AFC East: Steven Johnson

Morning take: Dolphins want fast start

September, 7, 2012
Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC East: Morning take: Miami has a tough draw on the road against the Houston Texans on Sunday. That’s most likely a loss. But back-to-back home games after that against the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets should provide a better chance to win.
  • New England Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones is ready to make an impact.
Morning take: Jones was one of the most impressive rookies I’ve seen in training camp this year. The first-round pick earned a role in New England’s defense his first year, and that’s not easy to do with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Morning take: I find it interesting that Jets' prices are higher than the Giants' after they just won the Super Bowl. Maybe that’s just one wrinkle of Tebow-mania that is not being talked about much.
  • The Buffalo Bills expect No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson (groin) to be ready for Sunday's game against the Jets.
Morning take: Johnson sat out of Thursday’s practice as a precaution, but needs to be on the field for Buffalo to have its best shot at winning. Johnson is one of the few receivers who have a successful track record against Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.
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.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East:
  • New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has kept a very low profile since last season's collapse.
Morning take: This is good for Sanchez. Even his Twitter account has seen little action. Sanchez just needs to continue working hard and come back a better player. There will be plenty of media waiting for him in New York.
  • Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shaved his head as a special tribute after the team re-signed leading receiver Steve Johnson.
Morning take: This is pretty cool gesture by Fitzpatrick. Both players get along well and came up together. They will be two important building blocks in Buffalo for the next few years.
  • Here is good news for Miami: Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn is officially available.
Morning take: The Dolphins have to be happy the Packers didn't use the franchise tag on Flynn. He will be Miami's fallback option if things don't work out when Peyton Manning is expected to be released later this week.
Morning take: Carter played for Gregg Williams with the Washington Redskins. Smart move by Carter to steer clear of this one.