The key position battles for each AFC North team

Raphael ZamoranoMay 25, 2023, 6:39 PM ETReading: 7 min.

Ravens rookie surprises dad with car

Receiver Zay Flowers, a first-round draft pick, bought his dad a gift.

We took a look at each roster in the division to identify the most important positional competition for each club.

After the miniature wave of free agency signings that followed the 2023 NFL Draft –players who will no longer affect the compensatory selection formula, by the way–, the 32 teams are getting closer to defining what their squads will look like for the training camps, at the end of July. There, great battles for position await us at all levels, before the rosters of each club are almost halved, from 90 to the final 53 players.

There are still some moves to be made, and the veteran minicamps in June, along with the organized team activity sessions — which are voluntary — will give us a better idea of ​​what each club will look like come September.

In the meantime, we take a look at the key position battles that are brewing in each of the squads of the NFLfollowing with the Norte from Americana after starting from the AFC It is.

Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh fill the starting spots at outside linebackers for Baltimore for now, but that could change if David Ojabo returns to his Michigan level.Getty Images

AFC: nfl-batallas-por-posicion-clave-para-cada-equipo-de-la-afc-este" rel="noopener">This | North | Sur | West
NFC: This | North | Sur | West


In the Ravens’ defensive scheme — like some other teams — it’s one of the two outside linebackers who carries the most responsibility for rushing opposing quarterbacks. In Baltimore, Oweh rushed 58.43 percent of his 611 defensive snaps in this role, while Tyus Bowser, on the opposite end, only rushed 40.99 percent of his 344 snaps.

However, the production of Oweh, a first-round pick — No. 31 overall in 2021 — is the thing to worry about. Last year, he had just three sacks, a drop from the five he had as a rookie, with fewer snaps made.

Bowser — a second-round pick in 2017 — didn’t fare much better, making just two sacks in 2022 after posting a career-high seven a year earlier.

The Ravens selected Ojabo in the second round in the 2022 draft, but the Michigan product was limited to just two appearances as a rookie, still recovering from an Achilles tendon injury suffered in his senior year.

Justin Houston led the club last year in sacks with 9.5, but the veteran remains a free agent and there’s no certainty he’ll return to the roster. The team didn’t get much production from Jason Pierre-Paul in his only year with the club, last year, and he apparently won’t be returning to Baltimore. That means most of the pressure should fall on these three high draft picks, with Oweh and Ojabo likely contesting Rush’s role on defense, and Bowser establishing himself on the strong side where he, in turn, will see some of competition courtesy of rookie Tavius ​​Robinson, a fourth-round pick last April.

The picture is not encouraging, except for the fact that, speaking of the linebacker group in general, the Ravens shine with the pairing of Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen on the inside. Baltimore requires an urgent uncovering of one of its young outside linebackers.

Don’t take your eyes off: Tavius Robinson versus Tyus Bowser, linebackers externos.

The Bengals made some noise this offseason when they signed four-time Pro Bowl selection Orlando Brown Jr. to protect the blindside of still-battered Joe Burrow.

The one who didn’t take the news so well is Williams, who immediately requested to be traded rather than move to right tackle. Multiple outlets reported that the Bengals and Jaguars discussed a potential Williams trade leading up to the draft, but nothing came of it.

For now, Williams faces the task of learning how to play traded, a challenge that not everyone can overcome. On top of that, Williams gave up 12 sacks last year, the most in the league, and he’ll be under heavy pressure to prove that’s not his regular standard.

Then there’s the case of Collins, the coveted free agent that Cincinnati signed last year, precisely to play on the right, opposite Williams. Collins is still working his way back from a knee injury late last December that included torn ACL, ACL, and MCL. There are no guarantees that he will be ready for the start of the campaign, although the reports are positive.

That seems to indicate that Williams will start the year at right tackle, and perhaps Collins can return to the guard position — where he’s played a lot for the Cowboys in the past — guaranteeing that the team’s top three offensive linemen will be on the field at Same time. If Williams struggles in transition, then Collins will resume that position.

While Collins returns, however, other players like Carman Jackson will get some reps at the job during spring training.

Don’t take your eyes off: DJ Turner II versus Chidobe Awuzie, cornerbacks; Cordell Volson versus Carman Jackson versus Max Scharping, guards.

Denzel Ward is set as one of Cleveland’s starting cornerbacks. Now, it’s time to fix the opposite corner. Newsome was a first-round pick for Cleveland in 2021, making 26 starts in the 27 games he has played as a pro.

However, Emerson, a third-round pick last year, showed better flashes in 2022, forcing the Browns to push Newsome into the slot, where he himself admitted he wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

Newsome’s preference is to play outside, but Emerson’s level could prevent him from returning there. As if that weren’t enough, Newsome was upset by the trade rumors that circulated a few weeks ago, some of them no doubt stemming from Emerson’s handover of him. Newsome will have a chance to challenge for that corner this summer, but Emerson showed some really good stuff in his debut season.

Don’t take your eyes off: David Bell versus Elijah Moore, wide receivers.

Continuing with the cornerback theme, the Steelers also need to define their primary partner at the position. Pittsburgh helped clear things up a bit a week ago when they released veteran Ahkello Witherspoon, who was definitely going to be part of the competition.

Future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson is an interesting addition. At 33 years old when the season opens, he’s no longer the super-athletic star of other years, but what he’s lost physically he’s gained mentally, and his play recognition and positioning are top-notch. Peterson should shine in zone coverage situations. However, Pittsburgh uses a heavy dose of personal coverage. Peterson has mentioned that he is eager to be employed at different points in the lineup, as the team did at the time with Joe Haden.

Porter arrived via the draft last year, and comparisons to Marlon Humphrey automatically raise the bar of expectations quite a bit. Like Peterson, Porter has the ability to line up against the biggest wide receivers in the league and play aggressively down the line. After that, we’ll see how he fares in his rookie season.

Finally, there’s Wallace, a sixth-year veteran who has smaller size but probably better short and long speed than the other two mentioned.

The Steelers have three spots to fill after losing Cam Sutton — who shone in the slot — in free agency. Wallace and Porter could start on the outside, with Peterson supporting on the inside, to start the season. Fortunately, Pittsburgh possesses three safeties capable of taking the slot from time to time, in Minkah Fitzpatrick, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee. If Porter struggles early in his professional career, Peterson will take the outside job, no doubt.

Don’t take your eyes off: Broderick Jones versus Dan Moore Jr., tackles ofensivos; Damontae Kazee versus Keanu Neal, safeties; Keeanu Benton, Montravius Adams, tackles defensivos.

2023-05-25 22:39:00
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