Friday, July 26, 2013
Eight in the Box: AFC East camp battles
By James Walker
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South
One key positional battle for each AFC East team as training camps get underway.
Buffalo Bills: Buffalo is one of two AFC East teams with a high-profile quarterback battle. Veteran Kevin Kolb will attempt to beat out rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel in training camp. Kolb is the early favorite because of experience. He signed a two-year contract with the Bills after stops with the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. Manuel was the only quarterback drafted in the first round this year and is an intriguing prospect. He has good size, mobility and a solid arm. However, Manuel never put it all together at Florida State. The Bills and new head coach Doug Marrone believe they can coach up Manuel and make him a complete quarterback. But it will take time.
Miami Dolphins: An interesting and unexpected position battle has developed at defensive end between first-round pick Dion Jordan and 2012 third-round pick Olivier Vernon. Jordan is Miami’s No. 3 overall pick who is expected to make an immediate impact. However, major shoulder surgery in February caused him to miss practice time up until Wednesday, the third day of training camp. In the meantime, Vernon took advantage of the opportunity to play with the starting defense in the spring and summer and has been a force. He looks much improved from his rookie year and has been disruptive in the first week of camp. Jordan eventually is expected to be a cornerstone of Miami's defense. But Vernon is making a strong case to start in Week 1 after holding the position all during organized team activities, minicamp and the first week of training camp.
New England Patriots: The Patriots are searching for a starting receiver. Free-agent pickup Danny Amendola will replace former starter Wes Welker. However, the spot Brandon Lloyd left behind is wide open. Will it be a veteran like Michael Jenkins or Lavelle Hawkins? What about a rookie like Aaron Dobson or an unknown like Kamar Aiken? Your guess is as good as anyone’s at this stage. The Patriots have a lot of questions about their passing game. Pretty much the only sign of stability right now is future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who has a tall task of keeping the offense at the top of NFL with limited weapons.
New York Jets: New York is the second division team with a significant quarterback competition. Veteran Mark Sanchez, the starter since 2009, will attempt to hold off rookie second-round pick Geno Smith. It’s been a lukewarm competition in organized team activities and minicamp, but both players are very confident that they will win the job in training camp. Sanchez has led the NFL in turnovers the past two seasons and is down to his last shot to prove he’s a franchise quarterback. Smith has some good physical ability but didn’t play in a pro-style offense at West Virginia. He needs time to adjust to the pro game, and that could factor into a close race.