AFC East: 2012 Camp Watch

Patriots Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
12:00
PM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: The New England Patriots will have a younger, more athletic defense in training camp. The Patriots were 31st last year in total defense. It’s questionable how much this group improved, but the Patriots certainly will be faster. Additions in the draft such as first-rounders Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower help.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick needs to find the right balance for his defense right now. This is a team that did not cover well and had issues at times rushing the passer. The combination made it rough for the Patriots to keep opponents from racking up yards. They did several things in minicamp to mix it up defensively and find the right combination. That will continue in training camp.

One thing that might happen: New England could see major changes at both guard positions. The training camp status of Patriots Pro Bowlers Brian Waters and Logan Mankins are both up in the air. Waters is contemplating retirement, while Makins is recovering from ACL surgery.

Waters’ absence has been a mystery. He has not participated in any offseason workouts, but also has not officially made a decision on his playing career. Mankins was put on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

One thing we won't see: I’m sure we will not see any distractions. That simply is not the “Patriot Way.” New England is a veteran team with great leadership. It is the consummate football culture that has kept this team focused on winning, and away from outside distractions.

The reigning AFC champs have most of their roster spots filled. So there won’t be many position battles drawing attention. The one potential controversy could be Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker. He expected a long-term extension this offseason but got the one-year franchise tag for $9.5 million. Welker certainly will be asked about his feelings on this. But an educated guess is Welker will say he is happy to be a Patriot for at least one more year and he’s ready to concentrate on football.

Jets Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
11:00
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: The Jets’ defense will be fast and physical. Despite a top-five rating in 2011, the defense was angry this offseason. The Jets’ goal is to have the best defense in the NFL, and this group will take it out on the offense throughout training camp.

New York’s defense is well ahead of its offense. So things could get ugly. The Jets are using more 4-3 concepts to put pressure on the quarterback. The additions of first-round pick Quinton Coples and veteran safety Yeremiah Bell should add more physicality to the group.

One thing that might happen: I'm still not sure Darrelle Revis' contract saga is completely over. Yes, Revis is showing up to training camp on time. But that doesn't mean he's suddenly happy with this contract. Revis will make $13.5 million the next two years, which is a bargain rate for the best cornerback in football.

The Jets have held firm in their stance. They've paid Revis very well the past two years and believe their Pro Bowl corner can play at least one season at a discount. So far it looks as if New York has the advantage, especially with Revis giving up his only leverage by reporting. But this still could be a story if Revis chooses to make a public display.

One thing we won't see: We will not see a quarterback competition in training camp. Despite the immense outside pressure, Tim Tebow is not competing with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Media and fans will be tracking their every move. Each game and week of practice will be scrutinized. But the Jets have no plans to start Tebow right away.

But it will be important for Sanchez to perform well. If Tebow is lighting up the preseason and Sanchez struggles, that leash gets even shorter during the regular season. Sanchez needs to start training camp fast and carry that momentum into the season.

Bills Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
10:00
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: We will see a big improvement in talent, the most coach Chan Gailey has had in his three seasons in Buffalo. It’s not even close, especially after a series of solid offseason acquisitions.

It started with the $100 million signing of former Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams. It continued with the signing of fellow defensive end Mark Anderson, the selections of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left tackle Cordy Glenn in the draft, and the extensions given to No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson and starting tailback Fred Jackson. Expectations are running high in Buffalo.

One thing that might happen: We might finally see a healthy Shawne Merriman. It’s been awhile since "Lights Out" has been 100 percent. But offseason Achilles surgery has Merriman feeling good about his chances to be healthy and productive again in 2012.

Merriman is a role player at this point of his career. But Buffalo definitely can use him in the rotation at defensive end in its new 4-3 defense. The Bills could have a formidable and deep pass rush at defensive end with Williams, Anderson, Chris Kelsay and a healthy Merriman. The Bills have enough depth this season that they might not have to rely on Merriman, but it would be a nice bonus if Merriman returns close to his old form.

One thing we won't see: We will not see a quarterback controversy. Some initially thought backup Vince Young, because of his big name, was signed to push starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, Young will be in a battle with incumbent Tyler Thigpen for the No. 2 job.

The Bills are behind Fitzpatrick, especially after paying him $59 million. But they also realize the importance of quarterback depth after Fitzpatrick struggled in the second half of last season playing with injured ribs. Young has 30 career wins and can fill in for Fitzpatrick if he is injured. But Young must get by Thigpen first, and I think that’s going to be a tougher battle than people think.

Dolphins Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
9:00
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: “Hard Knocks” will be a good thing for the Dolphins. This is a team in need of exposure and a better national perception after another poor 6-10 season. The Dolphins started last season 0-7, and the rest of the league pretty much forgot about them.

The storylines in Miami are not sexy, but they are plentiful. There is a quarterback competition, a new coaching staff and colorful receiver Chad Johnson. HBO does a tremendous job on these shows, and it will be up to the Dolphins to put their best foot forward.

One thing that might happen: We might see a resurgence from the 34-year-old Johnson in training camp. But he cannot be as bad as the player we saw last year with the New England Patriots. Johnson, who recently changed back to his birth name, never fit the system in New England and recorded just 15 catches. He still might be Miami’s most dynamic receiver entering his 12th season. Perhaps that’s more of an indictment of Miami’s receivers.

Johnson looked pretty good in minicamp. He still has a quick first step and made several big plays against Miami’s secondary in practices. The Dolphins need the old Johnson to return -- or least a player close to it. Johnson needs a solid camp and preseason to earn a starting job.

One thing we won't see: Ryan Tannehill will not be a factor in Miami’s quarterback competition. It’s being billed as a three-way race, but Tannehill is a long shot. David Garrard and Matt Moore are the two legitimate quarterbacks battling for Miami’s starting job. Both veterans have looked far ahead of the rookie Tannehill in offseason workouts.

Tannehill had just 19 career starts at quarterback in college. It is hard to make that jump to the NFL with limited experience, and Tannehill is already showing that with his uneven offseason performance. It would be shocking if Tannehill can make up so much ground on Moore and Garrard in a few weeks.

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