AFC East training-camp reports

Posted July 19, 2010 @ 9:12 a.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated July 23, 2010 @ 6:15 p.m. ET

First in a series of training-camp reports.

BUFFALO BILLS

Training camp site:
St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, N.Y.

Training camp report date: July 29.

Key veteran arrivals: ILB Andra Davis, DL Dwan Edwards, OT Cornell Green, WR Chad Jackson, RB-KR Chad Simpson, LB Reggie Torbor.

Key veteran departures: OT Brad Butler, DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, TE Derek Fine, OG Richie Incognito, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, OT Jonathan Scott.

Drafted rookies: (1) RB C.J. Spiller; (2) DT Torell Troup; (3) DE Alex Carrington; (4) WR Marcus Easley; (5) OT Ed Wang; (6) OLB Arthur Moats, LB Danny Batten; (7) QB Levi Brown, OG Kyle Calloway.

Offensive overview:
New head coach Chan Gailey and coordinator Curtis Modkins will bring a fresh game plan to Buffalo, hoping to restore an offense that finished 30th a year ago. Gailey has taken various approaches in his previous stops, but he's expected to take advantage of the Bills' strength and utilize a run-heavy attack. The team certainly has the personnel to be effective on the ground, boasting a loaded backfield. Dual threat Fred Jackson had a stellar 2009 and is the likely starter, but first-round pick C.J. Spiller is a special talent who also will see his share of snaps, possibly splitting out wide at times. The disgruntled Marshawn Lynch remains on the roster as well and will be incorporated into the mix. Perhaps the club's most interesting training-camp battle will take place at quarterback, where Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm all have a shot at the starting job. Although none of those options inspires much confidence, Edwards appears to be the early favorite. Veteran WR Lee Evans anchors a receiving corps with numerous holes. Third-year wideouts James Hardy and Steve Johnson are fighting for the other starting spot, but neither has accomplished much as a pro. The quick Roscoe Parrish will man the slot. Meanwhile, TE Shawn Nelson is a rare athlete who could play a much bigger role in '10. Buffalo's O-line easily ranks among the league's weakest.

Defensive overview: The Bills will employ an entirely new defensive scheme this season under coordinator George Edwards, who will convert them to a 3-4 alignment. While this change gets the club more in tune with the direction of the league, it could be a difficult process given Buffalo's current personnel. Finding a way to improve a run "D" that ranked 30th last season with be the top priority. To do so, the Bills will need either the undersized Kyle Williams or rookie Torell Troup to be an effective nose tackle, occupying multiple blockers. Star ILB Paul Posluszny also will have to continue his top-notch play, and free-agent pickup Andra Davis will have to live up to expectations. The squad will call on its outside linebackers — converted defensive ends — to pressure the passer, though the possible retirement of Aaron Schobel removes a key component from the equation. Aaron Maybin, who fell flat as a rookie in '09, could be called upon to replace him. No matter what happens with the front seven, the Bills can continue to rely on their deep, skilled secondary. FS Jairus Byrd was one of the surprises of last season as a rookie, racking up nine interceptions. Underrated SS George Wilson and formidable CBs Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin round out the starting group.

Battle to watch: The Bills have a couple of camp battles on the offensive side of the ball that could be intriguing, but none is more important than the QB competition. Trent Edwards would seem to give Buffalo the best chance to succeed, but if he falters, the unproven Brohm could unseat him with a strong preseason.

Injury update: Buffalo was a very banged-up club last season, and some of those injuries continue to linger into 2010. Byrd missed the final two games because of hip surgery and was limited in the offseason, but he's expected to be at full strength when camp kicks off. The same goes for McGee, who underwent a shoulder operation in December. The worst injury, however, belonged to ORG Eric Wood, who broke both his tibia and fibula. Amazingly, he is well ahead of schedule is his recovery and is set to be a full camp participant. It's not as much of a sure thing with starting OLT Demetrius Bell, who underwent ACL surgery late in the year and might not be fully ready by August.

Fantasy sleeper: Given the Bills' lack of quality targets, it wouldn't be a surprise if Nelson saw a major increase in productivity this season. A rare combination of size and speed, he could get quite a few passes thrown to him in the red zone. Deep-league owners might want to take him as a late-round flier.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Training-camp site:
Miami Dolphins Training Facility, Davie, Fla.

Training-camp report date: July 30.

Key veteran arrivals: ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Tim Dobbins, DE Marques Douglas, OG Richie Incognito, WR Brandon Marshall, OL Cory Procter.

Key veteran departures: ILB Akin Ayodele, NT Jason Ferguson, WR Ted Ginn Jr., CB Nathan Jones, OLB Joey Porter, OG Justin Smiley, OLB Jason Taylor, LB Reggie Torbor, S Gibril Wilson.

Drafted rookies: (1) DE Jared Odrick; (2) OLB Koa Misi; (3) OG John Jerry; (4) LB A.J. Edds; (5) CB Nolan Carroll, S Reshad Jones; (7) OLB Chris McCoy, ILB Austin Spitler.

Offensive overview: Veteran coordinator Dan Henning has a new weapon to use this season. WR Brandon Marshall's arrival is expected to add a new dimension to Miami's offense, which hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2005. Marshall is a big-play threat and he should provide a boost both to the passing game and to QB Chad Henne, who is entering his first training camp as a starter. The Dolphins are expected to continue using the "Wildcat" and likely will continue to focus on the short-to-intermediate passing game since they traded away Ted Ginn Jr., who was supposed to become their downfield threat. RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were very effective as a 1-2 punch last season and their roles are unlikely to be diminished much, even with Marshall in the fold. The Dolphins are set at offensive tackle with OLT Jake Long and ORT Vernon Carey, but there will be competition for the three interior spots.

Defensive overview: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan left the Broncos after a successful one-year stint to join Tony Sparano's staff following the dismissal of Paul Pasqualoni. The Dolphins will continue to use a 3-4 scheme, and there should be plenty of blitzes dialed up as Nolan favors an aggressive style. Miami landed free-agent LB Karlos Dansby, who is expected to become the playmaker on "D," and will play him inside next to Channing Crowder. There will be two new starters at outside 'backer following the departures of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Charlie Anderson, Cameron Wake and second-round pick Koa Misi will be charged with bringing pressure from the outside. The Dolphins moved arguably their best defensive end, Randy Starks, to nose tackle this offseason, and he'll share time with Paul Soliai. There also will be a new starter at free safety, where second-year veteran Chris Clemons is the front-runner, and CBs Sean Smith and Vontae Davis are expected to improve after respectable rookie campaigns.

Battle to watch: Gibril Wilson struggled in his first and only season as the Dolphins' free safety. He was cut this offseason, and Miami is counting on Clemons or rookie Reshad Jones, a fifth-round pick, to step up. Clemons took reps with the first-team defense in offseason practices, but this competition is far from settled.

Injury update:
Brown, who still hasn't signed his one-year tender offer, was ahead of schedule in his rehab from a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot, but it's not clear if he'll be 100 percent by the start of camp. He could be eased back into the flow. QB Chad Pennington is coming off another surgery on his throwing shoulder and reportedly is a candidate to open the season on the physically unable to perform list. The Dolphins will wait to see what he's capable of in camp before making a decision about his future. RB Patrick Cobbs, who could return kicks, had ACL surgery in October and admitted in late June that he wasn't 100 percent yet. DE Phillip Merling underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon he reportedly suffered while working out on his own at a high school. He's expected to miss the entire season.

Fantasy sleeper: Brian Hartline will compete against Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess for a starting job opposite Marshall, and Hartline appears to have a slight edge in the battle. He racked up 16.3 yards per catch last season and could find himself in favorable situations with Marshall attracting the defense's attention.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Training-camp site:
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

Training-camp report date:
Rookies, July 25; Veterans, July 28.

Key veteran arrivals: TE Alge Crumpler, WR Torry Holt, DT Damione Lewis, WR David Patten, DL Gerard Warren.

Key veteran departures: TE Chris Baker, DE Jarvis Green, CB Shawn Springs, OLB Adalius Thomas, TE Benjamin Watson.

Drafted rookies: (1) CB Devin McCourty; (2) TE Rob Gronkowski, OLB Jermaine Cunningham, ILB Brandon Spikes; (3) WR Taylor Price; (4) TE Aaron Hernandez; (5) P Zoltan Mesko; (6) C Ted Larsen; (7) OT Thomas Welch, DE Brandon Deaderick, DT Kade Weston, QB Zac Robinson.

Offensive overview: With QB Tom Brady still in his prime years, the Patriots will have a very good passing game. The big question surrounds the health of WR Wes Welker, who is coming off a Week 17 knee injury. WR Randy Moss still maintains his elite skills but must show more focus week in and week out and pick up the slack if Welker is slowed early. The offensive line is a strong group, but that's including OLG Logan Mankins, who remains at loggerheads with the front office over a new contract. The run game hasn't been the focus the past few seasons but could have a bigger emphasis if Fred Taylor is healthy and Laurence Maroney can bounce back after disappointing as a lead back.

Defensive overview: The team struggled to generate consistent pressure last season, but although no established pass rushers were added, the hope is that better coverage will improve the overall performance on this side of the ball. The development of CB Darius Butler and S Patrick Chung will be key in allowing this to happen. With ILB Jerod Mayo returning healthy, he's expected to take a jump in his third season. The defensive line, even with several stalwarts leaving, remains strong, anchored by NT Vince Wilfork and featuring strong depth. Even if no individual pass rusher steps up, the overall pressure should be better. Don't be surprised, though, if the team goes away from its standard 3-4 looks at times and uses more 4-3 schemes to play to its strengths more.

Battle to watch: There are several candidates at outside linebacker, but no clear options outside of Tully Banta-Cain, who surprised with 10 sacks a year ago. Pierre Woods, Shawn Crable, Rob Ninkovich, Derrick Burgess and second-rounder Jermaine Cunningham all will be in the mix, and you might not see a three-down starter on either side. As they usually have in the past, the Patriots will mix and match their personnel here based on down, distance, game plan and opponent and could have a rotation that ends up being fairly solid, even if it's not spectacular in any way.

Injury update:
All eyes are on Welker, just as they were on Brady a year ago. Welker was a shocking participant in individual drills in June, appearing to run at near full strength, but the team will be very careful how it handles him. People now expect a Week One return, but the gutsy Welker probably will be playing at less than full strength. ILB Tyrone McKenzie, who tore his ACL a year ago, is expected to return ready to go. Second-year WR Brandon Tate is coming off an ACL injury and was slowed some this spring and summer but could be back to proper health by August.

Fantasy sleeper: One of the young pass receivers could end up being a big contributor. Rookie TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have good receiving skills that complement each other. At receiver, Tate and rookie Taylor Price add speed and might be occasional weapons.

 

NEW YORK JETS

Training-camp site:
SUNY Cortland, Cortland, N.Y.

Training-camp report date:
Rookies, July 29; Veterans, Aug. 1.

Key veteran arrivals: CB Antonio Cromartie, PK Nick Folk, WR Santonio Holmes, S Brodney Pool, OLB Jason Taylor, RB LaDainian Tomlinson.

Key veteran departures: OG Alan Faneca, RB Thomas Jones, S Kerry Rhodes, CB Lito Sheppard, CB Donald Strickland, RB Leon Washington.

Drafted rookies: (1) CB Kyle Wilson; (2) OG Vladimir Ducasse; (4) RB Joe McKnight; (5) FB John Conner.

Offensive overview: QB Mark Sanchez's struggles last season limited coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's options at times, but Sanchez improved late in the campaign and the offense should be more balanced in 2010. The Jets acquired WR Santonio Holmes, who, combined with WRs Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery and TE Dustin Keller, give Sanchez a talented array of targets. Holmes, however, will be suspended for the first four games of the season. There was only one change made to what is considered perhaps the best run-blocking offensive line in the league. Rookie Vladimir Ducasse will step in at left guard to replace Alan Faneca, who was released. Shonn Greene, coming off an impressive postseason performance, is the new featured back and will share reps with offseason acquisition LaDainian Tomlinson and rookie Joe McKnight.

Defensive overview: Their defense finished first in the league last season and this confident group is talented enough to finish on top again. While the Jets' defense improved in 2009 after NT Kris Jenkins landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL, some say it will be even better with a healthy Jenkins. He plays one of the most important positions in the 3-4 defense, and backup NT Sione Pouha provides quality depth. OLB Jason Taylor signed on in the offseason and is expected to bolster the pass rush. He'll play next to one of the best inside 'backers in the league, David Harris. Barring a contract holdout, CB Darrelle Revis will return to shutting down No. 1 receivers each week, and he'll be joined by CB Antonio Cromartie, who is an upgrade over Lito Sheppard, the former starter opposite Revis. Head coach Rex Ryan is an expert when it comes to frustrating offenses and he has set expectations high for this unit.

Battle to watch: FS Kerry Rhodes apparently didn't buy into Rex Ryan's program, and he was shown the door this offseason. Rhodes was dealt to Arizona, and ex-Brown Brodney Pool was signed to compete for the vacant spot. Pool and Eric Smith are the top contenders at free safety, and Pool, if he can stay healthy, is the early favorite to start. There have been reports that Pool suffered at least his fourth concussion in five seasons last season, but he maintains he has had only one concussion.

Injury update: Sanchez was able to participate in offseason practices after undergoing knee surgery in February and he should be operating at full speed in training camp. Jenkins is ahead of schedule in his return from ACL surgery and should be ready to participate in camp.

Fantasy sleeper: Ryan has predicted Keller will be a fantasy steal this year, and there are reports that Schottenheimer is designing wrinkles to allow Keller to show off his athleticism and quickness. Being more comfortable with Sanchez should help, and the attention defenses will pay to Edwards and Holmes should leave Keller in position to make more plays down the seam.

 

You can learn even more about each team in the Volume XXV, Issue 6 print edition, with training-camp previews that address additional topics, such as juiciest story line, burning questions and fearless prediction for every team. The Issue 6 print edition goes on sale this week at retail outlets, or you can buy a PDF or print copy online at PFWstore.com.