Players To Watch In NFL Training Camp: AFC East
The Father chooses one player from each team to keep an eye this summer
Training camps will be opening up later this month, and roster battles will begin, new players will find a role, injured players will seek a return to form, old players will try to show they still have it, and young players will try to show they have improved. Every team has their own storylines and players to watch, and I am going to take a little time over the next couple weeks to highlight some of these players. I will pick one player from each team to highlight to keep an eye on in training camp. If they can fulfill their destiny, they can make a big difference in what happens with their team this year. Let’s start out in the AFC East.
Buffalo Bills: WR Gabriel Davis
Gabriel Davis very quietly had a big first year with the Buffalo Bills. The 4th round pick out of UCF put together 35 catches for nearly 600 yards and 7 TDs in a limited role on the outside behind last year’s big acquisition Stefon Diggs and solid contributor John Brown. Brown is gone now, however, so Davis will be given the chance to shine alongside Diggs. With question marks at tight end (will they run it back with Dawson Knox or get Zach Ertz) and slot receiver (Cole Beasley has threatened to retire) the Bills will need Davis to show last year wasn’t a flash in the pan. Diggs is a sure thing who can impact the game at every level, and he will attract a lot of attention. Davis should get plenty of chances at beating single coverage. In camp, he needs to show he has improved his ability to get off the line, run routes, and grow his connection with Allen, all things that should happen in a player’s second year.
Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa
This probably seems a little too obvious but the reality is that this season for the Dolphins will come down to whether Tua can show a significant improvement from last year or not. While his rookie year wasn’t a total loss (he had several very good games), he certainly wasn’t capable of carrying the team. The Dolphins spent big and drafted aggressively to help Tua grow, adding offensive line help, receiver help, and even tight end help. The Dolphins now have plenty of skill players and it’s up to Tua to get the ball out quickly behind a shaky offensive line. Ryan Fitzpatrick is gone, so Tua will be starting and closing every game. In training camp, if he doesn’t show better recognition of defensive fronts, quicker decision making, and improved pocket awareness it could be a long season for Phins fans.
New England Patriots: CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore is the veteran foundation the rest of the Patriots defense is built on. While they have struggled at times to stop the run and rush the passer, Gilmore’s top end coverage ability allowed them to scheme away many of their problems. Last year, however, injuries and ineffectiveness slowed Gilmore, and the damage was done to a unit that declined rapidly in the second half of the season. Gilmore is also currently locked in contract negotiations with the Pats. If he shows up for camp happy, healthy, and focused in, their defense could see a return to form that keeps them in contention regardless of what happens on offense. If not, even the big spending on Matt Judon and Davon Godchaux won’t move the needle enough to keep them in the mix.
New York Jets: WR Corey Davis
The first guy on our list who wasn’t on his team last year, Davis was the big money acquisition for the Jets this offseason. Certainly they are hoping to see the offense open up this season, after having very little on the outside last year to work with. The Jets would love to see him have an impact similar to that of Stefon Diggs who came to the Bills out of a similar situation. Diggs was a very talented WR in a system where he wasn’t the primary target, and signed a big contract to be the number one guy. The underlying numbers for Davis are not quite as overwhelming as Diggs’ were in Minnesota, but the parallel is understandable. If Davis proves capable of carrying a number 1 wide receiver load and drawing double coverage, it will open things up in the slot for Crowder and Berrios, and allow the team to run the ball a little. If not, it will be same impotent Jets we have known. We should find out right away in camp what kind of rapport he and Zach Wilson have.