After a long offseason, game week is finally upon us, albeit only the preseason variety. In addition to the Baltimore Ravens exhibition contest against Washington, the Browns will host the Saints on Thursday. On Friday, the Steelers will travel to face the Giants while the Bengals host Tampa Bay.
Lingering injuries to franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, former first round receiver Breshad Perriman and first round rookie Marlon Humphrey, in addition to season-ending injuries to promising back Kenneth Dixon and corner Tavon Young have put a damper on Ravens optimism. Fortunately, Baltimore is not the only AFC North club dealing with issues in training camp. A look around the AFC North before the preseason begins in earnest:
- Dynamic tailback Le’Veon Bell declined a lucrative five-year contract extension offer and has yet to sign the franchise tag or report to training camp. James Connor, a rookie in-line to serve as his primary backup, has missed several practices with a shoulder issue. Considering the well established trend of top running backs failing to maintain their level of production after signing large second contracts, the rest of the division should be hoping Pittsburgh eventually relents and overpays Bell.
- Third-year cornerback Senquez Golson has pulled his hamstring after missing his entire rookie and second seasons with a shoulder and foot injury, respectively. Several other young players who were selected with early draft picks has also missed substantial practice time, including WR Sammie Coates, CB Cameron Sutton and CB Artie Burns.
- Multiple presumably short term injuries to defensive leaders, including S Mike Mitchell (foot), ILB Ryan Shazier (hamstring) and Stephon Tuitt (ankle) may stunt the development of the Steelers defense as they look to improve upon their second half resurgence last season.
- Game breaking wideout Martavis Bryant has been present but unable to practice as he awaits full reinstatement from the NFL following a lengthy suspension. He is expected to be cleared soon.
- The Bengals have mostly avoided the injury bug, but tight end C.J. Uzomah was carted off the field on Monday with an ankle injury. Starting safety George Iloka is also on the shelf with an knee injury that is expected to keep him off the field for the entire preseason. Intriguing rookie defensive end Jordan Willis was also held out on Monday.
- Troubled cornerback Adam Jones will be suspended for the Week 1 tilt against the Ravens due to an arrest in January. Recent unproven first round corners Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III are battling to fill his vacancy to start the season, across from Dre Kirkpatrick.
- Head coach Hue Jackson has named journeyman quarterback Brock Osweiler as the starter entering the preseason. He is fighting Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer for the job.
- Surprising no one, top overall selection Myles Garrett has been promoted to first-team defensive end.
- So far, the Browns are winning the war of attrition on the injury front. Starting free safety Ed Reynolds is expected to miss time with a knee injury. Rookie defensive tackle also had surgery on his broken finger. Beyond these two, Cleveland is relatively healthy.