The preseason officially kicked off in the AFC North on Thursday night, when the Ravens won at Atlanta and the Steelers lost at Philadelphia. You can't read too much into the results because the Ravens' starters struggled and the Steelers' first teams started strong.
The Bengals and Browns open their preseasons Friday night. I'll post my thoughts and observations following those games. As for now, it's time for your wake-up call.
BENGALS: Cincinnati's opener against the Jets will be a welcome challenge for the Bengals' revamped running attack, which features three new starters: running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and guards Travelle Wharton and rookie Kevin Zeitler. “It will be a good test of communication and getting the calls out and having guys you haven’t played next to understanding them and do them,” center Kyle Cook told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s always a good test when you can face somebody that’s got a multiple-set defense because obviously in our division we play teams like that.”
BROWNS: With running back Trent Richardson out after having his knee scoped, all of the attention in the opener turns to rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. Head coach Pat Shurmur tempered expectations by saying he expects Weeden to have some ups and downs in his debut. "Let's remember now, he's a rookie," Shurmur told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We're looking for him to go out there and execute and be generally efficient and then take the lead of that huddle and direct us into the end zone."
RAVENS: Baltimore is now down to its third-string tight end after starter Ed Dickson partially dislocated his shoulder on a nine-yard touchdown catch in the preseason opener. “We’re pretty sure it’s just a sprain but we’re going to get an MRI," coach John Harbaugh told The Baltimore Sun. "We’re probably looking at a couple of weeks.” With backup Dennis Pitta (broken hand) out for the preseason, the Ravens are down to four healthy tight ends, including veteran Billy Bajema.
STEELERS: Pittsburgh was expected to use a fullback more under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but that plan might have to change after David Johnson suffered a "severe" knee injury in the preseason opener, according to coach Mike Tomlin. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting Johnson tore his ACL and is done for the season. The only other fullback on the roster is Will Johnson, who signed this year after being out of football in 2011.