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Behind enemy lines: Biggest training camp stories from the rest of the AFC East

Posted by Erik Frenz  July 29, 2013 08:35 AM

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We've been keeping you up-to-date on the Patriots over their first three days of training camp, but what's going on with the rest of the AFC East?

The Miami Dolphins have been practicing for nearly a week now. The New York Jets opened their training camp last week, right around the time the Patriots opened camp, as well. The Buffalo Bills were one of the last teams to report to camp, and held their first practice on Sunday.

Let's take a quick trip around the rest of the division to catch up with the Patriots' rivals.

New York Jets

It looks like wide receiver Santonio Holmes is still feeling some of the lingering effects of his Lisfranc injury from 2012, and he's missed both practices to this point.

According to Holmes, he's not even sure he'll play a single game this year.

Head coach Rex Ryan was a bit more optimistic, and said, "I feel confident that he will be on the field. I don't know when that is, but I feel confident he'll be out there."

Nonetheless, it looks like Holmes' status for Week 1 is in question.

Braylon Edwards, the Jets receiver twice removed, returned after spending time with the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. He was with the Seahawks through training camp in 2012, and saw Russell Wilson's ascent from the bottom of the depth chart to the starting job. According to Edwards, it's not the physical aspects where they are similar as much as the mental ones.

"Russell was a maniac when it came to studying film, breaking down film and asking questions," Edwards said, according to ESPN. "Russell was a beast at that. That's what I see potentially in Geno, how he comes in the huddle, how he asks questions in meetings. He's right there with Mark."

By Edwards' own admission, Geno Smith didn't have the best practice. Scanning reports, it seems as though the speed of the NFL game is too fast for Smith right now. That's to be expected, and can be improved upon. Once things start slowing down for him mentally, his physical talent will carry him the rest of the way.

Geno Smith's speed was one of the points on his scouting report that had analysts raving about his physical attributes leading up to the draft. It looks like the Jets will have no qualm about seeing what Smith can do with his feet.

He's more deadly with his arm than his legs, but his effective running makes it a threat that the defense must account for on every play. Incorporating the read option would make life much easier for a quarterback like Geno, who has played almost exclusively out of the shotgun, and it would also add a whole new dynamic to the offense.

Mark Sanchez certainly is capable of running with the football, having tallied at least 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns in each of his first three years in the league, including six rushing touchdowns in 2011, which tied for the team lead. He didn't do as well on the ground last year, with just 28 rushing yards on 22 attempts.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins' offensive line is one of the big question marks headed into the 2013 season, and a changing of the guards indicates more question marks are on the way.

John Jerry, last year's starting right guard, injured his knee in the third week of July and should be back in two to four weeks according to The Miami Herald, but there will still be doubt remaining when he returns.

According to stats website Pro Football Focus, Tannehill averaged 2.74 seconds in the pocket (either to throw, be sacked, or scramble beyond the line of scrimmage). That time ranked 18th in the NFL out of 38 quarterbacks. He was pressured on 30.7 percent of his drop-backs, which ranked 17th out of 38 QBs.

That's not bad, but it doesn't put the Dolphins among the top pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL.

They may have unloaded a BRINKS truck or two to address their need for pass-catchers, but it won't mean a thing if the offensive line can't buy time for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Speaking of Tannehill, his chemistry with new receiver Mike Wallace is coming along.

"A speed receiver is going to have to take a few reps to get 100 percent comfortable putting the ball in the right spot down the field," Tannehill said. "We are getting better every day. I’m getting more and more comfortable with him every day, not only on the deep ball but all of his routes coming across (the field), outbreakers, anything. I think that we are getting more and more in tune with each other every day.”

The overall chemistry is important, but the deep element especially so. The Miami Dolphins were one of the league's worst at creating big plays through the air in 2012, ranking 24th in the league with just 42 pass plays of 20 yards or more.

At times, it looked like the Dolphins were playing red zone offense all the way up the field, and defenses did not have to account for the threat of the deep ball. Adding Wallace is supposed to help that.

Buffalo Bills

With the Bills opening camp on Sunday, there was still no shortage of updates around their first practice.

After tearing his ACL near the end of the 2012 season, it looked like tight end Scott Chandler could miss significant time.

He tore his ACL in a Week 16 loss to the Miami Dolphins, which put his status for the 2013 season in jeopardy.

His return to action hasn't been covered with the voracity of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III or Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, but his recovery has been just as remarkable.

scott chandler.jpgChandler has not produced to the level of, say, Rob Gronkowski in his NFL career, but he's been an important part of the Bills offense, specifically in creating first downs and touchdowns, where he ranked near the top of the league in 2012.

He's in a contract year, so his continued production will be important to his future with the team.

In his rookie year, cornerback Stephon Gilmore saw some ups-and-downs. That's to be expected. It's also expected that a rookie will learn from the mistakes of the previous year and grow into a more consistent player in his second year.

It's only one practice, and it's only one-on-one drills, but it looks like Gilmore's man coverage is as sticky as it was last year.

The real problem for the Bills at cornerback, though, is their lack of depth at the position. Behind Gilmore, the Bills have a lot of question marks with a total of nine cornerbacks on the roster.

And, from the looks of it, the rest of the group has not looked as sharp.

There's still a long way to go before the Bills have to find their answers, but those answers have to find their way onto the field before the Bills season begins, or it could be a long one for their defense.

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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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