Friday, May 10, 2013
Eight in the Box: Key offseasons
By James Walker
A look at a key player from each AFC East team who needs to show something in offseason sessions:
New York Jets: Perhaps no AFC East player has a brighter spotlight on him this offseason than embattled Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Quarterback competitions are always interesting, but quarterback competitions in New York are taken to another level. Sanchez is in a five-way battle with fellow veteran David Garrard, highly touted rookie Geno Smith and backups Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. Sanchez is the incumbent looking to keep his job, which he’s had for four seasons. But Sanchez led the NFL in turnovers the past two seasons, which contributed to back-to-back non-winning seasons in New York. The Jets have treated Sanchez with kid gloves for a majority of his career and have not brought in legit competition before. But first-year general manager John Idzik did not draft Sanchez and has no ties to the 2009 first-round pick. The quarterback derby is wide open. Whoever can learn new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast system faster this offseason will have the inside track in training camp.
Buffalo Bills: Veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb is in a similar spot to Sanchez. Signed as a free agent, he has a chance to win the starting job but must compete with rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel and veteran Tarvaris Jackson. Kolb has had a lot of ups and downs in stops with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. He will get his third opportunity to lead a team, this time under first-year head coach Doug Marrone. The competition is hard to predict. Kolb might be a slight favorite to win Buffalo’s starting job in Week 1 because of his experience. But if Kolb is beaten out by a rookie (Manuel) or a journeyman (Jackson) in training camp, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Bills cut ties with Kolb. A majority of Kolb’s two-year, $13 million contract is incentive based and not guaranteed.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have put veteran cornerback Dimitri Patterson on the hot seat via the draft. Miami drafted two cornerbacks -- Jamar Taylor and Will Davis -- in the second and third rounds, respectively. The rookies will make the 53-man roster, but Patterson’s spot is not guaranteed. The former Cleveland Browns cornerback joined the Dolphins as a late-season waiver claim. Patterson didn’t get to show much in his two games with Miami last season and must really impress the coaching staff this offseason. Otherwise, the Dolphins could release Patterson and save on his $4.6 million salary. Agreeing to take a pay cut also would be an option for Patterson.
New England Patriots: New Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount was added this offseason to a crowded backfield. He was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a seventh-round pick and track standout Jeff Demps. Blount joins tailbacks Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and return specialist Leon Washington. Blount could add power and a short-yardage threat to New England's offense, which needs both those things. But Blount fell out of favor in Tampa and has had issues in the past. The Patriots took a chance to see whether Blount could turn around his career. But New England also is never afraid to cut players who do not fit.