Summer Scramble 2010: AFC East Players to Watch
Coming July 7: AFC East Burning Questions, Bold Predictions
New England Patriots -- Wes Welker
We know that Randy Moss is starting at one spot, but after that it is one question mark after another for the Patriots at wideout as we get closer to training camp. The biggest of those question marks is the condition of Wes Welker's knee. He returned to OTAs in June, albeit in limited fashion, and his status for the start of the season is up in the air at this point.
When Welker missed time last season, the Patriots slotted Julian Edelman into his spot. Edelman did well for a rookie converted from playing quarterback in college, but anyone who saw the Patriots' playoff loss to Baltimore or their Week 2 loss to the Jets knows that the Pats were missing something when Edelman took over for No. 83. That would explain why the Pats brought Torry Holt into the fold this offseason. Holt has seen and done everything during his long career and his lost steps won't mean as much with Moss on the other side. If Welker has to spend the first six weeks on the physically-unable-to-perform list, Holt's savvy might give him an edge on New England's possibly vacant starting spot.
Buffalo Bills -- Brian Brohm, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick
New Bills coach Chan Gailey closed offseason activities by deeming the quarterback competition between Brohm, Edwards and Fitzpatrick "close", while saying he had an idea about the pecking order entering training camp. If you had to bet on that order, Edwards would be the choice for the top spot. He's got the most starting experience and has shown flashes of great talent when he hasn't been running for his life behind the porous offensive lines that the Bills have trotted out there in the last few seasons. Fitzpatrick and Brohm have issues with natural talent and the proper mentality, respectively, and Edwards, while not a perfect option, is certainly a more complete player than either of his competitors.
Miami Dolphins -- Koa Misi and Cameron Wake
The Dolphins let Joey Porter and Jason Taylor skedaddle this offseason so that they could get younger on the edges of their defense. That's why they took Misi in the second round of April's draft and immediately installed him as the strong-side outside backer during offseason activities. On the other side, where pass rushing is paramount, former CFLer Cameron Wake would seem to have a slight edge over Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses. Wake had 5 1/2 sacks in 2009, his first NFL season, but he never proved he could play the run or drop into coverage, because he was used solely as a pass-rush specialist. Anderson was playing with the first team in the spring because he can do those things but athleticism and upside have a way of winning battles in the NFL.
New York Jets -- Vladimir Ducasse
The Jets raised some eyebrows when they sent Alan Faneca packing during the draft because the team has done so much work to convince people that they are contenders for the Super Bowl right now. Faneca isn't the player he once was, but he was still an effective run blocker for a team that loves to pound the football. Money was the deciding factor -- Faneca was making far too much of it -- but the move still left a void that must be filled.
Right now, it looks like Ducasse, a hulking rookie out of Massachusetts, will get the nod over second-year man Matt Slauson based on how the playing time was chopped up during OTAs. Don't be too certain that things will remain that way, though. Ducasse has great physical tools but never played guard during his time at UMass, where he faced off against a lower caliber of competition. Slauson has a year of experience with Jets' run game guru Bill Callahan, and if Ducasse struggles against pro opponents during the preseason, he could find himself learning from the sidelines.