AFC EAST ROUNDTABLE: Minicamp Questions Pt I

Ben Watson

We asked the AFC East beat writers a series of questions coming out each team's minicamp. In this first installment of a multi-part series, we asked: What is the biggest roster battle for your team coming out of minicamp? And how will it play out in training camp?

The first installment of this multi-part series on Mincamps around the AFC East. Check back all week long for more updates.

What is the biggest camp battle for your team coming out of minicamp? Will it play out in training camp?

Alain Poupart (Dolphin Digest): There are two clear areas where the Dolphins have issues following the minicamp, and that would be wide receiver and right guard. The right guard is more troubling at this time because of the chest injury sustained by projected started Donald Thomas in the offseason. Thomas missed most of the OTA work and he's questionable for the start of training camp. Thomas was a star as a rookie in camp last year and that earned him the starting job in the opener, but he went down with a foot injury in that first game. That means he's now suffered two major injuries for his one game played. It's also not like there's a great option on the roster. Brandon Frye, Shawn Murphy and Joe Berger all took turns working with the first-team offense at right guard during OTAs and the minicamp, but none of them is a proven commodity. Ikechuku Ndukwe, who started at right guard after Thomas went down last year, is another option, but he's marginal at best. The hope for the Dolphins is that Thomas makes a full recovery.

Tyler Dunne (BuffaloFootballReport.com): Tight end will be an interesting battle to watch. Shawn Nelson dazzled at times in camp with his hands, but don't expect Derek Fine and Derek Schouman to lay down easy. Both are versatile and better blockers than Nelson. The team must get production out of this position after Robert Royal, though a great locker room guy, flamed out as the starter. Having Terrell Owens and Lee Evans on the outside should create some space for the tight end down the middle. So in that sense, Nelson probably has the edge. Buffalo made out like bandits getting him in the fourth round after much speculation that they'd snag Brandon Pettigrew in the 1st. He may not be employed as a blocker much, but Nelson should have the edge heading into his rookie season.

Dan Leberfeld (Jets Confidential): Obviously the battle between Kellen Clemens and Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback job. It will continue to play out during training camp.

Based on minicamp, it looks like Clemens has the edge right now. A big reason for this is that he knows the entire playbook. He’s been in his system for three years. Sanchez just got the playbook a few months ago.

Sanchez looks like he has the better upside, but for now Clemens seems like the best choice because he’s so comfortable in the offense. Plus he has NFL game experience, something Sanchez doesn’t have.

But Rex Ryan says no decision has been made yet, and one won’t be made, until it’s obvious who the choice is. While Clemens was better in the spring than Sanchez, he wasn’t so much better that the choice was obvious.

Jon Scott (Patriots Insider): The toughest battle coming out of minicamp is at the tight end position. Starter Ben Watson and his backup David Thomas have two more starting quality players to fight for playing time with. The Patriots served notice that they weren’t happy with the tight end position when they signed free agent Chris Baker (Jets). They dialed up the level of competition by trading for Alex Smith (Buccaneers). Watson, a first round pick and Thomas, a third round pick, have underachieved in New England. Both considered to be capable pass catchers as well as all-around athletes, haven’t lived up to the hype. Watson in particular hasn’t shown he can take advantage of his freakish athletic ability on consistent basis. The Patriots always have extra tight ends in camp, but they usually only keep two or three, so someone’s definitely on the bubble.

Look for Parts 2, 3, 4 later this week.

MORE:
Dan Leberfeld covers the New York Jets for Jets Confidential Magazine
Alain Poupart covers the Miami dolphins as the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest
Tyler Dunne covers the Buffalo Bills for the Buffalo Football Report
Jon Scott covers the New England Patriots for Patriots Insider

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