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Keys to Training Camp: AFC East

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Buffalo Bills

Location: St. John Fisher College (Rochester, NY)
Dates: July 29 - August 23
Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)

  1. Can J.P. Losman carry the mantle? - The Bills jettisoned veteran Drew Bledsoe this offseason in favor of 2nd year J.P. Losman. Is the mobile, Tulane graduate up to the task? Luckiliy, Bledsoe didn't set the bar too high last season, and the Bills believe they have the weapons to win without having to rely on Losman too heavily. We're not expecting miracles from Losman but his progress is something to watch in camp; particularly because the team added unheralded yet solid veteran Kelly Holcomb this offseason.

  2. Is McGahee ready to be the focal point? - Willis McGahee is two years removed from his knee injury and the Bills unquestioned feature back now that Travis Henry has been shipped off to Tennessee. Can McGahee build off his 9th place finish last season (1,128 yards and 13 TDs).

  3. Can Josh Reed hold off Roscoe Parrish? - A year ago we asked the question of whether Josh Reed could hold off Lee Evans, and we now know the answer was an emphatic "NO." This year, Josh Reed could well be playing for his roster spot and role as the team's 3rd wide receiver against rookie 1st round pick Roscoe Parrish.

  4. Is there a tight end in the house? - The Bills have been star crossed at tight end, with rookie 3rd rounder Kevin Everett tearing an ACL this spring, which followed season-ending injuries to Tim Euhus and Mark Campbell last season. Euhus and Campbell are supposed to be OK for camp, but this is a position that bears watching.

  5. Is Mike Gandy up to the task at left tackle? - The Bills let Jonas Jennings depart in free agency, and appear set to use free agent veteran Mike Gandy at LT this season. Gandy may be a better fit at guard, and it's certainly not a foregone conclusion that he'll excel as Jennings' replacement. The Bills will likely test Gandy early in camp, and give consideration to moving center Trey Teague to LT if the Gandy experiment fails.

  6. (IDP) Is Pat Williams replaceable? - The Bills finished last season 2nd in yards allowed (as they did in 2003) and no small part of their success came from the solid inside tackle play of Sam Adams and Pat Williams. Williams was allowed to leave in free agency, as the Bills believe Ron Edwards and/or Tim Anderson are ready to replace his production at a lower cost. Time will tell whether that was a prescient move or not.

  7. (IDP) Can Troy Vincent flourish at free safety? - Troy Vincent, ever the consummate professional, agreed to play safety last season despite a distinguished career at cornerback. With the emergence of Terrence McGee at corner alongside Nate Clements, Vincent is penciled in to start at FS; his progress in camp will go a long way in determining whether Vincent can extend his career as an NFL starter.

Miami Dolphins

Location: Dolphins Training Center (Davie, FL)
Dates: July 24 - August 24
Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)

  1. Monitoring the Saban Regime - To say the Dolphins underwent change this offseason would be an understatement. Nick Saban took over coaching and football operations, brought along an entirely new coaching staff in the process. The Dolphins could well exit camp with a new starting QB, a new starting RB, major changes on the offensive line and possibly a new defensive scheme.

  2. Frerotte or Feeley? - Last year we were asking "Feeley or Fiedler" and the answer turned out to be "both" although Dolphins fans probably wished it were "neither." They may get their wish this season as incumbent A.J. Feeley must fend off veteran Gus Frerotte. While Frerotte is no world-beater, he is well versed in new OC Scott Linehan's offensive system which should give him an edge entering camp.

  3. How does Ricky Williams fit into the equation? - The team used the 2nd overall pick on Ronnie Brown, so clearly they view him as a franchise caliber runner. But Ricky Williams has been cleared by the NFL to join the team for training camp, as well. We know Ricky must sit out the first four games of the season, but what then? It will be essentially to monitor training camp for any indications of whether Saban plans to commit to Brown or use both backs interchangeably.

  4. Will Ronnie Brown sign on time? - Ronnie Brown is very likely not going to be at the start of training camp as he and the other top choices wait for Alex Smith and the 49ers to come to terms (to set the bar for this years other contracts). Brown may have the talent to sit out and still make an impact, but with Ricky Williams in the fold, he can't afford to spend too much time falling behind if he's going to have the impact some think he's capable of this year.

  5. Can Hudson Houck work miracles with the offensive line? - Last season the Dolphins attempted to rebuild their offensive line, but things never came together. This season, the team looked beyond personnel and instead to a coach, Hudson Houck, for answers. Houck, considered among the best in the business, was credited with turning the Chargers from a ramshackle bunch into one of the league's better units the last few seasons. He was also the architect of the vaunted Cowboy lines of the early '90s.

  6. Will Randy McMichael stay out of jail? - Randy McMichael was arrested, again, this summer for alleged spousal abuse. The team and fantasy owners need to monitor this situation as it could ultimately lead to fines or even suspension depending on the outcome.

  7. (IDP) Madison's new counterparts in the secondary - The Dolphins secondary is a major question mark entering camp for the first time in ages, as long-time Dolphin Pat Surtain is now a Chief. Sam Madison returns, but he'll be joined by new safeties Travares Tillman and Tebucky Jones, and an as-yet-to-be-determined cornerback (likely rookie Travis Daniels).

New England Patriots

Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, MA)
Dates: July 29 - August 16
Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)

  1. Learning to deal with new lieutenants - After winning three of the last four Super Bowls, the Patriots face their toughest challenge yet dealing with the loss of both Romeo Crennel (HC-Browns) and Charlie Weis (HC-Notre Dame). The Patriots promoted from within on defense (Eric Mangini) but Belichick appears set to assume the mantle of offensive coordinator himself.

  2. Davey vs. Flutie - On one hand you've got the athletic youngster with good size who needs polishing, on the other hand you've got a steely veteran with years of starting experience who finally appears comfortable playing second fiddle. Which of these guys wins the right to pat Tom Brady on the back after each successful drive? That's what training camp is all about.

  3. Sorting out the WR depth chart - Something has to give at wideout. Deion Branch and David Givens are guaranteed roles but there aren't enough roster spots for David Terrell, Troy Brown, Bethel Johnson and Tim Dwight it would seem. Expect Terrell to stick because his size differentiates him, but Dwight and Johnson may battle for the final WR spot depending on which is a better option in the return game.

  4. Mankins vs. Hochstein - Will rookie 1st rounder Logan Mankins make an immediate impact at left guard, or will veteran Russ Hochstein fend him off?

  5. (IDP) Sorting out the LB corps - With Tedy Bruschi out for the season, the Patriots need someone to join Ted Johnson in the middle of the 3-4 defense. Veterans Monty Beisel and Chad Brown were brought in this offseason and will likely compete for the honor.

  6. (IDP) Will Richard Seymour hold out? - Richard Seymour wants a new contract, and may hold out. It's tough to say there is any irreplaceable player on the Patriots, but Seymour may be the closest thing to it on defense.

  7. (IDP) And starting at cornerback… - Last year the Patriots did just fine with a makeshift group of defensive backs, but this season Belichick added Daune Starks and Chad Scott to the mix, drafted Ellis Hobbs, and retained Tyrone Poole, Randall Gay and Asante Samuel. Training camp will determine who starts, who makes the roster, and who gets sent packing.

New York Jets

Location: Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY)
Dates: July 29 - August 24
Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)

  1. How is Chad's shoulder? - Chad Pennington was unable to participate in team offseason activities or mini-camps as he recovered from shoulder surgery. However, according to published reports, Pennington had extensive throwing sessions with all of his main receivers this summer, and he maintains he'll be ready for the start of camp. In order for the Jets to achieve their goals, Pennington must be healthy from the outset; as the team is implementing an entirely new offensive system.

  2. How is Laveranues' toe? - Whoever said you can't return home again was wrong as Coles has been traded back to the Jets, where he made his mark as Chad Pennington's lead receiver. When healthy, Coles is a difference maker but he struggled in Washington amid reports that his toe injury required surgery. Coles must prove in camp that his toe has, in fact, healed on its own. If he does, he'll be a productive fantasy commodity.

  3. What does Mike Heimerdinger have up his sleeve? - Jets fans would've been happy with any offensive coordinator as long as it wasn't Paul Hackett, but the Jets did one better by luring Mike Heimerdinger away from Tennessee. As the Titans OC, he was credited with turning Steve McNair into an MVP-caliber passer and favors wide open formations and downfield passing. Heimerdinger will not only have to invigorate an offense that played too close to the vest the last few years, but he'll also need to work in a heavy dose of Curtis Martin and the running game into his wide open attack.

  4. How large a role will Derrick Blaylock play? - Long-time backup RB Lamont Jordan has left for gr$$ner pastures in Oakland, and Derrick Blaylock was brought in to replace him. Blaylock, productive as a Kansas City Chief, is a much different runner than Curtis Martin. Blaylock's self described best asset is his speed and open field running ability. Will the new offense utilize both backs? Does Blaylock see 5 touches a game, or 10-12?

  5. Are the Jets really content with Adrian Jones at right tackle? - When the Jets lost Kareem McKenzie this offseason, many people wondered how long it would be before the Jets added a veteran to fill the starting RT slot. But just days before camp starts, the team remains steadfast in Adrian Jones filling that role. If Jones struggle in camp, don't be surprised to see the Jets pursue another option.

  6. (IDP) Will John Abraham report? - John Abraham, the team's franchise player, wants a long-term deal and has refused to sign his one-year franchise tender. A protracted hold out could prove costly to himself and the team, particularly given the changes on the interior defensive line.

  7. (IDP) Legree or Pouha? - Jason Ferguson is now a Cowboy, meaning either journeyman Lance Legree or rookie Sione Pouha is in line to start. Neither should be expected to replace Ferguson's productivity, but at least one of them has to prove themselves capable of playing a primary role on what's otherwise an excellent defensive front four.

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