In this episode, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots victory against the Bills. We ended the show by previewing the upcoming game against the Packers.
In this interview Steve Balestrieri talked to Mike Rodak who covers the Buffalo Bills for ESPN. He gave Steve a first look on the team heading into Training Camp this July.
Four AFC East websites get together each week to discuss the AFC East. This week we discuss one player for each team in the division that made a big step up in each team’s preseason opener and one player that fell hard to start the preseason. See what Matt Barbato ofNew York Jet Fuel, Ian Logue of PatsFans.com, Steve Saslow of Bills Daily, and Luis Sung of Phin Maniacs has to say right here.
Steve Saslow (@BillsDaily): The Bill who’s stock not only went up but skyrocketed in the opening preseason loss to Carolina is Tyrod Taylor. He ran with the twos and scored touchdowns on his first two possessions. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 49 yards but two of the incompletions were drops. He added 47 yards on six carries and led a 90 yard scoring march. He showed incredible talent with his feet as he showed off his speed and his ability to throw on the run.
He now is working with the ones this week and if he has a similar outing against Cleveland in joint practices this week and in Thursday night’s preseason game he will be neck and neck with Matt Cassel for the starting QB job.
The one player who’s stock dropped was their top draft pick, 2nd round corner Ronald Darby. He has been forced into a starting role because of the lingering ankle injury of Leodis McKelvin. Rex Ryan put him on an island with no help to see how far he has come. Ha has shined in training camp until the past week and the recent poor play carried over into the preseason opener. He was picked on early and often by Cam Newton and Derek Anderson. He did make a couple of plays but was beaten on several occasions.
The knock on Darby coming out of Florida State was that he didn’t finish plays and didn’t get his head turned around even when he was in good position. That happened in this game as he was constantly right there but the receiver came up with the plays more often than not.
Luis Sung (@PhinManiacs): Every preseason game sees some players’ stock go up and down, and the Miami Dolphins are definitely no exception. What is surprising however is just whose stock rose and whose stock fell.
A high riser for the Dolphins is undrafted rookie linebacker Zach Vigil, who was signed as a free agent after going undrafted out of Utah State. Vigil has been the best of four undrafted free agent linebackers in training camp, and after the game against the Chicago Bears, Vigil increased the gap between him and his peers. He accumulated 5 tackles and a sack during his time on the field, and no matter where the ball was, Vigil seemed to somehow make an appearance. He’s showing excellent instincts and vision, as well as good tackling skills. If he can continue to develop at this pace, it’s possible he could be the Dolphins starting middle linebacker next year.
The one whose stock dropped like a stone was running back LaMichael James. Now wishing to be called “LaMike”, the former Oregon Duck was making a name for himself in training camp in ways that I’d never seen before. He was quick, he was smooth, he was explosive, he was one of the surprises of training camp…but as we all know, camp success doesn’t always translate to game success.
On five carries, James only managed to gain 13 yards, averaging a paltry 2.6 yards a carry. And his receiving stats weren’t any better. He made one catch and only got 2 yards out of it. Add to that his error-filled kick and punt returns and we have a serious case of Legedu Naanee-syndrome developing here. Of course, since that game, James’ magic has disappeared, and so has he. If he wants to prove he’s worthy of keeping around, he’s going to have to get back to impressing in camp, and make a big showing against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday.
Matt Barbato (@NewYorkJetFuel): One Jet whose stock improved was undrafted free agent Deion Barnes. The Penn State product had an impressive showing in his NFL debut going mainly with the second and third units at outside linebacker. Barnes recorded three tackles, but seemed to have his nose around the play quite a bit more.
Barnes will have some more work to do before securing a roster spot. Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Jason Babin and Lorenzo Mauldin appear to already be locks to make the roster at the OLB position. Barnes may not have a spot with the Jets, but his performance in the preseason opener could help him land a spot with another team.
One player whose stock dropped is running back Daryl Richardson. Richardson lost one yard on four carries and fumbled a handoff on the first play of the second half. Richardson didn’t look good running the ball even though his blockers were getting blown up in front of him. The Jets already have Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy as locks to make the roster. Once Stevan Ridley comes off the PUP list, Richardson is likely a goner. His preseason performance only cemented that.
Ian Logue (@PatsFans): On Thursday night against the Packers, Patriots fourth round pick Trey Flowers made quite the impression in his first outing as a Patriot. The rookie defensive end had a tremendous sack on Aaron Rodgers that saw him streak across the left hand side, beat the left tackle and then leap at the Packers quarterback, taking him down. He also showed good technique and power, often driving his man back when he was locked up with his defender. That’s just the type of player New England could use defensively as they try and improve their pass rush, and it’s hopefully something fans will see more of this season.
However, one player who didn’t have a good night and likely hurt his stock was wide receiver Josh Boyce. Boyce missed a huge opportunity to have a big game with so many other receivers sidelined, which saw both he and Brandon Gibson get the starting nod. Boyce was targeted by both quarterbacks, finishing 0-for-2 when Tom Brady targeted him, which included seeing him run the wrong route and fail to hold on to a 3rd down pass. He didn’t fare much better with Jimmy Garoppolo targeting him, as overall he caught just two passes on 11 attempts (18% completion rate). That’s likely not the performance he was hoping for, and those certainly aren’t numbers that will him earn a roster spot.
Four AFC East websites get together each week to discuss the AFC East. This week we discuss who has surprised in the first ten days of camp and who has been a disappointment for each team in the division. See what Matt Barbato of New York Jet Fuel, Ian Logue ofPatsFans.com, Steve Saslow of Bills Daily, and Luis Sung of Phin Maniacs has to say right here.
Steve Saslow (@BillsDaily): The biggest surprise for the Bills so far in training camp is DL Corbin Bryant. He was a solid contributor last year for the team but has really blossomed in training camp this year. He will be a solid depth player who will likely start on opening day while Marcell Dareus serves his one game suspension. Bryant will be there if Dareus or Kyle Williams get injured and provide a second wave along the defensive line along with another solid second teamer in Stefan Charles.
The biggest disappointment so far in training camp for the Bills are the quarterbacks, all four of them have struggled. This was the battle to watch during camp to see who would win the starting job but right now it looks like which quarterback is going to be the lesser of all the evils.
Matt Cassel is the leader by default and did have a fantastic day on Monday but has been average to below average for most of camp. EJ Manuel has been wildly inconsistent while Tyrod Taylor has shown some flashes but just not enough to make an impact in the battle.
Granted they are going against one of the top defenses in the NFL but the way things have gone so far fans are very restless knowing all the pieces are on place for a playoff run except at the most important position.
Luis Sung (@PhinManiacs): Training camp always has its own set of surprises and disappointments, and the Miami Dolphins are no exception to this rule. Probably the biggest surprise for the Dolphins so far this training camp is running back LaMichael James, who after having a rather dramatic exit out of San Francisco, joined the Dolphins and struggled to get onto the field due to the lack of experience in the offense. Now however, James has stepped up dramatically and has started making a case for himself to be the primary backup running back behind starter Lamar Miller.
The only thing keeping James from winning that job now is the fact that running back Damien Williams is better at pass-blocking than James, and the Dolphins coaching staff prefers players who are good at everything rather than having players who specialize in one thing. Don’t get me wrong, Williams is a very good running back too, but he isn’t the pure explosive weapon that LaMichael James is turning out to be in Bill Lazor’s offense.
As for the biggest disappointment so far, I could say that it’s projected right guard Billy Turner, who has continuously gotten his face beat in ever since camp started, but that would be unfair as they guy beating his face in is the best defensive tackle in the NFL: Ndamukong Suh. He beats everyone’s faces in, so I give Turner the benefit of the doubt as he looks much better when he’s not facing Suh.
Instead, I’ll say the biggest disappointment is wide receiver Kenny Stills. He was brought in to be Mike Wallace’s “replacement”, but that’s truthfully only a false narrative created by the media because of the similar speed Stills and departed receiver Mike Wallace share. Stills has done well while on the field, but his issue is he hasn’t been on the field very long. A calf injury has kept Stills out of the last several practices and fans are beginning to grow concerned.
If Stills can get healthy and get back onto the field, I have no doubt he’ll be a good receiver here in Miami. But up until now, he’s been disappointing, mainly because he just hasn’t been able to play. And if you can’t play, you’re no help to your team. DeVante Parker has an excuse, Stills does not.
Matt Barbato (@NewYorkJetFuel): The most pleasant surprise in training camp has to be wide receiver Chris Owusu, who is one of the few players that head coach Todd Bowles has highlighted during training camp. Owusu has played in only 22 games in his four-year NFL career, but he is impressing at training camp this summer.
Owusu has 20 catches in his career and joined the Jets midway through the 2014 season when he was claimed off waivers. He is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and has blazing speed in open space. With second-round pick Devin Smith sidelined with broken ribs, the Jets may elect to keep Owusu on the 53-man roster since he possesses a similar skill set to the rookie.
Unfortunately, Owusu is dealing with a concussion he suffered last weekend in camp. He missed the annual Green and White scrimmage and is still undergoing concussion protocol. If he can get on the field before the first preseason game, Owusu will have a great shot to make the roster with a strong camp.
The most disappointing in training camp has been Dee Milliner, and it isn’t really his own fault. Milliner has had poor injury luck, to say the least. His most recent injury came after last Thursday’s practice when the team announced he would undergo surgery for a torn tendon in his right wrist. This injury is his seventh injury of his career and his second ailment with New York. He suffered a torn Achilles early in the 2014 season that cost him the final 13 games of the year.
Milliner was having an impressive camp up until the injury and he is expected to miss four-to-six weeks. Unfortunately, it’s hard to rely on Milliner to stay healthy going forward. He was expected to continue his development in a depth role behind veterans Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine. Now, there’s a possibility Milliner’s future with New York is in jeopardy.
Ian Logue (@PatsFans): The biggest surprise so far during Patriots training camp, believe it or not, has been Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Considering the fact he’s been under the microscope this entire offseason since making the play heard around the world against the Seahawks, Butler has come into camp playing better than anyone could have ever hoped. He’s been confident and consistent, and even after getting beaten on one play he’s right there the next, with the defensive back never really having had a poor practice thus far through training camp. There were high hopes for him coming into 2015 and so far he’s been absolutely terrific and is one of the only cornerbacks that seems to have locked down a role this early in the preseason.
However, on the other end of the spectrum is second-year defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who so far has been a disappointment during the early part of camp. The expectations were high for Easley after the Patriots opted to move on from veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork this offseason, especially given their needs up front. But so far the 2014 first round pick hasn’t really stood out. He hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been great and that’s the type of player most had hoped to see given the potential he had showed during his collegiate career. There have been flashes at times, but Easley really needs to put more of those together and start settling in over these final few weeks because at this point he’s not playing up to the level the Patriots likely hoped they’d get when they took a chance on him last year.