We're almost there football fans. Just think in about two months from now, we'll be treated to an opening night special that features two of the fiercest rivals in football, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. For now, we are getting treated to highlight videos of training camp, as well as tweets from Le'Veon Bell about how excited he is to return to the football field. This article marks the start off a new series that I will be doing leading up to the start of the regular season. I will be going team by team per division, and discussing one of the biggest questions about that team heading into the season. Trust me, there are a lot of questions that teams are going to have. I'm going to be focusing on the ones that have the most affect on their team. Without further ado, let's get this party started with the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: Can Lamar Jackson Improve His Accuracy?
The Baltimore Ravens traded up in the 2018 NFL Draft to get back in the first round to take Lamar Jackson, a quarterback from Louisville who is the closest thing to Michael Vick we've seen since Michael Vick. There were questions about his throwing, and if he had the accuracy to maintain a starting role. There weren't questions about his stupid athleticism, and his ability to make something out of nothing. Many thought Jackson would sit the first year behind Joe Flacco, and learn the offense. However, Jackson was given an opportunity to start during mid season, and never looked back. The passing numbers were ok, but his ability to run the ball and manage the game led the Ravens to a 6-1 record in his seven starts, and pushed them into the playoffs, where they ended up losing to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Many questioned why Jackson was running so much. He almost ended up with more rushing attempts than passing attempts. In addition, he ended up taking some hard hits, something that concerned the coaching staff. This offseason, Baltimore decided to move on from former offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and decided to give the keys of the offense to former tight ends coach Greg Roman. Roman has already said that he wants to limit Jackson's rushing attempts, and give him an opportunity to showcase his arm talent. Will Jackson be able to complete passes this season? Can he prove to everyone that he's not just a one trick pony? Or will his accuracy woes that have been with him since he was at Louisville come back to bite him? I personally am rooting for Jackson, and I believe that he has a very talented arm. If he's able to do improve his accuracy, he immediately becomes one of the most, if not the most dangerous player in the NFL, due to his world class athleticism.
Cincinatti Bengals: Is this the End of the Andy Dalton, A.J. Green Era?
For almost a decade now, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have been one of the best quarterback wide receiver combos in the NFL. When the game is on the line, you know Andy Dalton is going to A.J. Green, and you know Green is going to make the catch almost every time. However, that hasn't translated to wins for Cincinnati. They've made the playoffs five times this decade, and have yet to win a playoff game. The past few years have been even more brutal, having not made the playoffs since 2015. With new head coach Zac Taylor coming in, could the Bengals go in a different direction with one or even both of them? Green's name has been leaked in trade rumors, and he could be dealt during the season if Cincinnati struggles out of the gate. Why would they trade him? One, he's getting up there in age (will be turning 31 in July). Two, his production is starting to slip, as he was held to 687 yards in only eight games in 2018.
As for Dalton, he hasn't been producing enough for the Bengals to win games. He's put up decent numbers in his career, making the pro bowl three times, but again, quarterback success is determined off of wins and how you do in the playoffs, and in that sense, Dalton hasn't been getting it done. With the quarterback pool in the next two years having some very talented slingers, like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrance, I could see Cincinnati either tanking for one of these guys, or potentially trading up to get their quarterback of the future. Unfortunately for Bengals fans, the Andy Dalton, A.J. Green era could be coming to a close very soon.
Cleveland Browns: When Will Odell Beckham Throw His First Tantrum?
Hear me out here. I've already discussed the Cleveland Browns a lot this offseason. I wrote a whole article dedicated to how this can finally be their year. I also touched on them as the most must watch team in the NFL due to the different personalities on their team. For this question, I kind of wanted to have a little fun at Odell Beckham's expense. Don't get it twisted, Beckham is one of the m most talented receivers in the game. He made arguably the greatest catch in NFL history in his rookie season. However, we know he can get emotional, as we've seen him battle with Josh Norman (He almost killed him with a kick to the head), and also get into a fight with a KICKING NET. Yeah you read that right, a KICKING NET (He later proposed to that same net, but I'm going to guess the net said no).
Ok let's get back on track. Beckham was acquired by the Browns in the offseason, and joins a stacked group of skill players that includes Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, David Njoku, and potentially Kareem Hunt (That's of course if he doesn't get released after he allegedly got into another altercation). Second year quarterback Baker Mayfield has a lot of mouths to feed this year, with Beckham now being the biggest. Honestly, knowing Beckham, I would give it until week 4, after a tough loss where he only gets targeted 4-5 times, that's when he'll throw his helmet and get in an argument with head coach Freddie Kitchens. Browns fans, get ready for the Odell tantrum, because we know it's going to happen at some point.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Can Devin Bush Fill the Hole in the Middle of the Defense?
Ever since Ryan Shazier suffered that horrific career threatening injury against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense hasn't been the same. Opposing teams have been able to carve through the middle of the field like it's nothing. Tight ends like Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski have dominated the Steelers without Shazier covering them. That could all change this year however. The Steelers selected Michigan linebacker Devin Bush with the tenth overall pick in the first round this year.
Bush had a fantastic career with the Wolverines, and proved to be the leader of one of the best defenses in the nation. He may be undersized for the position (Only stands about 5"11), but he's an incredible athlete, great tackler and great leader. He should be able to step in day one and contribute for a team that is desperate for help in the middle. The Steelers secondary is still a below average unit, but the front seven with Bush in the fold now should benefit the secondary. Look for Bush to make a major impact, and possibly be in contention to win defensive rookie of the year.