Saturday, August 11, 2012

Preseason: Players to Watch (AFC North)

Pittsburgh Steelers: OT David DeCastro: For a team who ranked 24th in sacks allowed, newly drafted offensive lineman David DeCastro will be extremely important in this team's offensive success. DeCastro weighs in at 6'5", 316 pounds, and is able to contain some of the nation's best defensive prospects. However, it will be interesting to see how DeCastro reacts to the big, skillful defensive linemen in the NFL. If we were to see DeCastro struggling in the four upcoming preseason games, the Pittsburgh Steelers should be worried about their draft pick.

Leon Hall
Baltimore Ravens: DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw: Imagine if opposing offensive linemen had to focus on someone else besides Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata. What if newly drafted linebacker Courtney Upshaw turned into one of the NFL's biggest stars. Upshaw was one of the best blitzing linebackers entering the 2012 NFL Draft, and might be dangerous when factored in to this already dangerous Ravens defense. However, Upshaw has a lot of weight on his shoulders if the Ravens wish to balance out their defense without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs. Hopefully, the rookie will show signs of stardom in the next few preseason games.

Cincinnati Bengals: CB Leon Hall: After an injury to his Achilles tendon, Leon Hall was placed on the IR in 2011, missing the remainder of the season. Hall returned last Friday in the game against New York, with two solo tackles by the end the time the clock hit 00:00. However, rookie corner back Dre Kirkpatrick is expected to miss up to 6 weeks due to a fractured knee. If Kirkpatrick is later than scheduled, Hall will have to bear the burden if leading an already injury-ridden pass defense. Once the rookie returns, and lives up to expectations, the Bengals defense could be ferocious.

Cleveland Browns: QB Brandon Weeden: It only gets worse for the Cleveland Browns; not only are they without Mohamed Massaquoi and Chris Gocong (along with Joe Haden and Scott Fujita who both face suspension), but now, running back Trent Richardson, the 3rd overall pick, has also gone down with an injury. This puts a lot of pressure on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden may not have been put in the same class as rookies like RGIII and Andrew Luck, but at 28, Weeden enters the prime of his quarterback career. The Browns are not known to have a lethal passing game, and they are hoping that by the regular season, Weeden will be able to fix that. However, he should be careful, because Colt McCoy will always be lingering on the sidelines.

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