Bills Camp Report: Day 12

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
8:15
PM ET
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • We're in the true "dog days" of camp. Players were in full pads for the eighth consecutive practice, crowds were lighter, and some questions about the Bills' preseason opener Sunday worked their way into coach Doug Marrone's news conference. The only thing missing from the typical training camp fare? Blazing heat. The Bills haven't practiced in hot, sunny conditions in about a week.
  • The Bills continue to get hit by injuries at tight end. Lee Smith missed Thursday's practice with a "lower body" injury and walked onto the field late in the session wearing a sleeve on his right calf. Even with Chris Gragg returning to practice this week, the Bills are still without their top three tight ends. Marrone had no update on when Scott Chandler (groin) might return, while Tony Moeaki (hamstring) isn't expected to practice soon. Barring a late signing, expect to see plenty of Gragg and Dominique Jones in Sunday's game.
  • Offensive line is another trouble spot. After Chris Hairston (back) left Wednesday's practice, the Bills had starting left guard Chris Williams (toe) depart Thursday's practice. No word on his status for Sunday. If Williams and Hairston can't go, the Bills' competition at right guard is thinned out, leaving Kraig Urbik in a better spot. Otherwise, expect plenty of Cyril Richardson, Antoine McClain, and J.J. Unga. rotating through those guard spots.
  • After two weeks of camp, this sounds like a broken record, but the highlight of practice was a Sammy Watkins catch. This time, he streaked down the left sideline to beat top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, catching EJ Manuel's lofted pass in stride for a would-be 98-yard touchdown. The rest of Manuel's performance Thursday was up-and-down. He found Chris Hogan for more big gains across the middle, a building trend this camp, but he also had some problems with pressure on third-down drills. Manuel's worst pass came when cornerback Bobby Felder intercepted an underthrown pass to Marquise Goodwin along the sideline.
  • After going 4-for-5 on touchdowns in the red zone 7-on-7 drill Wednesday, Manuel was less successful Thursday. His only touchdown came on a lofted pass to Robert Woods, with cornerback Corey Graham called for defensive pass interference on the play. Graham stayed on the field when Thad Lewis took over at quarterback and was beaten for another touchdown by T.J. Graham, leading one Bills offensive player to shout, "keep No. 20 on the field." On the next play, linebacker Ty Powell leaped to pick off Lewis in the end zone, quieting the offense down.
  • The Bills will be back on the practice field Friday evening at 6 p.m. ET before heading to Canton for the Hall of Fame game.

Jets Camp Report: Day 8

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
8:00
PM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Jets training camp:
  • The three coordinators met the media for the first time in camp, and the most interesting takeaway came from Marty Mornhinweg, who gushed about the progress of the receiving corps, particularly Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates. Hill? "Outstanding," Mornhinweg said. Gates? "Pretty impressive," he said. Pardon the skepticism, but don't we hear that every year? In Hill's case, he has gone from prospect to suspect. He usually plays well in camp -- Mr. August, anyone? -- and fades away in the regular season. Some of it is a durability issue. Ditto, Gates. Truth be told, there has been no major movement in the wide receiver depth chart, except maybe a small move by Greg Salas. It's Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, and everybody else, according to coach Rex Ryan. None of the rookies have stood out, but it's early. They get the benefit of the doubt.
  • Once upon a time, the Jets billed themselves as a Ground & Pound offense. Remember those days? On Thursday, they got a chance to do some grounding and pounding, with the first goal-line drill of camp. With the starters on the field, the offense and defense played to a draw -- two touchdown runs from the 2-yard line and two stuffs by the defense. No, the offense didn't use defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who may have been their most effective goal-line back last season. (I say that only half-jokingly.) Chris Ivory scored on an inside handoff and Geno Smith found the end zone on a rollout, outrunning the pursuit. It's important to note the starting guards were Willie Colon and Brian Winters. Among the guards, they're the best drive blockers, giving them an edge over challenger Oday Aboushi. He worked with the second-team offense, which went 0-for-3 at the goal line.
  • Michael Vick didn't get any first-team reps (first time that happened), but he demonstrated plenty of elusiveness when he bolted the interview tent when asked if he believes the coaches have already made a quarterback decision. Now I know how hundreds of defensive players have felt over the years: I couldn't keep him in the pocket.
  • It's that time in training camp: The head coach got the "surprise" question, as in: Have any players surprised you? After thinking for a few seconds, Ryan mentioned rookie defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech. "[He] has popped out of nowhere," Ryan said. "He's a bad-bodied D-lineman, but he makes plays." Hey, not everyone has a body like Muhammad Wilkerson. Ryan is known for taking physical outcasts (too short, too fat, etc.) and molding them into players. Hyder is a project worth monitoring. Two years ago, they hit it big with a no-name from a small school -- Damon Harrison.
  • Moment of the day: Decker made a terrific juggling catch on a long pass from Smith in a seven-on-seven drill. He reached out with one hand, tipped it up in the air and hauled it in, with cornerback Dee Milliner in coverage.
  • Quote of the day: "My feeling is we're much further along, but let's not let that trick us. That doesn't mean we're any better at all" -- Mornhinweg, comparing the offense to last year.

Patriots Camp Report: Day 8

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
6:00
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New England Patriots training camp:


  • Some fun reactions on Twitter when it was passed along that cornerback Darrelle Revis had a pick-six of Tom Brady in practice, which was one of the plays of the day. Brady said Revis and cornerback Brandon Browner will make a quarterback pay when there is a mistake, and also touched on what it's been like going against a physical defense.

  • Rookie running back James White (fourth round, Wisconsin) continues to get notable repetitions, including on the goal line. Brady was complimentary of White, saying, "He's got a real maturity for someone who is just getting out of college. He's made a lot of really great plays out here."
  • Special-teams captain Matthew Slater practiced for the first time after opening camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. A Pro Bowler in each of the past three seasons, he's being eased back into the mix and didn't participate in full-team drills (focus on punt coverage Thursday). This marks the third time in four practices that the Patriots have had a player come off PUP, with defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and Slater.
  • Receiver Danny Amendola was one of the players drawing a large media crowd after practice. He talked about being healthy and how it's nice to be in his second year in the Patriots' system. "I feel comforable. It's different," he said.
  • Brady was asked about his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, and touched on how vital he's been in his career. Guerrero is often seen at Gillette Stadium and has worked with other Patriots players as well. "More than anyone could ever realize," Brady answered, when asked how much Guerrero has helped him. "He's been someone I've been very lucky to work with for a long time. He's my best friend, and he's phenomenal at what he does, probably the best in the world. So I'm pretty lucky."
  • The Patriots were in full pads for the fifth straight practice, as coach Bill Belichick previously mentioned that this is a grind-it-out time for the team.
  • Friday's schedule: Ty Law Patriots Hall of Fame induction at 4:30 p.m. ET (open to public at no charge); In-stadium practice for season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents at 7 p.m.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Michael Vick didn't get a single rep Thursday with the New York Jets' starting offense -- a training-camp first. He shrugged it off, claiming he's on board with the pro-Geno Smith plan, but apparently there's a limit to his patience when discussing the quarterback situation.

On the final question of an interview session with reporters, Vick was asked if he believes the coaches have made their decision.

Vick
Vick
Smith
"Decision about what?" he asked the questioner.

The quarterback job, of course.

"I'm outta here," the quarterback said, abruptly ending the interview session with his trademark burst.

Vick didn't seem angry. In fact, he acknowledged it was a "fair question" as he walked out of the interview tent, patting the reporter (yours truly) on the rear end.

After roughly 150 competition-related questions since signing with the Jets in March (probably not much of an exaggeration), Vick is tired of repeating himself. With no traces of animosity, he has said repeatedly he expects Smith to be the opening-day starter. Maybe it was one question too many, but it was relevant on this particular day, considering he worked exclusively with the backups.

Team officials refuse to acknowledge the obvious. They won't say it's Smith's job to lose. They won't say who will start the first preseason game next week. (It will be Smith, of course.) It's all about competition, they say. To his credit, Vick isn't afraid to deviate from the company line. He knows the deal: Smith needs the practice reps to get ready for Week 1.

"I think having all the first-team reps allows him to get into a rhythm with the receivers, develop that rapport with the first-team offensive line, with the running backs," Vick said. "You know, time is short. ... In four weeks, we'll be playing the first regular-season game, so it's time to buckle down and get everything situated, moving in the right direction and find the focus, as far as what our offense is going to be centered around."

In other words, Smith.

For those scoring at home, Smith has taken 104 of 131 practice reps (79 percent) with the first-team offense, unofficially -- slightly more than offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg anticipated at the start of camp. General manager John Idzik downplayed the disparity, insisting the so-called competition "isn't tilted." Right.

It's a delicate balance for Mornhinweg because he knows Smith, because of his relative lack of experience, needs as many reps as possible. But he doesn't want to leave Vick in the cold. Vick knows the offense, so it's not a mental thing, but he hasn't had much time to build chemistry with the starters. That could become an issue if, for some reason, he's forced into the lineup.

"I'm trying to get him more than a handful with the first team," Mornhinweg said.

Naturally, Smith is soaking up the situation. He needs the work. He knows it.

"As many reps as you can get will help you out, and I'm a living testament to that," he said. "I can just see the growth in myself and in the guys around me due to that."

Mornhinweg described Smith's camp performance this way: Several good days, one subpar day. In seven practices, he's thrown only two interceptions in team drills. Perspective is required, of course. It's still very early in the process. Nevertheless, Mornhinweg said of Smith's turnover problem, "He's got that thing fixed and we'll see if it stays fixed."

Vick knows it's Smith's team and Smith's time.

"I won't stand in the way of that," he said.

He just won't stand for certain questions.

Observations from Patriots camp: Day 8

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
2:04
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' seventh practice of training camp, which was held in full pads on another beautiful morning:

Defense at goal-line stands out: In a practice that seemed to be a bit dialed back compared to the previous day, both sides turned it on during goal-line drills. When the top unit was on the field, safety Devin McCourty burst through the line to stop running back Stevan Ridley for a loss, and he shouted in excitement afterward as his teammates joined him in a chant that reflected a unit that is having a lot of fun and playing together. The first-unit defense also had a stop on an incomplete pass that looked like an offensive breakdown. Meanwhile, the second-unit offense went 2-for-2, with running back James White squirting up the middle for a score, while quarterback Ryan Mallett found tight end Justin Jones in the back of the end zone off play-action.

Keeping tabs on center competition: With rookie Bryan Stork remaining out of practice, the Patriots had incumbent Ryan Wendell back in the pivot in this practice, with Braxston Cave working behind him. Veteran Dan Connolly, who had taken those reps Wednesday, had more of a limited workload. Marcus Cannon remained at right guard for the second day in a row.

Who’s winning one-on-ones? Offensive and defensive linemen didn't do one-on-one drills in this practice, as coaches focused more on two-on-two blocking situations. Second-year defensive tackle Chris Jones caught the eye with two strong rushes, the second of which he won in hand combat with guard Josh Kline and showed burst to get to the quarterback.

Cleaning out the notebook: Seemed like Bill Belichick was taking a closer look at tight end Rob Gronkowski and his progress. Once again, Gronkowski, cornerback Darrelle Revis and quarterback Tom Brady worked together while the majority of the club was working on a special teams drill. ... Darrelle Revis' pick-six of Tom Brady drew a reaction from the crowd. ... One offensive play of the day came when No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett connected with running back Shane Vereen on a long pass down the left sideline with first-year cornerback Justin Green in coverage. ... Vereen was a tough matchup for linebacker Dont'a Hightower in one-on-one passing drills, with Vereen making a leaping catch over Hightower, who didn’t turn his head. … Running back Brandon Bolden beat linebacker James Anderson in one-on-one drills, making the catch while falling after a sharply run route. He later struggled to keep his feet after shaking linebacker Chris White. … Hard to miss rookie running back James White getting some reps on the goal line. … Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard took some one-on-one reps against receivers, which wasn’t something we spotted in his return to practice Wednesday. … Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo worked on holding field goals before practice, and later took some snaps running the read-option. … Strong rush by second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan on rookie right tackle Cameron Fleming to record a would-be sack of Garoppolo. … Undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler recorded an interception of Garoppolo. … Two low snaps from undrafted Tyler Ott in end-of-practice field-goal work. … Former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk was present, as was Boston Red Sox third-base coach Brian Butterfield. … First-year offensive lineman Jordan Devey was the lone lap-taker (for a false start).

Punt coverage the focus on special teams: A specific segment of special teams is worked on in each practice and today was punt coverage. Linebacker Jamie Collins got a bit more work in that area than he had earlier in camp.

Who returned: Special-teams captain Matthew Slater, linebacker Chris White, receiver Josh Boyce

New absences: Linebacker Cameron Gordon

Who else didn’t practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), center Bryan Stork (lower leg, left midway through fifth practice), linebacker Deontae Skinner (non-football-injury list), offensive tackle Chris Martin (non-football-injury list), defensive lineman Dominique Easley (non-football-injury list), receiver Jeremy Gallon (unknown/PUP), defensive back Jemea Thomas (unknown, only practiced Day 1), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (unknown, participated in first four practices).

Notable injuries/health-related incidents: None.

Who’s talking with the media: Quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Danny Amendola, special-teams captain Matthew Slater, linebacker Jerod Mayo, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, defensive ends Chandler Jones and Will Smith, cornerback Logan Ryan, long-snapper Tyler Ott, safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, tight end Justin Jones.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will not admit it publicly, but through the first week of camp it is clear the defense is well ahead of the offense. It's also been that way most of the offseason during organized team activities and minicamp open to the media.

[+] EnlargeCortland Finnegan
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsThe Dolphins hope offseason acquisitions such as Cortland Finnegan will move their defense into the elite category.
Therefore, unless there is a dramatic turnaround over the next few weeks, the Dolphins will be relying on their veteran defense to carry this team to start the regular season. Miami is implementing a new, up-tempo offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor and currently experiencing growing pains. Yet, Miami’s defense is a group that’s run the same system the past three seasons and returns most of its starters.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle says he's fine with the increased expectations.

“Defensively, we like the challenge,” Coyle said. “We like the challenge of having a veteran group of guys that feel that they can be among the league’s top defenses and if we execute we feel we can do that. We’ve got a lot of work to go through to get to that point, but certainly I think our offensive players and our offensive staff are doing a great job of giving us a lot of problems.”

Miami’s defense was difficult to figure out last season. The Dolphins were strong in certain areas, such as opponent scoring, but struggled against the run and defending tight ends and slot receivers over the middle. Miami hopes it addressed those issues.

The Dolphins swapped starters Dannell Ellerbe to outside linebacker and Koa Misi to middle linebacker in hopes of getting more production. New safety Louis Delmas also is expected to add a physical element over the middle of the field, and cornerback Cortland Finnegan is out to prove he still has gas in the tank opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes.

The Dolphins’ offense only averaged 19.8 points per game last season and still won eight games. Lazor was brought in increase scoring, but it might not happen immediately.

Miami's defense has the advantage of continuity that the team hopes pays dividends through all 16 games.

“We’ve got guys that can make plays. We’ve got very good speed on defense. We’ve got a lot of good athletes,” Coyle said. “We’ve got a group of guys that are hungry and I really like the chemistry of these guys. ... I think if we keep building it, we have a chance to do something special.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Toward the end of Thursday’s practice, the Patriots’ offense was working on being backed up in its territory when cornerback Darrelle Revis delivered one of the notable plays of the day.

With the ball on the 2-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back into his end zone, was forced to hold the ball a bit longer than desired, and then attempted to fire a short pass over the middle to receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.

The delivery was a bit behind Thompkins and Revis cut underneath him to haul it in and return it for the would-be touchdown, which produced a cheer from the crowd. Brady was visibly frustrated with the result, as it marked the third time in camp that Revis had picked him off. On Wednesday, one of the final plays in team drills saw cornerback Brandon Browner picking off Brady.

“They’re both great players. When you make a mistake, they make you pay,” Brady said after practice, when asked what it’s been like going against Revis and Browner.

“I think that’s the mark of a really good corner. As the quarterback, you’re always trying to find the weak link in the defense. Neither of those guys are weak links. Sometimes we have to go after them and try to see if we can make a play. But like I said, if you miss a little bit, they end up making the play. It’s great work for us and you understand what you’re up against.”

Brady has made his fair share of plays as well, such as a beautiful completion up the right sideline to receiver Danny Amendola with cornerback Kyle Arrington in coverage.

“When we review the film at night, there is one side that is getting praised and the other side that’s not. You want to be the one that gets praised all the time, but in situations like this, it always kind of balances out,” Brady said. “The defense makes a lot of good plays out there. We make our fair share. Hopefully when we play a different opponent, both of us are clicking.”

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
1:00
PM ET
DAVIE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:
  • After a poor practice on Wednesday, the Dolphins’ offense responded Thursday with a better session. Miami's offense was crisper with fewer drops and no apparent sacks. Quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and backup Pat Devlin both made several nice throws in the full-padded practice. Dolphins tight end Charles Clay and receiver Rishard Matthews were two who consistently made plays.
  • However, there was a recurring issue with poor snaps. On Thursday, centers Nate Garner and David Arkin combined for three bad snaps in team drills. The Dolphins have been plagued by bad snaps all camp with Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey sidelined with a hip injury. Garner, Arkin and Shelley Smith have all experienced bad snaps in the first week of camp. “In football, you can’t win with the ball on the ground,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “I’m confident we’re going to get it fixed.”
  • On the injury front, receiver Mike Wallace (hamstring), center Sam Brenner (ankle) and receiver Damian Williams (unknown) all sat out practice Thursday. Receiver Matt Hazel and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson were banged up in practice and did not finish.
  • Miami had a good session of one-on-ones between the offensive line and defensive line. The Dolphins' defensive line has mostly won in camp, but the offense showed well on Thursday. Among the one-on-one victories were left tackle Branden Albert over defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan, and first-round pick Ja'Wuan James over defensive end Terrence Fede.
  • The Dolphins will return to the practice field Friday at 8 a.m. ET for their final practice of the week. Miami will hold its annual team scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday at 9:30 am.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With three top draft choices atop the depth chart in Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins , the New England Patriots have the potential to field one of their best linebacker groups in Bill Belichick’s 15-year tenure as coach.

Strong play at the linebacker level has been a consistent theme through six training camp practices, with Mayo (first round, 10th overall, 2008) leading things in the middle as players have credited his presence for keeping everyone on the same page.

“It’s been great. He knows the defense better than anybody here,” said Hightower, one of the team’s two first-round picks in 2012. “It’s very important to have communication with all the checks we have. If one guy hesitates or makes the wrong check, that’s one hole in the defense and that can make a big play. I feel like we’ve been doing a pretty good job of communication, but there’s always room for improvement.”

Hightower
As is often the case in NFL training camps at this time, the Patriots' defense has seemed to have the upper hand in drills. Specific to the linebackers, they have been especially competitive in coverage drills, with Collins (second round, 52nd overall, 2013) a standout.

The group is enjoying working together, and it shows. Hightower sees the potential for great things.

“Most definitely,” he said. “I said it before, it’s all about having fun. When you have fun, you can go out there and fly around. Something is going to happen, you never know, you might be in that cutback lane to make that ball pop out. You might be around for a tipped pass to intercept it. Whenever you’re out there having fun, and you have enthusiasm, it’s contagious.”

Some have wondered if the Patriots’ linebackers might miss Brandon Spikes , who signed with the Bills in free agency, in that regard. Spikes brought plenty of energy and was arguably the team’s most physical linebacker against the run.

But the page has been turned and the new-look linebacker trio of Mayo, Hightower and Collins is out to make its own mark.

Their success through the early part of training camp has been hard to miss.

Jets Camp Report: Day 7

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
9:00
PM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Jets training camp:
  • The Jets like to think they're an elite defense, but elite defenses make big plays -- meaning takeaways. Since 2009, under Rex Ryan, the Jets are only 15th in takeaways. It has been a point of emphasis in training camp, and the defense responded in a big way Wednesday -- five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. It's important to keep it in perspective because the quarterback wasn't Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but it still was a step in the right direction. A baby step, but a step nonetheless.

  • There are two sides to every turnover. The offense simply has to do a better job of protecting the football. Sound familiar? This has been a common theme throughout the Ryan era. Ryan's quarterbacks (read: Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith) have thrown 94 interceptions in five years, more than all but five teams. You can't win consistently that way. On Wednesday, Smith, Michael Vick, Matt Simms and Tajh Boyd (two) combined for five interceptions. Imagine how good the Jets could be if they can reduce the interception total by, say, five over the course of a season. That would be huge.

  • It's no secret that Marty Mornhinweg needs a pass-catching tight end in his West Coast offense. They invested a second-round pick in Jace Amaro, a record-breaking receiver in college, but he's learning a hard lesson about life in the NFL. Amaro struggled mightily, dropping a pass and running a couple of wrong routes. The only thing he caught was flak from coaches and teammates. The Jets still believe in Amaro, but another option is developing before their eyes -- Zach Sudfeld. "Absolutely tremendous," Ryan said of Sudfeld. He was a training camp star last year for the New England Patriots, earning the nickname "Baby Gronk," but he disappeared when the lights went on. It'll be interesting to see how he performs in the preseason.

  • Take a bow, Demario Davis. On this day, you played like Willie Davis.

  • You almost feel bad for Boyd, the perpetually upbeat former Clemson star who is having the kind of camp that gets players cut. "Oh, yeah, he's struggling, there's no question, he's struggling," Ryan said. But the Jets will be patient with him, hoping he'll perform better in games, with a game plan that will accentuate his strengths. He threw three interceptions in practice, including one in a 7-on-7 drill. Too bad they can't reunite him with his old college receiver, Sammy Watkins. That would make him and a lot of other people around the Jets real happy.

  • Moment of the day: Davis, reading Geno Smith, overplayed a wide-receiver screen to Clyde Gates. He made the interception and returned it about 20 yards for a touchdown, punctuating the score with a quasi-slam dunk.

  • Quote of the day: "It was a great pickup by our scouting department. You look at the guy, he's about 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8. I call him Sasquatch." -- Ryan on Sudfeld.

Bills Camp Report: Day 11

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
8:00
PM ET
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Thunderstorms in the area caused a rain delay about in hour into practice. That lasted about an hour before players came back onto the field to complete the full-length session. Players were in full pads for the seventh consecutive practice, highlighting what has been a physical training camp for the Bills. It will be interesting to see if coach Doug Marrone dials it back at all in the final two practices before the preseason opener in Canton, Ohio.
  • The offensive line carousel continued to spin Wednesday with Chris Hairston leaving practice with a back injury. Hairston had been in the mix at right guard, where there is an open competition that includes incumbent Kraig Urbik. That battle added another participant Wednesday when fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson received some reps with the first team. Urbik continues to get the majority of reps in team drills, but for a player whom the Bills signed to a four-year extension in 2012, he can't feel comfortable lining up alongside younger players on the second team, as he did at one point Wednesday.
  • The Bills have picked up the pace in the red zone. Marrone has implemented a 7-on-7 period at the end of practice dedicated to red-zone work, and results were impressive Wednesday. Although it was against the second-team defense, EJ Manuel completed four touchdowns in his five reps. Two went to Robert Woods, and tight ends Chris Gragg (returning from a week-long absence) and Lee Smith snagged the others. Jeff Tuel then stepped in and completed his first two passes for touchdowns. With some success in the 7-on-7 look, it might be time for Marrone to switch to an 11-on-11 drill and add a pass-rush element for Manuel to face in the red zone.
  • Tight end Scott Chandler (groin) remained out of practice for a second straight day, as did tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring). Their injuries don't appear to be serious, but it has thinned the position for practices. The key for both players -- Moeaki especially, given his injury history -- will be to stay healthy once the regular season begins.
  • Chris Hogan continues to get significant playing time with the first-team offense and has become a reliable player in the slot. The Bills got in some 11-on-11 third-down work Wednesday and Hogan cut across the middle of the field for Manuel's biggest gain of the drill. Secondary coach Donnie Henderson, always vocal from behind the play, made it a point for his safeties to keep an eye out for No. 15.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The temperature over the last few days has been unseasonably chilly at the New York Jets' summer home in upstate New York, which is really interesting when you consider the amount of hot air emanating from their training camp.

[+] EnlargeDemario Davis
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerDemario Davis prefers to let his work, and not his words, speak for him, something that has been rare for the Jets in recent years.
The Jets are talking like they've won something recently, as if they're a dominant fixture on the NFL landscape. They're not. When you miss the playoffs for three straight years -- heck, when you go three consecutive years without a winning record -- you're a speck on the landscape. They should pipe down, because the franchise's credibility takes a hit every time someone makes a bold proclamation. You shouldn't brag about what you're going to do unless you've already done it before.

Plus, it's only July for crying out loud.

Rex Ryan's bravado was refreshing when he took over in 2009 because the franchise was suffering from a confidence crisis in the aftermath of Eric Mangini. Ryan's swagger created energy, and he made the Jets believe they weren't the "Same Old Jets" anymore. They came within one game of the Super Bowl, and suddenly all the talking didn't seem so outrageous because they were a legitimate contender. They darn near made the Super Bowl in 2010, too.

Now they're a wannabe, a middle-of-the-road team that could be special if a half-dozen or so promising players take huge steps in 2014. Until then, the Jets should be seen and not heard. Too much self-confidence can lead to complacency, which can spread like mold in a damp basement.

"Our goals are extremely high," said one of those players, linebacker Demario Davis, on Wednesday in an interview tent after practice. "The things you're hearing aren't just words, it's coming from a place. It's coming from deep down. We're confident in who we are, but the work has to precede the glory."

Davis gets it. He's a young player who speaks like a seasoned veteran. Listening to him in the tent conjured up memories of Ronnie Lott (circa 1993) and Bryan Cox (1998) and Thomas Jones (2009), locker-room leaders that inspired with words but understood their words didn't have to be in headlines for validation.

On Tuesday, Davis did a radio interview in which he essentially called out his defensive teammates for not working hard enough -- at least not hard enough to be considered the best defense in the league, as linebacker Calvin Pace proclaimed. Davis said "too many people are saying we can be the best defense or we are the best defense, but the work has to show it." Behind closed doors, he talks that way all the time, trying to convince teammates to join him for extra film watching and to hang out with him after practice, doing more work.

"Guys like that, you have no problem following, because he most definitely tries to lead you to the promised land," said defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, claiming that Davis takes it personally if he sees a player loafing on defense.

Amid the white noise, Davis is the voice of reason. Fittingly, he spearheaded one of the best defensive practices in a long time. On the fifth play of team drills, he stepped in front of a wide-receiver screen, made the interception and returned it about 20 yards for a touchdown. That's what you call a tone setter. Four interceptions and a few sacks ensued, as Ryan's beloved defense terrorized the offense.

"Just a perfect day for us," Richardson said.

It was only one play in a July practice, so perspective is in order, but you can't ignore the symbolism. There was an uncommonly mature player, speaking with actions, not words, and later saying the great day will be reduced to "smoke" if the defense can't do it again Thursday.

That should be the stuff of headlines.

Patriots Camp Report: Day 7

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
6:00
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New England Patriots training camp:
  • Cornerback Brandon Browner is practicing with a physical edge, and at one point, his hands-on approach riled up receivers coach Chad O'Shea. Browner's physicality was the main topic players were asked about after practice. "That's part of intimidation," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "He had that in Seattle and before that. That's his style of play. When you're a receiver and watching film, and you see him rag-dolling guys around and choking guys out at the line of scrimmage, that's intimidation. That's definitely a trait he's had and he's definitely using it."
  • Third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard met with reporters for the first time since coming off the physically unable to perform list (offseason shoulder surgery) and earlier serving a 35-day sentence in an adult detention center in Nebraska. Dennard deflected questions about his less-than-ideal offseason. "Moving forward," he said. "It’s all about football right now. I’m trying to provide for my family." Dennard, who is one of the top candidates to start at right cornerback when Brandon Browner is serving his season-opening four-game suspension, said he's "feeling better and better every day."
  • More progress for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who continues to push himself as he works his way back from a torn ACL. For the second straight day, Gronkowski was covered by cornerback Darrelle Revis as Tom Brady worked on red zone passing with him. Bill Belichick closely watched the three work while the rest of the team focused on special teams on the opposite field.
  • Some important developments are unfolding at center, as rookie Bryan Stork (fourth round, 105th overall) walked off the field with a member of the athletic training staff midway through Tuesday's practice and was absent for all of Wednesday's practice. It appears he's suffered some type of lower leg injury. Stork is expected to compete for a starting role, but in his absence, veteran Dan Connolly took the majority of reps Wednesday.
  • Nice to see former Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins, now working in the sports media, receive warm welcomes from Belichick and Brady, among others. Wiggins, who made big plays for the Patriots in the 2001 Super Bowl season, spent about 10 minutes speaking with Brady after practice, and the two shared an embrace at the end.
[+] EnlargeJace Amaro
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonRookie tight end Jace Amaro has been struggling thus far in New York Jets training camp.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Jace Amaro is hearing a lot of voices these days.

After dropping a pass Wednesday, the New York Jets' rookie tight end was razzed by a defensive player, who barked, "Can't catch a cold!" A couple of plays later, Amaro ran the wrong route and got an earful from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who chided him for not studying his playbook. Even mild-mannered quarterback Geno Smith seemed frustrated with the second-round pick.

When practice was over, Amaro and general manager John Idzik had a long talk. Actually, Idzik did the talking, Amaro did the listening. It was a pep talk, not a scolding.

Consider it a day in the life of an overwhelmed NFL rookie.

"A lot of people have high expectations for me," Amaro said. "Right now, I'm trying to figure it all out."

Amaro missed a day of practice, dealing with knee tendinitis, so maybe he was a little behind in terms of picking up the offense. But this was more than a one-day thing. The former Texas Tech star, a record-breaking pass-catcher in college, has been on the training-camp rollercoaster. He admitted he was "confused" by a couple of route concepts in Wednesday's practice, adding, "I got some plays wrong."

The Jets expect big things out of Amaro, whom they envision as a Rob Gronkowski-type tight end some day. But he has a long way to go. To his credit, he knows it.

"I have high expectations for myself, I know what I can do," said Amaro, who caught 106 passes last season in the Texas Tech's up-tempo, spread offense. "I'm making a lot of things a lot more difficult than they should be, just because I'm not completely comfortable with the entire organization yet, from the playbook to not knowing how the coaches coach, little things like that."

Most of Amaro's growing pains are rooted in the X's and O's. At Texas Tech, he played in a relatively basic passing attack that used a numbering system, deployed almost exclusively as a flexed-out tight end. With the Jets, it's a sophisticated offense in which he's often required to be an in-line tight end. The systems, he said, are as different as Chinese and English.

"We know he's got the physical skills to do it," coach Rex Ryan said. "He's got to focus, and sometimes if your head is in other places and you're thinking (too much), it's hard to be at your best."

Amaro, who boldly predicted in minicamp that his goal is to be a 100-catch tight end, said he expects to have the same trajectory he did in college, noting, "I wasn't an all-American my freshman year." But his 2013 season was one for the history books. He believes he can get to that level even sooner in the NFL.

"Eventually, it's going to start clicking," he said. "When it does, I'll really be able to showcase what I can do."

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
4:00
PM ET
DAVIE, Fla. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:


  • It was another sloppy day for the offense. The Dolphins are experiencing growing pains learning an up-tempo scheme under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor. This was one of those sessions where the Dolphins had poor throws, numerous drops and offensive line issues. I counted at least five drops by Miami receivers in what was probably the worst practice by the offense since the opening day of training camp. "I obviously haven’t looked at the film yet, but my instincts tell me that the defense had the upper hand," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin admitted.
  • The center position is starting to become a major concern. For the second day in a row, Shelley Smith had two errant snaps to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The second bad snap was a ground ball that skipped past Tannehill in team drills. Soon after, backup center Nate Garner finished practice on the first team. Miami tried several different combinations in an effort to find the best five on the line. In addition to Garner, rookie guard Billy Turner also worked with the first-team offense at times on Wednesday.
  • The play of the day goes to Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline. Early in team drills Hartline beat cornerback Jamar Taylor deep for a 60-plus yard touchdown reception. Miami’s offense protected Tannehill enough for him to throw a pretty deep ball that Hartline caught in stride. To Taylor’s credit, he responded with an interception of Tannehill and had a couple of tipped passes.
  • The three punt returners Wednesday were receivers Marcus Thigpen, Jarvis Landry and Rantavious Wooten. Thigpen is the incumbent but must compete to keep his job with punt and kick returns.
  • On the injury front, Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace had the day off. He said earlier this week his hamstring was tight. Backup center Sam Brenner, who was carted off the field Tuesday, did not practice but spent time on the sideline watching the offensive line. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey (hip) and running back Knowshon Moreno (knee) continue to be on the physically unable to perform list and worked on the side with a team trainer.

The Dolphins will continue their training camp Thursday at 8 a.m. ET.

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