What has the AFC North buzzing this week? Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase opened up about Joe Burrow’s injury, a rookie shined for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens star J.K. Dobbins creating the latest running back drama.
Let’s start with perhaps the biggest news in the division so far in training camp and that is the calf injury suffered by Burrow. With the team’s Super Bowl chances hinging on the health of one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks, his top target wants him to be 100 percent healthy before returning.
Joe Burrow’s injury the biggest X-factor in the AFC North
During an appearance on Friday’s Inside Training Camp, Chase revealed what he told his current and former LSU teammate. He doesn’t want him back unless he is fully healthy.
"“I told him that with all honesty I don’t want him there,” Chase said, as transcribed by NFL.com. “Same thing with me last year.“I sat out an extra game just to let my hip all the way heal up, and you don’t want to cause no other problems later on in the season, and I told him as long as you’re there after Week 4 and on, we’re good brother.”"
The Bengals are set to face AFC North foes the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in the first two weeks of the 2023 NFL season. While dropping to 0-2 isn’t ideal for the Bengals, especially within the division, a healthy Burrow could easily flip the season like the team did a season ago when going 0-2 to start the season.
With Chase, Higgins and the star power the Bengals have, they should be able to remain competitive without Burrow. In his absence they will have to lean on their defense and a running game led by Joe Mixon and Chase Brown.
Want your voice heard? Join the NFL Mocks team!
Of course, with Chase and Tee Higgins on the outside any quarterback can look good for a game or two.
AFC North rookie watch: Browns rookie Dorian Thomson-Robinson shines
If the Browns are to make some noise in the AFC North, starting quarterback Deshaun Watson will need to have a great season, especially with all the talent around him.
But if he doesn’t watch out rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson may have him looking over his shoulders. A bit of an overreaction, but after a stellar debut in the team’s 21-16 victory over the New York Jets in the annual Hall of Fame Game, the electrifying QB has fans buzzing and Aaron Rodgers too!
In making his debut, the fifth-round pick led the Browns on an impressive 16-play, 93-yard drive featuring big plays with both his arm and legs. That long drive led to a touchdown run by Demetric Felton, and he later give the Browns a lead with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Austin Watkins Jr.
Again, just a preseason game, but the UCLA product looked impressive and a rookie to watch throughout the preseason. He won’t be coming for Watkins job, but he showed the Browns they could have something to work with.
AFC North drama: Ravens running back J.K Dobbins “sitting out”
The AFC North has some more running back drama brewing. As Joe Mixon eventually agreed on a pay cut to stay with the Bengals this upcoming season, Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins has decided to test the market by addressing his current contract situation.
As it wasn’t certain whether it was the contract or an injury, teammate and fellow running back Melvin Gordon let the cat out of the bag by revealing Dobbins is sitting out due to his contract.
"“I didn’t even know he’s sitting out, but J.K. is sitting out. They’re not even making a big headline out of it, unless you’re in Indy, I guess,” Gordon said, via the Baltimore Banner. “And they got other players sitting out. I didn’t even know J.K. was sitting out until I came here.”"
Dobbins, who impressed in his rookie season, played just 8 games in 2022 due to injury. In those 8 games, he rushed for 520 yards on 92 attempts with 2 touchdowns. While he was on pace for a 1,000-yard season, Dobbins doesn’t yet have the resume of a Mixon, Saqon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Jonathan Taylor or any of the other running backs who challenged the market.
With that said, best of luck to Dobbins.