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Around the AFC North: Rookie Dax Hill Having Strong Spring for Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals' Dax Hill participates in a drill during an NFL football practice.

Cincinnati Bengals: Rookie Defensive Back Dak Hill Draws Praise at OTAs

Kyle Hamilton isn't the only first-round defensive back in the AFC North drawing rave reviews.

The Bengals took safety Dax Hill with the 31st pick in the draft, and his quick grasp of the defensive scheme has impressed Head Coach Zac Taylor during OTAs. Hill's versatility was one of the attributes that impressed Cincinnati during the draft process, and he was an effective roving defensive back at Michigan taking snaps at safety, outside corner and slot corner.

He is the younger brother of Ravens running back Justice Hill.

Cincinnati has two veteran safeties in Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, but the Bengals placed the franchise tag on Bates and his long-term future with the team is uncertain. With Bates not participating in offseason activities, Hill is getting plenty of reps and taking advantage of the opportunity.

"I've been really impressed with him," Head Coach Zac Taylor said via Geoff Hobson of team's website. "I think the part that's maybe the most impressive is I always see him having these sidebar conversations with some of those veterans whether it be Vonn or Mike (Hilton) or Chido (Awuzie) or some of those guys."

It remains to be seen how Hill is deployed in Cincinnati's defense once the season begins. Hill (6-0, 192 pounds) isn't nearly as big as Hamilton (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), but Hill also envisions himself as a versatile safety/corner who can matchup with wide receivers or tight ends, while also being a factor as a run defender.

"I don't want to limit myself to one position," Hill said via James Rapien of "Whatever that is, the coaches will put me wherever that may be. Being a hybrid player throughout my entire career. I don't really want to limit myself, because I know I can play other positions. I'm ready for the journey."

Pittsburgh Steelers: New Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin Has 'Aggressive' Mindset

It's common for coordinators to talk about being aggressive, but new Steelers Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin wants that talk to become action. Pittsburgh ranked 24th in total defense last year and was dead last against the run.

Austin plans on the Steelers being much improved defensively in 2022, and he has heavy familiarity with the AFC North. He was a former secondary coach with the Ravens (2011-13) and the Bengals' defensive coordinator in 2018 before joining Pittsburgh's staff in 2019.

"We are going to be an aggressive defense," Austin said via Chris Adamski of "We are going to be sound. We are not going to give up big plays. We are going to keep scores low and give ourselves a chance to win."

The Steelers have plenty of experienced defensive brain trust in Head Coach Mike Tomlin, Austin, and former Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, who is Pittsburgh's new senior defensive assistant/inside linebackers coach. OTAs have given that trio a chance to work together on the field with players for the first time, and Austin said Pittsburgh's defensive scheme would reflect a collaboration of their thoughts.

"We have input from the staff," Austin said. "The head coach comes in and adds what he wants to add and the things that he wants to see in his defense because it is his team. And then we go from there, and we build our defense. The bottom line is that it isour defense."

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield Excused From Mandatory Minicamp

The saga of where Baker Mayfield will play next season continues, but he won't be at mandatory minicamp this week. His request to be traded has still not been granted, but the Browns and Mayfield agreed that he would be excused.

"We felt like that was the best decision for both sides," Stefanski said via Jeremy Bergman of

Mayfield made his trade request once the Browns pursued Deshaun Watson and eventually signed him to a reported fully guaranteed $230 million contract. Mayfield said he felt "disrespected" by the Browns, but the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 remains under contract with Cleveland and his future is in limbo.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Mayfield has been "fully cleared" after his surgery to repair the torn left labrum he played with last year. Rapoport said the Carolina Panthers remain interested in Mayfield.

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