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NFL Training Camp Primer: AFC North

XN Sports looks at all the biggest questions for the Steelers, Browns, Ravens and Bengals.

Joe Flacco
Troy Polamalu

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Veterans report to NFL training camps as early as Saturday, and by the week’s end every team will be back to the business of football.

XN Sports will be previewing each division prior to the start of training camp to give the major storylines for each of the 32 NFL teams as they begin their camps.

Training Camp Primer: AFC East

Training Camp Primer: NFC East

Training Camp Primer: NFC North

Here’s the XN Sports Training Camp Primer for the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

Is this a backfield by committee? Ray Rice should be suspended, leaving Bernard Pierce to lead a backfield with Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro. What will Rice’s role be?

How does Steve Smith look? The longtime Panthers standout is now in Baltimore to be a No. 2 option next to Torrey Smith. How does this help Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ passing attack?

Is this a top-five defense? John Harbaugh thinks so. There’s a lot of talent with Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Lardarius Webb, among others, but top-five caliber?

Is C.J. Mosley the real deal? The first-round pick should be a starter right away. How can he alter the success of this defense?

Will Timmy Jernigan push Brandon Williams for the starting defensive tackle job? Jernigan was touted as a first-round talent, but Williams has the grip on the starting job. But for how long?

Cincinnati Bengals

How’s the health of Geno Atkins? Arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL, Atkins is coming off surgery on his torn ACL. The Bengals defense suffered without him, but can he return to form?

What will the offense look like under Hue Jackson? The new Bengals offensive coordinator takes over for longtime assistant Jay Gruden, now coach of the Redskins.

Can Darqueze Dennard crack the starting lineup? The first-round pick has two aging veterans in Terence Newman and Adam Jones ahead of him on the depth chart, but offers more upside than those declining players.

Which receiver steps up opposite A.J. Green? Marvin Jones has garnered a lot of hype this offseason, but can he actually force defenses to stop double-teaming Green?

Is BenJarvus Green-Ellis going to be cut? Gio Bernard is the starter and Jeremy Hill looks like he’ll have a big role. Does that spell the end of the Law Firm’s tenure in Cincy?

Cleveland Browns

Will Brian Hoyer be able to stave off Johnny Manziel? Hoyer has the starting quarterback job until the rookie takes it away from him. But Manziel has a whole nation in his back pocket and is ready to pounce whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Who will step up in Josh Gordon‘s absence? Gordon is expected to be suspended for all 16 games, so will Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin or Nate Burleson be the “go-to guy?”

Can Jordan Cameron continue to emerge? One of the best hybrid tight ends in the game, Cameron was one of the NFL’s best surprises early in 2013 until his production began to dwindle.

Is Justin Gilbert ready to be a starter? The first-round pick has a very talented secondary around him, including one of the league’s best shutdown corners Joe Haden. That should mean he’ll get targeted early and often.

What will Karlos Dansby add to the defense? He’s taking over for D’Qwell Jackson, and those in Arizona are already missing Dansby. How can he make a good defense great?

Pittsburgh Steelers

Is Ryan Shazier the new face of the defense? No more LaMarr Woodley, and in his place is the highly touted Shazier. Along with Jason Worilds, Lawrence Timmons and last year’s first-rounded Jarvis Jones, it’s an entirely new-look unit.

Can Mike Mitchell be an upgrade over Ryan Clark? Clark is now in Washington, and Mitchell was the Steelers’ big free-agent signing. Mitchell has long been underrated in Carolina.

Who will step up opposite Antonio Brown? Emmanuel Sanders is now in Denver, leaving sophomore Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant and Lance Moore to pick up the slack. Who’ll be the guy?

Is Steve Mclendon primed for a bigger role? He’s penciled in as the starting nose tackle. All indications are that the Steelers are very high on his anchoring the defensive line.

Can Cameron Heyward and Cam Thomas spark the pass rush? Last year’s unit lacked production, finishing 25th with 34 sacks. Now it falls on Thomas and Heyward, and perhaps rookie Stephon Tuitt, to get back to Steelers football.

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