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AMERICAN CONFERENCE

The Baltimore Sun

AFC North

RAVENS

2006 record -- 13-3, first place, lost to Indianapolis in divisional round.

Report date, site -- Next Sunday (rookies and veterans); McDaniel College, Westminster.

The buzz -- The Ravens boosted the credibility of their often-maligned offense by adding quarterback Steve McNair to the mix last season, but the unit's dismal showing in a home playoff loss to Indianapolis sent team brass scrambling. Enter running back Willis McGahee, 25, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. He replaces Jamal Lewis, whose workhorse ways led to too much wear and tear. By adding McGahee and rookie Ben Grubbs, the top-rated guard in the draft, the Ravens should improve on their 25th-ranked rushing attack. On defense, the Ravens ranked first overall last season, but linebacker Ray Lewis and friends are well into their 30s and definitely will miss linebacker Adalius Thomas, an all-purpose wrecking machine now with New England.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2006 record -- 8-8, tied for second place.

Report date, site -- Thursday (rookies and veterans); Georgetown (Ky.) College.

The buzz -- The Bengals took a step backward last season, and not because of any lingering effects from quarterback Carson Palmer's knee injury. The Bengals' 30th-ranked defense wilted -- especially through the air -- and the team lost three in a row to end the regular season. Rookie cornerback Leon Hall should make an immediate impact, but the roster remains top-heavy with offensive talent. It's also top-heavy with bad-character guys -- wide receiver Chris Henry is suspended for the first eight games for a number of off-field incidents -- as four more players were arrested during the offseason. That makes 10 Bengals arrested in the past 15 months.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2006 record -- 4-12, last place.

Report dates, site -- Today (rookies), Thursday (veterans); Browns training facility, Berea, Ohio.

The buzz -- Normally, a fan base would be ecstatic with the kind of haul the Browns pulled off on draft day. They got rookie offensive tackle Joe Thomas, the top offensive line prospect in the pool, and traded up to get quarterback Brady Quinn. But these are the Browns, who have the market cornered on big-name draft busts (Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, William Green and maybe even Kellen Winslow). Cleveland, with just one winning season since re-entering the league as an expansion club in 1999, has a long way to go on both sides of the ball (31st in offense, 27th in defense), and coach Romeo Crennel (third season) is on the hot seat.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

2006 record -- 8-8, tied for second place.

Report date, site -- Tomorrow (rookies and veterans); Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

The buzz -- At 34, Mike Tomlin is the same age as Bill Cowher was when he took over the Steelers in 1992. Cowher didn't inherit a team two years removed from a Super Bowl title, either. Tomlin has a championship-tested quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) and a punishing defense in place. A key cog is rookie linebacker Lawrence Timmons, whom the Steelers want to fill the Derrick Brooks-like weak-side role for them. Listen for griping from Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, whose contract dispute has disruption potential.

AFC East

BUFFALO BILLS

2006 record -- 7-9, third place.

Report date, site -- Thursday (rookie and veterans); St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, N.Y.

The buzz -- Some of the roster's biggest names the past few years are gone, as the Bills have gone all in with their commitment to quarterback J.P. Losman. Though Buffalo's offense ranked better than just two teams last season, Losman had somewhat of a breakout season in completing 62.5 percent of his throws for 19 touchdowns (with 14 interceptions). Wide receiver Lee Evans is a superstar in the making, and team officials hope rookie running back Marshawn Lynch steps in and gives the unit more on the ground. Linebackers Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher-Baker were inspirational leaders, and the departure of that pair and cornerback Nate Clements are major hits for a defense that is in a youth movement a year after losing five games by three points or fewer.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

2006 record -- 6-10, last place.

Report dates, site -- Today (rookies); Friday (veterans); Dolphins Training Center, Davie, Fla.

The buzz -- New coach Cam Cameron developed quite a reputation as an offensive coordinator, but he didn't get his quarterback in Miami until last month, when Trent Green arrived. Since Dan Marino retired in 2000, the Dolphins have used nine draft choices to acquire quarterbacks (three of them second-round picks), including rookie John Beck (BYU). The defense finished No. 4 overall last season and added a potential havoc-wreaker in linebacker Joey Porter.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

2006 record -- 12-4, first place, lost in Indianapolis in AFC title game.

Report date, site -- Friday (rookies and veterans); Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

The buzz -- New England looked to be on its way to further cementing its dynasty status in January, but the second half of the AFC title game changed everything. Training camp will be about wide receivers Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker and linebacker Adalius Thomas, and the transition of the league's best offseason haul. In doing the quick-fix, Daniel Snyder thing, coach Bill Belichick and general manager Scott Pioli are going against the franchise grain. They're banking that the new big-name guys will buy in like running back Corey Dillon did a few Super Bowls back. Team history says they will. Plus, quarterback Tom Brady is still around, not to mention the bulk of a good defense.

NEW YORK JETS

2006 record -- 10-6, second place, lost at New England in wild-card round.

Report date, site -- Friday (rookies and veterans); Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

The buzz -- What the Jets were able to accomplish in coach Eric Mangini's first season surprised everybody -- and also put expectations on the team that likely are unrealistic. An offense that ranked 25th overall needs better play from quarterback Chad Pennington (17 touchdown passes, 16 interceptions), but he should benefit from the addition of running back Thomas Jones (1,210 yards, six touchdowns) and the maturation of a line featuring tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold, two 2006 first-round picks. Mangini's defense ranked 12th last season and features a handful of a players on the rise.

AFC South

HOUSTON TEXANS

2006 record -- 6-10, last place.

Report date, site -- Thursday (rookies and veterans); Texans Practice Facility, Houston.

The buzz -- The franchise quarterback has changed, but the philosophy in Houston hasn't. The Texans still refuse to make moves to help the guy under center. David Carr was the victim before, suffering 40-plus sacks in each of his five seasons. Enter Matt Schaub, the former Falcon who looked good at times in relief of Michael Vick. Schaub, though, must make do with a running game led by the high-mileage Ahman Green and a receiving corps that features wide receiver Andre Johnson (103 catches, 1,147 yards, five touchdowns) and little else. But at least the Texans have defensive end Mario Williams, who recorded 4 1/2 sacks last season after being drafted No. 1 overall.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

2006 record -- 12-4, first place, defeated Chicago in Super Bowl.

Report date, site -- Next Sunday (rookies and veterans); Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Ind.

The buzz -- It's great to be king ... even if some members of the esteemed court no longer are around. The defections of running back Dominic Rhodes, linebacker Cato June and cornerback Nick Harper will hurt the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Colts still have quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, plus the core of a defense that made a remarkable turnaround in the postseason. After being victimized for a league-worst average of 173 rushing yards through 16 regular-season games, the Colts allowed averages of just more than 83 rushing yards and 16 points in four postseason wins. Without the specter of "can't win the big one" hovering over his head, Manning could be even better.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

2006 record -- 8-8, tied for second place.

Report date, site -- Friday (rookies and veterans); Jacksonville (Fla.) Municipal Stadium.

The buzz -- Just how successful quarterback Byron Leftwich is this season likely will determine the Jaguars' commitment to coach Jack Del Rio, who is 34-31 in four seasons. After a three-game meltdown to end last season, Del Rio shook up his staff by firing offensive coordinator Carl Smith and bringing in former Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter and his passing scheme. Maybe Koetter will get the underachieving receivers to provide the sort of lift running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew give the offense. It's time for wide receivers Matt Jones and Reggie Williams to prove they were worth first-round picks.

TENNESSEE TITANS

2006 record -- 8-8, tied for second place.

Report date, site -- Friday (rookies and veterans); Baptist Sports Park Facility, Nashville, Tenn.

The buzz -- The Titans have set the bar high for themselves based on the production of 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year Vince Young (2,199 yards, 12 touchdowns passing; 552 yards, seven touchdowns rushing). The Titans won eight of their last 11 regular-season games. Young, though, completed just 51.5 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns. He needs help from those around him, starting with second-year running back LenDale White. The Titans' defense gave up the most yards and second-most points in the league last season.

AFC West

DENVER BRONCOS

2006 record -- 9-7, tied for second place.

Report date, site -- Saturday (rookies and veterans); Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Centre, Englewood, Colo.

The buzz -- Another time of zany turnover in the Rockies. But the biggest move took place in midseason last fall when the Broncos benched quarterback Jake Plummer in favor of rookie Jay Cutler, who goes to camp as the unquestioned No. 1. Cutler had his moments (1,001 yards, nine touchdown passes, five interceptions, 88.5 rating), both good and bad, as the Broncos finished 25th in passing. On defense, Jim Bates replaces fall-guy coordinator Larry Coyer. Bates must improve a unit that was 21st against the pass and lost cornerback Darrent Williams, a promising young corner, in a drive-by killing.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

2006 record -- 9-7, tied for second place, lost in Indianapolis in wild-card round.

Report date, site -- Thursday (rookies and veterans); University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

The buzz -- How smoothly coach Herman Edwards' second camp with the Chiefs goes depends on whether running back Larry Johnson, who wants a new contract, is there when first-day roll is called. After logging an NFL-record 416 carries for 1,789 yards and 17 touchdowns, he deserves a new deal. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, there will be more questions about the offense, starting with the commitment to 34-year-old Damon Huard, who looked good (11 touchdown passes, one interception, 98.0 rating) in replacing the injured Trent Green for 10 games last season.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

2006 record -- 2-14, last place.

Report date, site -- Thursday (rookies and veterans); Napa Valley Marriott, Napa, Calif.

The buzz -- No one knows how the Raiders will react to new coach Lane Kiffin, 32, who was wide receivers coach-offensive coordinator at Southern California. The additions of quarterback JaMarcus Russell (the first overall pick in the draft), running back Dominic Rhodes (113 yards, one touchdown in the Super Bowl for the Colts) and wide receiver Mike Williams are keys to an offense that needed to be overhauled. Rhodes is suspended for the first four games after testing positive for a banned substance, but he's scheduled to split carries with ex-Maryland star LaMont Jordan. The Raiders, who scored a league-low 12 touchdowns and allowed a league-high 72 sacks last season, haven't won more than five games in any of the past four seasons.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

2006 record -- 14-2, first place, lost to New England in divisional round.

Report dates, site -- Tomorrow (rookies); Friday (veterans); Chargers Park, San Diego.

The buzz -- The Chargers had the NFL's best record last season, its best player in running back LaDainian Tomlinson, plus a coach (Marty Schottenheimer) and offensive and defensive coordinators (Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips) who oversaw some of the best units in the league. All three coaches are gone. That's what doing so well in the regular season but flaming out in the playoffs can mean for a team. Luckily for new coach Norv Turner, that Most Valuable Player still is around. And if Turner's track record is any indication -- he went 58-82-1 in previous stops with Washington and Oakland -- he'll need lots of help to overcome his considerable game-day shortcomings.

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