AFC Notes: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots


Exact COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 season have yet to be hashed out between the NFL and NFLPA. It’s probably fair to guess the vaccination thresholds to allow teams to operate with fewer restrictions will remain in place, though. For some teams, that could be a problem, including the Bills. Several players have publicly expressed skepticism or outright opposition to the vaccine, while HC Sean McDermott has noted it could be a competitive disadvantage if the team doesn’t qualify to have more relaxed protocols. 

“I’m concerned about it, being very upfront,” McDermott said via the Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn and Joe Buscaglia. “I’m concerned about that as well as a lot of other things right now for our football team. And I think timing is coming into play a little bit. The season is not upon us right now but it will be at some point. As we all know how these vaccines go, unless you get the single shot, the other double shots take some time to go (from) the time after the first shot into the second until you’re fully vaccinated. And I think, a little bit, it’s working maybe against us or against maybe more players getting it — I don’t know, that’s maybe a question for them. But it’s something we’ve talked about and I don’t think the right word is try to convince. I think the right word is to educate and build awareness and then let people decide. It’s kind of two-pronged, if you will, with health and safety and then what you gotta do to do your job.”

McDermott was careful to say he respected his players’ choices, even if he supported the vaccine for a myriad of reasons. He couldn’t help a little more blunt assessment when asked about TE Tommy Sweeney, who missed the entire 2020 season because of COVID-19. 

“I mean, if anyone needs a reason to, or more information about whether or not to get vaccinated or the Covid situation, I mean, Tommy, he missed all of last season,” McDermott said. “It affected him for some time.”


Dolphins co-OC Eric Studesville said both the offensive coaching staff and the players are working together to create the playbook. 

“We’re all involved in it,” Studesville said via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “We all have input. Players are involved. The entire offense is built to be a collaborative effort. Right now, it’s building that way. That’s how we’ve done the playbook. That’s how we started with the players right now. That’s how we’re doing things in the walk-throughs, and I don’t see that changing in any way going forward. It’s all collaborative. We’re all going to have input on it.”

  • Dolphins HC Brian Flores said Tua Tagovailoa is showing more comfort in their system and a “better rapport” around the locker room: “He’s definitely more comfortable. Has a better rapport with his teammates. I’ve seen him…with a better understanding of how we practice. We’ve seen that from him so far. Hopefully he continues to grow and improve.” (Josh Tolentino)
  • Tagovailoa mentioned that his strength and conditioning training “looks a lot different” given it isn’t totally focused around his hip this offseason: “My hip feels 10x better than last year.” (Michael Giardi)
  • As for Dolphins bringing in free-agent DE Melvin Ingram for a visit, Flores said the organization is doing their “due diligence” on the veteran: “We wanted to take a look. We’ll see where it goes.” (Barry Jackson)
  • Dolphins LB coach Anthony Campanile is happy to have LB Vince Biegel back: “Vince has done a great job. He was a big part of the defense in 2019. He’s worked tirelessly to get back. High effort guy. Really excited to have him back.” (Tolentino)
  • Dolphins DL coach Austin Clark said the defensive line has to anchor the run defense: “Stopping the freaking run starts up front.” (Joe Schad)
  • Clark noted DL Christian Wilkins was impacted by the unique nature of last season, and he has a lot of room to grow. (Schad)
  • Dolphins CB Xavien Howard is not at OTAs but his absence is not related to his as-of-yet-unmet request for a raise. (Barry Jackson/Adam Beasley)


  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer describes the Patriots’ interest in a trade for Falcons WR Julio Jones as “tepid” so far. 
  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe writes that Patriots QB Cam Newton is the starter until he proves otherwise.
  • He adds Jarrett Stidham is a candidate to be traded or potentially cut with the hopes of signing to the practice squad and Brian Hoyer was signed as a veteran mentor for first-round QB Mac Jones
  • Howe points out there’s not a lot to learn about running backs at OTAs but having both Sony Michel and Damien Harris available would be an improvement from past offseasons.
  • While Jakob Johnson and Danny Vitale are competing for one roster spot at fullback, Howe adds if 2020 third-round TE Dalton Keene can fill that role, it might help justify keeping four tight ends on the roster at the expense of a fullback.  
  • Howe notes Patriots former first-round WR N’Keal Harry is going to have to earn his roster spot this summer. In addition to New England’s major free-agent additions this offseason, Gunner Olszewski is already a strong returner and seventh-round WR Tre Nixon has the elite speed to push for a roster spot. 
  • 2019 third-round OT Yodny Cajuste also has his work cut out for him to make the team, per Howe. 
  • Howe mentions Patriots LB Josh Uche has some flexibility to play inside, but the job of picking up for Ja’Whaun Bentley if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2021 will probably fall more on Raekwon McMillan or Terez Hall
  • In the secondary, Howe says some storylines to follow are CB Stephon Gilmore‘s contract situation, CB Myles Bryant‘s progression after making the team as an undrafted free agent last year and whether Joejuan Williams ends up at cornerback or safety, or even on the roster. 
  • Howe thinks Bryant, Williams and sixth-round S Joshuah Bledsoe could all be competing for one spot depending on how the coaching staff sees their best fits. 
  • Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers said he is focused on preventing “mental lapses” after experiencing some struggles last season: “I feel like last year I had a couple brain farts here and there. Mental lapses where I would know what to do, but it wouldn’t click for me right away. Just trying to erase as many of those as I possibly can.” (Mike Reiss)

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