The first round of preseason action is finally upon us, and each of the four AFC North teams are suiting up this weekend. The starters for the Ravens, Browns, Bengals, and Steelers don’t figure to play very much, but there are still interesting storylines at play.
Matchup: vs. Washington Redskins (Home)
When: Thursday, August 8, 7:30 PM EST
|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:
Baker and OBJ Connection
All eyes will be on Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. Thursday night. These two seemingly have developed a nice rapport this offseason and have been connecting for numerous big plays in training camp. Even in limited action, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mayfield and OBJ connect numerous times against Washington.
Austin Corbett vs. Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne
The lone newbie on the Browns offensive line is right guard Austin Corbett, who is replacing the traded Kevin Zeitler. Corbett has reportedly been ceding first-team reps to Eric Kush over the past several days of camp, so this is a big preseason for him. His quest to hold onto the starting job may not get off to a good start, as the former second-round pick will have his hands full against the likes of Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.
Matchup: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Home)
When: Friday, August 9, 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:
Life without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell
Friday night will represent the first instance in quite some that neither Brown nor Bell will be suited up for Pittsburgh. While it’s only a preseason game, it’s gonna take some getting used to for everyone involved. It’ll be interesting to see how the offense looks without these two former stalwarts on the field.
Starting WR2 competition
Circling back to the absence of AB, we know JuJu Smith-Schuster is stepping into the WR1 role but after that, there’s some uncertainty. Free agent signee Donte Moncrief is listed as the starter but youngsters James Washington and Diontae Johnson are competing to upsurt him for the second wideout job. Keep an eye on how Washington and Johnson perform in the preseason opener.
Matchup: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Away)
When: Saturday, August 10, 8:00 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:
Who steps up in A.J. Green’s absence?
The question pinging the Bengals for several years now is once again at the forefront of the offseason. A.J. Green is set to miss the entire preseason and potentially multiple regular season games. In his absence, the likes of John Ross, Cody Core, and Alex Erickson have a great chance to carve out a role and win the starting job. The first preseason game represents a prime opportunity to gain a leg up in the competition.
Defensive backs vs. Kansas City’s passing game
The Bengals secondary is one of their more talented groups on the roster, at least on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a young core, however, and they’ll be put to the test against Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, even if it’s only for a couple drives.