After an eventful opening week of preseason football, the consensus top teams in the AFC North all finished as victors - Ravens, Browns, and Steelers. The Bengals were thoroughly handled by Kansas City and are looking to bounce back against the Washington Redskins.
Baltimore will try to extend their preseason win streak against the Packers tomorrow, and you can check out the preview for that matchup here. As for the remaining teams in the division, here’s where things stand heading into Week 2 of the preseason.
Matchup: vs. Indianapolis Colts (Away)
When: Saturday, August 17, 4:00 PM
|QB - Baker Mayfield||DT - Sheldon Richardson|
|RB - Nick Chubb||DT - Larry Ogunjobi|
|FB - Orson Charles||DE - Myles Garrett|
|LT - Greg Robinson||DE - Oliver Vernon|
|LG - Joel Bitonio||WILL - Christian Kirksey|
|C - A.C. Tretter||MIKE - Joe Schobert|
|RG - Austin Corbett||SAM - Ray-Ray Armstrong|
|RT - Chris Hubbard||CB - Denzel Ward|
|TE - David Njoku||CB - Terrance Michell|
|WR - Odell Beckham Jr.||S - Morgan Burnett|
|WR - Jarvis Landry||S - Damarious Randall|
What to watch for:
Rashard Higgins follow-up performance
Against the Redskins last week, Higgins was Cleveland’s best offensive skill player. The fourth-year receiver caught five of his six targets for 98 receiving yards and a touchdown. While it’s only preseason, it would mark the highest-yardage outing performance of Higgins career. Last season, Higgins was fourth on the Browns in receiving yards (572) and fifth in receptions (39). With Antonio Callaway facing a four-game suspension, Higgins is currently the #3 receiver in Cleveland’s offense. Another strong outing against the Colts would spark further confidence that he’s more than capable of starting-caliber play this season.
Which running backs step up?
The Browns traded Duke Johnson Jr. to the Texans for a 2020 draft pick last week, leaving rising sophomore Nick Chubb as the only defined talent on the Browns running back depth chart. Obviously, Kareem Hunt is one of the more skilled backs in the league, but he’s set to be suspended until the middle of the season. Until he’s available to play. the Browns will fill out their backfield with some combination of Dontrell Hilliard, D’Ernest Johnson, and/or Trayone Gray. The preseason is a great chance for these guys to make their mark.
Matchup: vs. Washington Redskins (Away)
When: Thursday, August 15, 7:30 PM
|QB - Andy Dalton||DT - Andrew Billings|
|RB - Joe Mixon||DT - Geno Atkins|
|LT - Cordy Glenn||DE - Carlos Dunlap|
|LG - John Jerry||DE - Jordan Willis|
|C - Billy Price||SLB - Nick Vigil|
|RG - Alex Redmond||MLB - Preston Brown|
|RT - Bobby Hart||WLB - Jordan Evans|
|TE - C.J. Uzomah||CB - Dre Kirkpatrick|
|TE - Tyler Eifert||CB - William Jackson III|
|WR - Tyler Boyd||S - Shanwn Williams|
|WR - Cody Core||S - Jesse Bates III|
What to watch for:
Ryan Finley = backup quarterback?
The Bengals exhausted a fourth-round selection in this year’s draft on Ryan Finley, an experienced quarterback out of North Carolina St. Finley has been listed third on the team’s depth chart behind Andy Dalton and Jeff Driskel, who stepped in as Cincinnati’s starter towards the end of last season in the wake of Dalton’s injury. Finley looked like the better quarterback against the Chiefs last week, however. The rookie completed 13/18 passes for 109 yards, tossed a touchdown, and finished with a rating of 82.9. For comparison, Driskel completed 8/19 throws for just 79 yards and threw an interception. Another lopsided difference in their performances on Thursday could brew a quarterback controversy.
Andrew Brown’s progression
Perhaps the biggest silver lining in Cincinnati’s blowout loss to Kansas City was the performance of defensive lineman Andrew Brown. The team’s fifth-round selection in 2018 was maybe their most impressive player on the defensive side of the ball. While he only recorded two tackles, Brown posted a sack, tackle for loss, and three quarterback hits. He looked spry rushing the passer and made plays in the backfield. If Brown can find similar success against the Redskins, he’ll be well on his way to locking up a roster spot.
Matchup: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Home)
When: Saturday, August 17, 7:30 PM
|QB - Ben Roethlisberger||DT - Javon Hargrave|
|RB - James Conner||DE - Cameron Hayward|
|FB - Roosevelt Nix||DE - Stephon Tuitt|
|LT - Alejandro Villanueva||OLB - Bud Dupree|
|LG - Ramon Foster||MLB - Vince Williams|
|C - Maurkice Pouncey||MLB - Devin Bush Jr.|
|RG - David DeCastro||OLB - T.J. Watt|
|RT - Matt Fieler||CB - Joe Haden|
|TE - Vance McDonald||CB - Steven Nelson|
|WR - JuJu Smith-Schuster||S - Sean Davis|
|WR - Donte Moncrief||S - Terrell Edmunds|
What to watch for:
Is James Washington an emerging contributor?
Second-year receiver James Washington has been hyped up as a potential breakout candidate for Pittsburgh this season. Believers in Washington were only validated in their confidence in last week’s preseason opener. JW caught four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, torching the Buccaneers downfield for multiple big plays. It was an encouraging performance from the young wideout and following it up with another strong display may see him emerge as a legit challenger for the starting WR2 spot.
Benny Snell Jr. attempting to carve out a role
Pittsburgh surprised some when they selected Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. in the fourth round of the draft, but the organization has claimed they have plans to utilize him this season. However, with James Conner receiving the early-down work and Jaylen Samuels stealing pass-catching opportunities, the chances of Snell playing significant snaps seem murky. He saw a heavy dose of carries against Tampa Bay (13) but turned the into just 26 rushing yards, although he did catch two passes for 25 yards through the air.