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AFC North notebook: Bengals have top tight end tandem

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 6:39 p.m.

The Patriots built a groundbreaking offense around Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but the NFL's best tight end duo now might be in Cincinnati with Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert, a player who interested the Steelers before they drafted Jarvis Jones.

To Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, what makes his offense different from the Patriots' tight end-driven unit of last season is having a premier deep threat receiver in A.J. Green, something Tom Brady lacked in New England.

Lewis calls Eifert a combination of Mark Bruener and Todd Heap.

“I feel like in this division, versus the 3-4 outside linebackers we've got to block, a part of it is that we have a tight end who can do that,” Lewis said. “Just like Heath Miller there, we have that guy now in Jermaine and a young guy in Eifert, who I think someday will be able to do that as well.”

Kruger sees similarities

The Browns (0-1) have lost 10 straight to the Ravens, and pass rush ace Paul Kruger played a role in many of those wins. Now, Kruger is with the Browns and, surprisingly, he sees many similarities in the way Cleveland is attempting to play defense and the way it's traditionally played in Baltimore.

Kruger credits former Steelers assistant coach Ray Horton, now the Browns defensive coordinator.

“Ray Horton is one of those guys who I was really quickly able to look up to and learn from,” Kruger said. “I really like his style of defense. There are definitely differences ... but it's all similar stuff. We run a similar defense.”

Ravens finally open at home

This was supposed to be the Baltimore Ravens' showcase game, their first home game since winning the Super Bowl. Thursday night. The nation watching. Instead, they'll open their home schedule Sunday against ... the Browns.

Peyton Manning's seven touchdown passes no doubt had more to do with the Ravens being blown out 49-27 in their season-opening game as defending champs, but traveling all the way to Denver didn't help either. The Sept. 5 game couldn't be played in Baltimore because of a conflict with an Orioles game.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said it wasn't the 61 plays the Broncos ran for 200 yards that beat the Ravens but the nine plays they ran for 300 yards.

“You give up 49 points and 500 yards and it's really, really disappointing,” Pees said. “I'm not a stat guy, but I'm not an idiot, either.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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