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AFC East roundup: Who will be Bills’ starting QB? 08.21.15 at 11:55 am ET
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Will Matt Cassell by the Bills' starting quarterback? (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Will Matt Cassel be the Bills’ starting quarterback? (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

With the regular-season officially less then three weeks away, it’s a good time to check in with the rest of the AFC East and see what’s happening with the Bills, Jets and Dolphins.

It would appear the division will be more competitive than in year’s past, but the Patriots still are the clear-cut favorite — although Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake did come out and say the team will “definitely” make the playoffs this season.

Here’s how the AFC East is looking at this point:

Buffalo Bills
Preseason Game 1: L, 25-24 vs. Panthers
Preseason Game 2: W, 11-10 vs. Browns

— The biggest thing with the Bills remains their quarterback situation, and new coach Rex Ryan isn’t giving any hints on who that might be. Matt Cassel started the preseason opener last week and Tyrod Taylor started the second preseason contest Thursday night. Meanwhile, EJ Manuel reportedly is still in the mix. While none of the three are going to have performances that distinguish them as real difference makers, the key will be managing games and eliminating mistakes.

— The Bills are in contract discussions with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and it doesn’t seem like they are going as planned. “And it’s just really making me unhappy,” Dareus told the Buffalo News. “I feel like they don’t really want me here.” It’s reported the Bills have offered him a deal worth “more than $90 million over six years,” but he’s looking for Ndamukong Suh-type money. Suh signed a six-year, $114 deal with the Dolphins this past offseason.

— Like the Patriots, the Bills are banged up at the wide receiver position. Sammy Watkins (glute), Robert Woods (undisclosed) and Percy Harvin (hip) all didn’t play Thursday against the Browns and Chris Hogan was carted to the locker room during the game with an ankle injury. Wide out isn’t the only position dealing with a few injuries, as running backs LeSean McCoy (hamstring), Fred Jackson (hamstring), Bryce Brown (hamstring) and Karlos Williams (undisclosed procedure) also didn’t dress.

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, AFC East roundup, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins
AFC East roundup: What has rest of division done to this point in training camp? 08.03.15 at 11:57 pm ET
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Rex Ryan is a big fan of what his team has done this offseason. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Rex Ryan and the Bills still have no idea who their starting quarterback will be. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

With NFL training camps roughly a week in the books, now is a good chance to catch up with the rest of the AFC East to see what they are up to as preseason openers for all teams are just over a week away.

Buffalo Bills

— The Bills still don’t have a starting quarterback as neither EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor or Matt Cassel have done anything to separate themselves from the other two.

— Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will avoid legal punishment for the incident last month when he allegedly punched a boy in the face and threatened to kill his family following a dispute over beach chairs, but the team announced he will be suspended six games.

— It didn’t take long for Richie Incognito to make an impact on coach Rex Ryan as he already named the troubled offensive lineman the team’s starting left guard.

— Off the field, new running back LeSean McCoy made headlines with a party he posted on Instagram for woman 21-and-over. “I felt like it was like a thing I do every year with teammates. It’s something I bring together with teammates, but I didn’t do it this year,” McCoy said to clarify what happened. “It got too wild. I should never have posted it, and I take blame for it.”

New York Jets

— In their first season without Rex Ryan, things have been much more calm with the Jets during camp with Todd Bowles leading the way. Quarterback Geno Smith has seen the majority of snaps with the first team, so it would seem he’s on track to the starting job over Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets,
What to make of: Buffalo Bills 07.21.15 at 12:30 pm ET
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Rex Ryan is a big fan of what his team has done this offseason. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Rex Ryan is a big fan of what his team has done this offseason. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

With Patriots camp opening up on July 30 at Gillette Stadium, WEEI.com takes a quick look at each of the Patriots’ rivals in the AFC East, their additions, losses and what each team needs to accomplish in camp.

Buffalo Bills

2014 finish: 9-7, 2nd in AFC East

Key additions: Head coach Rex Ryan, RB LeSean McCoy, QB Matt Cassel, QB Tyrod Taylor, QB Matt Simms, OG Richie Incognito, WR Percy Harvin, TE Charles Clay

Key losses: Head coach Doug Marrone, LB Kiko Alonso, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Da’Norris Searcy, TE Scott Chandler

Camp goals: Find a consistent starting quarterback, Rex Ryan gets his message across to the team

What to make of the Bills:

Since the Bills last made the playoffs in 2000, the Bills have been in desperate search for a consistent starting quarterback.

The fact that they’re pinning their hopes on Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to compete with EJ Manuel doesn’t offer up a lot of hope for Bills fans but Rex Ryan is a head coach accustomed to working with quarterback mediocrity. He’s also a coach that made the AFC championship in back-to-back years with Mark Sanchez.

Manuel, who started most of the 2013 and part of the 2014 seasons, is considered by many close to the team as the frontrunner to regain the starting job. But he will compete with free-agent Taylor and trade acquisition Cassel for the gig.

The biggest deal of Buffalo’s offseason came on March 10 when they dealt linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia for star running back LeSean McCoy, who scored just five touchdowns in 2014. The team immediately signed the six-year veteran to a five-year, $40 million deal. He replaces C.J. Spiller, who left to sign with the Saints.

After posting a surprising 9-7 record under second-year coach Doug Marrone, the team was dealt a surprising blow when he quit, taking advantage of a three-day out clause in his contract that would still pay him his full 2015 salary.

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Read More: Aaron Kromer, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, nfl
Scott Chandler has already discovered that Tom Brady is ‘working harder than anybody’ 04.28.15 at 1:37 pm ET
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Scott Chander, under the bright lights in Foxboro, meets with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Scott Chander, under the bright lights in Foxboro, meets with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — It didn’t take tight end Scott Chandler long to realize what makes the Patriots the best organization in football and one of the best in pro sports.

Chandler, working out with his new teammates at Gillette Stadium, has realized that when your best player is also your hardest worker, it’s sets the tone for everyone else, even after winning a Super Bowl.

“It’s exciting to get to play with a guy who’s had some success in the past but that past success doesn’t determine future success,” Chandler said, after taking a break from his offseason workout day on Tuesday. “We’re all working hard right now and Tom’s working harder than anybody.

“It’s been fun to come in and these guys that you’ve seen and heard about for so long, to get to actually meet them and just a great group of guys. I’m just trying to find my niche in there.”

Chandler has also had the chance to rub elbows with Rob Gronkowski, another tight end is figures fairly prominently in the Patriots’ 2015 offensive plans.

“I had met Gronk a few times,” Chandler said. “He’s a fun loving guy. A fun guy to be around. He works hard. He’s a fun teammate to have. You can tell that they’re a classy organization from the top to the bottom. Guys want to work hard and do things the right way.”

Chandler said his first contact with his new teammates has come mainly through the workout program and not beforehand.

“Guys were enjoying their offseason time and I got here and there were a couple of guys I knew from before. Other than that, it’s kind of a been a learning experience. I think we want to do it the right way. You want to work hard and work hard to win games, and win games as a team.

“I think you want to do everything you can to just ingratiate yourself to your teammates. You see how hard guys work and you want to work hard with them. That’s what builds a team.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler
Scott Chandler is excited to get to Foxboro and ‘deal with’ Bill Belichick, work with Rob Gronkowski 03.20.15 at 4:53 pm ET
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Scott Chandler is ready to begin a new career in New England. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Scott Chandler is ready to begin a new career in New England. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Scott Chandler knows the situation he’s in coming to Foxboro. He leaves Buffalo where he was clearly the best pass-catching tight end in the Bills’ offense and comes to New England where he will be the second-most recognizable tight end behind Rob Gronkowski.

During a conference call Friday, Chandler called Bill Belichick a straight shooter.

Did Belichick lay out to him what it will mean to be the second tight end in a potent offense behind Rob Gronkowski?

“We didn’€™t get into that too terribly much,” Chandler said. “I think what I want to do is be part of a team that’€™s a winning team. Whatever that role that the coaches define for me there, I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.

“I’€™ve talked to Rob on the field after games and that’€™s about it. I’€™m sure we’€™ll get to know each other and get along well. He seems like a fun guy to be around. Obviously he’€™s a great player. I’€™m looking forward to being able to learn from him and watch him do his thing. He’€™s pretty fun to watch.”

Chandler, like Gronk, is a tall tight end, at 6-foot-7, and – like Gronk – could provide more blocking along the offensive line as he has developed that part of his game.

“I think it’€™s one of those things that it can be tough, but I’€™ve been dealing with it for a while now,” Chandler added. “You learn to sink or swim pretty quick in this league. You want to do whatever you can to get low and stay low. It’€™s hard, but you learn how to deal with it because if you can’€™t get the job done, they’€™re going to find someone else.”

Chandler, who signed a two-year, $5.3 million contract on March 13, will be more than happy to make some personal sacrifices to attain more team glory. In five non-playoff seasons in Buffalo, Chandler caught 17 touchdowns, including 28 catches on 42 targets and four touchdowns in nine games against the Patriots.

“I think you go into a game just wanting to do what it takes for your team to win and sometimes that means catching the ball and sometimes that means blocking well,” Chandler said. “I’€™ve probably had games that I didn’€™t have very good stats, but they were some of my better games throughout my career. It just so happened that in those games I needed to catch the ball a little bit and I was able to do that.”

Belichick can trust that Chandler has been taught well. Before playing for the Bills, he played his college ball under Belichick’s good friend and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 NFL free agency, Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Kirk Ferentz
Report: Patriots ‘targeting’ Stevie Johnson 03.13.15 at 8:06 pm ET
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Could Stevie Johnson land in New England as a free agent? (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Could Stevie Johnson land in New England as a free agent? (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Patriots apparently really like what they saw from the Bills passing game in the last couple of seasons.

Early on Friday, the Patriots reportedly signed Scott Chandler to add to depth to their tight end position. Later in the day, it was reported by Dianna Maria Russini of NBC4 in Washington, D.C. that the Patriots have their eyes on receiver Stevie Johnson and are ‘targeting’ the wideout.

The 28-year-old Johnson left the Bills after the 2013 season when he was traded by Buffalo to San Francisco. This week, he was released by the 49ers after a disappointing season.

Before 2014, Johnson earned a reputation as one of the better route runners in the game. While with the Bills, Johnson caught four touchdown passes in nine games against the Patriots. The Patriots are looking for another perimeter passing threat to join Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and the recently restructured Danny Amendola.

In seven seasons, Johnson has 31 touchdown receptions and over 4,200 yards receiving. His best seasons came in a three-year stretch between 2010-12, when he caught at least 75 passes and had over 1,000 yards receiving in each season. Johnson would figure to immediately be ahead of Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce, Brandon Gibson and Kevin Dorsey on the depth chart.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, NFL free agency 2015, San Francisco 49ers
As opening of free agency officially approaches, Texans cut ties with WR Andre Johnson 03.09.15 at 4:36 pm ET
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Andre Johnson has apparently played his last down with the Texans. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Andre Johnson has apparently played his last down with the Texans. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

With 24 hours before the official start of free agency Tuesday afternoon, teams continued to make roster adjustments in preparation for the opening of the market. Here are some of the more notable moves:

The Texans cut wide receiver Andre Johnson. The veteran, who has played all 12 of his seasons in Houston, has 1,012 catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns over the course of his career, all while working with some truly wretched quarterbacks. Johnson will almost certainly be one of the most attractive targets in free agency, but he’ll turn 34 before the start of the 2015 season, which means he’ll have to take a slight pay cut from the $21.5 million (over two seasons) he had left on his deal with the Texans. It’s debatable as to whether or not the Patriots would be in the mix for Johnson, but he’ll certainly find plenty of interested partners when free agency begins on Tuesday, including the Colts, who recently cut ties with veteran Reggie Wayne.

One note we forgot to include earlier in the day — the Bills have retained pass-rushing specialist Jerry Hughes, as the TCU product has apparently agreed to a five-year deal worth roughly $45 million, with $20 million in guaranteed money. Hughes had 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons with Buffalo, and the 6-foot-2, 253-pounder will likely have s sizable role in Rex Ryan‘s defensive scheme with the Bills.

The Eagles reached an agreement on a new contract with outside linebacker Brandon Graham. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a four-year deal with $26 million, with $14 million in guaranteed money. One of the highest-rated edge defenders in the league, the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder finished with a career-high 5.5 sacks with Philly in 2014.

Read More: Andre Johnson, Brandon Graham, Buffalo Bills, free agency 2015
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