What you need to know about the AFC North

Johnny Manziel has cashed in in Cleveland. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The top The AFC North is Johnny Manziel’s division; everyone else is just living in it.

Not bad for the No. 22 pick in the NFL draft and a guy who isn’t promised to be the starter when the Cleveland Browns’ season begins. In Baltimore, they’re hoping for headlines about on-the-field matters; in Cincinnati, they’re replacing a couple of big-name coordinators; and in Pittsburgh, they’re doing things the Steeler way.

Baltimore Ravens

Top storyline – The beginning of training camp is the best story line, anyway, because that means no one is talking about how the Ravens led the league in offseason arrests. Even though few of those guys are locks to make the final roster, it was an embarrassing run and there’s uncertainty concerning how Ray Rice will put the controversy behind him.

Key acquisition – Gary Kubiak might just be the most important person on the scene. The former Houston Texans’ coach will be tasked with sparking the offense and helping QB Joe Flacco get his mojo back.

Biggest loss – Defensive lineman Arthur Jones left for the Indianapolis Colts.

Cincinnati Bengals

Top story line – The Bengals are nothing if not steady: Marvin Lewis coaches ’em, they get into the playoffs, they lose. At least they aren’t on “Hard Knocks” this year.

Key acquisition – Jeremy Hill, a second-round draft pick, is expected to share the burden in the offensive backfield with Giovani Bernard.

Biggest loss – The coordinators: Jay Gruden headed to Washington to coach the Redskins, with Hue Jackson now tasked with helping Andy Dalton, and Mike Zimmer takes over in Minnesota.

Cleveland Browns

Top story line – LeBron James is back in town! Oh, and the Browns have a new coach, Mike Pettine, and a new quarterback, Johnny Football.

Key acquisition – Forget the No. 22 pick in the NFL draft, that Johnny Manziel guy. Signing running back Ben Tate may have a bigger immediate impact.

Biggest loss — T.J. Ward was a big acquisition…for the Denver Broncos.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Top story line – There’s an awareness of a sell-by date on these Steelers and for Coach Mike Tomlin, but the evolution has been gradual, the stability impressive. Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor are the only players still on the roster with two Super Bowl rings.

Key acquisition – Mike Mitchell, a free agent out of Carolina, will replace Ryan Clark at safety and is a younger, faster option.

Biggest loss – Ryan Clark goes back to the Washington Redskins.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.



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Cindy Boren · July 22, 2014

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