Preseason Watchlist - AFC East
By Jason Wood
July 26th, 2010

Buffalo Bills

  • Link: http://www.buffalobills.com/team/training-camp/index.html
  • Location: St. John Fisher College (Pittsford, NY)
  • Dates: July 29 - August 24
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • Usually you can handicap a team's chances by how many question marks they have entering training camp. The more questions to be answered, the less likely they'll be able to work on repetition and cohesion, the kinds of things required to contend in a league full of parity. That's not good news for Buffalo Bills fans as the team returns to St. John Fisher College for the 11th year. The Bills have as much uncertainty as any team in the league. New head coach Chan Gailey will have to work his offensive magic at every skill position, and on defense new defensive coordinator George Edwards is transitioning to a 3-4.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/13 - @Washington (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 8/19 - Indianapolis (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 8/28 - Cincinnati (6:30 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - @Detroit (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • Who's the starting QB? - Chan Gailey has turned Kordell Stewart and Tyler Thigpen into viable fantasy players, so all hope isn't lost for the Bills signal callers. But it's literally anyone's guess who starts in Week One. Trent Edwards is considered the favorite because of his experience, but Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick aren't too far behind him. Fantasy owners will probably ignore this trio but the winner COULD be on the short list as a waiver wire pickup.

  • Who's the starting RB? - With so many needs, it surprised many that Buffalo used its high first round pick on RB C.J. Spiller. It's not that Spiller isn't a compelling talent, it's that Buffalo has Fred Jackson (the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and returning in the same year) and kept Marshawn Lynch. Gailey has a history of committing to one runner but it's hard to think they won't split carries among this group.

  • Who's the #2 receiver? - The hits keep on coming. Lee Evans is a starter, but do the Bills have anyone to step in for Terrell Owens? Every beat writer seems to favor someone else with James Hardy, Steve Johnson, Chad Jackson and Marcus Easley all in the mix.

  • Do the Bills have the worst offensive line in the NFL? - It's possible the Bills could start Jamon Meredith and Cornell Green at tackle. To say the offensive line is a question mark would be a major understatement.

  • Who's going to rush the passer? - Aaron Schobel is expected to sit out the 2010 season which leaves the Bills bereft of proven outside pass rushers. Aaron Maybin must take a big step forward this year, and the coaches will be looking for other contributors to step forward in camp.

  • Miami Dolphins

  • Link: http://www.miamidolphins.com
  • Location: Nova Southeastern University (Davie, FL)
  • Dates: July 30 (Rooks & Vets) - August 19
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • The Dolphins open camp on the 30th with both rookies and veterans reporting. For a team many figure to contend for a playoff spot, there are a surprising number of questions that need answered over the next few weeks. On defense, new DC Mike Nolan will bring a more aggressive, attacking style but it's not clear who he expects to make those disruptive plays. On offense, this will be the first camp for Chad Henne as the starter, having to work on building rapport with his new star receiver and the rest of his supporting cast. There are starting jobs up for grabs on both lines, and the team needs to figure out if Ronnie Brown is healthy and capable of being the focal point.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/14 - Tampa Bay (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/21 - @Jacksonville (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 8/27 - Atlanta (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - @Dallas (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • How good can QB Chad Henne be? - Chad Henne was the starter of the future a year ago until Chad Pennington got hurt. Now Henne enters camp as the unquestioned starter, armed with a Pro Bowl wide receiver and lofty expectations. Is he up to snuff? Can he be more than a decent fantasy QB2?

  • Who starts opposite WR Brandon Marshall? - Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline all have designs on the WR2 job. The truth is, the 2 through 4 spots are undecided, and one of them could end up as decent late value, particularly in PPR leagues.

  • Is RB Ronnie Brown healthy? - No one questions Ronnie Brown's talents but he succumbed to yet another season-ending injury last year and skeptics will question his health unless he's a full and active participant in the preseason. Fantasy owners will watch this intently because Brown is capable of Top 20 value if healthy, but if he's not, Ricky Williams could be a draft day steal yet again.

  • A Battle Royale for the starting guard positions - Donald Thomas, rookie John Jerry, free agent Richie Incognito, Nate Garner and Cory Procter are all in the mix for the starting guard jobs.

  • Offensive Defense? - New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan gave one of the pull quotes of the preseason by saying he wants his defense to think offensively. He meant the need to force turnovers after the Dolphins ranked near the bottom of the NFL in takeaways last season. Nolan's system and assignments are going to be quite different from Paul Pasqualoni's more read and react approach.

  • Creating a pass rush - The Dolphins let Jerry Porter and Jason Taylor go and have no sure-fire pass rushers entering camp. Rookie DE Jared Odrick, one-dimensional LB Cameron Wake and rookie LB Koa Misi are the best bets for a break out, but the defensive staff will need to coach them up and put them in the position to make plays.

  • 3-Way battle at free safety - The Dolphins feel confident in their pair of 2nd year starting cornerbacks (Sean Smith and Vontae Davis), but a new aggressive defense means the team needs a steady hand at free safety to avoid disastrous breakdowns. Tyrone Culver, Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons will wage a wide open battle for the job.

  • Who will return kicks? - Patrick Cobbs, Kory Sheets, A.J. Wallace and Ryan Grice-Mullen all have designs on the KR job vacated by Ted Ginn Jr.

  • New England Patriots

  • Link: http://www.patriots.com/trainingcamp/2010/
  • Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
  • Dates: July 25 (Rooks), July 28 (Vets) - August 17
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • It's not business as usual for the Patriots as a number of key players have question marks about their state of mind and health. Head coach Bill Belichick is taking on even more responsibility than usual, deciding to have neither a defensive nor offensive coordinator. Rookies report three days early and they'll need the jump start because many will be expected to play key roles. When vets report, all eyes will be on whether Tom Brady and Logan Mankins are willing to let bygones be bygones, as well as whether Wes Welker really and truly is the NFL's fastest healer.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/12 - New Orleans (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 8/19 - @Atlanta (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/26 - St. Louis (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - @New York Giants (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • Is QB Tom Brady a happy camper? - Tom Brady hasn't given any indication he plans on holding out, but there has been speculation that he's unhappy with the lack of progress on a contract extension. It's hard to imagine Brady will be a distraction, but it's something to watch.

  • Will WR Wes Welker really be a full participant? - Had we written this preview a day or two before, we would've never thought Wes Welker would be healthy to start the season much less training camp. Yet, we have now been told to expect the reception-machine to be a full participant in all camp drills. If that's true, and he holds up, his ADP will skyrocket back into the Top 15-20 at his position.

  • Will the RB roles become more defined? - The Patriots ran for 1,921 yards and 19 TDs last year but fantasy owners never knew who would get the ball. With all the RBs from last year's conglomerate still on the roster at the start of camp, it looks like more of the same. But if the Pats make a cut or two, whoever is left standing could be a compelling fantasy option.

  • Is OG Logan Mankins part of this team's future? - Lack of progress on a new contract has led to outright animosity with Mankins asking for a trade or release. The Patriots aren't known for succumbing to threats, but it's hard to see a happy resolution. If Mankins doesn't play, the Patriots will have to turn to unproven Rich Ohrnberger or Dan Connolly.

  • Figuring out the rest of the WR Depth Chart - Whether or not Welker is healthy, the Patriots have a lot of options at WR and no real answers as to who will get the targets. Torry Holt is in the mix, Julian Edelman seems the most likely to benefit from Welker's injury status, 2nd year Ben Tate may have the most upside of anyone, and rookie Taylor Price probably "red shirts" but you never know.

  • Can the rookie LBs make an immediate impact? - The Patriots need an infusion of talent on defense particularly at the linebacker spot, which is so important in a Belichick defense. This year two rookies, ILB Brandon Spikes and OLB Jermaine Cunningham, will have every chance in camp to earn major roles, possibly displacing penciled in starters Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess.

  • New York Jets

  • Link: Jets Training Camp
  • Location: SUNY Cortland (Cortland, NY)
  • Dates: July 29 (Rooks), August 2 (Vets) - August 19
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • All eyes are on SUNY Cortland as the Jets descend on the campus for training camp. The Jets have agreed to be this year's focus of the Hard Knocks documentary, which means a lot more media attention. Every camp development will be under a microscope. Although rookies report three days before the vets, the only rookie expected to have a major role, OG Vladimir Ducasse, will need the rest of the OL to get into camp before he can really start making his mark. Once the vets report, the focus will be on building off last year's success because expectations are for this team to compete for a Super Bowl.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/16 - New York Giants (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/21 - @Carolina (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/27 - Washington (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - @Philadelphia (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • How good can QB Mark Sanchez be? - The Jets won in spite of rookie Sanchez' play last year (20 INTs, 10 fumbles) and yet most expect him to show marked improvement in 2010. With a loaded supporting cast, a great offensive line, and proven coaches, all eyes are on Sanchez to evolve into a good quarterback. He doesn't have to be great, but he has to play better than he did a year ago.

  • Is RB Shonn Greene capable of being the bell cow? - The Jets let Thomas Jones walk and have brought in LaDainian Tomlinson to help plug the gap. But Tomlinson is a part-time contributor at this point in his career and the Jets expect Shonn Greene to be the new workhorse. Greene has the size, and ran well in the playoffs, but there are questions about whether his style lends itself to a 20-25 touch/game role.

  • Defining roles in the receiving corps - The Jets have three receivers who all view themselves as #1 options: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. What does OC Brian Schottenheimer have in mind for the split between this trio? Cotchery is the most consistent, but also projects as the best slot receiver of the group. Edwards is probably the most likely to give up snaps in favor of Holmes, but will he be able to keep his ego in check for the sake of the team?

  • Keeping young stars happy - The Jets locked up LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson but CB Darrelle Revis and C Nick Mangold, arguably the best players at their respective positions have both outplayed their rookie deals, too. Will both make good on their promise not to hold out?

  • Replacing Kerry Rhodes - Rhodes was a rising young star under Eric Mangini but didn't seem to vibe with HC Rex Ryan and his staff. Now the team has to replace him, and will let Brodney Pool and Eric Smith wage that battle in camp.

  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to wood@footballguys.com.

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