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14 Apr 2008

Four Downs: AFC East

by Sean McCormick

Buffalo Bills

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish?

When free agency started, one of the safer assumptions was that Buffalo would add a receiver, and preferably a big receiver. Last year Buffalo fielded the smallest group of receivers in the league, with Lee Evans, Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish all standing under 6 feet tall. Coincidentally or not, Trent Edwards completed only 57 percent of his passes on the season, and he was often seen squinting into the distance just before being sacked.

There were several big receivers on the free agent market, and the Bills hosted two of them, but both Bryant Johnson and D.J. Hackett left Orchard Park without a contract. Hackett signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with Carolina, while Johnson inked a one-year deal with San Francisco, which means at the very least that it's unlikely that the Bills were outbid for their services.

With the last viable receivers off the market, the next option is the draft, but herein lies the rub, because it's not a strong receiving class. No one seems to know who the best receiver is, whether it is Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly or Texas' Limas Sweed or even LSU's Early Doucet, but the one thing that most draft analysts are agreed on is that there isn't a surefire star in the group.

Free Agency Recap

Buffalo's biggest addition came not through free agency but via a trade, as they sent third- and fifth-round picks to Jacksonville for mammoth defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. Stroud is freakishly athletic for a big man, but the Jaguars were concerned that recurring injuries were sapping his explosiveness. Stroud will be asked primarily to tie up blockers in this scheme, so as long as he stays off the South Beach Diet, he should do fine.

The Bills also signed Kavika Mitchell to bolster the linebacking corp, and took fliers on Minnesota reserve Spencer Johnson, tight end Courtney Anderson and star-crossed cornerback Will "Don't Call Me Peterson" James.

Draft Needs

Did we mention that the Bills need a receiver? Unfortunately, they picked the wrong draft, as there aren't any receivers worthy of the 11th overall selection. The Bills haven't been shy about putting need above value in recent years, as they took Donte Whitner, John McCargo and Marshawn Lynch all well before those players expected to hear their name called, so it's possible that the front office simply settles on a big receiver like Devin Thomas or Limas Sweed and calls it a day.

Another possibility is that the Bills take a corner and wait on the receiver until the second round, in which case guys like Leodis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Mike Jenkins could be options. If they don't like the value at corner, they could take a defensive end like Clemson's Phillip Merling, who would provide more solid run defense than the current rotation of Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney. Expect the Bills to look for a receiving tight end at some point in the middle rounds and possibly a developmental quarterback that would allow the team to cut its ties to J.P. Losman.

Miami Dolphins

To QB or not to QB?

In the drafts that Bill Parcells has had final say over, he's selected the following group of players with his first-round picks: Drew Bledsoe, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, James Farrior, Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Chad Pennington, Anthony Becht, Terrence Newman, Marcus Spears and Bobby Carpenter. That's eight defensive players out of eleven picks. What's more, Parcells wanted to use a first-round pick on Tony Brackens instead of Terry Glenn, only to be overruled by owner Bob Kraft in the Great New England Supermarket Massacre of 1996.

Clearly Parcells is a believer in the desirability of building around first-round defensive talent. But he has also shown a proclivity for building his offenses around top quarterback talent. He spent most of his coaching career trotting out Phil Simms (seventh overall selection in 1979), Drew Bledsoe (first overall selection in 1993) or Vinny Testaverde (first overall selection in 1987). It is highly likely he would have spent the first overall pick in 1997 on Peyton Manning had Manning entered the draft after his junior season.

Two quarterbacks in the draft have the kind of size and arm strength that Parcells has traditionally valued: Boston College's Matt Ryan and Delaware's Joe Flacco. To get Ryan, the Dolphins would have to use the No. 1 overall selection on him. Flacco is a rising star and may not be on the board by the time Miami exercises its second-round pick. The odds are good that one of these two will end up wearing orange and teal, but which one?

Free Agency Recap

When looking at Miami's off-season moves, one would almost get the impression that Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland didn't think highly of the roster they inherited. The Dolphins cut ten players, signed 12 free agents and traded for Parcells' binky Jason Ferguson just for good measure.

None of the new additions would qualify as big-name players, but they are generally young and almost invariably better than the players they are replacing. The one exception might be Josh McCown, who managed the Herculean feat of being worse than all three of Miami's quarterbacks last year. But players like Ernest Wilford, Randy Starks and Justin Smiley figure at the very least to remove some of the team's matchup liabilities even if they don't generate major problems for opponents. The Dolphins did make a play for one big-ticket free agent in end/linebacker hybrid Calvin Pace, but he elected to sign with the division-rival Jets.

Draft Needs

What the Dolphins need more than anything is to not whiff with the first pick overall. Matt Ryan will be a consideration for all the reasons discussed, but if Miami cannot trade down, it seems more likely that they will choose between two of the safest prospects in the draft in Jake Long and Chris Long, with Howie's boy being the odds-on favorite. Chris Long has the flexibility to play with his hand on the ground or standing up in the 3-4, and he has excelled under the watchful eye of Parcells' old linebackers coach, Al Groh. Long's senior stat line -- 79 tackles, 19 for a loss, 14 sacks, two forced fumbles, 10 pass deflections and one interception -- highlight both his versatility and his consistency.

The Dolphins will probably target Flacco in the second round, and they may decide to package picks to move up into the back end of the first to ensure that they get him. But most of this draft will go towards rebuilding the offensive line and the defensive front seven.

New England Patriots

It's a Question of Perspective

The glass-half-empty take on New England's off-season would be to say that the team has been bleeding talent from the moment they walked off the field in Glendale. Asante Samuel and Randall Gay are gone, leaving the secondary in tatters. The depth at wide receiver that made the passing offense unstoppable has been hit hard by the loss of Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington. Rosevelt Colvin, whose injury was a key factor in the decline of the defense over the second half of the season, was cut.

The glass-half-full response would say that none of that matters because the team retained Randy Moss.

As it turns out, holding onto Moss was no sure thing, as several teams, most notably the Eagles, took a run at the league's top receiver when the negotiations between Moss and the Patriots appeared to stall. Ultimately Moss signed a relatively modest three-year, $27 million contract that should keep him in New England for the rest of his career. If Moss can even come close to duplicating last year's 1,482-yard, 23-touchdown campaign, he will be worth every penny of it.

Free Agency Recap

Last year the Patriots were the darlings of the off-season, making major trades and signing impact free agents left and right. It seemed as if Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli were taking the Patriot Way playbook and throwing it out the window. Fast-forward one year and it's time to comb the grounds, dust off the cover and bring the moldy playbook back into the office. The Patriots did what they had to do in re-signing Moss, but they simply haven't had the cap room to do much more than stick fingers in the dike. To counter the loss of Samuel and Gay, the Pats signed Fernando Bryant and Jason Webster. Bryant spent the last few seasons plying his trade in Detroit's secondary, which pretty much speaks for itself, while Webster was briefly a starter in Buffalo last year before getting hurt and losing his job. The Pats also skimmed receiver Sam Aiken off the bottom of the Bills' depth chart, and they re-signed Jabar Gaffney.

Draft Needs

For an 18-1 team, there are an awful lot of question marks in the back seven, and if the Pats can't trade down, it's almost certain they will use their first-round pick on either a pass rushing linebacker or a cornerback. Ohio State's Vernon Gholston and Florida's Derrick Harvey figure to be the two top end/linebacker hybrids. Gholston has more speed coming off the edge, but Harvey is bigger and plays with more violence. Gholston's combine performance vaulted him into top-five consideration, and it seems unlikely that he'll make it past the Jets, so Scott Pioli might consider a trade up if he thinks Gholston is a special player. But it's more likely that the team has Gholston and Harvey with similar grades.

There is no real consensus on who the top corner is, and ideally the team would be able to use the presence of Matt Ryan or one of the top two defensive tackles to net a trade down before selecting one. South Florida's Mike Jenkins doesn't have the upside of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he has good size and does everything well, so he might be a consideration. The cupboard at corner is so bare that the team might double-dip on the first day.

Adding some youth at linebacker is a must, and the Pats could target a player like Curtis Lofton or Cliff Avril in the second round. While the offensive line is not a need area, this is considered a tremendous class of tackles and there could be a worthwhile developmental prospect in the middle rounds.

New York Jets

What's That You Say, Mr. Robertson?

Lost amid the flurry of signings that has marked the Jets' off-season is the fact that despite all of the front office's best efforts, Dewayne Robertson is still on the roster. The Jets had a deal in place to send the defensive tackle to Cincinnati in exchange for fourth- and fifth-round picks, but the deal fell through when the Bengals and Robertson were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract. There were also whispers that Robertson had failed his physical. Next general manager Mike Tannenbaum tried to ship Robertson to Denver, but that deal also broke down. Robertson failed his physical again, and while the Broncos were willing to trade for him anyway, they balked at doing so without first having a new contract in place.

The Jets traded two first-rounders and a fourth-rounder for the chance to move up and select Robertson with the fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft with the idea that he would become the centerpiece of Herm Edwards' Cover-2 defense, but it never really worked out. Robertson showed flashes of greatness but never developed into a dominant 3-technique tackle, and when Eric Mangini came in and installed the 3-4, Robertson became a player without a true position. He labored for two seasons as an undersized nose tackle on a terrible run defense, and now he's due to make $11.2 million, which is one-tenth of the team's total cap space. While Robertson could conceivably stay and play defensive end, it makes no sense to keep him at that kind of money and Robertson has no incentive to renegotiate his contract. All signs point to Robertson being a cap casualty, an ignominious end for one of the signature picks of the Terry Bradway/Herm Edwards era.

Free Agency Recap

No team did more to address its weaknesses through free agency than the Jets. Left guard? Check. Nose tackle? Check. Pass-rushing outside linebacker for the 3-4? Check. Right tackle? Check. Blocking fullback? Check.

The big name addition was Alan Faneca, who was arguably the best player available in free agency. While Faneca has been stuck the last two years on a bad Pittsburgh line, most observers feel he still is playing at a high level. Even if he doesn't show All-Pro form, Faneca could be worth the money for the impact his presence has on D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, as both players struggled with inconsistency last year.

The Jets also revamped the defense by signing Calvin Pace and trading third- and fifth-round picks (the going rate for a defensive tackle this year) to Carolina for Kris Jenkins. For two seasons the Jets have tried to play a 3-4 while missing signature pieces like a massive nose tackle and a legitimate edge rusher, and the hope is that Pace and Jenkins will fill those roles well enough to at least allow the scheme to work.

The reaction to New York's moves has generally been negative, as the team has been accused of making a desperate play to win now, or of mimicking the failed approach of Dan Snyder to free agency, but that probably misstates what Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum are up to. They're not abandoning the draft -- had the Dewayne Robertson trade gone through, the team would have had more draft picks at the end of March than they did at the beginning -- and they're not necessarily expecting to be in the Super Bowl next year. Instead, they're providing free agency's most spectacular example of Bill Parcells' hold-the-fort strategy. They've signed several veterans at key spots for expensive but short-term deals that will allow them to run their offensive and defensive systems and properly evaluate the other players on the roster. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen.

Draft Needs

Thanks to the front office's March spending spree, the team has some flexibility to use the sixth overall pick on the best player available, though ideally, that best player would happen to be Chris Long, Vernon Gholston or Darren McFadden. Gholston is sometimes compared to Shawne Merriman thanks to his freakish combination of speed and strength, but he is a much less polished prospect than Merriman was coming out of Maryland. Despite his 14 sacks, Gholston only recorded 37 tackles on the season, so when he wasn't sacking the quarterback, he was taking a nap.

The Jets need to add a corner at some point, and a third receiving option, but there is no value at those positions at the top of the draft. They've shown interest in James Hardy, the 6-foot-6 receiver from Indiana. Hardy isn't considered a polished route runner, but he could step in immediately as a red zone target.

The Jets have worked out Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm and Joe Flacco, which might not bode well for the long-term prospects of Kellen Clemens. Clemens performed unevenly when thrown into the lineup at midseason, and it's possible the team would add another second-round quarterback to add competition and bolster depth.

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 14 Apr 2008

45 comments, Last at 16 Apr 2008, 11:39am by Will

Comments

1
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 11:48am

"The depth at wide receiver that made the passing offense unstoppable has been hit hard by the loss of Donte’ Stallworth and Kelley Washington"

While I do think the Patriots have lost some talent, Washington is STILL ON THE TEAM (was resigned in February) and Stallworth was 4th on the depth chart. They're not issues.

The secondary and LBs..OTOH.

2
by Dantheman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 11:51am

Another possiblity for Buffalo may be a trade down. Given how much Andy Reid was runored early in the off-season to covet Chris Williams as the successor to Tra Thomas, who likely will be gone by 19, wouldn't a trade of the 11th pick for the 19th and Lito Shepard make sense for both teams?

3
by Dean (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 11:53am

Lito Shephard to move up 8 spots? Buffalo would be throwing in their 3rd in your deal, right?

4
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 12:03pm

I thought New England re-signed Kelley Washington?

I just don't see Miami drafting QB early-they seem to like Beck (smokescreen?)

5
by Ken (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 12:28pm

"The depth at wide receiver that made the passing offense unstoppable has been hit hard by the loss of Donte’ Stallworth and Kelley Washington."

1. Kelley Washington was re-signed by the Pats
2.he had 9 receptions last year

6
by Ken (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 12:29pm

arggh I messed that up. I meant to say that Washington had ZERO receptions last year

7
by Dantheman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 12:32pm

Dean,

I think either a 3 or a 4 could be right, based on one's evaluation of Lito.

8
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 12:38pm

I think your take on New England is a little off. Granted, I'm a homer, but consider this:

1) New England did NOT lose Kelley Washington. He re-signed. The only reciever they lost was Donte Stallworth. Stallworth is pretty good, but he had been passed on the depth chart by Gaffney by the end of the season, and hence was essentially the #4 WR on the roster.

2). In fact, the ONLY players that the best offense in recent history lost were Stallworth and Kyle Brady. Somehow, I think losing only the #4 WR and the backup, aged, blocking TE are relatively small losses for a record setting offense. Granted, everyone in that offense will now be a year older, so there may be some decline, but on the other hand, Brady is in his prime, all the RB's but Faulk are still very young, and FO has shown that WR's age well. The biggest offensive question mark is now at TE, where Ben Watson is coming off major surgery after an injury-stained season, and David Thomas has yet to prove he can stay healthy for a season, and...that's pretty much it.

3). Technically, the Patriots signed THREE FA CB's, not two. In addition to Bryant and Webster, they also signed Lewis Sanders. From what I've read, Webster and Sanders are pretty much backup-level players, but I've heard that Bryant is actually decent and left Detroit more for cap considerations than for talent level. And it has seemed to me that, as bad as Detroit is, I haven't heard particularly scathing things about their secondary... Any Detroit fans care to weigh in on Bryant?

Anyway, I'm not overly worried about about DB's--while they have no stars, they now have solid starters across the board (if Rodney Harrison is still considered "solid") in Hobbs, Bryant (if he is decent), Harrison, and Sanders, and with Merriweather and Tank Williams in the mix, the secondary should be horrible. Not amazing, but not horrible. And if Belichick can win a SB while starting Earthwind Moreland and Hank Poteat, I think starting Ellis Hobbs and Fernando Bryant will be OK...unless Bryant is actually Duane Starks in disguise.

4). Agree LB is a problem. You didn't mention that they just signed Victor Hobson, which will help, but I'm not sold on him. At best, they are looking at Hobson and a shadow of Tedy Bruschi inside, and Thomas and an aging Vrabel outside, with not depth behind them except for Eric "Was that a blur or was it Dallas Clark" Alexander, and Pierre "Butterfingers" Woods behind them. Gholston would be a great pick, I think, but I doubt he'll be on the board at 7.

9
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:12pm

Bryant was OK, but the secondary really, really sucked last season. They allowed almost 10 yards a reception, 32 TDs. Bryant was also pretty much injured the whole time he was in Detroit.

10
by Dev (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:21pm

Could someone educate me and define "3-technique tackle"?

Thanks!

11
by Terry (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:27pm

Typo: it's Ka[w]ika Mitchell.

12
by C (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:29pm

Re: #8, point #3

Remember, Detroit runs a Cover-2 right now. So the only reason you would notice the Detroit secondary is if it was spectacularly gadawful. The scheme is designed to mask a below average secondary.

The history of non-tampa 2 teams picking up Tampa-2 corners isn't great, but each player is unique. Presumably Bryant will be better than Hole-in-the-Zone.

13
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:30pm

Re: 8

I think the WR comment was pretty specific in concerns about depth. And I would guess even more specifically a concern about the potential for a Moss injury. With Stallworth still there, the dropoff would still be severe, but the WRs would still be above average. Without Stallworth (and an injured Moss) the WRs look a lot less scary.

Not a Lions fan, but I've seen a lot of their games (MI resident). Bryant never showed me much - particularly in man coverage. He typically gave a very big cushion in man coverage. He wasn't beaten deep often but he gave up lots of completions and yards. He was better in zone (and that's what the Lions favored), but still only okay. If the Pats are expecting him to turn and run with WRs on a regular basis, I suspect they will be disappointed.

14
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:47pm

#10

It is terminology to describe how a defensive linemen has lined up, their positions are often described with regard to where they have lined up relative to the offensive line.

1 technique - directly over the center (nose guard)
2 technique - in the 'A' gap between center and guard
3 technique - lines up over the guard
4 technique - in the 'B' gap between guard and tackle
5 technique - heads up on the tackle
7 technique - seriously wide, purely for pass rushing

Different schemes use different alignments so the terminology will vary. For example Tampa2 style teams will employ 1 and 3 tackles and two five technique ends on running downs, although they normally shade the ends over to the OT's outside shoulder and the 1 technique (or NT) slightly over away from the 3 technique player, who himself might be lined up on the outside shoulder fo the guard. In passing sutuations they would line up four guys with two 3 techniques and two 7techniques. In this scheme linemen need only worry about one gap and getting penetration so lining up asymetrically to the OL is an advantage. Typical 3 technique tackles are guys like Tommie Harris, Corey Redding and Warren Sapp.

Conversely a 3-4 two gap scheme tends to line its linemen up over offensive linemen in order to allow them to control the gap either side. You will very rarely see a 3 technique in a 3-4 defense, the closest you willl get is the ends lined up as 4 techniques when the line pinches in and the OLBs come up to the line to play as stand up seven techniques.

Well that is probably more info than you wanted and in the time it took me to type all this someone has probably provided a better, less verbose answer but there you go.

15
by Coach Tuesday (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:56pm

1. Hackett never visited the Bills.

2. Implying that Marshawn Lynch was a reach pick is absolutely absurd.

16
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:58pm

"Without Stallworth (and an injured Moss) the WRs look a lot less scary."

Why? It was pretty clear by about week 10 that Gaffney is better than Stallworth. He lost his spot.

17
by RandomAbuse (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 2:52pm

#10 sadly it is slightly more complicated than #14's description.

Techniques do indeed refer to where the defensive linemen line up over the offensive line. However, for the defense, they go.

0 - directly infront of center
1 - inside shoulder of Guard
2 - directly infront of Guard
3 - outside shoulder of Guard
4i - inside shoulder of Tackle
4 - drectly infront of Tackle
5 - outside shoulder of Tackle
7 - inside shoulder of TE
6 - directly infront of TE
9 - outside shoulder of TE

Thus a 3 technique does play the 'B' gap between guard and tackle but is aligned on the outside shoulder of the guard to do so.

Other than that the description is correct, they are generally big but mobile guys whose job it is is to disrup the play behind the line of scrimmage by playing aggressively through their one gap.

18
by justme (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 3:05pm

re 10,14)

Raking through FO archives is 100% worthwhile. This Strategy Minicamp ansers your question (link in name). You should definetly do the background reading offered here, especially when you run out of NFL things to read every offseason.

19
by bowman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 3:43pm

"Stroud is freakishly athletic for a big man, but the Jaguars were concerned that recurring injuries were sapping his explosiveness."

Shouldn't "Sapping" be capitalized, in honor of aging, walking wounded DTs?

20
by SocioJoe (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 4:50pm

I wonder why there hasn't been more talk of NE trading for bobby carpenter. From what I remember of that draft, BB coveted him and it was only a dick move by Parcells that kept him from NE.

If Dallas really does want to move up like all the talking heads suggest, there's worse ways to do it. Now that BP is gone, there's probably not the same pressure to keep him. I mean, last I checked, he was playing special teams for Dallas so it'as not like he's a massive cog tehy'd be losing.

21
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 4:52pm

RE 20 - seems reasonable, but I wonder if NE wonders why Carpenter hasn't developed beyond a special teams player?

22
by justme (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 5:14pm

re 20)
I've heard several theories why he hasn't seemingly progressed far enough. He's moved back and forth between outside and inside LB mainly because of team needs, and either way he's behind pretty entrenched starters. Also, supposedly he might be better suited for the 4-3, which is why I don't really see him succeeding in NE after seeming to suffer in a similar scheme in Dallas.

Sorry for being off topic, but I just pictured the Cowboys taking Cromartie a couple years ago instead.

Back on topic... I always thought Thomas Jones was underrated, so for his sake I hope they don't get McFadden because now the NY OL sounds pretty good to me.

23
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 5:32pm

Fernando Bryant isn't necessarily just a Tampa-2 corner - at least, Jacksonville didn't play him that way. He was mediocre here - not the guy they had hoped he'd become when they drafted him.

24
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 5:37pm

Did nobody else here notice that Sean wrote Parcells (as NE coach) would have likely drafted Peyton Manning in 1997 had PM come out of college early?

Is that not the funniest thing ever? Come with me down the lane of alternate reality fiction: Manning helms the Pats to some playoff games early in his career. And two years later, after Ryan "QB of the future" Leaf washes out, Bill Polian (who we all know likes Big 10 kids) takes a 7th round flyer on this Brady kid as a project.

And all over the NFL planet, Pats fans are crapping their pants with frustration about how their guy is the best while Colts fans sneer that it's a team game and the only stats that matter are Ws and Ls and 3 SBs. Until the Colts add Randy Moss to Harrison and Wayne and Brady throws for 60 TDs in 14 games, when his right arm literally falls off in a gentle breeze. Then the Colt fans decide that stats are nice too and furiously research Steve Austin Surgery (several degrees more serious than Tommy John). I could add something about supermodels and starlets never hanging out in Indy, but I'm pressed for time.

Just that once sentence of Sean's struck me as one of the funnier possibilities in the world of sports, knowing what I know now.

25
by LaJolla Greg (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 5:49pm

RE 24
I believe Parcells was with the Jets in 97 not the Patriots.

26
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 6:03pm

#25 I did a quick check, but you could be right. I thought I saw Kotite listed as coach from 97-99, but may be wrong (it WAS quick). Damn, alternate history is not as easy to write as I hoped it would be. Cancel the book tour.

27
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 6:05pm

Bobman, that thought struck me as funny, too.

Although it's not quite right. 1997 was Parcells first year as head coach of the JETS, which is why he was picking so high in the draft (the Jets were bad in 1996, while the Patriots went to the SB that year...it was the infamous "let me interview for my next job while my neglected team loses the SB because I'm pissed at Bob Kraft" moment in Parcells' career).

28
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 6:08pm

Yeah, this Dallas bio of Tuna confirms it. Off by a year! Ah well, MJK, twisted minds think (almost) alike.

29
by Stuart Fraser :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 6:38pm

I think, in general, it's probably best not to taunt Jets fans with the possibility that they could have had Peyton Manning running the offense and Bill Belichick running the defense. At the same time.

30
by PaulH (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 6:44pm

I want to preface this by saying I love FO, and generally think you guys do great work.

That said, I have to say that many of these "Four Downs" installments have been pretty poor in terms of quality. I wouldn't say they have been bad overall, but I don't believe they have been able to meet the usually high quality standards that the published works at FO generally attain.

For example, as some others have pointed out, I was reading this installment and scanned across how the unstoppable Patriot passing attack had been "hit hard" by the departure of Kelley Washington. I don't even follow the Patriots all that closely, and even I know that (1) Washington actually re-signed with the Patriots, and (2) in any event he literally did not catch a single pass in 2007. In fact, I cannot even find any concrete evidence that states a pass was even as much as thrown to him. Again, I knew that before reading this, and I don't even follow the Pats all that closely. How could you guys not?

If this were one isolated incident, I might not have said anything about it, but it seems to be a disturbing trend as of late in this series. Every time I read one of these installments, there are always errors like that, and then just other weird stuff. In the AFC West edition, it was overlooking some draft choices the Chargers had acquired, and oddly enough getting on some tangential-at-best rant on the maturity of Jay Cutler when discussing the Broncos. In others, there have been a fair amount of typos that had to be corrected.

Again, I love the work done here at FO, but I would be lying if I did not say the quality of these pieces have fallen well short of that established norm as of late. I hope that will change in the near future.

31
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 7:18pm

Seems like a pretty accurate write up of the Dolphins.

32
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 8:22pm

Jets fans are quite aware of the Manning story. It pains us to this day. The story goes that Parcells wouldn't guarantee Archie that Peyton would be the #1 pick, so he went back to Tennessee.

Seems to me, that can't be the whole story, because with the #1 pick, I don't know why Parcells wouldn't commit to Manning anyway (perhaps he was waiting on someone else).
Instead the Jets traded down and drafted Farrior, who they got rid of before he became an all-pro. For all of Parcells good, nothing is more hideous than the Jets 1997 draft when, supposedly, they could have had Manning

33
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 9:21pm

thank god manning 2.0 didn't come out in 1997. can you imagine manning's 2.0 and 3.0 both playing in nyc at the same time? not only would the universe have imploded from all of the hype, but manning 3.0 would have been traded to the QB needy bucs for a conditional 7th round pick after serving up his 4th 3rd quater INT and then looking to the jumbotron as it showed the following line: p. manning: 22/23, 324yds, 4 td

34
by Paralis (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 9:54pm

Can we still remind Jets fans about how their 2005 first-round pick got turned into Doug Jolley and Mike Nugent? Please?

35
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 11:17pm

#32 Biebs, I dunno, Peyton seems like such a nerdy schoolboy senator-in-waiting, I'm skeptical that he might have come out early. Then again, he's also phychotically over-competitive, so maybe....

Also, knowing now what I do about Parcells, who would take his word on anything? Was Archie really as manipulative back then as SD fans accuse him of being 6 years later? I'd never heard that, but it may be the willing blinders of a Colts fan whose bachelorhood was coming to an end, thereby seriously cutting into his discretionary football time. Damn happy family.....

36
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 9:32am

As I remember it, Manning called Bledsoe to ask him what it was like for a young QB to play for Parcells, and the paraphrased answer was "For the love of all that is Holy, stay in school. You don't want to play for that jerk."

And I think it's a bit disingenuous to say that Faneca was trapped on a poor Steelers O-line. Faneca was largely responsible for the Steelers O-line being poor.

And what's with the Anti-Patriots bias on this site, with the AFC East 4D coming so late? H8ters!

37
by Andy (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 11:04am

While we're all remiscing about the jets' draft blunders, check out this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZxNeFLuY98

IT NEVER GETS OLD!!!

38
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 11:54am

bowman (19) wins the thread so far. :-)

Re 30 and 31:
I've actually noticed that the 4-downs quality seems a little below what it was last year. I couldn't swear to this, but I get the impression that the Outsiders are mixing up their writers a little. It could be that they're trying to gain more perspective by having different people write 4Downs, i.e. so we don't always get a Patriots-centric AFCE 4Downs written by Aaron or Bill, or a Colts-centric AFCN 4Downs written by Ned or an Eagles-centric NFCE 4Downs written by Mike Tanier. Or I could be wrong about that. But in any case, the result is that fans of teams that sometimes get a lot of press on this site are seeing maybe a drop of coverage.

For example, I'm pretty sure from this article that Sean is not a Patriots fan, because otherwise it is odd that he would get the Kelly Washington situation wrong, fail to mention the Victor Hobson signing (which is probably their most significant off season move to date, barring resigning Moss), and omit the Tank Williams and Lewis Sanders signings while he discusses their DB needs, all while including mention of an almost completely irrelevant signing of Sam Aiken.

Still, it's all right. I like that the coverage of the other three teams is so good. Personally, I get my Patriots news from Mike Reiss, and I read FO for general football intellectual discussion and well rounded coverage of the other 31 teams.

39
by Beef on Weck (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:38pm

The Bills offered the most money and years to Bryant Johnson, but he only wanted a one year deal.

40
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:54pm

The Hobson signing actually happened after the article was turned in, but let me mention it here. I think it's a good signing, provided the Patriots play Hobson on the inside, which I expect they will. He's a little short to be an ILB in a 3-4, but he plays better inside than coming off the edge. I was always a little surprised that the Jets didn't try him out alongside Harris when they were mixing and matching their personnel and trying to stop the bleeding. It's actually been one of the Pats' better signings.

As for the Kelley Washington re-signing, I'd have to offer a mea culpa. I know he played almost exclusively on special teams, but he has ability and his presence on the roster definitely augments the depth. I would still be concerned about the loss of Stallworth, though, as he was the only receiver who could effectively run the kinds of routes the team uses Moss for. An injury to Moss would still cause a lot of problems (which kind of goes without saying). Still, there's no question that the offense looks to be in better shape than the defense.

Re 15: Lynch was generally considered a late teens to early twenties talent, but it was expected that he would go to Buffalo if Patrick Willis was off the board. So it wasn't a surprise that Lynch went where he did, and he certainly wasn't a reach in the Donte Whitner/John McCargo mold, but that doesn't mean he didn't go a little earlier than he should have. Good player, though.

41
by the K (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 1:19pm

There were actually some rumblings around Buffalo that they tried to trade down a few picks, figuring they could still get Lynch as well as pick up an extra pick or two, but there were no takers. As these things go, it was never confirmed, but that would make sense.

42
by Rocky the Philly Eagle (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 4:39pm

Parcells talking to Gholston not Chris Long = Dolphins pick Jake Long.

Parcells is doing it so that he can negotiate Jake Long down by saying that he is also negotiating with the guy that kicked the crap out J. Long when they met face to face.

However, if Parcells takes J. Long, Mangini or Belichik will take Gholston and Gholston embarasses J. Long twice a year for the next decade.

43
by ian (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 8:18pm

42: as discussed in some other threads, gholston only had one sack when he was lined up against j.long--with blown coverage by the entire line--and his other sacks came when lined up over RT. also, j.long had better 3 cone and shuttle times than joe thomas, so it seems that if his footwork is bad it's a matter of technique rather than ability. i'm guessing that good coaching will upgrade andy problems with his footwork, though it's all just speculation at this point.

44
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:04am

"as he was the only receiver who could effectively run the kinds of routes the team uses Moss for."

Every time stallworth ran a moss-like route, the ball got picked off. They're not even similar receivers.

45
by Will (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 11:39am

"...it’s almost certain they (the Patriots) will use their first-round pick on either a pass rushing linebacker or a cornerback."

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Patriots take a an O-lineman like Clady or Branden Albert with the #7 pick if they see either player as a perennial pro-bowler. I think that Belichick and Pioli are well aware that the easiest way to screw up a top ten draft pick is to reach for a player based on need (like a Harvey or even Gholston).