By Field Level Media
Key acquisitions: DE Robert Quinn, WR Danny Amendola, WR Albert Wilson, S Minkah Fitzpatrick, OG Josh Sitton, RB Frank Gore, TE Mike Gesicki, C Daniel Kilgore, LB Jerome Baker.
Key losses: DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Jarvis Landry, C Mike Pouncey, QB Jay Cutler, TE Julius Thomas, TE Anthony Fasano, OG Jermon Bushrod, K Cody Parkey.
Camp site: Baptist Health Training Facility, Davie, Fla.
Reporting dates: Rookies reported July 18. Veterans reported Wednesday.
Preseason schedule: Aug. 9, vs. Tampa Bay; Aug. 17, at Carolina; Aug. 25, vs. Baltimore; Aug. 30, at Atlanta.
Camp battle to watch: Strength in numbers? The Dolphins are about to find out if that approach in the offseason proves a fix at cornerback. The volume at the position is more than adequate. But in the mix to lead the coverage group are four-year veteran Bobby McCain and Xavien Howard. Neither is proven, with only modest starting experience, but McCain showed flashes in a two-game stretch with four interceptions. Tony Lippett and Cordrea Tankersley are also competing for time in the nickel.
Cause for concern: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s return from knee surgery will be much discussed, but all signs point to Tannehill's taking all the snaps in Adam Gase’s offense. More noteworthy in the big picture will be how the Dolphins make up for subtracting a trio of Pro Bowl talents, C Mike Pouncey, DT Ndamukong Suh and WR Jarvis Landry, and whether there’s enough at linebacker for Miami to hold up against the run. At inside linebacker, Raekwon McMillan is the starter after missing last season, with huge questions at defensive tackle in front of him.
Reason for optimism: Gase appears emboldened after the offseason mission of changing the team’s chemistry was executed at his behest. Strong veteran leadership arrived with RB Frank Gore and Amendola, and if DeVante Parker takes off at wide receiver and rookie TE Mike Gesicki lives up to preseason hype, the Dolphins should have no problem putting up points. Robert Quinn’s arrival via trade with the Rams could bring more heat off the edge. Drafting Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker gives Miami better matchup pieces against opposing passing games, and their versatility could help defensive coordinator Matt Burke mix things up if he chooses. Adding veteran blockers and stocking up at running back should also make the offense more dynamic.
Preseason prognosis: The Dolphins had a clear plan to prioritize character over talent, but it’s hard to see how they actually got better in the process.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Key acquisitions: DE Adrian Clayborn, OT Trent Brown, OT/G Isaiah Wynn, RB Sony Michel, CB Jason McCourty, RB Jeremy Hill, WR Jordan Matthews, CB Duke Dawson.
Key losses: OT Nate Solder, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Malcolm Butler, RB Dion Lewis, WR Danny Amendola, TE Martellus Bennett, OT Cameron Fleming.
Camp site: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
Reporting dates: Rookies reported Sunday. Veterans reported Wednesday.
Preseason schedule: Aug. 9, vs. Washington; Aug. 16, vs. Philadelphia; Aug. 24, at Carolina; Aug. 30, at New York Giants.
Camp battle to watch: Tom Brady’s top target in the passing game is TE Rob Gronkowski, but what’s he working with outside? Brady was not heavily involved in the team’s offseason, during which Jordan Matthews arrived, Brandin Cooks left (via trade to the Rams) and Danny Amendola exited in free agency to the Dolphins. Eventually, Julian Edelman returns from an ACL tear, but he’s not allowed to play until Oct. 1 due to a four-game NFL ban. Teams that invested in chess pieces to contend with the likes of Gronkowski might finally be in position to dictate where Brady goes with the ball.
Cause for concern: New faces are nothing new in Foxborough, but losing defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to Detroit created some extra shuffling. Getting LB Dont’a Hightower back healthy brings a boost, but the pressing question again centers around the pass rush. Trey Flowers (10.0 sacks in past 20 games, including playoffs) had a breakout season in 2017, but more push is vital to New England’s secondary holding up.
Reason for optimism: It’s rare during the Brady era for the Patriots to invest heavily in a running back, but first-rounder Sony Michel has a chance to impact the offense in much the same way as Saints rookie RB Alvin Kamara did last season. Michel was added to fill the void left by Dion Lewis (Titans) and the Patriots fortified the offensive line following the departure of LT Nate Solder. If teams must respect the running game, Brady is still capable of MVP things – 4,000 yards, 35 touchdowns and double-digit wins.
Preseason prognosis: Edelman’s four-game ban stings, but the lasting championship legacy of Bill Belichick and Brady – always finding a way – remains unchanged.
NEW YORK JETS
Key acquisitions: QB Sam Darnold, CB Trumaine Johnson, QB Teddy Bridgewater, OG/C Spencer Long, RB Isaiah Crowell, LB Avery Williamson, WR Terrelle Pryor, C Travis Swanson, K Cairo Santos, DT Nathan Shepherd.
Key losses: DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson, LB Demario Davis, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DE Kony Ealy, RB Matt Forte, C Wesley Johnson, K Chandler Catanzaro.
Camp site: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, N.J.
Reporting dates: Rookies reported Tuesday. Veterans report Thursday.
Preseason schedule: Aug. 10, vs. Atlanta; Aug. 16, at Washington; Aug. 24, vs. New York Giants; Aug. 30, at Philadelphia.
Camp battle to watch: All eyes are on the QB position in New York. The odds are against No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold winning the starting job out of the chute, setting up incumbent Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for a battle in August. Bridgewater has essentially missed two seasons recovering from a major knee injury but surprised with his movement and ability in offseason work. It’s possible Bridgewater will wind up on another roster as the Jets look toward the big picture in which Darnold is the central attraction.
Reason for optimism: A smother cover corner, Trumaine Johnson, and LB Avery Williamson filled two big needs on a defense already holding its own. The secondary has the pieces to be special, even if the Jets did not bring constant pass rush in 2017.
Cause for concern: Assume for a moment offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates is ready to hand Darnold the keys to the offense: Where is his security blanket? Robby Anderson had the numbers last season, but his statistics might be fool’s gold because of the amount of time the Jets spent in catch-up mode. Anderson had a rocky offseason, and must still prove he’s more than a speed guy. Terrelle Pryor (ankle) and Quincy Enunwa (neck) are no sure things coming off of injuries, and there’s even less certainty at tight end.
Preseason prognosis: The Jets were surprisingly competitive in 2017 and probably improved this spring while grabbing a possible QB of the future. Not a bad offseason’s work.