AFC Roundup: Training Camps, NFL Kickoff Days Away
By Christian S. Kohl
As July begins, and kickoff weekend just 67 days away, much has happened in the NFL in the past week. Here’s a closer look at the headlines from the AFC squads this past week.
Baltimore Ravens: The Super Bowl champion Ravens are exploring the possibility of lightening the carry load for star running back Ray Rice, perhaps opening the door for more of an even split with Bernard Pierce. Pierce was reportedly robbed at gunpoint Sunday, June 23rd. The Ravens are also reportedly considering converting Pernell McPhee to the linebacker position.
Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu appears to be entering camp as the number two WR opposite AJ Green. With the injury from last year behind him, sources expect the job is his to lose, with Marvin Jones behind him on the depth chart.
Cleveland Browns: In an offseason full of legal issues, Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam intends to sell his interest in his Double A baseball team, the Tennessee Smokies. How this relates to his company Pilot Flying J is unclear, though Haslam is hoping to convince Browns fans it means additional attention will be devoted to building their franchise.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Free Safety Ryan Clark is considering retirement should the Steelers not offer him a contract extension. Tight End Heath Miller is continuing his rehab after a devastating knee injury, though is unlikely to be ready for week 1. After a revolving door of effective yet injury prone running backs, Pittsburgh now turns its attention to rookie Le’Veon Bell to carry the workload this season.
Houston Texans: The Texans are looking to tie up some loose ends both on and off the field. The Antonio Smith contract is still a work in progress, while the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins will hopefully add additional options for Matt Schaub outside of Andre Johnson. A second receiving threat would also minimize the workload and strain of star running back Arian Foster.
Indianapolis Colts: This was a poor week for a Colts team, one that any other week would have dominated the offseason news cycle. DB Joe Lefeged was arrested on multiple weapons charges on Saturday night. This news comes just a few days after RB LaVon Brazil was assessed a four game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The suspension is said to threaten Brazil’s roster spot on the Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones Drew, the focus of some ambiguous surveillance footage in a nightclub in May, is not expected to be charged with a crime or suspended by the league. DL Jason Babin estimates he will be fully recovered from groin surgery within the next few days.
Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker remains the primary focus of the Titans, as the scramble continues to turn him into a fully ready NFL quarterback. He continues to work on his accuracy, assessment of defenses, and a reduced need for a wristband to call plays. To make it as a quality NFL starter, Locker needs to more or less improve upon everything.
Buffalo Bills: Kevin Kolb appears to be the likely Week 1 starter at QB above rookie E.J. Manuel. It’s not surprising the Bills will begin the season with experience and evaluate the veteran carefully. With their new found depth there, wildcat option Brad Smith has been designated as a WR, a move which places him on the chopping block for cuts by the end of camp.
Miami Dolphins: Armon Binns has impressed in camp early for Miami. Meanwhile, contract talks with DB Reshad Jones reportedly have yet to begin, causing speculation that Jones may hold out through training camp and incurring the requisite fines.
New England Patriots: In the biggest story of the week, star Patriot TE Aaron Hernandez was arrested for first degree murder of Odin Lloyd. The Patriots released Hernandez two hours later and have since sought to void his contract. On field activities suggest Jake Ballard is not ready to assume the role of either Hernandez or injured TE Rob Gronkowski. Reports of late also suggest conversion of QB Tim Tebow to TE are unlikely.
New York Jets: Controversy continues to fly around the QB spot in New York, as teammates support Sanchez hoping he begins the season as the starter. The signing of Kellen Winslow reportedly jeopardizes the spot of Konrad Reuland, and RB Bilal Powell may be rendered irrelevant by Mike Goodson should his legal troubles disappear.
Denver Broncos: Ryan Clady and Denver are attempting to work out a deal, though the two sides are reportedly still a ways away from anything definitive. Meanwhile, the tandem of Manning and Welker has begun to solidify, as they will reportedly use some of the same routes Welker ran for years as a member of New England.
Kansas City Chiefs: In light of the troubles of New England, sources report Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki may be possible trade bait. Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles are currently working on iterations of the pistol offense to incorporate this upcoming season.
Oakland Raiders: All eyes remain on Matt Flynn in Oakland, as Ron Jaworski considers him the worst starting QB in the NFL. Whether Flynn can become the next Rich Gannon or not is unclear, though preliminary estimations of his play suggest he will not survive the season as the Oakland starter.
San Diego Chargers: The player the Chargers seem most excited about this week is RB Danny Woodhead. The Chargers hope his versatility will compliment the sometimes fumble and injury prone Ryan Matthews. The Chargers feel their depth is solidified in the backfield, while talent and age issues of Robert Meachem and Antonio Gates call into question their ability to move the ball through the air this season.
Things are only heating up now that July approaches. Check back again next week for the rundown of all the big stories emerging from the AFC.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.