Words with Frenz AFC East Mailbag, August 3 Edition

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 3, 2012

Everyone needs a safety valve.
Everyone needs a safety valve.The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

Questions are always plentiful around this time of year; with a flurry of updates and opinions, fans are often left with their head spinning trying to keep up with all the players on their favorite teams.

Who's struggling? Who's impressing? What positions are needing improvement?

These were the primary themes behind today's mailbag, which covers all four AFC East teams in their first week of training camp.

Let's get right to the questions.


@erikfrenz Does the visit of jim Leonard have anything to do with the Mario williams effect? Or is it just that he started his career here?

— Ryan Callahan (@CALLYLICOUS) August 3, 2012

His Bills ties were likely a big reason behind his visit, but with the timing of it all, you have to wonder if the Bills are keeping their options open for a reunion.

They aren't in serious need of help at safety, with the talented duo of George Wilson and Jairus Byrd giving them all they need in terms of top-end talent, but they could probably use some depth. Safety Da'Norris Searcy is more of an in-the-box safety, and Joshua Nesbitt is seen as more of a practice squad player. As the Patriots proved with their host of injuries at safety last year, you can never have too many talented players, even if only for depth.

At this point, it was just a visit and I wouldn't read too much into it. The Bills would be wise to keep their options open, at least.


@erikfrenz #WordswithFrenz you think Koppen is just struggling to get back into the flow at C or is Connolly going to force him into ret.?

— Steve Balestrieri (@SteveB7SFG) August 3, 2012

Good question, Steve.

Koppen himself talked about getting back in the swing yesterday, and said, "I think it’s still coming back to me in some ways," which indicates that getting back into football is a work in progress after a year away.

For now, Koppen has been taking the first-team snaps at center with Connolly lining up at guard. However, that may have something to do with the Patriots dealing with several absences on the interior offensive line. When they get back guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, and tackle Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots may be in less dire straights than they are right now.

We're still unsure as to when Mankins and Vollmer will be available, as both are nursing injuries and are on the active PUP list. Waters remains a no-show, but the feeling is he'll be here at some point.

It's hard not to notice that the Patriots have been adding offensive linemen left and right during training camp. They've picked up three in just the week since camp began. That, to me, indicates that they're testing their options for depth. 


@erikfrenz think the #Dolphins try to sign safety help before season starts?

— Paul Nobles (@dolfan_70) August 3, 2012

They may need to, Paul. I wasn't sure at first, but one read-thru on these Wednesday practice notes from Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post confirmed my original instinct. 

Safety Chris Clemons, who has been much maligned since joining the league in 2010 as a promising safety out of Clemson, injured his ankle and missed two days of practice before returning.

In that time, Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel reported that safeties Tyrone Culver and Jimmy Wilson did not do enough to win over the coaching staff in their reps with the first-team defense. Clemons returned to the practice field on Wednesday and was immediately put back in the starting lineup. 

Wilson stood out as a cornerback in camp last year, and Omar says he's had some "growing pains" at his new position. Culver played well down the stretch last year, but he came in as a backup and may remain there if the top safeties remain healthy.

The only problem with bringing in more safeties is that there aren't many left on the open market. The only name that stands out is former Jets safety Jim Leonhard, and it appears he would sooner contemplate a reunion with the Bills than an exodus to South Beach. 

Thanks, Paul. Got room for one more.


@erikfrenz is it possible that the jets offense is really as bad as it looks, or does playing vs. Their own def, affect things a bit?

— Matt Lamothe (@bradybacker77) August 3, 2012

Thanks, Matt.

I would say it's probably the latter. It could be hard for any offense to look good against what is one of the top 10 defenses in the NFL. The Jets' wide receivers are suspect, and I labeled them a "boom or bust" group from the beginning, but going up against cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie every day can make life difficult. It can only serve to make the offense better, though.

To flip the conversation the other way, the Patriots' secondary has struggled in practice, but they have to cover wide receivers Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots have struggled in the secondary, and many question their talent back there, but it serves as an example of top-end talent outshining a struggling unit.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained first-hand.