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Thread: AFC North: Most indispensable players

      
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    Default AFC North: Most indispensable players

    AFC North: Most indispensable players
    Aug 25
    By James Walker

    A team-by-team look at the most indispensable players (non-quarterbacks) in the division.

    The NFL, perhaps more than any professional sport, is a league filled with replaceable players. By sheer numbers, fielding 22 players on offense and defense makes it difficult for a single cog to be above the team, especially for non-quarterbacks.

    But there are several players vital to AFC North teams. Here are four difference-makers in the division:

    [IMGR]http://i36.tinypic.com/kar2nd.gif[/IMGR][HIGH-LIGHT]PITTSBURGH STEELERS: TROY POLAMALU

    To define Polamalu's importance, look no further than last season. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs in 2009, mostly because its defense was unable to hold leads in the fourth quarter without its star safety in the lineup.

    Polamalu missed 11 games with a left knee injury, and it appeared the other 10 defenders were overcompensating for Polamalu's absence by blowing routine assignments. Polamalu provides a calming influence, and his greatness can be measured by his teammates playing at a higher level when he's in the game.

    Steelers defensive coordinator and 2010 Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau recently said he cannot find a weakness with Polamalu. He's athletic, smart, instinctive and excels against the pass and the run.

    Pittsburgh's defense without Polamalu is good (No. 5 in 2009), but with Polamalu, it might be the best in the NFL.[/HIGH-LIGHT]


    CLEVELAND BROWNS: JOSH CRIBBS

    Where would the Browns be without Cribbs?

    For starters, you probably can erase two or three wins from last year's 5-11 record. Cribbs also might have saved Browns head coach Eric Mangini's job.

    Cribbs was one of the few bright spots for Cleveland last season. He made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, but his ability to run the Wildcat also added a new wrinkle to the Browns' struggling offense, which finished last in the NFL in 2009.

    The Browns plan to expand Cribbs' role, both in the Wildcat and as a receiver. The more the team is able to get the ball in his hands, the better.

    Despite Cleveland adding pieces in the draft and free agency, Cribbs remains the Browns' most-feared player. He's also a locker-room leader and, perhaps, the new face of Cleveland sports now that LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat.

    BALTIMORE RAVENS: RAY LEWIS

    Lewis, 35, is no longer the Ravens' best player. That distinction could be shared by Ray Rice, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata. But Lewis' leadership still makes him Baltimore's most indispensable player.

    Lewis remains the heart and soul of a team many feel is a Super Bowl contender this year. Physically, the Ravens are stacked with talent at nearly every position. But there's no one in the locker room who can replace Lewis' role as the motivational leader.

    On the field, Lewis made his 11th Pro Bowl last season, recording 134 tackles and three sacks. Backups Dannell Ellerbe or Tavares Gooden would be significant drop-offs if Lewis were injured. On the other hand, the Ravens have plenty of quality replacements ready for Rice, Reed and Ngata. Even Joe Flacco has a capable backup in veteran quarterback Marc Bulger.

    CINCINNATI BENGALS: CEDRIC BENSON

    Cincinnati is a team better defined by the sum of its parts. But if I had to pick the most important non-quarterback, it would be Benson.

    The Bengals have two very good cornerbacks: Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. They have plenty of receivers, including two who have put up Hall of Fame-caliber numbers in Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. But Benson is the workhorse who makes it all work. Benson opens things up for the passing game, which was inconsistent last season, and he moves the chains to help keep the defense off the field.

    Second-year tailback Bernard Scott will help Benson carry the load this year. He showed positive flashes as a rookie, but the former sixth-round pick remains unproven. With Cincinnati expected to pass more, Benson might not match his career-best 1,251 rushing yards from last season. But that doesn't make him any less important.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/pos...nsable-players
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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    Josh Cribbs...


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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    I think Ray Lewis is nothing but hype.

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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    It's clear our secondary lives and dies with or without Troy.

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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweetchuck View Post
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    It's clear our secondary lives and dies with or without Troy.


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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    Cleveland is interesting. At one point they appeared to be building properly for the future. They invested a lot of drafting talent and money into the trenches. Their Offensive Line is good and can become very good and their defensive line is pretty strong. After that it's like they forgot that they needed to surround the lines with talent that could benefit from the line.
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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    I would rather build a team with excellent lines and extend from there. The thing is you can't groom a bunch a guys that really show the talent and then wait each season to plug in other players. By then you have desired guys that get big offers from other teams and then they're gone. The NFL is such a chess match to keeping a group of talent that gels even with your not so first choice players.

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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    Ray Lewis has to get old someday..............I'm callin it this year!

    It's bad when your kick returner is the guy you can't live without!

    Benson? A one year player who could go down as fast as he came up? Only in Cinci!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stone View Post
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    Ray Lewis has to get old someday..............I'm callin it this year!

    It's bad when your kick returner is the guy you can't live without!

    Benson? A one year player who could go down as fast as he came up? Only in Cinci!
    True and as far as the Steelers go I think we can weather pretty much any ONE injury even Troy. It's been proven in the past. Losing 2 of your top players is devastating tho.

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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    Quote Originally Posted by Kipper View Post
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    Cleveland is interesting. At one point they appeared to be building properly for the future. They invested a lot of drafting talent and money into the trenches. Their Offensive Line is good and can become very good and their defensive line is pretty strong. After that it's like they forgot that they needed to surround the lines with talent that could benefit from the line.
    My thoughts too... I would contend that Joe Thomas is a bit more important to Cleveland's team than Cribbs. Although, Cribbs represents the only "true scoring threat" that they have on offense. However, I would love to see a guy with Thomas' skills playing on the outside/edge of our line.

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    Default Re: AFC North: Most indispensable players

    As far as Baltimore goes, I would think that Ray Rice is THE GUY!...The other "Ray" is more of an emotional leader IMO.

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