Cleveland Browns: Wide Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones Continues His Upward Trend
Donovan Peoples-Jones was targeted 96 times last season and had his best game for the Browns in December (eight catches, 114 yards) after Deshaun Watson returned from his 11-game suspension.
The Browns believe Peoples-Jones could have his first 1,000-yard season, after a career-best 61 catches for 839 yards and three touchdowns in 2022. Amari Cooper figures to remain Watson's primary target, but the chemistry between Watson and Peoples-Jones remained strong during OTAs and minicamp.
"Donovan is such a trustworthy target for the quarterbacks," Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski said via Ashley Bastock of cleveland.com. "He's always exactly where he needs to be from a route perspective, from a depth perspective, and then to have ball skills like he does and throw it to a spot where only he can get it, and he has the wherewithal to get his feet down. We talk about him like he's a young player, but he's a pro now, and that's kind of what pros do."
Peoples-Jones production has improved in each of his three seasons, and Watson is a quarterback who likes to throw downfield. The Browns improved their depth at wide receiver by trading for Elijah Moore and signing Marquise Goodwin, but Peoples-Jones could be the receiver who benefits most from playing a full season with Watson.
Cincinnati Bengals: Healthy Sam Hubbard Eyes Double Digit Sacks
Defensive end Sam Hubbard made a play during last year's playoffs that Ravens fans would like to forget, returning Tyler Huntley's fumble for a 98-yard touchdown run.
That may have been the biggest play of Hubbard's five-year career, but he's been a consistent player with at least six sacks in four of the past five seasons.
One thing Hubbard hasn't done is reach 10 sacks during a single season. That's a milestone that Hubbard believes he can reach in 2023 after making a full recovery from a leg injury that hampered him last season.
This is the best I've felt in my whole career by a landslide physically," Hubbard said via Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ website. "I got double-digits in '21 including playoffs, but I want regular-season double-digits. I've been close. Last year I was on pace before I tore my calf … with (four) games to go and slowed me up."
However, Hubbard is more concerned with Cincinnati's win total than his sack total.
"My main goal and only goal is to win the Super Bowl," Hubbard said.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Connor Heyward Eyes Dual Role As Tight End/Fullback
As a rookie last season, Connor Heyward caught 12 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown and took reps at both tight end and fullback.
The Steelers drafted Georgia tight end Darnell Washington in the third round and Pat Freiermuth is fully entrenched as the starter, meaning Heyward could get fewer reps at that position. However, Heyward isn't worried about being fazed out. He expects to earn snaps as a jack-of-all-trades player who can be effective lining up at fullback or tight end from multiple formations.
"Keeping the defense on their heels this year is a big key, and hopefully I can help us do that," Heyward said via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. "By Week 1 we will have a good idea of what will be happening. We are going to add the new with the old and have multiple big bodies out there."
Heyward thinks he can be a valuable receiving weapon on third down if given the opportunity, and he is not shy about saying it.