It was an up and down weekend in the AFC North in week one but the news was dominated by the story that the Cleveland Browns will be onto their 26th starting quarterback since they re-entered the league. Yes, the Robert Griffin III era in Cleveland is over almost as quickly as it began. Whilst he played, RGIII showed none of the promise that got fans in Cleveland excited and achieved a low 55.0 pass rating despite several long completions.
There was little to cheer about for the Browns in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz in his first regular season start. Carl Nassib proved to be a bright spot on an otherwise unimpressive defense. The Penn State product was a thorn in the side of the Eagles offense all day. He finished the day with three tackles and a sack. According to Pro Football Focus he also added four pressures and a hit. Nassib looks raw but extremely talented and should only see his role expand as he gains more experience.
Speaking of bright spots the Browns receivers did manage some impressive plays, especially Terrelle Pryor, who had an impressive diving catch on his way to 68 yards ,and rookie Corey Coleman who had a long 58 yard reception on his way to 68 yards. They’ll have to get used to receiving passes from another quarterback as they’ll be starting Josh McCown until rookie quarterback Cody Kessler is NFL ready. It’s entirely possible the Browns will, once again, be picking a quarterback early in the draft.
The Bengals offense certainly looks to be back on track now that Andy Dalton is under center again. Bengals showed they may one of the luckiest teams in Week 1 as they held on to beat the New York Jets. AJ Green is one of the game’s elite relievers and looked open all day, even when in double coverage! He finished with 12 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown. Brandon LaFell benefitted greatly from the coverage Green received and chipped in for 91. If the Bengals offense can develop a running game there’ll be a tough prospect to stop.
In Pittsburg, reports of a weakened Steelers offence seem to have been much exaggerated. In the season opener they showed no signs of slowing down. DeAngelo Williams is still very much capable of being a lead back, rushing his way to a 143 yard total that included two touchdowns. Antonio Brown repeatedly found space despite the Redskins addition of Josh Norman, who really wasn’t a factor. Big Ben passed for 300 yards. Tight end Jesse James didn’t see many passes his way but is becoming a real factor as a blocker. What surprised me in this one was how good the Steelers defense looked against Kirk Cousins. They excelled on third down, allowing only 3 of 10 attempts to be converted and allowing only 55 net yards.
Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense didn’t really get into their stride. Mike Wallace made the immediate impact that the Ravens envisioned as he pitched in with 91 yards and a touchdown, but his was the only real performance of note. In terms of defence, key off season signing Eric Weddle took control of a Ravens defense and they impressed. After their injury riddled 2015 season, the Ravens rebounded as they held the Bills to seven points and only 160 yards. Particularly impressive was Shareece Wright with 11 tackles. Suggs, meanwhile, was less than impressive as he only managed two tackles and a sack. He also missed a tackle on Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor that would have stopped the Bills touchdown drive. His star looks firmly in decline.
So how does this leave the standings in the division at the end of Week 1? The Browns were the only team to suffer a loss while the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals are all 1-0. In fact the Browns managed to make Carson Wentz look so impressive that he came away with the Pepsi Rookie of The Week award. As good as Wentz looked, it could be a long year for the Dog Pound!