- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Three of the four AFC North teams released their "unofficial" depth charts because the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns kick off their preseason Thursday. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who open their preseason Saturday, haven't put out a depth chart.
Here are some thoughts on how the teams have their players stacked up ...
The Ravens obviously don't want to place any rookie atop the depth chart just yet. First-round pick Matt Elam is behind James Ihedigbo at strong safety, and second-rounder Arthur Brown is behind injured Jameel McClain and Josh Bynes at the one inside linebacker spot. My guess is Elam and Brown are starting the season opener. Daryl Smith is the starter at the other inside linebacker spot.
The biggest surprise on the Bengals' depth chart was George Iloka being listed as the starting strong safety. Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams are behind him, in that order. The Bengals have been rotating Iloka, Mays and Williams throughout training camp. Most expect Williams, a rookie third-round pick, to eventually come out on top at some point this season.
At cornerback, just like last season, Leon Hall and Terence Newman are the top cornerbacks. Dre Kirkpatrick, last year's top pick, is behind Newman and Brandon Ghee. Kirkpatrick, who's had a strong camp, should figure into the team's nickel defense.
The name that stuck out on offense was Orson Charles. The converted tight end is already ahead of John Conner on the fullback depth chart. Charles, who is more of an H-back, has been among the most pleasant surprises this camp. Chris Pressley, last year's starter, is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with a knee injury.
Not a good sign for 2011 fourth-round pick Owen Marecic. Chris Ogbonnaya, a third-down back for his career, is currently the starting fullback. He offers more versatility in Norv Turner's offense than Marecic, who was benched last year by the former coaching staff.
On the offensive line, the Browns have co-starters listed at left guard (John Greco and Jason Pinkston) and right guard (Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao). Given that the Browns signed Greco to a new contract, he is considered the favorite at left guard. Pinkston and Lauvao will compete for the right guard spot.
On defense, Jabaal Sheard is ahead of rookie first-round pick Barkevious Mingo at outside linebacker and Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are listed as co-starters at right cornerback. Rookie third-round pick Leon McFadden is behind Joe Haden at left cornerback. I project Owens and McFadden will continue to split time at right cornerback, and Skrine will get snaps at the slot corner.