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Behind enemy lines: Kevin Kolb takes a step back in Bills QB competition

Posted by Erik Frenz  July 31, 2013 08:10 AM

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With both the Bills and Jets playing host to quarterback battles with potential quarterbacks of the future against veterans fighting to prove they still have something left to give, there is no shortage of updates to be had with the Patriots' division rivals.

The Dolphins may finally have stability at the game's most important position, but there are still significant questions around the team -- specifically at running back and on the offensive line.

Let's take a look at the rest of the AFC East in our recurring post, going behind enemy lines.

New York Jets

There's been a lot of focus on the cornerback position for the Jets, with first-round pick Dee Milliner having just signed with the team. The Jets are also dealing with a lot of turnover at safety, as well, with both starters LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell on their way out.

Dawan Landry, LaRon's brother, will be manning one starting spot, but the other spot remains a battle, and it looks like Antonio Allen is winning. The second-year safety played just 72 snaps in the 2012 season, and contributed primarily on special teams, but he could resume his role as a hybrid safety-linebacker in the "money" defensive back spot.

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith earned some praise from wide receiver Braylon Edwards earlier in training camp, but the players defending his passes have also had nice things to say.

"I’m surprised by how well he is picking up the offense," Cromartie said, "and how coming from a shotgun formation offense to him being under center, able to get out from under the center, doing the things that he does, it shows that he’s a different kid."

The Jets can only hope Geno wins the starting job with a strong performance in training camp; it would signal the dawn of a new era for the team after two tumultuous years with Mark Sanchez.

Miami Dolphins

Depending on your perspective, either the defensive line is doing well or the offensive line is underperforming. We touched on the Dolphins' questions at guard in Monday's post, but it appears there may also be problems at left tackle.

jonathan martin at both spots.pngArmando Salguero of The Miami Herald recently said that Jonathan Martin has been beaten a lot recently by linebacker Olivier Vernon. It's not surprising, considering Martin was less effective in pass protection on the left side than he was on the right side.

It is, however, a concern for the Dolphins pass attack for the same reasons as mentioned yesterday: quarterback Ryan Tannehill would probably love to have as much time in the pocket as possible. He's been effective under pressure, but it's much easier for any quarterback to throw with a clean pocket in front of him.

Why is this seemingly innocuous bit of play-by-play so important?

Because strip-sacks, specifically, have been a major point of emphasis for the Dolphins defense this year. The Dolphins In fact, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle talked about them earlier in the day leading up to Monday night's practice.

"We’ve talked about sacks, sack fumbles, we got a lot of sacks, but we didn’t get a lot of sack fumbles," Coyle said. "We like to believe there were opportunities at times last year to get a fumble as well as a sack, so we’ve showed them players throughout the league who have done that consistently and it’s an awareness factor."

Granted, it's one play in one practice, but the fact that the teaching methods (which include reviewing the Patriots, Bears and Bengals' defenses, three of the top 10 teams in forced fumbles in 2012) are working.

Buffalo Bills

kevin kolb.pngVeteran quarterback Kevin Kolb can ill afford any missteps in his battle for the starting job with rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, the team's first-round draft choice. That's especially true, considering the effusive praise being heaped on Manuel by head coach Doug Marrone.

"From my standpoint," Marrone said in May, "EJ Manuel has done better (as a rookie) than any of the other organizations I've been a part of."

Although the Bills' official website said the team is "in no rush" to start Manuel, they may feel inclined to do so if Kolb continues to play so poorly.

It wouldn't exactly be a shock, given how bad Kolb has played in his previous stops. Sure, he's been under fire behind two porous offensive lines in Philadelphia and Arizona, but he's given no reason to think that's the extent of his problems.

The Bills have been searching for a receiver to complement Stevie Johnson for a few years, and may have finally found one with Robert Woods.

The former USC standout made a reputation for himself as a versatile receiver, with the size to win one-on-one matchups on the outside, and the quickness and smart route-running to get open in the slot and over the middle. He turned those skills into 2,141 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

The concern with Woods is an ankle injury that he suffered in 2012. The ankle was already operated on, and it sounds like it hasn't slowed him down in practice. If Woods is healthy, with him and Johnson catching passes, the Bills could have a more dynamic duo of wide receivers than they've fielded in recent years.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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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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