Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and down in the AFC East.
1. New England Patriots receivers: I’m just not convinced that New England has a strong receiving corps. This was once a strength of the Patriots and now it’s a weakness. Often injured Danny Amendola leads the group, which also includes Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins and Julian Edelman. The Patriots also signed another veteran to add to the pile: Lavelle Hawkins. The Patriots could be fortunate if rookie Aaron Dobson or Josh Boyce turn out to be fast learners. But counting on rookie receivers to immediately adjust to the speed of the NFL game is always a roll of the dice.
2. Quinton Coples, New York Jets defensive end/outside linebacker: Coples entered the draft in 2012 with the reputation of turning it off and on during games. It turns out that’s also the case in the weight room. Coples angered Jets head coach Rex Ryan last week for his poor work in the weight room. Ryan needs the former first-round pick to play well next season when Coples transitions to an important role as an outside pass-rusher. Coples has the talent but needs to focus. It’s hard to get away with turning it off and on in the NFL. Now is the time for Coples to put in the extra work to become a consistent player.
3. Buffalo Bills’ guard position: The Bills probably made the right decision in free agency not to overpay for former guard Andy Levitre, who signed a $46 million contract with the Tennessee Titans. However, I’m not sure the Bills did enough this offseason to find a quality replacement. Buffalo is working relative unknown Chris Scott with the first team at left guard during this week’s organized team activities. That’s a far drop-off from Levitre. Do not underestimate the importance of quality interior linemen in Buffalo’s offense. One of the reasons running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson had huge running lanes and the quarterback had good pass protection was due to solid guard play from Levitre and returning starter Kraig Urbik.
1. Doug Whaley, Buffalo Bills general manager: As expected, 73-year-old Buddy Nix stepped down as Buffalo’s general manager this week and handed the post to Whaley, his former assistant GM. This had been in the works for a while. Whaley was doing many of the general manager duties in Buffalo for the past year or so and is now ready to take over. Whaley spent a decade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, which included two Super Bowl titles, and two years with the Bills waiting for this opportunity. The Bills are a team with a young nucleus and a young general manager looking to get them to the next level.
2. Geno Smith, Jets quarterback: Smith did a good job over the weekend of setting aside criticism and focusing on football. He had a solid rookie minicamp for the Jets and showed why the team made him the second quarterback off the board in this year’s draft. The hype machine is already building for Smith in New York after just one weekend. One report from the New York Post already indicated that Smith is the favorite to win the starting job and the coaching staff is “smitten” with the rookie after only a few practices.
3. Robert Woods, Bills receiver: Woods stole the show at Buffalo rookie minicamp last weekend. In a time that was meant to showcase new quarterback EJ Manuel, Woods was the rookie who shined brightest for Buffalo. The second-round pick reportedly had six catches in his first practice and displayed good hands and route running. Woods was arguably the most polished receiver in this year’s draft and is showing why early on. He has the inside track to start opposite veteran receiver Steve Johnson in Week 1.