AFC East Weekly Buzz: Early Training Camp Storylines

bryce-brown2

Buffalo Bills

The initial depth chart for the Bills was released Monday night (via WGR):

While many of the positions are no surprise based on what has been seen at camp, the running back position has a peculiar order. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are the 1-2 punch for Buffalo, but there has never been a great third option for the squad.

Bryce Brown has been very impressive in camp, showing surprising natural receiving ability for a player that only has 21 catches for 140 yards in his first two years in the NFL, along with being a great combination of power and speed in the rung game. The MMQB’s Peter King saw Brown live at camp as well, and sees him as a potential large contributor, expressed both in his tweets and fantasy advice.

(Via mmqb.com):

“They (the Bills) acquired another running back in Bryce Brown via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. He looks great, and this coaching staff loves him. I’m saying he’s not going ahead of C.J. Spiller in any fantasy football draft, but I might be inclined to take him over Fred Jackson. You never know what a good coaching staff is going to do when presented with a good new charging fast young back.”

Brown being fourth on the depth chart would seem to put a damper on those hopes. However, Toby Motyka of 13 WHAM TV in Rochester  believes that an injury to one of the two top  backs for Buffalo would give Brown a big opportunity.

If Dixon and Brown can bring new dimensions to a running game that was second in the NFL, the Bills may be the best on the ground in the league in 2014. Who is the third dimension could be answered in preseason.

Day 3 Combine 2014_066_Jarvis Landry Louisiana St WO

Miami Dolphins

With an already deep and talented receiver core (Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews), it seemed very unlikely that the Dolphins would use an early draft pick on the position. It would seem even less likely that they would pick one in the second round that ran a 4.77 40 yard dash at the NFL combine.

However, Jarvis Landry from LSU was selected with the 63rd pick in the NFL draft after a second-team All-SEC Conference season in which he caught 77 passes for 1193 yards and 10 touchdowns. But despite that amount of success, Landry’s 40 time caused his draft stock to drop.

In camp, though, Landry has impressed coaches and even the Dolphins owner with his route-running, work ethic, and hands, according to Jacob Feldman of the Miami Herald:

Landry remained on the field Sunday as other Miami receivers bolted to the trainers after the practice. Day 3 of training camp had been the first practice in pads and the longest one yet, held under the same inescapable sun.

None of that stopped the second-round pick.

Landry excelled in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, catching passes from Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore. He continued to work after practice ended.

Coming out of LSU, Landry drew praise as a polished route runner. Still, he ran extra routes after practice with a coach, working on getting out of cuts and looking back for the ball.

Then, Landry jogged to the JUGS machine so an assistant could fire passes at him. Landry’s big, reliable hands are also a strength, but he still works to improve them.

Suffering in the heat, Landry paused to take off his pads but did not stop practicing. Sixty times the machine slung a ball at Landry — high, low, left and right — and each time Landry corralled it. Sling, pop. Sling, pop. Sling, pop.

“If you want to be great at something, you have to work at it all the time, even if you’re good at it,” Landry said afterward. “That’s just one of my mentalities and part of my work ethic.”

………..

During the draft process, the biggest knock on Landry was his average speed. But that has not stopped him from quickly getting noticed in Davie before Monday’s off day.

First, owner Stephen Ross raved about Landry after Day 1 of training camp Friday.

“Jarvis Landry is somebody I think everybody is really excited about, speaking to the coaches,” Ross said. “He’s really going to be somebody that’s going to surprise a lot of people and really bring some excitement to this team.”

While Landry’s lack of elite speed seemed to limit when he would be drafted, he has wasted no time in attempting to prove those who passed on him wrong. If he can contribute early, Miami has added another target to arguably the best group of receivers in the AFC East.
New York Jets
The Jets are counting a lot on their young rookie class this season, especially safety Calvin Pryor and tight end Jace Amaro. However, both have had injury issues this off-season, leaving another first-year player an opportunity to impress in training camp, according to Bleacher Report’s Ryan Alfieri:
While Jace Amaro and Calvin Pryor have struggled to get off the ground, rookie fourth-round receiver Jalen Saunders has been among the most impressive players in camp.

Saunders is not just impressing with his ability to catch the ball and make plays—his trademark physicality and toughness is coming to light as his 5’9″ frame trucks down anyone who dares to get in his way:

https://twitter.com/MMehtaNYDN/statuses/492333364129456128

The unfortunate reality for Saunders is how it will be difficult to carve out a role for him in the Jets’ offense because of his smaller stature. Jeremy Kerley’s presence in the slot leaves Saunders with gadget plays and fill-in duty, at least in his rookie season.

Either way, Saunders has secured himself some type of role in the Jets’ offense this year with these types of showings at training camp.

Saunders had over 3,000 career receiving yards and 26 touchdowns despite his 5’9”, 164 pound frame, and showed a penchant for both making big plays down the field and finding holes in the defense from the slot. While Eric Decker may be the addition at the receiver position getting the most press, if Saunders keeps this performance up, he could be a key cog in a potentially much improved offense.
Photo by Ed Runyon
New England Patriots
Besides Julian Edelman, Tom Brady did not have a go-to-guy with the long absence of Rob Gronkowski last season. While Gronkowski looks to be healthy and ready for 2014, he and Edelman aren’t necessarily enough to compete in potential shootouts.
On most days, New England’s revamped defense with players like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and 1st-round pick Dominique Easley will be able to keep the Patriots in a game no matter what. Brady needs a consistent play maker at the outside receiver position, and the two competing for the job are second-year players Kenbrell Thompkins and  Aaron Dobson, according to Bleacher Report’s James Christensen and ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss:
Kenbrell Thompkins has already had a roller-coaster type of career, despite entering his sophomore season with the New England Patriots. He started off consistently making plays over the first half of the season—including the memorable game-winner against the New Orleans Saints.

However, his consistency and production faded as the season wore on and Aaron Dobson progressed. Dobson and Thompkins have seemed to flip their positions again as Dobson is sidelined with a recovering foot.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com has more on Thompkins’ development:

A big part of football is seizing opportunity and second-year receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is doing just that. He’s taking repetitions that likely would have been Aaron Dobson’s and making plays that catch the eye.

For the second day in a row, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Thompkins made a diving touchdown catch and he appears to be practicing with a lot of confidence. He runs precise routes, and most importantly, Brady has developed trust in him. That’s not easy to do.

They don’t give out gold stars after two days of training camp, but Thompkins would be close to the front of the line if they did.

That’s the positive from Day 2 of camp. However, Day 3 saw Thompkins continue his elevator-esque play, dropping an easy catch thrown his way.

Thompkins looks like a good choice to start at the “X”receiver position but don’t discount Dobson from having his say before Week 1 starts.

Dobson and Thompkins had their big moments last season, but whether it was injuries or drops, neither could develop the consistent chemistry to click with Brady. With the three-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback now 37, time is now running out to add to that legacy, and what the Patriots can do in the passing game in key moments could be the difference between another Lombardi trophy or another exit in the AFC Championship game.
Follow ProPlayerInsiders (@PlayerInsiders) and Robin Lalisse (@RobinLalisse) on Twitter

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe!