Around the AFC North: Joe Burrow In, Andy Dalton Out, But Questions Remain in Cincy

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QBs Joe Burrow and Andy Dalton

Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow Officially Replaces Dalton, But Will the Rookie Succeed Immediately?

The quarterback change is official in Cincinnati with No. 1-overall choice Joe Burrow in and nearly decade-long starter Andy Dalton out.

Dalton was released by the Bengals Thursday and signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys two days later.

Now there is debate about whether Burrow, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and national champion, will be an immediate hit and mega-star.

Two anonymous general managers told The Athletic that they have doubts about Burrow, who completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.

"I have concerns," one GM said. "He does not have a lot of power or strength in his arm at all. He is a one-year producer. Love the brain, like the short accuracy. He is Alex Smith-like, and Alex was the No. 1 pick in the draft, nothing wrong with that."

Another GM said he would have drafted Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young and gotten a quarterback at a different time. The Bengals grabbed Burrow, then got him another weapon with Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins with the first pick in the second round.

But another concern in Cincinnati is whether the Bengals didn't do enough to protect their investment. The Bengals had offensive line concerns last year, will now be without veteran Cordy Glenn, and didn't draft an offensive lineman until the sixth round. Cincinnati will get its 2019 first-round pick, Jonah Williams, back on the field after his rookie year was lost to a shoulder injury.

"The development of a first-round quarterback is as much about not ruining him as placing him in a position to succeed," Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski wrote.

"A team can have the right system in place and plenty of talent at the skill positions. But if the young signal-caller isn't properly protected and is under constant duress, he'll never excel. Offensive line play tends to be overlooked when it comes to a quarterback's progression."

Cleveland Browns: Stephen A. Smith's Biggest Threat to the Ravens

The Ravens won the division by six games last year, landed some big-time players in free agency and had what many pundits are calling the best draft in the NFL.

So who in the AFC North will be the Ravens' biggest challenge in 2020? ESPN's Stephen A. Smith thinks it's the Browns.

"You look at the Browns, I'm going to have to go with them. I think they're the biggest threat right now – at least on paper," Smith said. "We don't expect Baker Mayfield to regress. You have a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, who clearly is an upgrade from Mr. [Freddie] Kitchens himself. At least that's the perception."

Smith also talks about the Browns' addition of tight end Austin Hooper, the upgrade of the offensive line via free agency and the draft, and returning weapons such as Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb.

"I didn't believe in them at all last year because I thought it was too much hype," Smith said. "Now that they've gotten knocked back down to Earth, I do think they can be a legitimate threat right now."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Rookie O-Lineman Has Unique Trash Talk

There doesn't seem to be as much trash talk in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry anymore now that some of the legends aren't part of it. That could be changing, however.

New fourth-round rookie guard Kevin Dotson brings his own twist on trash talk.

It will be interesting to see how that works out against Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe and the rest of the Ravens' defensive line if Dotson earns a starting job.

In other Steelers news, they unsurprisingly picked up T.J. Watt's fifth-year option for 2021. The outside linebacker had a career-high 14 ½ sacks, 36 quarterback hits and eight forced fumbles last season. Pittsburgh added more pass-rush weapons with third-round LB Alex Highsmith, who was Mel Kiper's favorite pick of that round.

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