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AFC North training camp preview: 3 things to watch

Around The League's Training Camp Preview series will identify three things to watch for the teams in each division this summer.

Baltimore Ravens


1. Only two defensive starters -- Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata -- remain from the team's Super Bowl-winning season, but coach John Harbaugh expects his D "to be top five, at the worst." Lofty goals, but the Ravens love what they've seen from rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley, who looms as a Week 1 starter. Baltimore should also benefit from moving Matt Elam to his natural position of strong safety.

2. Torrey Smith begged for a "move-the-chains" pass-catcher and got his wish with the signing of Steve Smith. The biggest beneficiary in Gary Kubiak's offense, though, might be a "100 percent" healthy Dennis Pitta, who said the team's new attack is "set up for receivers to have big years and for tight ends to catch a lot of footballs." We still expect Joe Flacco's pass attempts to dip in a scheme that emphasizes the ground game.

3. Speaking of the backfield, the Ravens are still waiting to hear about Ray Rice's potential suspension. Coming off his disastrous 2013 campaign, Rice has trimmed down and waved off last year's hip injury, but look for Baltimore to employ a committee approach that sees Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro battle for snaps.

Cincinnati Bengals


1. The switch to play-caller Hue Jackson will improve this offense. Jackson spent the spring "toying" with formations that got Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill on the field together, getting the most out of Gio's freaky elusiveness and Hill's short-yardage power. BenJarvus Green-Ellis looms as the odd man out.

2. Magnifying the run is part of a plan to reduce pass attempts for Andy Dalton. "I'll jump off a building with this guy," Jackson said of his quarterback to NFL Media columnist Michael Silver. The loyalty is noted, but the Bengals plan to emulate Seattle's run-heavy approach in a scheme that promises to take the heat off their unspectacular passer.

3. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has big shoes to fill after Mike Zimmer took the Vikings job. A healthy Geno Atkins will help, as will the emergence of young linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. Bengals coaches and players were "just raving about" Lamur this offseason as a 6-foot-4, 244-pound terror who can make "game-busting" plays.

Cleveland Browns


1. The AFC's most intriguing quarterback battle unfolds in Cleveland, where veteran Brian Hoyer will do his best to hold off lightning-rod Johnny Manziel. Sitting No. 1 on the depth chart heading into camp, Hoyer says his surgically rebuilt knee is ready to roll. Still, with play-caller Kyle Shanahan using plenty "of the stuff they did in Washington," we're sticking to our guns: Johnny will be under center come Week 1.

2. No matter who starts, the Browns are a candidate to lead the NFL in rushing attempts. Both Ben Tate and rookie Terrance West will eat, but we're also keeping an eye on the undrafted Isaiah Crowell. The former Georgia and Alabama State star is an explosive, urgent runner with a chance to make this roster.

3. Coach Mike Pettine was hired to flip the switch on a talented defense with depth across the board. One player to watch? "Making the Leap" candidate Jabaal Sheard, who "plays like his hair is on fire" and has been tabbed for the Mario Williams role in Pettine's multiple-look 3-4 front.

Pittsburgh Steelers


1. No team in the division has done more to add speed on both sides of the ball. It starts on defense, where rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier was a "younger version of Troy Polamalu -- lining up everywhere and anywhere" during the spring. Playing alongside Lawrence Timmons, Shazier has earned the trust of coordinator Dick LeBeau and looms as a legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

2. Coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network last week that he'll use camp to "sort out" the division of labor between running backs Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount and lightning-quick rookie Dri Archer. While Blount figures to steal carries at the goal line, we still expect "Making the Leap" candidate Bell to carry the ground game.

3. The Steelers also have to "sort" through their talent at wide receiver, where "Leap" candidate Markus Wheaton is penciled in to start across from Antonio Brown. Fourth-round pick Martavis Bryant answers the team's need for a big-bodied pass-catcher, leaving receivers coach Richard Mann to call the rookie a red-zone threat set to be used in "various ways" in Todd Haley's attack. Color us intrigued.

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