AFC East training camp primer: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

By Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (R) shakes hands with Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan after the Patriots defeated the Bills 20-13 Nov. 23. File photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (R) shakes hands with Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan after the Patriots defeated the Bills 20-13 Nov. 23. File photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo

For those who actually thought there was an offseason in the National Football League, here is close look at the many changes on AFC East teams since they last lined up for a game:

(Teams listed in alphabetical order)


Summer Reset: Rex's Bills must make statement on the field

Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan tries once again to put his results where his mouth is when full training camp begins July 29 with the experience of 20 returning starters who helped the team to an 8-8 record, third in the AFC East last year.

RELATED New England Patriots: Training camp preview 2016

Bolstering the defense will be the team's three top draft choices -- defensive end Shaq Lawson, whose presence should help offset the loss of disgruntled Mario Williams depending on when he is fully healthy; inside linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington -- as well as at least nine veteran defenders acquired in free agency.


Here is a closer look at the newcomers and key players and how they should factor into the 2016 Bills team:


RELATED NFC East training camp primer: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins


St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, NY, 7/28, 7/29

COACH: Rex Ryan

RELATED Troubled ex-NFL player Johnny Manziel vows 'I'll be back'

2nd season with Bills

8-8 overall

8th season as NFL head coach

RELATED Tom Brady allowing NFLPA to continue appeal

58-60 overall; 4-2 postseason

2015 RECORD: 8-8



20; 11 offense, 9 defense, kicker, punter

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Wide receiver Dezmin Lewis.

--The 2015 seventh-round draft pick out of Central Arkansas dressed for only one game as a rookie, the season finale against the Jets. He spent the rest of the year on the practice squad trying to learn how to compete at the NFL level. He made progress, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- who often covered him in practice -- took notice. So did Robert Woods, the Bills' No. 2 receiver, who said Lewis has been making plays all over the field. That has continued in the minicamp as Lewis has made several impressive catches. The Bills have a wide-open competition behind Woods and Sammy Watkins, and Lewis -- the tallest receiver on the roster at 6-foot-4 -- will go into training camp positioned for an excellent chance to make a run at the No. 3 spot.



The Draft -- A closer look at the Bills' picks (7):

--Round 1/19 -- Shaq Lawson, DE, 6-3, 270, Clemson

The Bills had a very clear need at edge rusher, and Lawson fell into their lap when only three defensive linemen were selected ahead of him. However, Lawson had a lingering shoulder issue that the Bills were aware of when they picked him, and when he tweaked it during the rookie minicamp, the team decided to go ahead and send Lawson for surgery. Thus, he will be unavailable until probably November, and even then, having missed so much time, it seems improbable that he will be able to contribute much this season.

--Round 2/41 -- Reggie Ragland, ILB, 6-1, 247, Alabama

General manager Doug Whaley claimed he would have taken Ragland in the first round if Lawson had not been there. The Bills traded up eight spots with Chicago to make sure they could get Ragland in the second round. A big-body thumper who was strong against the run, Ragland was immediately inserted into the first-team defense next to Preston Brown and he enjoyed a solid offseason program. It would be a shock if he doesn't start on opening day.


--Round 3/80 -- Adolphus Washington, DT, 6-3, 301, Ohio State

The Bills are looking for Kyle Williams' replacement and Washington fits the bill as a wide-bodied run stuffer who can also push the pocket. He was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl because he solicited an undercover cop, but the Bills believe the incident is a one-time transgression. He had 4.5 sacks in 2014 when Ohio State won the national championship.

--Round 4/139 -- Cardale Jones, QB, 6-5, 253, Ohio State

The Bills had to draft a quarterback, and when a few names started coming off the board, they took Jones with the final pick of the fourth round, one of the compensatory picks they had been awarded. Jones started only 11 games at Ohio State, but he won all 11 including the 2014 national title game. He was benched in 2015, and that caused several teams to back off because his resume was so thin. The Bills see him as a developmental player who could become their backup in 2017 when EJ Manuel is gone.

--Round 5/156 -- Jonathan Williams, RB, 6-0, 223, Arkansas

Given Karlos Williams' injury history, the Bills decided to take Jonathan Williams to provide depth, and perhaps bump Mike Gillislee off the roster. Williams missed all of 2015 becasue of a foot injury after rushing for 2,090 yards in his previous two seasons at Arkansas, scoring 16 touchdowns. He will contribute right away on special teams.


--Round 6/192 -- Kolby Listenbee, WR, 6-0, 197, Texas Christian

He played in a high-powered passing attack at TCU and started 22 of the 40 games he played for the Horned Frogs. In 2015, he averaged 19.9 yards on his 30 receptions and scored five touchdowns. He's one of the fastest receivers in the draft as he ran a 4.34 at the Combine, and was projected in some circles as a third-round talent. But no one was able to see that in offseason workouts because Listenbee was sidelined with a sports hernia. The Bills think he'll be ready to start training camp.

--Round 6/218 -- Kevon Seymour, CB, 6-0, 185, Southern Cal

He was a three-year starter for the Trojans who played in zone and man coverage schemes equally well. He finished his career with 126 tackles, 19 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Seymour has great speed as he ran a 4.37 at the Combine, and because of that he could be asked to be a return man despite limited experience in that role in college.


--LB Lorenzo Alexander: Best chance for him to make team is having an impact on special teams.


--S Colt Anderson: Has the experience and skills to help provide an upgrade on special teams.

--RB/KR Dri Archer: Best path to a roster spot is as a kick returner, where he has seen most of his action.

--CB Javier Arenas: Has a shot at helping as a returner and might provide depth in the secondary.

--S Robert Blanton: After the departure of Bacarri Rambo; can step into key backup role at safety.

--LB Zach Brown: With four solid years of experience, he provides good inside depth.

--DT Leger Douzable: Could supply depth in a rotational role.

--TE Jim Dray: Gives the Bills a solid blocking tight end and knows coordinator Greg Roman's system well.

--WR Greg Little: Has bounced around the NFL mainly because he drops too many passes.

--CB Sterling Moore:

--S Phillip Thomas: Has just enough experience to give him a shot at providing much-needed safety depth.

--C Fernando Velasco: Provides a solid backup to Wood at center and can also add depth at guard.

--CB Corey White: Having played corner in Rob Ryan's defense in New Orleans helps his chances.


KEY LOSS: DE Mario Williams (15/15)*

--Even though he hated the defense and seemed to quit at times, he still can play at a fairly high level. The fact he's back to a more familiar role gives him at least two chances this season to show the Bills what they're missing.


--LB Nigel Bradham (11/11), CB Ron Brooks (13/0), DT Alex Carrington (9/2), DT Stefan Charles (16/2), RB Boobie Dixon (16/1), TE MarQueis Gray (4/0), WR Percy Harvin (5/5), WR Chris Hogan (16/4), QB John Johnson (0/0), CB Leodis McKelvin (9/5), LB Tony Steward (9/0), LB A.J. Tarpley (13/2), G Kraig Urbik (16/2), DE Jarius Wynn (0/0)*

*Number in parentheses is games played/games started in 2015

Total games played/started lost: 152/49

Summer Reset: Key for Dolphins rookie coach -- Tannehill project

When the Miami Dolphins open training camp July 27, first-year head coach Adam Gase is expected to use his skills to push quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the next level on a team with an offense that returns nine starters and added four more prospects to that side of the ball in its first five draft picks.


At 37, Gase is the youngest head coach in the league, but arrives in Miami with a resume that reflects an ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks. As offensive coordinator in Chicago last year, Gase helped controversial quarterback Jay Cutler achieve the highest passer rating (92.3) of his career as the Bears went from 28th in yards per pass play to 12th.

In 2013, his first season as offensive coordinator in Denver, Gase oversaw an offense that set NFL records with 76 touchdowns and 606 points as quarterback Peyton Manning was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player after breaking NFL single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55).

Now there's an act for Tannehill to follow, eh?

Tannehill had 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and an 88.7 passer rating last season, which was 21st in the NFL. Much of his work in the offseason focused on accuracy and footwork. On the field, Tannehill's improvement must come mostly in red-zone, third-down and fourth-quarter situations.

In the draft, the Dolphins looked for help to give Tannehill time to pass by stealing Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil No. 13 overall after his stock plummeted moments before the selections because of a YouTube video showing him smoking from a bong. Before that, Tunsil was rated by most as the best prospect in the draft.


On Monday (July 18), the Dolphins signed veteran running back Arian Foster, who might be a help to the rushing and passing game if he can stay healthy. Foster became one of the best in the league after the Houston Texans signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009. In 2010, Foster rushed for 1,616 yards (4.9 per carry) and caught 66 passes for 604 yards, finishing with 18 touchdowns. That was the first of four seasons rushing for at least 1,000 yards.

Last year, Foster injured his groin in training camp, ruptured his Achilles tendon in Week 7 (vs. the Dolphins) and played in only four games with 163 yards rushing and 22 catches for 227 yards. Ironically, the Dolphins lost running back Lamar Miller to the Texans in free agency. Foster will join a backfield that includes second-year hopeful Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams and rookie Kenyan Drake.

The Dolphins tried to bolster their defense with several veteran acquisitions, including defensive end Mario Williams, linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell.

Here is a closer look at the newcomers and key players and how they should factor into the 2016 Dolphins team:




Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, Davie, FL, 7/28, 7/28

COACH: Adam Gase

1st season as Dolphins/NFL head coach

2015 RECORD: 6-10



16; 9 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Defensive end Cam Wake.

--Not only did he participate in most of the practices and workouts after sustaining a season-ending Achilles injury in October, but he was giving RT Ja'Wuan James problems during 11-on-11 drills. Granted, these were practices in no pads, and Wake didn't have his usual explosiveness, but he seems on track to be feared once again this season.


The draft -- A closer look at the Dolphins' picks (8):

--Round 1/13 -- Laremy Tunsil, G/T, 6-5, 310, Mississippi

Tunsil was rated by some as the best player in the draft and others as the best tackle. Miami wasn't scared away by the video showing Tunsil smoking from a bong, his Instagram messages asking an Ole Miss football official for money to pay his mother's bills, or his seven-game suspension last season. He'll likely start at left guard.

--Round 2/38 -- Xavien Howard, CB, 6-0, 201, Baylor

The Dolphins traded up to get Howard, who figures to battle for a starting job opposite Byron Maxwell. Howard started 24 games over the last two years and totaled nine interceptions. He also had 23 passes broken up over the last two seasons.


--Round 3/73 -- Kenyan Drake, RB, 6-1, 210, Alabama

Drake stayed mostly in the shadows behind Heisman winner Derrick Henry, but he's a talented player who is an elusive runner (rushed for 408 yards, averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year) as well as an outstanding special teams player. He'll have a chance to compete with Jay Ajayi, among others, for the starting job. The Dophins traded up to acquire Drake.

--Round 3/86 -- Leonte Carroo, WR, 6-0, 211, Rutgers

The Dolphins had a second-round grade on Carroo (39 receptions, 809 yards, 10 touchdowns), which is why they decided to trade up and give up two 2017 picks to grab him in the third round. They like his toughness and hands. As a junior, he had 55 receptions for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns. For his career, he totaled 122 receptions for 2,373 yards and 29 TDs.

--Round 6/186 -- Jakeem Grant, WR, 5-6, 170, Texas Tech

The diminutive Grant joked he got the height in the family considering everyone else tops out at five feet. Grant is Texas Tech's all-time leader in receiving yards (3,164), surpassing Oakland's Michael Crabtree. Grant's best chance of making the team is as a kickoff/punt returner because it appears he's a long shot to contribute from scrimmage.


--Round 6/204 -- Jordan Lucas, CB, 6-0, 199, Penn State

Lucas has played both slot and boundary cornerback, and he'll be viewed first as a slot cornerback with Miami. He also played strong safety as a senior. He's not much of a ball hawk (three career interceptions), but he plays special teams and that could help. Lucas will compete with Bobby McCain to get playing time at the nickel/slot position.

--Round 7/223 -- Brandon Doughty, QB, 6-3, 210, Western Kentucky

Doughty is a local kid (played at North Broward Prep) who led the nation in touchdowns (48), completion percentage (71.9) and passing yards (5,055), joining Hawaii's Colt Brennan (2006) and BYU's Steve Young (1983) as the only others to reach that plateau. Doughty spent six years in college because of a redshirt and a medical redshirt. Doughty will compete with Matt Moore and Zac Dysert for reserve quarterback duties.

--Round 7/231 -- Thomas Duarte, TE, 6-2, 225, UCLA

Duarte might be more of an H-back than a hand-on-the-ground tight end. But he's effective. Last year, he totaled 53 receptions for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns. Miami's Jordan Cameron is the starter and Dion Sims is the top reserve. Duarte will compete with Jake Stoneburner for a roster spot.



--S Isa Abdul-Quddus: Ex-Detroit player is the likely starter at free safety. Solid veteran, should fit well.

--LB Kiko Alonso: Dolphins want the rookie-year Alonso (159 tackles in 2013). If not, it's an issue.

--DE Andre Branch: Ex-Jags pass rusher has 7.0 sacks in last two years. Figures to be major contributor.

--T Jermon Bushrod: Lifelong tackle expected to convert to guard. This should be an interesting change.

--CB Chimdi Chekwa: Shows promise at cornerback. Could eventually get playing time from scrimmage.

--TE MarQueis Gray: Long shot to make the roster at crowded position; needs special teams contribution.

--DE Jason Jones: Solid veteran; could bring depth to the line.

--CB Byron Maxwell: Enters season as No. 1 corner. Dolphins will play press coverage, which is his favorite.

--RB Daniel Thomas: Long shot former second-round pick back to revive floundering career.

--G Kraig Urbik: Veteran who will likely serve as backup guard-center, and could start at guard.

--DE Mario Williams: A steal if he regains his Pro-Bowl form. Only had 5.0 sacks last year in Buffalo.

--T Sam Young: Veteran backup tackle who should provide quality depth.


--RB Arian Foster: Versatile runner/receiver who was injured in 2015 and played only four games for Houston

KEY LOSS: RB Lamar Miller (16/16)*

--Miller departed for Houston via free agency. DE Olivier Vernon (New York Giants via free agency) could also own this title. They're both big losses, but Miller has no replacement. The Dolphins signed Mario Williams to replace Vernon.


--DE Quinton Coples (6/0), S Louis Delmas (0/0), T Jason Fox (15/11), CB Brent Grimes (15/15), WR Greg Jennings (16/5), WR Rishard Matthews (11/10), CB Brice McCain (14/11), DE Damontre Moore (3/0), DE Derrick Shelby (16/9), LB Kelvin Sheppard (16/12), G Shelley Smith (0/0), CB Jamar Taylor (12/6), DE Olivier Vernon (16/16)*

*Number in parentheses is games played/games started in 2015

Total games played/started lost: 156/111

Summer Reset: Patriots open camp with 20 returning starters

As if head coach Bill Belichick needed an added advantage, his New England Patriots begin full training camp July 27 with 20 returning starters from a team that was 12-4 and first in the AFC East last season before losing to eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver, 20-18, in the conference championship game.


That said, the Patriots will have only 19 starters for the first four games as the roster was depleted by one with the suspension of quarterback Tom Brady.

That will put attention on erstwhile backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in training camp. Will Belichick prepare for the season by giving Garoppolo increased snaps with the first team? If so, how many? How will Garropolo look? Will it really matter by the end of the season?

Whoever is passing the ball will have a significant additional weapon at tight end. As if Rob Gronkowski was not significant enough, the Patriots traded for tight end Martellus Bennett, a Pro-Bowl tight end two years ago in Chicago when he caught 90 passes for the Bears.

Despite being docked by the league with no first-round draft pick, the Patriots bartered their way into nine selections and Bennett was one of at least 14 viable veterans acquired in the offseason.

Here is a closer look at the newcomers and key players and how they should factor into the 2016 Patriots team:



Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA, 7/24, 7/27


COACH: Bill Belichick

17th season with Patriots

209-78 overall; 22-9 postseason

22nd season as NFL head coach

246-123 overall; 23-10 postseason

2015 RECORD: 13-5



20; 11 offense, 9 defense, kicker, punter

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Tight end Martellus Bennett.

--Acquired in a trade with the Bears this offseason, the veteran tight end has hit the ground running, and catching, in New England. He's been healthy and on the field getting key reps with quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots' passers. He's done a good job picking up the offense. He also displayed solid hands and good burst in OTA and minicamp practices. With Rob Gronkowski absent from the practice field more often than not this spring, Bennett has made impressive early strides as he works to bring an added dimension to an already loaded Patriots' passing attack.


The Draft -- A closer look at the Patriots' picks (9):

--Round 2/60 - Cyrus Jones, CB, 5-10, 197, Alabama

Waiting nearly two full rounds to finally get to pick, New England pounced on the Tide cornerback who has the versatility to play outside and in the slot. Beyond filling the Patriots' obvious need at cornerback, Jones will compete immediately for punt-return reps after leading the nation last fall with four touchdown returns.


--Round 3/78 - Joe Thuney, G/C, 6-5, 295, North Carolina State

After trading down, New England added another young body to its evolving offensive line with the selection of the smart, versatile option who was All-ACC at left tackle last fall. In New England, Thuney will compete for playing time on the inside with his early OTA and minicamp reps coming primarily at center. Thuney will battle with a growing group of young interior offensive linemen that includes Bryan Stork (fourth round 2014), Shaq Mason (fourth round 2015), Tre' Jackson (fourth round 2015) and David Andrews (undrafted 2015).

--Round 3/91 - Jacoby Brissett, QB, 6-4, 235, North Carolina State

New England stuck with the Wolkpack for consecutive picks, surprisingly going relatively early for the quarterback position. Brissett adds a needed third body to the depth chart after two years as a starter following a transfer from Florida. Given the uncertainty of Tom Brady's four-game suspension, Brissett could be Jimmy Garoppolo's backup to open the season.

--Round 3/96 - Vincent Valentine, DT, 6-3, 320, Nebraska

With its third-round pick, New England added some real beef to the interior of the defensive line that's already crowded with 2015 first-round pick Malcom Brown and veterans Alan Branch and Terrance Knighton. Valentine struggled with injuries last fall, but was a force in the middle for the Cornhuskers as a sophomore in 2014 and should battle for rotational time.


--Round 4/112 - Malcolm Mitchell, WR, 6-1, 195, Georgia

Though New England has a well-stocked cupboard of offensive weapons, it went with the productive Georgia pass-catcher with its first selection of the third day of the draft. Mitchell finished his career, despite missing all but one game in 2013 with a torn ACL, third in Bulldogs history with 174 catches for 2,350 yards with 16 touchdowns. Coming from a pro-style offense, Mitchell should translate well to New England and is the next developmental outside target, likely replacing disappointing former second-round pick Aaron Dobson on the roster.

--Round 6/208 - Kamu Grugier-Hill, SS, 6-2, 208, Eastern Illinois

A productive, All-Missouri Valley Conference linebacker at Easter Illinois, Grugier-Hill projects more as a hybrid safety and special-teams option in New England. The Hawaii native was a late riser in the draft process after an impressive Pro Day at Northwestern that included a 4.45 40. Grugier-Hill joins his former quarterback, 2014 second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo, as the second Eastern Illinois player drafted by the Patriots in the last three seasons.

--Round 6/214 - Elandon Roberts, LB, 6-0, 235, Houston

The Patriots went with an undersized linebacker on consecutive sixth-round selections adding the All-AAC Houston standout. Roberts led the FBS with 88 solo tackles in 2015, a breakout senior season. Described as a coach's dream and leader, he adds depth to the New England linebacker corps, but his best chance to make the team will be as a special teamer.


--Round 6/221 - Ted Karras, G, 6-3, 307, Illinois

New England closed out its trio of sixth-round selections with the great nephew of the late former Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras. A four-year starter for Illinois, Karras joins a very crowded interior offensive line in New England and would seem to be a developmental prospect at best.

--Round 7/225 - Devin Lucien, 6-2, 195, Arizona State

The Patriots used their final pick on the graduate transfer from UCLA who broke out with 66 receptions for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns in his only season with the Sun Devils. Many considered Lucien a real sleeper in this draft class, but he faces strong competition on pretty crowded New England depth chart.


--TE Martellus Bennett: Set Bears record for catches by a tight end in 2014, with 90; previously with Cowboys, Giants.

--CB E.J. Biggers: Has four career interceptions in seven seasons with Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia.

--RB Donald Brown: Led nation in rushing as junior at UConn in 2008, racking up 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns.

--G Jonathan Cooper: A highly-regarded prospect out of college; injuries have hampered his development.


--TE Clay Harbor: Has come out of Missouri Stare to play six NFL seasons.

--WR Chris Hogan: Played four seasons of lacrosse at Penn State before turning to football at Monmouth.

--LB Ramon Humber: Expected to provide depth while contributing significantly on special teams.

--DT Anthony Johnson: Played in seven games for the Dolphins in 2014, making two tackles and recovering a fumble.

--DL Frank Kearse: Pats are sixth NFL team for this journeyman; played in four games in 2015 for Redskins.

--DT Terrance Knighton: Nicknamed "Pot Roast," veteran can gobble up ball-carriers trying to run up middle.

--DT Markus Kuhn: Along with Sebastian Vollmer, he's one of two players born in Germany to play for the Pats.

--DE Chris Long: Son of former Raiders star and Hall of Fame DL Howie; he's a standout when healthy.

--LB Shea McClellin: Former first-round pick started 31 games over past three seasons for the Bears.

--WR Nate Washington: Rare pro to come out of tiny Tiffin U., he won two Super Bowl rings with Pittsburgh.

KEY LOSS: DE Chandler Jones (15/15)*

--Jones led the team in sacks last season with 12.5 and averaged nine per season in four years with the Patriots, who traded him to Arizona with one year left on his contract.



--WR Josh Boyce (0/0), CB Tarell Brown (3/2), TE Scott Chandler (15/4), DL Dominique Easley (11/1), LB Darius Fleming (6/0), LB Dane Fletcher (0/0), WR Brandon Gibson (0/0), DT Akiem Hicks (13/0), RB Steven Jackson (2/1), CB Leonard Johnson (4/3), DT Chris Jones (0/0), DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen (1/0), WR Brandon LaFell (11/7), LB Eric Martin (4/0), LB Jerod Mayo (16/8), DT Sealver Siliga (13/4), WR Brian Tyms (0/0), LB Dekoda Watson (3/0), C Ryan Wendell (2/0), S Tavon Wilson (9/0)*

Total games played/started lost: 128/45

*Number in parentheses is games played/games started in 2015

Total games played/started lost: 156/111

Summer Reset: Still no Fitz as Jets camp nears

After finishing 10-6 and second to the New England Patriots in the AFC East last season, New York Jets second-year head coach Todd Bowles will welcome 16 returning starters, including nine on offense, when the team reports for training camp July 27.

But as of this writing (Monday, July 18), the biggest news is about one starter not yet counted as returning -- quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Last word was the deal on the table for Fitzpatrick and agent Jimmy Sexton is worth over $10 million in 2016 and roughly $24 million over the next three years with limited guarantees beyond this season.


Fitzpatrick wants more and figures if the Jets don't give it to him, some other team will as soon as a starting quarterback is injured somewhere in the league. The Jets' fallback is Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and, just to stir the pot with fervor, controversial second-round draftee Christian Hackenberg.

So, even if Fitzpatrick does sign, the situation at quarterback could be fluid.

Here is a closer look at the newcomers and key players and how they should factor into the Jets 2016 team:



Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, NJ, 7/27, 7/27

COACH: Todd Bowles

2nd season as Jets/NFL head coach

10-6 overall

2015 RECORD: 10-6



16; 9 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Inside linebacker Erin Henderson.

--Henderson revived his career last year and appears ready to vault into the starting lineup this season. Henderson, who played six seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before sitting out the 2014 season following a pair of drunken driving arrests, emerged as a key rotation piece in 2015. The Jets entrusted him with a bigger role by allowing Demario Davis to leave as a free agent and Henderson, who signed a two-year deal worth $3.1 million in March, responded with an inspired performance during OTAs and minicamp in which he became the defense's vocal leader.



The draft -- A closer look at the Jets' picks (7):

--Round 1/20 - Darron Lee, LB, 6-1, 232, Ohio State

The Jets needed to add speed to an aging and slow linebacker corps. In the athletic and versatile Lee, they hope to have found a sideline-to-sideline roamer who can eventually take over for veteran David Harris. Lee played outside linebacker at Ohio State, where he racked up 11 sacks in two seasons, but the Jets believe Lee - who played quarterback and safety in high school - will transition easily to an inside role. Lee, who doesn't turn 22 until October, is the second straight redshirt sophomore taken in the first round by general manager Mike Maccagnan, who opened his first draft by selecting then-20-year-old Leonard Williams out of Southern Cal.

--Round 2/51 - Christian Hackenberg, QB, 6-4, 228, Penn State

Can a draft - indeed, a general manager's tenure - be determined by a second-round pick? Few players are as polarizing as Hackenberg, who was touted by some last year as the potential top pick in the class of 2016. But he absorbed 38 sacks as a junior and didn't impress teams during the pre-draft process. Hackenberg was scattershot at best while throwing during the Combine and reportedly raised eyebrows by blaming Penn State head coach James Franklin for his struggles during interviews with teams. But he has the prototypical size for a quarterback and thrived as a freshman under current Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. If Hackenberg clicks under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, he could finally be the franchise quarterback the Jets have been looking for since Joe Namath. If not, it's a costly whiff. He looked as raw as expected during minicamp, which means a "redshirt" season is all but assured.


Can a draft - indeed, a general manager's tenure - be determined by a second-round pick? Few players are as polarizing as Hackenberg, who was touted by some last year as the potential top pick in the class of 2016. But he absorbed 38 sacks as a junior and didn't impress teams during the pre-draft process. Hackenberg was scattershot at best while throwing during the Combine and reportedly raised eyebrows by blaming Penn State head coach James Franklin for his struggles during interviews with teams. But he has the prototypical size for a quarterback and thrived as a freshman under current Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. If Hackenberg clicks under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, he could finally be the franchise quarterback the Jets have been looking for since Joe Namath. If not, it's a costly whiff.

--Round 3/83 - Jordan Jenkins, OLB, 6-3, 259, Georgia

Last season, the Jets were so bereft of pass-rushers that Calvin Pace drew more snaps than any other outside linebacker and defensive end Sheldon Richardson ended the season by lining up at outside linebacker. The Jets hope Jenkins, who had 19 sacks in four seasons at Georgia, can team with 2015 third-round pick Lorenzo Mauldin to bring the type of pressure that has been lacking since the Rex Ryan Era.


--Round 4/118 - Juston Burris, CB, 6-0, 212, North Carolina State

Cornerback looked like the Jets' strongest position entering last season, but Darrelle Revis' play dropped off, Antonio Cromartie looked washed up and Dee Milliner once again couldn't stay on the field. At the least, Burris adds someone who can contribute on special teams as a rookie. Down the road, he could be the long-term replacement for Revis or a potential partner for third-year surprise Marcus Williams.

--Round 5/158 - Brandon Shell, T, 6-5, 324, South Carolina

The Jets sent a 2017 fourth-round pick to the Washington Redskins to finally address their aging offensive line. In Shell, they found someone with Hall-of-Fame bloodlines - he is the nephew of Oakland Raiders legend Art Shell - and plenty of experience at both tackle positions. He could push the underwhelming Breno Giacomini at right tackle this summer.

--Round 7/235 - Lachlan Edwards, P, 6-4, 209, Sam Houston State

The Australian native, who averaged 41.5 yards per punt last season at FCS Sam Houston State, is the first punter drafted by the Jets in 23 years. But the Jets wasted no time adding competition in the form of fellow Australian Tom Hackett, who was signed as a free agent out of Utah shortly after the draft.


--Round 7/241 - Charone Peake, WR, 6-2, 209, Clemson

Peake has been clocked at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, but has a history of knee injuries, including a torn ACL he suffered in 2013. Could be a sleeper for a team whose top two receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, turned 32 years old and 29 years old, respectively, in March.


--TE Brandon Bostick: Suffered infamous dropped onside kick in 2014 NFC Championship Game; will vie for blocking duties.

--LB Bruce Carter: Buccaneers free-agent bust looking to serve as a bridge to Darron Lee at inside linebacker.

--T Ryan Clady: Replacing durable D'Brickashaw Ferguson; missed Broncos' Super Bowl run with torn ACL.

--RB Matt Forte: Plenty of mileage, but has enough left to serve as a Thomas Jones-esque No. 1 back.

--DE Shelby Harris: Will compete for spot in the rotation.

--DE Jarvis Jenkins: Ex-Redskin and ex-Bear has six sacks in four seasons; won't vie for starting gig.

--NT Steve McLendon: Has to fill big shoes of Damon Harrison after six sturdy seasons with the Steelers.

--RB Khiry Robinson: Was impressive in brief bursts with Saints in 2013-14; coming back from broken leg.


--WR Kyle Williams: Has bounced around and had injury issues, but will ty and challenge as a kick erturner.

KEY LOSS: NT Damon Harrison (16/16)

--Harrison was a terrific success story as an undrafted free agent out of William Penn, a NAIA school. Now he's cashed in and the Jets have to hope their top-ranked rush defense won't suffer.


--CB Antonio Allen (0/0), DE Stephen Bowen (15/1), K Randy Bullock (11/0), G Willie Colon (6/6), CB Antonio Cromartie (15/15), TE Jeff Cumberland (15/6), LB Demario Davis (16/16), DE Leger Douzable (16/2), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (16/16), RB Chris Ivory (15/14), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (4/0), WR Jeremy Kerley (16/1), LB Jamari Lattimore (15/0), WR Chris Owusu (3/2), LB Calvin Pace (16/12), RB Stevan Ridley (8/1), CB Darrin Walls (13/0)*

*Number in parentheses is games played/games started in 2015

Total games played/started lost: 216/102

-- Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and, is in his sixth decade covering football and 26th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX's network of NFL insiders provided information for this report.

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