Around the AFC North: New Faces Are in Focus as Camps Begin

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DE Melvin Ingram

The AFC North is expected to be among the NFL's toughest divisions again in 2021, and each team has spent the offseason trying to upgrade its roster. Here's a look at three new faces in the division primed to make an impact as training camps open.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Melvin Ingram Adds New Look to Potent Pass Rush

The Steelers led the NFL with 56 sacks last season, and their recent signing of veteran outside linebacker Melvin Ingram gives them a new weapon to torment quarterbacks.

T.J. Watt (15 sacks) and Stephon Tuitt (11) led Pittsburgh's potent pass rush in 2020, but the Steelers lost linebacker Bud Dupree (eight sacks) to the Tennessee Titans in free agency. Ingram plans to fill that void, determined to prove he's still an elite pass rusher at age 32 after a knee injury limited him to zero sacks in just seven games last season. Over his career, Ingram has five seasons with at least seven sacks, and he's declaring himself 100 percent healthy heading into training camp.

"I feel 18," Ingram said via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com. "I've still got a lot left in me. I love football and my body feels great.

"Had an injury last year, but that's part of the game. It's a physical sport. Right now I'm 100 percent, 200 percent healthy. I feel amazing."

The Steelers' pass rush was a key to them starting 11-0 in 2020 and winning the division title. Watt led the NFL in sacks last season and is looking forward to playing with a proven pass rusher like Ingram.

"He's just a player that has a lot of burst off the line of scrimmage," Watt said. "He's got a phenomenal spin move and just seeing him in person, he is a colorful guy and I am excited to work with him."

Cleveland Browns: Rookie Cornerback Newsome Eyes Starting Spot

After giving up at least 30 points in six games last season, the Browns focused on improving their defense during the offseason. They drafted Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round (26th overall), and he signed his rookie deal Saturday, becoming one of the last first-round picks to sign.

Newsome hopes to win a starting role at training camp, where he'll compete with Greedy Williams for the cornerback spot opposite Denzel Ward.

"Obviously, I would love to start at corner," Ward said via Mary Cay Cabot at cleveland.com. "I think any corner in the room would love to be a starting corner. At the end of the day, if I am helping the team win, that is all I can ask for."

Newsome says he'll take his lead at training camp from All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, who sets the tone for Cleveland's defense.

"He's a freak. I can't wait to play with a guy like that," Newsome said.

Cincinnati Bengals: Teammates Say Chase Doesn't Look Like a Rookie

The Bengals are more excited about rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase after watching him during offseason minicamps. The fifth-overall pick and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow were a dynamic duo at LSU, leading the Tigers to the 2019 National Championship when Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Chase opted out of the 2020 season, so it's been a long time since he has seen game action. However, Burrow expects Chase to be a big-time playmaker as a rookie because of his talent and intelligence.

"Everyone's been surprised how smart he is," Burrow said via Ben Baby of ESPN.com. "I told everyone coming in, 'He's not going to bust, he's going to know exactly what to do, he's going to be a pro.' And that's exactly what happened."

Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins give Burrow a talented receiving trio, as the Bengals look to make a major leap after five straight losing seasons. Wide Receivers Coach Troy Walters said Chase understands route concepts quickly, and that the Bengals will be able to move him all over the field.

"He has picked it up fast – easily," Walters said. "When he's out there, you don't even think that he's a rookie. You kind of take it for granted that he's going to know what to do."

In other major Bengals news, Burrow has been cleared for a full return to action in training camp following his season-ending knee injury.

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