AFC East: NFL preseason 2012

Observation deck: Dolphins-Cowboys

August, 30, 2012
The Miami Dolphins wrapped up their 2012 preseason with a 30-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Miami finished winless in the preseason for the first time since 1989.

Here are several notes and observations:

What I liked: Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was efficient in limited playing time. He made safe throws and finished 5-of-7 for 35 yards. Miami led 3-0 when Tannehill exited the game. He looks fairly ready for the regular season. Backup running back Daniel Thomas also ran well. The second-year tailback, who is in Dolphins coach Joe Philbin’s doghouse for tardiness, gained 31 yards on five carries. It appears Miami’s running game should be the best part of its offense.

What I didn’t like: The Dolphins have few playmakers and little depth. The backups were throttled by Dallas’ reserves, which is a trend we saw throughout the AFC East division this preseason. Dolphins No. 2 quarterback Matt Moore finished his miserable preseason, completing just 4 of 12 passes and another interception. This time Moore’s turnover was a pick-six. The receiver position is still an issue. No one has really stepped up to claim the top spots heading into the regular season.

Fields is ready: Miami punter Brandon Fields already is in midseason form. Fields’ punts were booming Friday. He had an average of 50.2 yards on six punts. With a young offense, Fields could be needed a lot this year.

What’s next: The Dolphins will travel in their regular-season opener to face the Houston Texans. It’s a tough game for Miami, which is rebuilding with a rookie quarterback, to hit the road and face a playoff-caliber team in its home opener.

Observation deck: Eagles-Patriots

August, 20, 2012
The New England Patriots rested many of their key players against the Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football." The Eagles won the game, 27-17.

Here are some notes and observations:

Healthy scratches: Monday marked the second of three games the Patriots play in a 10-day span. That is why New England coach Bill Belichick chose to rest many of his veteran players, including quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots are the reigning AFC champions and do not need much preseason work.

What I liked: It was a decent showcase for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. He received a surprise start ahead of Brian Hoyer Monday and took advantage of the opportunity. Mallett showed off his big arm and completed 10 of 20 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia. Mallett held his own against Philadelphia’s first-team defense in the first half. He also played some in the second half. Hoyer struggled, going 5-for-17 for just 55 yards and a lost fumble.

What I didn’t like: The running game wasn’t nearly as impressive as it was last week. Shane Vereen got the start after a stellar preseason opener. But Vereen didn’t do much, recording just 20 yards on 10 carries. Stevan Ridley also had mediocre numbers, rushing for 25 yards on 10 carries. The running lanes clearly were not as big without the threat of Brady, Gronkowski and Welker in the passing game.

Spikes produces: Linebacker Brandon Spikes showed why New England projects him to start this season. Spikes was productive and had four tackles, including a big hit in the first quarter on Eagles Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy. Spikes can be a factor for New England if he can stay healthy. He has been in and out of training camp this summer.

What's next: The Patriots have a short turnaround. They will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday for their annual "dress rehearsal" in preparation for Week 1 of the regular season.
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC East: Morning take: New England has the potential to win the AFC again and is probably the preseason favorite. But a lot has to go right for the Patriots to have another shot at the championship. It will be a long journey.
Morning take: Miami's defense is giving up yards and points at an alarming rate. Yes, there have been injuries. But at the very least, the Dolphins are showing lack of depth on defense.
  • The New York Jets are on "Wayne Watch" after Wayne Hunter's poor preseason performance.
Morning take: Hunter is on the hot seat after having his hand in three sacks in Saturday's preseason loss to the New York Giants. But here is the big question: Who could replace Hunter?
Morning take: It's clear Buffalo is searching for safety depth after the team looked into acquiring Jim Leonhard. If Howell proves worthy of a 53-man roster, it would be a big boost to the secondary.

Woody likes what he sees from Tebow

August, 18, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jets owner Woody Johnson, in a pregame interview, sounded as confident as ever in his decision to acquire Tim Tebow. He also hinted that Tebow could make an early appearance against the Giants, meaning -- drum roll, please -- the Wildcat.

"I don't have to say a word: We made the right choice with Tim Tebow," Johnson said in an on-field interview with CBS 2.

Asked what has impressed him about Tebow, Johnson said: "You're going to see in about 30 minutes what he can do."

The Jets haven't said whether they will unveil the Wildcat in this game, but they could break it out for a play or two, considering they practiced it Thursday.
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins make their 2012 preseason debut Friday night at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The AFC East blog will be live at the game to bring you all the latest happenings from Miami.

No. 1: Three-way quarterback battle

Analysis: This one is obvious. Miami is one of those rare preseason teams where all four quarters will be meaningful, because each quarterback will be closely evaluated. David Garrard will get the start, then give way to Matt Moore. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill won't make his Miami debut until the second half. But all three quarterbacks are competing for the starting job. Time is running out, and one of these quarterbacks must make a push to separate from the competition. This preseason opener against Tampa Bay is the perfect time to do it.

No. 2: Joe Philbin’s debut

Analysis: Another person making his debut is Miami rookie head coach Joe Philbin. We don’t know much about Philbin’s in-game coaching, but we can start to get a feel for it tonight. Philbin has an even-keeled mentality, and practices have been up-tempo and crisp. But I want to see how well-coached, organized and mistake-free the Dolphins are after a couple of weeks of training camp. This is a reflection of how much progress Philbin has made.

No. 3: Miami’s 4-3 defense

Analysis: The Dolphins have followed an AFC East trend of switching to a 4-3 defense under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Miami has the personnel to run the defense, it’s just a matter of learning the different responsibilities up front quick enough to be successful. We will get a chance to see how much progress the Dolphins’ front seven has made in the preseason opener.

Video: What to watch -- Patriots vs. Saints

August, 9, 2012

The Patriots open up their preseason tonight when they host the Saints.
The reigning AFC champion New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills will host their preseason openers Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins, respectively.

Here are four things to watch for in these exhibition games:

No. 1: Patriots' defense

Analysis: New England’s defense, ranked 31st last season, will take the field for the first time in 2012. The last time we saw this group, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was carving up the Patriots in the Super Bowl. New England invested a lot of draft picks and free-agent dollars into this defense. Expect to see several new faces, such as first-round picks Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, and free-agent signings Steve Gregory and Bobby Carpenter. The Patriots’ starting defense will get a good test against Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who performed well against New England during joint practices this week.

No. 2: Who will emerge at running back?

Analysis: Expect the Patriots to give a lot of carries to their young running backs Thursday night. Second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are competing for the starting job vacated by former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ridley and Vereen bring different skills to the table. So far, Ridley has looked the best in training camp. But this battle will be won in the preseason games. Therefore, one of these young tailbacks must perform well to separate himself.

No. 3: Debut of Buffalo's revamped defensive line

Analysis: Buffalo’s starters may only play a few series. But it will be a good chance to see how the Bills’ new-look and dynamic defensive line is coming along. Stud defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus were joined by big free-agent signings Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. This group has the potential to be one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. Washington will provide a good test in the debut of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league. So if Buffalo’s defense can pressure Griffin and keep him at bay, it can corral just about any quarterback.

No. 4: Who will step up as Buffalo's No. 2 receiver?

Analysis: If Buffalo has a legit No. 2 receiver, it’s time for that player to come forward. The Bills need someone to be a threat opposite Steve Johnson, who will face plenty of double teams this year. There have been mixed results in training camp. Different players have flashed but no receiver has shown enough consistency. Receivers such as Marcus Easley, Donald Jones and rookie T.J. Graham need to step up. Performing in the preseason is the quickest way to impress Buffalo’s coaching staff.