a big contract who’s coming off an injury.

Forsett’s career in Baltimore will end after just two seasons. The running back signed with the Ravens before the 2014 season and went on to lead the team in rushing in both 2014 and 2015. Whenever Forsett ends up signing with a new team, it will mark the sixth time in his NFL career that he’s made a move.

For the second time in four years, the Baltimore Ravens have fired their offensive coordinator during the season in an attempt to jumpstart a middling offense. The Ravens announced the personnel move Monday morning following the team’s 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins.

The latest victim is former Bears coach Marc Trestman, who took over the Ravens job back in 2015 and crafted the NFL’s 25th-best scoring offense without the services of quarterback Joe Flacco. So far in 2016 with the Pro Bowler under center, Baltimore is 3-but only scoring about 19 points per game, or half of what the league-leading Atlanta Falcons are posting. Longtime offensive coordinator and current quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg will take over play-calling duties.

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Moore Laughing with Allison Moore

13344590_1767573670152012_4649952583684969651_nBy Kim Dunning

Who is Allison Moore?  Well I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with our Sports Elite Radio guest on the phone.  Allison Moore is a native Virginian, born and raised in Hampton, Virginia.  Virginia plays into her comedy and her wit.  She’s the typical southern girl.  Her personality shines through even though we’ve never met in person.  Allison is a wife, a mother, a regular person just like anyone else, who has been blessed to make her living doing what she loves.  Allison is a comedian.  She is naturally funny and very personable.  Her comedy is a clean-cut style, meaning she doesn’t cuss, observational, modern and all of her comedy has a very powerful motivational message behind the laughter.

Allison got started in comedy by nothing less of pure blessings from above.  Throughout her life she had been told she was hilarious.  Before doing what she loves, she was the typical corporate America worker in Human Resources.   She began a non-profit called Robes and for the last 4 years, they have raised money and awareness for another local non-profit named X-Seeds, Inc.  X-Seeds is an organization geared towards helping the homeless local community.   While hosting her first fundraiser gala, the performing comedian came on stage and said he didn’t know why they had hired him when they had Allison who was extremely witty.  Although she wasn’t a student of comedy and wasn’t one to frequent comedy clubs, she allowed his comedy to be the encouragement that she needed to try her hand at her own comedy career.

When Allison posted on her Facebook page that she was going to become a comedian, the positive vibes came pouring in.  Most of the responses were, “it’s about time you followed your calling”.

When Allison says she is blessed from above she means it.  In an effort to get stage time and video footage to use for marketing, she decided to produce her own show at a 150 seat restaurant.  Within three weeks she sold out.  She produced another show a few months later and that show doubled in audience members. And the same again a few months later.   This definitely proves that she was meant to become the motivational comedian, producer and entrepreneur that she has become.

Allison’s is now the owner of MooreLaughing, LLC.  MooreLaughing supplies comedic entertainment, speaking and corporate workplace trainings. MooreLaughing also produces multiple events and Sports Elite is a sponsor of Allison’s upcoming October 29th  comedy show entitled “Moore of a Laughing Matter”.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, a portion of the proceeds from this show will be donated to X-Seeds. X-Seed’s co-founder is a breast cancer overcomer.  X-Seeds will use the proceeds to give resources about Breast Cancer awareness to transient women.

Allison is a sports fan.  Her favorite sports are basketball and football. She loves the sport of basketball. She says that technically, her favorite team is the Miami Heat.  However, she follows her favorite players Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.  She isn’t one to think why did they run this play or that play, she just enjoys the entertainment of the game.

As for football, she used to be a Baltimore Ravens fan but since losing both of her parents who were hard core Philly fans, she decided to continue in their footsteps and has switched loyalties to the Philadelphia Eagles.  Again, she is just someone who enjoys the entertainment of sports without overthinking it.

Allison’s final message was very powerful.  She said if you have a gift, regardless what it is, it is a calling that you shouldn’t look past.  For years’ people laughed at her humor but she didn’t capitalize on that gift and if it wasn’t for that one push she would never be where she is today.  If your gift brings you joy and in return gives joy to other people, don’t waste it.  Your calling is your core, find it and use it for positive means.   When asked what she wanted to get out of her comedy, entrepreneurial pursuits and her life, she wants to leave a legacy and after speaking with her, I believe she is going to leave a very big one!

To book Allison Moore as a motivation speaker at your event, please go to her website.  She can also be followed on Facebook or Instagram at comedianallisonmoore.

Run, Ravens, Run. 

Written by Micheal Hester

It’s well-known in football that a quarterback’s best friend is a good rushing offense. A dominant run game can propel an average quarterback into new territory, numbers-wise. Put a good run game behind an elite quarterback and your offense is so much more lethal. Take Dallas, for example, in the 2014 season. Dallas’ offensive staff committed to creating a powerful, punishing run offense and it led the way to a 12-4 season. Along with that record and a playoff run, Tony Romo, coming off of a back surgery the previous season had the best season of his career, going neck-to-neck with Aaron Rodgers for the best passer rating that season.

During the 2015 season, the Ravens’ run offense wasn’t terrible but it was nothing to brag about either. Although they ranked 26th overall in rushing yards, which is terrible,  John Harbaugh has repeatedly stressed the importance of getting the run game fired up for the 2016 season. Question is: do the Ravens have the running backs to get it done?

Charm City’s beloved birds will more than likely go with a running back-by-committee approach in 2016, with veteran rusher Justin Forsett leading the charge. 

Forsett doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body, only eclipsing 1,000 yards once in his lengthy career. And he’s only two years removed from his 1,266 yard/8 touchdown season back in 2014, where he averaged 5.4 YPC (yards per carry) Not to mention, he’s a durable back. His 2015 season ending injury was a freak accident (Broken arm on a tackle from Rams’ DT, Aaron Donald) But en-route to having his season cut short, “J-Force” was likely on his way to having another 1,000-yard season, cut short at 641 yards and only 2 touchdowns. 

Ravens’ run game is zone blocking based, where Forsett thrives in. As a matter of fact, all of the Ravens’ backs (with the exception of Hall of Fame-bound Trent Richardson) are zone scheme backs. When Forsett went down for the season, rookie Javorious “Buck” Allen stepped in and had a decent season, especially in the passing game. 45 receptions for 535 yards and 2 TDs, and 514 yards on the ground. Buck Allen had fumbling issues, which is an issue he’ll need to work on if he wants a bigger role in Baltimore’s backfield in the upcoming season. 

Baltimore also drafted Louisiana Tech lighting rod-of-a-running back, Kenneth Dixon. Scouts compared Dixon to former Ravens’ rusher, Ray Rice. Almost the same build, great hands, speed, agility and vision, not to mention he’s another rusher that can run in the zone blocking scheme. Where all 3 of those running backs lack is in the power department. Neither 3 have the size and power to crash the gap up the middle and bulldoze their way to 1st downs to keep the chains moving, or against stacked boxes near the goal line for touchdowns. 

That’s why the Ravens hope this is the year Lorenzo Taliferno actually stays healthy. Taliferno has shown flashes of being someone special for the Ravens’ offense. A 225lb zone scheme back, the Ravens’ are keeping their fingers crossed for him. If Lorenzo stays healthy, and since the Ravens’ offense doesn’t use fullback Kyle Juszcyk as a ball carrier. Juszcyk is actually a vital part to the Ravens offense, not just the run game but since Kyle has only carried the ball a handful of times in his NFL career, we don’t expect him to get it much more in 2016, which is why he is not really mentioned in this article.  We can expect the Ravens to turn to either Taliferno, Terrence West  (another power back on the roster) or Trent Richardson, if he’s healthy at any point going into the upcoming season to get the power run game going. 

So here is a much-too-early prediction for the Ravens’ backfield: three backs going into the season. J-Force leading the way, Buck Allen as the #2 running back, and either Taliferno, if healthy or Dixon at number 3. With the addition of first round tackle, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, who’s garnering much praise from the coaches for his mauling blocking style, and one of the best in the game Marshall Yanda, Baltimore’s run offense should take off with the right commitment to the run. As Joe Flacco returns from an ACL tear in 2015, Charm City’s birds needs to find inspiration in the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and “run the rock” with their multi-headed backfield. 

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