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SPORTS WEEKEND | AROUND THE AFC / CENTRAL

Pickens a Big Addition

September 01, 2000|HOUSTON MITCHELL

The Tennessee Titans came into training camp with questions about how Steve McNair would fare with a new offensive coordinator, with a craving to fill a hole at wide receiver and wondering how a revamped linebacker corps would respond.

McNair has looked solid running an offense adjusted by new coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who was presented with free-agent receiver Carl Pickens shortly into camp. With a true go-to guy running downfield and making big plays for McNair and Heimerdinger encouraging McNair to roll through specific progressions, the downfield passing game has looked good in limited viewings. Pickens will really be featured in the red zone, where he can collect fades, outjump short corners and give defenses panic attacks.

"That is the reason Carl is here, to make those kind of plays in the back of the end zone," Coach Jeff Fisher said after Pickens collected a fade for a touchdown in the exhibition opener against Kansas City.

The Titans think the every-down presence of linebacker Randall Godfrey will have a big impact. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Godfrey is potentially the best linebacker the team has had.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two quarterbacks, Kent Graham and Kordell Stewart, which means they have none.

The Baltimore Ravens are a lot like the Steelers of a few years ago--a punishing defense and an efficient offense. But they need the Tony Banks of the second half of last season, when they finished 5-2.

The Cleveland Browns lost their last exhibition game in Green Bay by only one point! Players talked and acted as if they had won the AFC Central. It had to be the most uplifting one-point loss in the history of football. Which shows one thing: The Browns are no good.

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