AFC East Preseason Capsules Print
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Monday, 22 July 2013 13:35
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 AFC East preseason team capsules (2012 records in parentheses):
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: After 3-3 start, Patriots went 9-1, won AFC East for ninth time in 10 years, then beat Houston 41-28 in divisional round. TE Rob Gronkowski re-broke left forearm in that game and, without him, Patriots lost to Ravens in AFC championship game 28-13. Patriots had NFL's best offense, leading league with 34.8 points and 427.9 yards per game. Defense was second in league with 41 takeaways. Tom Brady finished fourth in NFL with 4,827 yards passing and WR Wes Welker tied for second with 118 catches.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Tim Tebow, WR Danny Amendola, RB Leon Washington, WR Michael Jenkins, rookie WR Aaron Dobson, rookie LB Jamie Collins, S Adrian Wilson, DE Armond Armstead, DL Tommy Kelly.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Wes Welker, WR Brandon Lloyd, RB Danny Woodhead, DT Brandon Deaderick, DT Kyle Love, S Patrick Chung.
CAMP NEEDS: Most glaring need is finding targets for Brady. Four of last year's top five receivers - Welker, Lloyd, Hernandez and Woodhead - are gone. Gronkowski could miss start of season after surgeries on forearm and back. Patriots signed Amendola to start at one WR spot and added veteran Jenkins and draftees Dobson and Josh Boyce to compete for playing time. Starting CB Alfonzo Dennard's arrest for drunken driving leaves uncertainty in secondary. Pass rush needs improvement, which could come from 2012 first-round draft DE Chandler Jones.
EXPECTATIONS: Despite arrest of Hernandez on murder charge, losses of Welker and Woodhead to free agency and release of other key players, Patriots should win weak AFC East and likely be among Super Bowl contenders. Coach Bill Belichick could rely more on ground game with third-year backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. On defense, promising youngsters Jones, Dennard and linebacker Dont'a Hightower were starters.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)
OPENED CAMP: July 21
LAST YEAR: Dolphins had new coach (again) and new quarterback (again), and may have finally found some stability with both jobs. Joe Philbin won favorable reviews from players in first year as an NFL head coach, and rookie QB Ryan Tannehill played well and showed progress. Lack of playmakers was biggest problem. No WR scored more than one touchdown for offense that ranked 27th, and defense tied for fourth worst in takeaways. Miami endured fourth consecutive losing season, franchise's worst such stretch since pre-Don Shula 1960s.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Mike Wallace, rookie DE Dion Jordan, CB Brent Grimes, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Philip Wheeler, TE Dustin Keller, WR Brandon Gibson, T Tyson Clabo, rookie CB Jamar Taylor, rookie CB Will Davis, G Lance Louis, DT Vaughn Martin, rookie PK Caleb Sturgis.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: T Jake Long, RB Reggie Bush, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Kevin Burnett, CB Sean Smith, WR Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano.
CAMP NEEDS: Getting Tannehill comfortable with new supporting cast following changes at RB, WR, TE and both tackles. Wallace provides much-needed depth threat, and Dolphins believe second-year pro Lamar Miller has big-play ability to rival departed Bush. Second-year T Jonathan Martin moves to left side to replace Long, with Clabo taking over on right side. Quickly incorporating top draft pick Jordan into pass rush. Ellerbe and Wheeler are expected to provide more big plays than Dansby and Burnett. Rookies Taylor and Davis will battle for CB job left vacant with Smith's departure.
EXPECTATIONS: It's 13 years since Dolphins won playoff game, 21 years since reaching AFC championship game, 29 years since making Super Bowl, and 40 years since most recent NFL title. Attendance has declined, and Miami Heat now rival Dolphins in popularity in South Florida. But Dolphins' offseason was widely judged a success, and they believe they're ready to win - perhaps even in postseason.
NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: Worst season in Rex Ryan's four years as coach ended with Jets losing last three games, missing playoffs for second straight year and resulting in GM Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano being fired. Owner Woody Johnson opted to keep Ryan despite hiring new GM John Idzik. Lowlight of season - and now staple on blooper reels - came against Patriots on Thanksgiving night, when QB Mark Sanchez fumbled after running into G Brandon Moore's backside, now called ``the butt fumble,'' and Steve Gregory ran it back for 32-yard score.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie QB Geno Smith, rookie CB Dee Milliner, RB Chris Ivory, RB Mike Goodson, TE Kellen Winslow Jr., S Dawan Landry, LB Antwan Barnes, DT Antonio Garay, G Willie Colon, rookie DL Sheldon Richardson, G Stephen Peterman.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Darrelle Revis, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry, RB Shonn Greene, LB Bart Scott, DL Mike DeVito, NT Sione Po'uha, G Brandon Moore, G Matt Slauson, QB Tim Tebow, S Yeremiah Bell, LB Bryan Thomas.
CAMP NEEDS: With Tebowmania relocated to New England, camp in upstate Cortland should be quieter - but QB competition will be more intense with Sanchez trying to keep job in fifth NFL season, Smith hoping to start as rookie. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has work cut out, with new RBs and mostly inexperienced WR corps, especially with Santonio Holmes still recovering from foot injury and uncertain to be ready for regular season. Milliner was No. 9 overall draft pick and expected to replace Revis as starter opposite Antonio Cromartie - despite not practicing in offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery.
EXPECTATIONS: Well, they certainly aren't high outside of team facility, with many thinking Jets will be hard-pressed even to match last year's wins total. Toned-down Ryan could be coaching for job, despite having another year left on contract, and how he meshes with Idzik will be key to future with Jets.
BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)
OPEN CAMP: July 28
LAST YEAR: High-priced free-agent addition of DE Mario Williams failed to pay off for team that produced eighth straight losing record and hasn't made playoffs in 13 years - NFL's longest active drought. Defense was porous and offense inconsistent in leading to another offseason of wholesale changes. Coach Chan Gailey was fired and replaced by Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Kevin Kolb, LB Manny Lawson, DE/LB Jerry Hughes, rookie QB EJ Manuel, rookie WR Robert Woods, rookie LB Kiko Alonso.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, LG Andy Levitre, LB Nick Barnett, LB Shawne Merriman, DE Chris Kelsay, CB Terrence McGee, WR David Nelson, S George Wilson, LB Kelvin Sheppard.
CAMP NEEDS: Getting young and revamped lineup to begin jelling under Marrone's staff that also lacks NFL experience. Can Manuel show he's capable of winning starting job? Woods and rest of young receivers need to step in opposite starter Stevie Johnson. Defense needs to find chemistry in new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's aggressive system. Even special teams are unsettled, with veteran PK Rian Lindell challenged by sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins.
EXPECTATIONS: Not very high for team that went through top-to-bottom overhaul, including Doug Whaley taking over as general manager after Buddy Nix stepped down. Too many offseason changes to expect Bills to make competitive run, even in AFC East suddenly weakened with unsettled Patriots. Best win-starved Bills fans can hope for is Manuel showing glimpses he's ready to be solid starter in Marrone's up-tempo offense, and rest of team developing identity.
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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
 

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