AFC East: Yeremiah Bell

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A look at whether each AFC East team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been losers in free agency mostly due to inactivity. Buffalo made just one signing: linebacker Manny Lawson. With a new head coach and new schemes on offense and defense, the Bills need a lot more than one linebacker to be competitive next season. Most important, they need to find a quarterback after cutting former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo also lost starting guard Andy Levitre, linebacker Nick Barnett, veteran safety George Wilson and receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson. The team has yet to fill those holes. Interestingly, the Bills were major players in free agency a year ago. They signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract and made several other signings. However, Buffalo finished 6-10 in 2012 and decided to take a much quieter approach in 2013.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are big winners in free agency. They landed the best wide receiver on the market (Mike Wallace) and the top linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe). Miami also signed a pass-catching tight end (Dustin Keller) and an additional, athletic linebacker (Philip Wheeler). Miami’s roster looks much stronger and more dynamic than it did heading into the 2012 season, when the team went 7-9. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said it was his goal to close the gap with the New England Patriots. Ireland deserves a lot of credit for a solid game plan and executing it well. The Dolphins still have holes to fill at cornerback, left tackle and at pass-rusher. But Miami still has cap room to spend and 11 total draft picks next month. The Dolphins are not finished adding talent.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have had mixed results in free agency. But overall I would just barely put them in the winners' category. I do not like what they've done on offense, where they lost two starting receivers: Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. The pair accounted for 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. That's a lot of lost production that Danny Amendola and Donald Jones -- New England's two free-agent signings at receiver – will not be able to match. The Patriots also haven't re-signed starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who remains a free agent. New England must patch these two holes offensively. On the other hand, I like what New England has done defensively. The Patriots solidified their secondary by signing former Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and re-signing No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib. They also re-signed backup corners Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole and added exciting kick returner Leon Washington on special teams.

New York Jets: The Jets are huge losers so far in free agency. They lost talented players much faster than they can replace them. Former New York starters Shonn Greene, Keller, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Sione Pouha, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace were either recently released or signed with other teams. The Jets are hamstrung by a tight salary cap. Therefore, first-year Jets general manager John Idzik has been forced to bargain shop. New York made several low-cost signings, such as tailback Mike Goodson and guard Willie Colon. But overall, the Jets have more holes than they can fill in one offseason.

Are the Jets really that bad?

March, 21, 2013
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Earlier this week ESPN.com released its offseason NFL Power Rankings. The New England Patriots, as expected, were the highest-rated team in the AFC East at No. 5. But the rest of the division was abysmal.

Perhaps what was most interesting is the New York Jets were ranked No. 31 by our ESPN.com panel. Two voters -- Mike Sando of the NFC West blog and Dan Graziano of the NFC East blog -- voted the Jets dead last, the worst team in the NFL.

"I ranked the Jets last because there's such a malaise surrounding the team right now," Sando explained. "The head coach and quarterback are usually the two most important people when it comes to on-field success. Rex Ryan has entered lame-duck status. Mark Sanchez isn't the answer at quarterback, but the Jets are stuck with him. Darrelle Revis, the most important player on defense, isn't healthy or happy. I don't know if the Jets are really the absolute worst team in the NFL, but there might not be any teams' situations I feel worse about."

Are the Jets really that bad? The only team rated worst overall in ESPN.com's Power Rankings was the Jacksonville Jaguars.

New York’s biggest issue is it continues to tear down its roster from last year’s 6-10 team. The Jets have lost at least a half-dozen starters to cuts and free agency, including tight end Dustin Keller, tailback Shonn Greene, safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell and linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace. New York has a tight salary cap and is trying to replace those players with bargain-basement options.

The quarterback issue, as Sando mentioned, also carries a lot of weight. With Mark Sanchez competing with David Garrard, New York has one of the NFL’s worst quarterback situations. Of course, that could improve during free agency and in the upcoming draft.

Finally, there is the Darrelle Revis factor. The Jets claim they are not shopping Revis, but most do not expect him to play for them in 2013. Revis will be an unrestricted free agent next year and the Jets probably can’t afford him. It would be wise for New York to get something for Revis now to boost its rebuilding effort. Even with Revis, the Jets will probably project to have another losing season.

This is the first and hardest year of New York’s rebuilding effort. Things are going to get worse for the Jets before they get better.
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The Miami Dolphins continue to spend money to improve the roster around second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Just three days after signing dynamic receiver Mike Wallace, the Dolphins signed former New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller Friday to a one-year, $4.5 million contact, according to ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton.

This is a nice get for Miami, which simultaneously fills a big need and takes a good player away from the rival Jets.

Keller was Mark Sanchez's safety value in New York for years. Now, Keller has a chance to do the same for Tannehill in Miami. Keller has had two seasons of at least 55 receptions in the past three years.

Keller had a lengthy visit with Miami this week but left without an agreement. Reportedly, he wanted a multiyear contract. But Miami held its ground, and Keller eventually took the Dolphins' offer.

Signing Keller short-term is a bargain for Miami. Had Keller not gotten injured last season, he would have received a longer contract. He now has a “prove it” contract and can enter free agency again in 2014 with better production and better circumstances. It also allows the Dolphins another year to see if 2012 third-round pick Michael Egnew can develop into a contributor. It’s a win-win situation for Miami.

Meanwhile, the purge in New York continues. The Jets have now lost starters Keller, Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry, 1,000-yard tailback Shonn Greene, safety Yeremiah Bell and valuable backup defensive lineman Mike DeVito. The Jets have a lot of talent to replace and very limited resources.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: The Jets' talent purge continues in free agency. They lost Landry, tailback Shonn Greene, safety Yeremiah Bell and defensive lineman Mike DeVito. New York doesn’t have enough money to replace its lost talent.
Morning take: The bar is high for Amendola. He has to surpass Welker’s 118 catches last season. I don’t see that happening.
Morning take: The Dolphins have yet to fill their tight end position. Second-year tight end Michael Egnew is not the answer. Keller would be a nice addition.
Morning take: I’m not a fan of this year’s quarterback class. But if Geno Smith is there at No. 8, the Bills must at least consider it. The release of Ryan Fitzpatrick leaves Buffalo desperate for a starter.

Ranking team needs: New York Jets

January, 15, 2013
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The AFC East blog continues its series this week on ranking team needs.

Next we have the inconsistent New York Jets, who finished 6-10 this season.

No. 1 need: Quarterback

Analysis: It's no secret the Jets are hamstrung at quarterback. New York must get very creative to solve its quarterback puzzle. The dilemma is the struggling Mark Sanchez is due $8.25 million in guaranteed money next season. The Jets will pay it whether Sanchez plays or not. Cutting Sanchez would be even worse because of the approximate $17 million cap hit. So Sanchez will be in consideration for a starting job with whoever else the Jets can afford at quarterback under a tight cap. Do not expect New York to go after a top free agent, because the team simply doesn’t have the money for it. A rookie draft pick competing with Sanchez could be a possibility.

No. 2 need: Wide receivers

Analysis: Who will catch passes from New York's quarterback next season? No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes is returning from a season-ending foot injury. If Holmes returns back to form, that will be a good boost for the Jets. But who else can play receiver? Clyde Gates, Chaz Schilens and rookie Stephen Hill were all busts last year. That is why the Jets signed Braylon Edwards in the final month of the season. Hill has potential to make a jump in his second year, but that remains to be seen. The Jets need a more proven receiver opposite Holmes, and this is a good year to get a receiver in free agency.

No. 3 need: Safeties

Analysis: Both of the Jets' starting safeties are pending free agents who are not expected to return. New York veterans Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry both played well on one-year contracts. However, the Jets probably do not have the cap room to re-sign either player to a long-term extension. The Jets need to get younger and more athletic at safety. Expect this to be a focal point in the draft, where it is cheaper to improve the roster. New York would like Landry back, but he’s probably too expensive coming off a Pro Bowl season.

Honorable mentions: offensive line, tight end, linebacker

Early draft primer: New York Jets

November, 20, 2012
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The 2012 season has reached the stretch run, and it appears the New England Patriots are the only team on solid ground for the postseason.

Therefore, the AFC East blog recently began its first look at the offseason and what teams must address in 2013. Let’s continue Tuesday with the Jets.

New York Jets

Key free agents: TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry, S Yeremiah Bell

2013 draft picks:

Needs: RB, RT, LB, WR, S, QB

Analysis: New York restructured a lot of contracts the past two seasons, which makes it tough on the upcoming salary cap. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan have tough decisions to make to improve this team and make it younger. The biggest in-house free agent this season is Keller. He's a solid tight end when healthy. But Keller is suffering through injuries and having a down year. That could make him a bargain for the Jets. But if another team overpays, he could bolt. Safety also is a need if the Jets do not re-sign their aging veterans: Landry and Bell. An educated guess is at least one of these players won't be back. New York is in a tough spot at quarterback. Starter Mark Sanchez and backup Tim Tebow are both under contract and have plenty of combined guaranteed money next year. The Jets will have to stick with one of those players -- most likely Sanchez -- but both will be on the roster barring an offseason Tebow trade. Therefore, New York will probably invest in a top college quarterback prospect when they have plenty of other needs. Maybe a developmental rookie quarterback in the middle rounds is an option.

Possible draft targets: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Here are the most interesting stories Sunday in the AFC East:
  • The Miami Dolphins made a statement on receiver Chad Johnson's arrest.
Morning take: The Dolphins say they are aware and looking into Johnson's charge of alleged domestic violence. Johnson already was on a short leash with a one-year contract. If true, he could face a suspension and/or a release.
Morning take: The starting offense was working on its no-huddle, but the group has to be sharper and better. This is what the preseason is for.
Morning take: Smith was the projected backup behind LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. But Smith knows the defense well and provides stability and depth.
Morning take: Rookies and free-agent pickups are the difference. Draft picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower look poised to make an immediate impact, and free-agent safety Steve Gregory is adding stability to the back end.

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets will hold their first team-wide scrimmage of training camp Saturday night at 6 p.m. ET. The AFC East blog will be there to take in all the action.

Here are a few things we will be watching:
  • Which quarterback stands out? Starting quarterback Mark Sanchez and popular backup Tim Tebow will be leading separate teams. This will be a good chance to watch both Sanchez and Tebow go head-to-head.
  • Overall, I want to see a better performance from the offense. That side of the ball was whipped pretty bad by the defense on Friday. There were few running lanes on the ground and both quarterbacks struggled. Granted, the Jets have a top-five defense. It will be very difficult to dominate New York’s defense in practice on a regular basis. But I want to see the offense, particularly the starters, step up to the challenge and put together some plays against New York’s tough defense.
  • Watching New York’s safeties will be interesting. The Jets will have two new starters this year in LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Landry has been on a “pitch count” in training camp and practices about every second or third day due to a prior Achilles injury. But Jets head coach Rex Ryan says Landry will scrimmage tonight. Neither safety is great in pass coverage. This will be a chance to see how the Jets’ safeties work together and communicate in a game-like atmosphere.
  • Finally, which rookies will flash? The Jets are hoping for production from draft picks such as first-round pick and defensive end Quinton Coples and second-round pick and receiver Stephen Hill. This is the preview before next week’s preseason. This is a chance to get an early look at which first-year players have a chance to show up when the lights are on.
The New York Jets have no plans to bring back free-agent safety and Rex Ryan favorite Jim Leonhard, Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports. This is not a surprise, considering the Jets spent much of their free-agent dollars signing two starting-caliber safeties in Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry.

Leonhard continues to rehab after suffering a season-ending knee injury with New York last December. The Jets didn't have time to wait for Leonhard to get healthy and pursued other options.

Bell and Landry will compete with holdover Eric Smith for the two starting safety jobs. Smith and Leonhard struggled as a tandem last year. Both lacked size and were not overly athletic. The combination led to opponents picking on New York's weakness by throwing to tight ends and slot receivers over the middle.

The Jets are bigger and more athletic with Bell and Landry. However, both safeties are known more for hitting than their coverage. Landry has made a number of big hits in his previous stop with the Washington Redskins. Bell led the Miami Dolphins in tackling last season.

Leonhard is not in the plans for New York. But he has starting experience and should be on the short list of free-agent safeties waiting for a call when there is an injury around league.

Pre-camp grades: New York Jets

July, 18, 2012
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The AFC East blog continues its series this week on pre-training camp grades. On Wednesday, we take a look at the New York Jets, who are coming off a disappointing 8-8 season.

Offense: C-

The Jets have a lot of questions offensively. Not many players performed to their potential in 2011, and it showed in New York’s 25th ranking last season. There are issues all around at quarterback, offensive line and receiver. Is Mark Sanchez the long-term solution? Does Sanchez have enough weapons and can the offensive line better pass protect this year? Most of the team’s chemistry issues also were on this side of the ball. That is why new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was hired this offseason. It’s his job to clean up the mess and get the most out of his group. The Jets want to run the ball, but expect many opponents to stack the box and see if Sanchez and Co. can pass.

Defense: B+

As bad as the Jets looked at times, particularly late, it’s easy to forget that New York had a top-five defense last season. The Jets’ defense wasn’t as dominant as previous years but still did a good job of keeping the team in contention until the end. New York was put in a lot of bad spots defensively due to the many turnovers on offense. That also led to some locker-room unhappiness between the offense and defense. But the Jets have the best defense in the AFC East. They have added to their pass rush by switching to more 4-3 looks and more intimidation at safety with hitters LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. That was New York’s two biggest holes defensively last season. As long as Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis doesn’t hold out, New York's defense should be stout.

Coaching: B

Say what you want about Jets head coach Rex Ryan, but he’s a good football coach. You don’t get to back-to-back AFC title games your first two years without good coaching. Ryan knows his Xs and Os defensively and players enjoy playing for him. That’s two big things Ryan has in his favor. The brash attitude rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and Ryan did the right thing to tone it down this offseason. Ryan also vows to do a better job keeping his locker room in tact.

Intangibles: D

The Jets locker room was in shambles at the end of last year. The Jets say things have changed, but it’s easy to say right now. Let’s see how this team responds to a two- or three-game losing streak in the regular season. There’s also the looming quarterback controversy between Sanchez and popular backup Tim Tebow. If Sanchez has a bad game or two, things could get ugly in New York’s locker room for the second straight year.

Overall: C+

The Jets are one of the hardest teams to gauge. Last year the sense was this team’s run is over and the Jets are aging and on the decline. Then New York made some key changes this offseason and added some youth in the draft to make it possible for a bounce-back year. The Jets are not better than the New England Patriots. But New York is good enough for second place in the division if things go right and the team stays healthy and together. But those are big ifs.

Sleeper Watch: Yeremiah Bell

July, 11, 2012
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The AFC East blog continues its look at sleeper players who could make a big impact in 2012. On Wednesday we look at a new safety for the New York Jets.

Sleeper player: Safety Yeremiah Bell

Why we like him: Bell is a veteran who is solid in many areas. He's smart, knows his role and was Miami's leading tackler last season. Despite this being his first year in New York, Bell has high character and will bring much-needed leadership to the Jets' locker room.

Reasons for concerns: The Jets needed offseason improvements in pass coverage, and that is not Bell's strong point. Bell will team with LaRon Landry or Eric Smith at safety, and no one in this trio is great at pass coverage. But Bell and Landry are two hitters who could intimidate over the middle, and that is also something New York didn't have last season.

Outlook: Bell is a durable veteran who should produce. He will bring sure-tackling, solid run support and smarts on the back end. But the Jets will be susceptible to the big play. Bell was a late signing, and the key will be learning the system.

AFC East training camp battles

July, 3, 2012
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AFC camp battles: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

An early look at the biggest training camp position battles:

BUFFALO BILLS

Receiver: Donald Jones versus Marcus Easley versus T.J. Graham

The Buffalo Bills need at least one more receiver to step up if their offense wants to go to the next level. The Bills are hoping to find a gem from a group of unknowns in Jones, Easley and Graham. Jones was the starter last year and showed a few flashes and deep speed. A season-ending ankle injury cut his year short. He returns with two players gunning for the same job.

Easley is an intriguing player. He has some tools but also had a lot of bad luck with injuries. The Bills have stayed patient, but Easley may be down to his last chance. Graham, a rookie third-round pick, also is in the mix. The Bills hope Graham can develop fast and make his mark. The winner of this battle will complement 1,000-yard receiver Steve Johnson and slot receiver David Nelson in Buffalo's passing game.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Quarterback: Matt Moore versus David Garrard versus Ryan Tannehill

We have yet another three-way position battle in the AFC East. The Dolphins are leaving all of their options open at quarterback between Moore, Garrard and Tannehill. All three quarterbacks bring something different to the table. Miami coach Joe Philbin said he wants to make a decision after the third preseason game.

From my point of view, Garrard looked better in the practices I attended. He looks more comfortable than Moore, the incumbent, because Garrard has played in a West Coast offense. The Dolphins plan to run a precision passing game based on timing and progressions, and that's not Moore's game. Moore has a backyard style. Tannehill is the furthest behind and still needs to get used to the speed of the NFL game. He had only 19 career starts in college and often has looked that way in practices open to the media this offseason.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Running back: Stevan Ridley versus Shane Vereen

The reigning AFC champions are venturing into the unknown at running back. After losing dependable starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis to free agency, the Patriots are looking to second-year tailbacks Ridley and Vereen to carry the load. Both will get their share of carries this year. But the one who performs best in training camp and the preseason will be the starter.

Ridley averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie in 2011. He has a good burst between the tackles but needs to fix his fumbling woes. He had two in the regular-season finale against Buffalo and the divisional playoff game against Denver. Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't go back to Ridley the rest of the postseason. Vereen is quick and looks to be more of a home run hitter. Injuries hampered Vereen last season, but the Patriots are pretty high on last year's second-round pick. Danny Woodhead and former Indianapolis Colts tailback Joseph Addai also are in the mix for depth. Woodhead and Addai are expected to contribute more on third-down situations.

NEW YORK JETS

Safety: LaRon Landry versus Eric Smith

The Jets didn't have many weaknesses on their fifth-rated defense last season. But the biggest one they did have was definitely safety. The Jets oftentimes were eaten alive over the middle of the field in 2011. Various tight ends and slot receivers had a field day because New York lacked the size, athleticism and physicality necessary to own the middle.

Enter new safeties Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Both are solid veterans who are sure tacklers and physical hitters. Jets coach Rex Ryan is excited over the prospect of having two enforcers over the middle waiting to blow up receivers. Bell is already making plays in organized team activities and minicamp. He will get one starting position. Landry is the favorite over Smith, last year's starter. However, Landry is still ailing from an Achilles injury and has yet to show the coaching staff how he fits in the defense. Once Landry returns, he must beat out Smith for a starting role.
The Miami Dolphins also will hold their three-day, mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. Here are three things to keep an eye on:

No. 1: Chad Ochocinco

Expect all eyes to be on Ochocinco this week. The colorful receiver and six-time Pro Bowler just joined the Dolphins last week and signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum. Ochocinco has a lot to prove after a poor stint with the New England Patriots. Does the 34-year-old receiver have anything left? Can Ochocinco quickly grasp a new offense, which was an issue in New England? Will the receiver-thin Dolphins use Ochocinco as a starter? There's no doubt Ochocinco will bring excitement to the Dolphins, who will debut on HBO's "Hard Knocks" in August. But will Ochocinco also bring the type of production he had earlier in his career?

No. 2: Quarterback derby

This is probably the biggest storyline for Miami. But it's already been written and talked about for months. Right now Ochocinco is the fresher story. Still, this minicamp is very important for quarterbacks Matt Moore, David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill. It's a chance for one of these players to take a firm hold on the quarterback derby leading into training camp. Garrard and Moore remain the favorites, while Tannehill is on the outside looking in. But one of these three quarterbacks can take a big step by outperforming the others in this week's minicamp.

No. 3: Miami's defense

The strength of Miami's team this year will be its defense. The Dolphins have virtually no chance to compete if this group doesn't play up to their potential. Miami is switching to a 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. That could provide early growing pains, but Miami has enough talented veterans to handle it. The biggest questions are at safety, following the release of leading tackler Yeremiah Bell, and getting a consistent pass-rush from someone other than Cameron Wake. The Dolphins will be evaluating and looking for answers this week.
Tom BradyAP Photo/Charles KrupaPatriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to have picked up where he left off last season.

The AFC East blog is wrapping up its two-stop minicamp tour in the Northeast with the New York Jets and New England Patriots. It was a fun week in which I was able to see both teams up close.

But before we head back to our Miami headquarters, here are some things we liked and disliked from the Patriots and Jets:

Things we liked

No. 1: Patriots QB Tom Brady

Brady looked sharp, as expected, and was by far the best quarterback I saw during my two stops. He was accurate and his passes had zip. Brady also is concentrating on his mechanics and it shows. On Wednesday Brady made several big connections in team drills with Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez. Brady's two deep touchdown throws to Welker were particularly impressive.

Brady, 34, is in great shape and says he's already at his ideal playing weight of 228 pounds. He was very modest about his minicamp performance. But we liked what we saw from the future Hall of Famer.

No. 2: Jets’ defense

Watching the Jets practice and talking to players in the locker room, it's clear the Jets' defense is hungry. The defense was a top-five unit last year, but the players still do not feel they played to their standards. The Jets' defense was flying around the football in minicamp and appears to be getting its swagger back.

In-house players such as linebacker Bart Scott and second-year defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson look in great shape and much improved. Outside additions such as rookie defensive end Quinton Coples and veteran safety Yeremiah Bell also are making plays. If the Jets can get hard-hitting safety LaRon Landry (Achilles) healthy, they will have defensive playmakers at nearly every position. Jets linebacker Calvin Pace says they want to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL this season. If everyone stays healthy, the Jets could have a shot.

No. 3: Jets WR Chaz Schilens

[+] EnlargeChaz Schilens
AP Photo/Julio CortezChaz Schilens stood out among the Jets' wide receivers at minicamp.
During my Tuesday trip to Florham Park, N.J., Schilens was the receiver who made the most plays in practice. The former Oakland Raider has good size, strong hands and athleticism. Schilens could be an underrated find if he’s able to stay healthy, which has always been an issue.

Schilens made a play Tuesday that most Pro Bowl receivers couldn’t make. One-on-one against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, Schilens beat Revis to the corner of the end zone, leaped over the cornerback and snatched a high pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez for a touchdown. It was the most impressive catch of practice, especially considering who Schilens beat.

The Jets need playmakers on offense. Schilens will earn playing time if he makes more plays like that in training camp.

Things we didn't like

No. 1: Patriots QB Brian Hoyer

I didn't take over the AFC East blog last year until the start of the regular season. So I was curious to see a player like Hoyer, who backed up Brady last season and got most of his work in training camp and the preseason. I thought Hoyer struggled in practice.

Hoyer's size and arm strength looked average and his accuracy and decision-making weren't great this week. In team drills Wednesday, he threw a bad interception in coverage to Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower. According to the Boston Globe, Hoyer also threw two picks on Tuesday.

This could be the year that Ryan Mallett pushes -- and perhaps surpasses -- Hoyer for the No. 2 job in the preseason. Mallett, a 2011 draft pick, still has a lot to learn but has the physical tools (size, arm strength) Hoyer lacks.

No. 2: Patriots CB Ras-I Dowling

Dowling was another player I missed watching in training camp and the preseason last year and was curious to see where he stood. Dowling is a former second-round pick whom New England had high expectations for until a hip injury in 2011 put him on injured reserve.

In some ways, Dowling could be considered an extra draft pick this year. He played in just two games as a rookie and is trying to work his way back into football shape. But Dowling still looks a step slow and had trouble covering quick receivers. He has to make a lot of progress between now and training camp in order to win a meaningful role in the secondary.

The Patriots need play-making cornerbacks. Dowling was that type of player in college but still has a lot to prove at the NFL level.

No. 3: Jets WR injuries

Speaking of injuries, I didn't get a good evaluation of New York's receivers this week, because many of them were banged up. Projected starters Santonio Holmes and rookie second-round pick Stephen Hill both have hamstring injuries. Backup Patrick Turner also is banged up.

The good news is we got to see receivers like Schilens, Jeremy Kerley and Royce Pollard get extra work. But Holmes and Hill are the big guns the Jets will be relying on this season. Quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow need reps with New York's starting receivers, because the team is learning a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Holmes, Hill and Turner will have to make up for missed time next month in training camp.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets began their mandatory minicamp Tuesday. Afterwards, the AFC East blog caught up with new Jets safety Yeremiah Bell to get his thoughts on leaving the Miami Dolphins, joining their rival and a few other topics.

Yeremiah, I'm still not used to seeing you in these Gang Green colors. How is the transition going?

[+] EnlargeMiami Dolphins strong safety Yeremiah Bell
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIREFormer Miami Dolphins strong safety Yeremiah Bell describes his transition to the Jets as "easy."
Bell: (Laughs) It's been good. It's been a really easy transition. All the guys welcomed me with open arms. Everybody has been helping me with the defense. Even though I've only been here a couple of weeks, part of the first week I was here it felt like home. You get the football spirit around here. Guys love to play, and it's easy to come here and get settled.

Did you know many of the guys here with the Jets before you signed?

Bell: I knew the guys playing against them, but not really on a personal level. It was more on an on-field level. But that's what's so funny, because when I was there it was back-and-forth [tension]. But as soon as you walk in here and you're on the other side, everything is all good. That was a blessing to come into, because I know that's not easy.

I don't recall you doing many interviews in Miami since you left. Can you give us your perspective of what happened with your release?

Bell: From my perspective, I think it was strictly a business decision on their end. It's part of the game. I kind of felt it going into the last year of my contract. That's something that happens in this league. So I just basically saw it as a business decision and left it at that.

Why did the Dolphins wait so late to make the decision?

Bell: Now, that part I couldn't tell you. I don't have anything negative to say about the organization, but that part made me a little mad. Because if they were going to release me, they could have done it before the free-agency period started. I don't have anything negative to say but I think they could've handled that a little better than they did.

Tony Sparano and Rex Ryan are different guys on the surface. How do you see them getting along?

Bell: They fit well to me. Both of them love football, and Tony is a fiery guy. Rex is a coach who loves it, and Tony is all about football. And it's two great minds. I think anytime you get two great minds together coaching on the same team, special things could happen. I think those guys mix real well.

What are your thoughts on pairing with safety LaRon Landry?

Bell: We can be as good as we want to be. We can be a good duo back there. We just got to learn the defense in and out and keep leaning on Smitty [safety Eric Smith] to help us both out and adjusting to the system. We can be a great tandem out there, along with Smitty. Smitty is in that mix, too. The three of us back there can be dangerous. We can do a lot of different things.

Finally, what's your take on your former Dolphins team doing HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer?

Bell: It's good for them. I mean, maybe they need it. It's a lot of good guys down there. So I'm sure they will do a great job. It will be pretty entertaining.

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