Four Downs: AFC East

Four Downs: AFC East
Four Downs: AFC East
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Sean McCormick

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Post-Draft Needs: Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver

For the most part, the Bills did a superlative job of improving their team this offseason. The defensive line got the biggest overhaul with the signing of defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, but general manager Buddy Nix also retained key offensive contributors like wide receiver Steve Johnson and unheralded-but-effective starting tight end Scott Chandler. The biggest holes heading into the draft were at left tackle and wide receiver, and the Bills addressed both spots on day two of the draft. There are still concerns, however. Buffalo spent a third-round pick on N.C. State’s T.J. Graham, a receiver that many, including the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, graded as a seventh-round prospect. ESPN analyst Todd McShay liked the pick better, calling Graham one of the more underrated receivers in the draft, but even he expected the Wolfpack receiver to come off the board in the fifth or sixth round. Graham may yet prove his doubters wrong, but it would be premature to simply pencil him in opposite Johnson and assume he will produce right away. More likely, Graham will be spoon-fed the offense, and Chan Gailey will mostly use Graham’s blazing speed in spread packages to try and get more space for Johnson, Donald Jones and David Nelson to work with. Graham also figures to contribute right out of the gate as a punt returner.

The Bills never really acted as if they were interested in re-signing left tackle Demetress Bell, despite him anchoring a line that gave up only 23 sacks and led the league in Adjusted Sack Rate. Some of that indifference can be attributed to the belief that Chan Gailey’s scheme and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s quick trigger were more responsible for the low sack numbers than anything Bell did. 2011 fourth-rounder Chris Hairston held up well in limited action, but it was obvious that the team would select some competition for Hairston. The Bills netted one of the big steals of the draft when they plucked Georgia’s Cordy Glenn off the board in the second round. Problem solved? Not necessarily. Glenn played all over the line in college, and there is real concern that he doesn’t have the foot speed to be an upper-tier blindside protector at the NFL level. Nix considers Glenn to be very similar to former Charger standout Marcus McNeill though, and obviously the team would be thrilled if that comparison holds up.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

Buffalo signed 10 undrafted free agents shortly after the draft ended. Headlining the group is hard-luck Richmond quarterback Aaron Corp. Corp was set to be the starter at USC after Mark Sanchez bolted for the NFL, only to break his leg before the start of the season. Enter Matt Barkley, and exit Corp, who transferred to Richmond only to lose yet another season to injury. You can’t be a projected starter for USC without some ability, and with the poor depth behind Fitzpatrick, Corp has a chance to stick. Buffalo added some more secondary players with Virginia Tech corner Chris Hill, Stanford safety Delano Howell, and Penn State safety Nick Sukay. The player with perhaps the best chance to make the team is Florida State punter Shawn Powell, who averaged 47 yards per punt last season for the Seminoles, and who was consistently able to pin teams deep with his directional punting.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Wide Receiver

While there is something to be said for subtracting good players now and then for the sake of team chemistry, there is even more to be said for not putting your remaining talent in a position to fail. The Dolphins do have some decent pieces to work with. Brian Hartline wasn't good last season, but he was very efficient in 2010, boasting a 21.9% DVOA and providing a vertical dimension to the offense. Davone Bess is a natural slot receiver who, according to Football Outsiders similarity scores, compares favorably over the last three seasons to the early years of Ricky Proehl, Brian Blades, and Wayne Chrebet. When paired up with a legitimate number one receiver, both Hartline and Bess can be part of an efficient, if unspectacular, passing attack. But by trading away Brandon Marshall for pennies on the dollar and not reeling in a top receiver prospect in the draft, general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin could well be invoking the Peter Principle, pushing both receivers into roles where they can't succeed. Maybe Clyde Gates will provide enough room with his speed to let Hartline and Bess operate, but that’s asking a lot from a guy who did very little as a rookie.

What makes all of this worse is that Miami just drafted Ryan Tannehill, and there will be pressure from both the owner and the fans to get their shiny new toy on the field as soon as possible. Tannehill is a raw prospect who would benefit greatly from the security of, say, a Brandon Marshall to throw to. Instead, Miami is setting itself up for a potential repeat of the Blaine Gabbert show that ran further up I-95 last year, throwing out an unprepared rookie and teaming him with overmatched skill position personnel.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

Jeff Ireland loaded up on free agents, signing 16 players to contracts. There was a particular concentration on unearthing potential gems from smaller schools. Temple guard Derek Dennis started 37 games and has the flexibility to line up at either guard or tackle. Considering the depth problems on the offensive line, Dennis has a chance to stick. Arkansas State safety Kelcie McCray made ESPN Scouts Inc’s top-10 undrafted players list, which described him as "a flexible, smooth athlete who shows good range in coverage." One of the big school prospects of note is Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller, who spent last season catching passes from Ryan Tannehill.

New England Patriots

Biggest Post Draft Need: Cornerback

Traditionally, Bill Belichick defenses have taken away what an offense does best, forcing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators out of their comfort zones and making role players have to step up. That all went out the window last year, as New England’s pass defense DVOA against No. 1 receivers was an eye-popping 43.9%, easily the worst mark in the league. In the first two weeks alone, Patriots corners surrendered 17 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns to the combination of Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, and things never got much better. New England did not pursue any of the top-tier cornerbacks in free agency, opting instead to upgrade the nickel and dime packages by signing veteran Will Allen and Jets castoff Marquice Cole to one-year deals. When the draft rolled around, New England focused on improving the front seven, while waiting until the seventh round to add Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard. Dennard was a highly-touted player who plummeted in the draft due to the always-toxic combination of a bad Senior Bowl and a felony arrest for assaulting a police officer. He’s the same kind of low-risk, high-reward move that the Pats have been making for a long time. Those gambles produced Corey Dillon and Randy Moss ... but lately they've yielded Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth.

If there is to be improvement, it is going to have to come from within. Both Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling have the potential to be effective players in the Belichick system. McCourty was terrific as a rookie in 2010, but struggled mightily last year when asked to play more press coverage. By the end of the season he was playing free safety, but all indications are that McCourty will return to man one of the starting cornerback spots. Ideally, Dowling will be starting on the other side. That will require him to stay healthy, something that Dowling has been almost comically inept at. The former Virginia standout has suffered through knee injuries, ankle injuries, hamstring injuries and hip injuries in the last two years. Any blueprint that requires Dowling to be a major contributor needs a Plan B in place.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

The Patriots continued addressing the front seven after the draft, adding Rutgers defensive lineman Justin Francis. Francis notched 6.5 sacks and 60 tackles while playing both end and tackle for the Scarlet Knights, and he brings the kind of versatility Bill Belichick craves in a player. Much like Alfonzo Dennard, Francis was available in part due to off-the-field issues, as he missed the entire 2008 season due to an arrest. Belichick also continued tapping his college connections, signing Kirk Firentz product Markus Zusevics, a two-year starter on the offensive line for Iowa. The Pats are reportedly close to signing Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden, who would follow in the footsteps of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but the signing has not been confirmed yet.

New York Jets

Biggest Post Draft Needs: Offensive Tackle, Safety

One of the biggest individual winners over the draft weekend was Wayne Hunter, New York’s embattled right tackle, who watched seven rounds come and go without the Jets adding his successor. Hunter was among the worst starting linemen in football in 2011, surrendering 8.5 sacks and committing 11 penalties in his first year as a full-time replacement for the retired Damien Woody. Neither head coach Rex Ryan nor new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has been any more than lukewarm in their endorsements, with Ryan suggesting that Hunter was the right tackle "for now," while Sparano has indicated there will be an open competition. Thanks to the team’s inaction during free agency and on draft day, there aren’t really any other viable choices. Ideally, former second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse would step up and take the job, but there is absolutely no reason to expect him to do so. Ducasse has been non-competitive in training camp for two years running, and has failed when pressed into service as a reserve. The fact that the Jets opted to guarantee Hunter’s base salary in 2012 rather than simply releasing him speaks volumes as to their lack of confidence in Ducasse. The only other options on the roster are Austin Howard and Dennis Landolt. Howard was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad. He started one game with the Eagles during his rookie season and played in three others. That’s more game experience than Landolt, who has done stints on the practice squad with four different teams but who has yet to be promoted to an active roster.

The other potential sore spot is at safety. Eric Smith was exposed in his first season as a starting player, while Jim Leonhard finished the season on IR for the second year in a row. The Jets did sign Leron Landry to a one-year, $3.5 million deal, but given both his injury history and his current condition -- several teams passed on Landry in free agency after checking out his Achilles tendon -- and you have a very iffy solution. Even if Landry hold up for all sixteen games, he’s more of a box player than a coverage guy, when what Rex Ryan needs more than anything is someone who can deal with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez twice a year. Leonhard remains unsigned and might return, depending on how quickly he heals from his torn right patellar tendon and how much competition there is for his services. The Jets added a pair of safeties on day three of the draft, selecting Wake Forest’s Josh Bush and South Carolina’s Antonio Allen, either of whom could push for playing time with a strong performance in training camp.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

The Jets chased the backpages of the local tabloids for the umpteenth time by offering a tryout to Phil Simms’ son, Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms. Simms impressed enough during mini-camp to earn a contract, so he’ll get a crack at unseating Greg McElroy as the third string quarterback. Not willing to let their nepotistic impulses go there, Tannenbaum and Ryan also inked Penn State corner D’Antonn Lynn to a contract. Lynn, the son of current running backs coach Anthony Lynn, was an honorable All-Big Ten mention at cornerback who will have to make the transition to safety in the pros. The ignorance of the offensive line continued after the draft, as Utah tackle John Cullen was the only lineman to sign.


71 comments, Last at 22 May 2012, 8:10am

#1 by Joseph // May 08, 2012 - 6:04pm

Any Jets' fan care to answer why the Jets didn't pull the trigger on a RT? I mean, iirc, there were a couple of opportunities.

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#10 by Dennis // May 08, 2012 - 11:21pm

I have no idea. I would've thought they'd at least bring in some undrafted FAs or something. It doesn't make much sense.

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#15 by R Johnston (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 3:37am

I think the possibilities are pretty much limited to Vladimir Ducasse being born again hard over the offseason and Mike Tannenbaum having a stroke.

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#21 by bubqr // May 09, 2012 - 8:29am

For Jets fans: Austin Howard showed some promise & potential in his rookie season, then came out of shape + was a bad fit for the new system last year, then was cut. I wouldn't shock me to see him be a NFL swing tackle or starter at some point.

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#22 by Dean // May 09, 2012 - 8:35am

You would think that a team that has "new offensive coordinator Tony Soprano" wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.

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#23 by Reaper (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 9:11am

Gonna throw some #### at the wall regarding Hunter and the Jets OL:
Not gonna pretend I know it all and I'm not gonna spend time researching every last detail of who played when or who was injured when but.......

1) Teams transition players on a particular unit all the time and the Jets have done it in the past - they placed Matt Slauson at LG with little issues. Why? Because the entire line around him picked up the slack and STAYED HEALTHY - Plus they had a complete offseason to get him up to speed... When you make a transition like this you roll the dice - often due to Cap issues. You pray the player will get help and the pieces around him will stay consistent. With Hunter he had no offseason. He also had a RG in Brandon Moore who was nursing himself back from injury.

Then They start off with Dallas and BAM like many players he gets owned by Demarcus Ware. Game 2 - Mangold Goes Down - Jets have no backup and trot out a FA off the street at Center - Game 3 Oakland, Seymour and Co and Game 3 THE RAVENS!!!!!!!!! And all hell breaks loose!!! Somewhere along the line LG Slausson bangs up his shoulder and is well below grade at that spot.

So, now you have no Center, banged up Guards and a RT Wetting his pants!!!!!!!!

* Mind you the Jets have been lucky up until this year recently regarding injuries and Yeah, no doubt they Failed at having proper depth especially when you had a Street FA replacing Mangold.

No excuses - Just not ideal at all and when you have oline in shambles, Demarcus Ware, Seymour and the Ravens are going to destroy whoever is in their way...

2) The 2nd issue is how you Game plan and Play Calls in a situation where your OL is a mess and your RT needs help - As Rex now admits, Hunter was out on an island way too often last year - When you have a Street FA at Center and banged up Guards it's probably hard to cover the rest. But, IMO Schottenheimer was a Disaster and really never helped the Offense with anything creative - Roll outs away From Hunter - Quick passes etc. Schottenheimer seems like the guy who always trys to trick the opponent instead of taking what is there - Rex IMO is all about Taking what is there, as is Sparano - No nonsense SIMPLIFY IT ALL leading to:

3) Scheme Change - Would love Input here* - But, Jets are changing from a Zone system to Man and they want to Simplify everything away from the Schottenheimer mess that seemed to leave players scratching their heads, wondering what to do and causing lots of penalties, unneccessary Time out and confusion.
Given Sanchez is the QB, I think Sparano is a TREMENDOUS hire to just keep it simple and REALLY Ground and Pound, Play Action take shots at the right time which IMO Schotty never did.

4) How does the Scheme change effect Ducasse? Hunter? It's easy for internet people to look at Jets tapes last year and say HUNTER BLOWS!!! But, the Jets see what he does in practice and what he can do - they know what Ducasse has and Talent wise he is supposedly off the charts, Does a Man system and a simpler offense allow him to use his talents? He is obviously thinking way too much out there - can he just line up now and let R rip?

5) FA?s Vernon Carey? I guess we will see what the Jets have up their sleeves but, obviously the jets are more confident than a lot of people going Bonkers over Wayne Hunter and I think at least some of my #### has to ring true.

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#28 by Exy (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 11:37am

As far as Wayne Hunter is concerned, I'd really like to know how long he was blocking for on the sacks that he gave up. From what I can tell, he was pretty bad, yes, but Sanchez really didn't do him any favors holding onto the ball far too long far too often. Although that probably made Ferguson look worse more than it did Hunter.

Either way, I always come away thinking Sanchez could really use a lot more moving pockets like Drew Brees because I think he really struggles to see from a traditional pocket. Y'know, either that or he's just a really bad QB who can't read defenses at all.

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#35 by Reaper (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 1:36pm

If what I said above holds merit and we were looking at times at a OL with a Street FA at Center and banged up guards to go with Hunter on a learning curve then I also look at Sanchez and wonder what shot in hell he had - Oh well, he has a super Clutch #1 WR to throw to... oh Wait, not really...

I never wanted Sanchez but, now I sit back and wonder how people can really judge him when he has been given little support... I also have to laugh when people talk about him being "Coddled" REALLY? You coddle your QB by having no depth on the OL, No Consistent WR's thru his career - each year having to work with a new group. an OK TE in Keller and a running game that got worse. THAT is Coddling??? Sheesh.

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#38 by Thomas_beardown // May 09, 2012 - 2:11pm

I think the "coddled" criticism comes from the fact that Sanchez still does not run a full playbook.

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#40 by Reaper (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 2:25pm

And what does that mean and who would really know that?... besides the fact that Schottenheimer's play book deserves a few chapters to be ripped out - Again, I LOVE the Sparano hire and keeping things a lot simpler...Schottenheimer outsmarted himself half the time - you could see players just wondering WTF was going on. Less Penalties alone should help this offense... It will be interesting to see what Schottenheimer does in STL. Since Schott was here I complained about his game plans.. he seemed to try to throw againt teams with great Pass defense and Run against Brick walls (Ravens)WAY too often. And Never took a shot down field when it called for it.

I read an article that described how the Jets OL and Offensive system never quite meshed right - Gotta search for that one but, i think it holds a lot of merit and we're going to see a OC an OL, a HC and team much more on the same page.

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#42 by chemical burn // May 09, 2012 - 2:33pm

I think "coddled" is more bullshit fake tough-guy talk for pudgy fans, but there is definitely something weird going on with Sanchez and how the Jets coaches treat him - I, however, just think it's that they're bad coaches and that Rex doesn't seem like he quite knows how to handle the position, certainly not in the media anyway. I'm curious if the Schottenheimer/limited playbook stuff turns out to be true or if Sanchez was received the marching orders he did because he can't handle anything more complex. I have a feeling Rex just wants his QB to get out of the way and not screw things and that Sparano's system will probably have more trick plays (not that Schotty didn't love Brad Smith gimmick plays) but Sanchez probably still won't be allowed to call audibles.

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#44 by Thomas_beardown // May 09, 2012 - 2:37pm

Greg Cosell has written about his game. He said it's obvious that he isn't making full field reads (usually just 2 reads, first and dump off), and he said there are certain throws you expect an NFL QB to be able to make that Sanchez can't (or at least not with regularity).

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#46 by chemical burn // May 09, 2012 - 2:45pm

That's true, but he's also getting very strict orders (because Rex and Schottenheimer have said as much) to play mistake-free football, limit the # of sacks and interceptions and to think of his role as being part of the field position game that moves incrementally down the field.

He can make a wide variety throws and take over a game - just look at the second half of the AFCCG against the excellent Steelers defense. He looked as good as any QB in the league and after the game, Ryan and Schotty admitted they let him throw their game-plan out the window and take risks that they never allow him to make because it was do ro die time. In short, they let him be a QB. If anything, their tight grip cost them the game - they wouldn't let him call audibles at the line and, much to his vocal post-game frustration, he couldn't audible out of the run calls that got stuffed repeatedly at the goal-line.

I'm genuinely not sure if that's weaknesses being compensated for or talents being stifled. There's a reasonable argument for either.

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#48 by Thomas_beardown // May 09, 2012 - 3:20pm

I'm not really trying to blame anyone, just explaining why people call him "coddled." This limited playbook is one reason.

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#69 by Coddled Sanchez (not verified) // May 21, 2012 - 2:18pm

I thought the "Coddled" label came from how the organization is oblivious to his flaws and how they've never challenged Sanchez. His backups have been Clemens and Brunell. The latter being more of a mentor. Even acquiring Tebow may not be much of a threat, since the Jets may view him as a Brad Smith style player. So essentially he's been handed the QB starting job since day 1 without having to look over his shoulder. That's pretty good job security, and a QB of Sanchez' quality shouldn't be enjoying that luxury.

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#70 by Thomas_beardown // May 21, 2012 - 2:28pm

By that definition just about every first round QB in history has been coddled.

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#71 by Mr Shush // May 22, 2012 - 8:10am

Three years of grace is pretty typical. Four isn't - not for a disappointing QB like Sanchez. The Lions signed Garcia in Harrington's fourth year, the Chargers drafted Rivers in Brees's (yes, technically Brees was a second rounder but he'd be a first if drafted in that slot today). Flat out disasters like Russell get threatened sooner, of course - that's why you're actually better off drafting a Russell or Leaf than a Carr or Harrington.

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#61 by BrixtonBear (not verified) // May 11, 2012 - 8:14am


Oops — sorry; got re-stimulated there.

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#47 by Led // May 09, 2012 - 2:53pm

"when you had a Street FA replacing Mangold"

I agree with just about everything you wrote. Just for clarification, the only reason they had a street FA replacing Mangold was because their backup center and swing guard (Robert Turner), who was pretty solid, also got hurt. Not many teams can weather injuries to both their starter and backup at center (or any OL position really) without a major drop off.

EDIT: Also, Vlad Ducasse at LG was a disaster so the contingency plan of having Slauson play center with Ducasse at LG wasn't viable. So it was pretty much a perfect storm of a bunch of things that all came together in the Ravens game. I saw a stat that Sanchez never had more than 2.25 seconds on any pass attempt in that game.

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#2 by MJK // May 08, 2012 - 6:08pm

It should be noted that when you say a team's biggest need is cornerback, that need is strongly correlated to the rest of the defensive quality around it. It's true that the Pats have no top-tier cornerback on the roster. It's also true that they had no top tier-cornerback (or, for that matter, any above-replacement level cornerback) on the roster for most of the 2004 season (as I recall, their top two cornerbacks that season, after Law went out for the year, were Randall Gay and a converted Troy Brown, with Hank Poteat and Earthwind Moreland playing in the nickel). And yet that year they posted an -11% DVOA, fifth best in the NFL. The difference: they had excellent safety play (Rodney Harrison and a not-yet-broken Eugene Wilson), and a pretty good front seven. Last year they had a rotating door at safety and a pass rush that, until the end of the season, was giving opposing QB's time a great deal of pocket luxury.

I would actually argue that the Pats biggest need at this point is probably on the offensive line, or at safety. At safety, they have Chung and...I'm still not sure who. On the O-line, their starters look decent, but with Matt Light's retirement (and maybe Brian Waters', too?), they're looking very thin.

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#3 by Thomas_beardown // May 08, 2012 - 6:39pm

Refs also let defenders get away with illegal contact in 2004.

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#4 by dmstorm22 // May 08, 2012 - 7:26pm

The rule was stressed after the 2003 season.

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#49 by mike abbott (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 3:26pm

I remember that, Ty Law was out with a broken heart

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#14 by Sifter // May 09, 2012 - 12:24am

Safety surely not a need anymore with the drafting of that stud Tavon Wilson...the new Mel Mitchell as Schatz would say. Don't know how Mike Mitchell has gone actually, I think he's started a few games for Oakland which isn't bad for a guy that got hammered on draft day. Maybe Raiderjoe can fill us in.

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#27 by Podge (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 11:34am

7 starts, 98 tackles, couple of picks in 3 years. He was picked after the likes of Pat White, Alphonso Smith, Aaron Maybin, Robert Ayers, Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Andre Smith etc, so he wasn't the worst pick in the draft, but then he was picked before people like LeSean McCoy, Sebastien Vollmer, Terrance Knighton, Mike Wallace and Ladarius Webb, so he wasn't the best pick either.

I think if you redid the draft he wouldn't be picked too far away from where he was actually picked. I can't see any safeties picked after him that are massively better.

He's a bit similar to Darrius Heyward-Bey - not a horrible player, not a great one, but almost certainly picked way earlier than he needed to be.

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#19 by dryheat // May 09, 2012 - 8:00am

I think between Dowling, Gregory, Dennard, and Moore, the other safety spot will be much improved from last year.

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#29 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 11:55am

Yeah, it is overly simplistic to look at the #1 WR issues and immediately conclude that CB was the biggest issue. As bad as McCourty was at the start of the year, he was solid down the stretch, and he was very good in the playoffs whole playing about 50% of his snaps at cornerback.

I'm reminded of how Samuel was viewed as a player on the decline after a terrible 2005 performance when NE was struggling to replace Harrison. Most wrote him off as a nickleback, at best, heading into camp in 2006. In retrospect, it is pretty obvious that is was really safety problems, and Asante's altered assignments that were the main culprit.

The biggest problems in coverage NE had last year were really safeties and LBs.

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#31 by RickD // May 09, 2012 - 1:05pm

" (as I recall, their top two cornerbacks that season, after Law went out for the year, were Randall Gay and a converted Troy Brown, with Hank Poteat and Earthwind Moreland playing in the nickel)."

It was worse and better than that. Their starting CBs were Law and Tyrone Poole, and both were injured. But one of the CBs on the roster was Asante Samuel.

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#5 by Karl Cuba // May 08, 2012 - 7:32pm

I'm bitterly disappointed with this write up. Not a single mention of the Jets trading for the world's greatest quarterback!

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#7 by Theo // May 08, 2012 - 7:46pm

did he un-re-un-unretire?

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#11 by LionInAZ // May 08, 2012 - 11:44pm

I guess it's just too tediously obvious to point out that QB is still the Jets' biggest need.

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#18 by Podge (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 7:54am

I think its more that the Jets plan for QB is obvious - keep praying that Sanchez steps up, otherwise... well, keep praying.

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#25 by Exy (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 11:20am

More like "keep Tebowing" mirite guys!


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#41 by Noahrk // May 09, 2012 - 2:33pm

Now I finally understand why they brought Tebow in! Prayer power!

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

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#6 by johonny (not verified) // May 08, 2012 - 7:41pm

I thought the idea behind what Miami is doing at WR is going more to a GB type of offense where you have 5-6 WR/TE types that catch 60-30 passes instead that one big 100 pass guy. Also Ireland is known to like to play his guys and he now has a lot of younger WR that did not see the field much under the last coach. I imagine Ireland hasn't given up on these guys although he gave up on the last coach to get them on the field. If it takes 2-3 years for wide outs to break out then one assumes Ireland thinks at least one of these guys is ready to at least catch 30-40 passes in the NFL. Or else it hard to explain why he's carried them the past few seasons. I have no idea if he's right.

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#8 by DEW (not verified) // May 08, 2012 - 8:10pm

The problem is, GB's 5-6 guys are *all* better than anybody on the MIA roster, or at least the top four (Jennings, Nelson, Driver, Finley) are. There's a big difference between having no #1 because you have two of them plus a guy who used to be one and need to divide the catches, and because you have none of them.

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#13 by Sifter // May 09, 2012 - 12:19am

Quite...And there's also a fair gap between QB #1 for Packers and QB #1 for Dolphins. An awesome QB can help paper over some cracks in personnel - never completely of course, but if Miami is trying to be Green Bay, they've got a LONG way to go...

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#24 by Independent George // May 09, 2012 - 10:40am

But aside from all that, it's exactly the same.

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#20 by Podge (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 8:03am

Yes. The second approach you mention was demonstrated by the 2011 St Louis Rams.

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#59 by Mr Shush // May 11, 2012 - 6:01am

The Rams took it a step further, by not having any #2s either, and losing their only viable #3 for the season in early October. The all-WR4 receiving group, shockingly, turned out not to be a very successful approach.

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#12 by LionInAZ // May 09, 2012 - 12:10am

I guess the way I would think about it is that if the Dolphins are really intent on starting Tannehill early, then having a somewhat iffy character like Brandon Marshall as his main target is a dicey proposition, especially if Tannehill goes through the almost inevitable struggles that rookie QBs go through. If anything, Tannehill probably needs a TE he can count on for 40-50 catches, along with Reggie Bush as an outlet. Is Fasano that kind of TE?

I'm sure Marshall will be much much happier back together with Cutler in Chicago than he would be in Miami.

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#56 by FrontRunningPhinsFan // May 10, 2012 - 12:59pm

I think Brian Hartline is better than most people give him credit for. Everyone knows he is deceptively quick and is a gritty fan favorite. I would not expect him to be a true number one, but I think he's capable of catching 50-60 passes during the season... Well I think he's capable of getting open 50-60 times over the season. Whether he gets a well-thrown pass in his direction is another question entirely.

Fasano is not a pass-catching tight end, at least not in the vein I think you're referring to. They drafted that kind of tight end, I forget his name, out of Missouri. But who knows how he'll be. Scouting reports say he can't block for $hit so I don't think they expect him to be much more than a big receiving target.

They also have Charles Clay who was a rookie last year and more of an H-back but is a good receiver who could step up and be a mismatch on passing plays.

This is all playing angel's advocate though. The more likely scenario is they are in the bottom 1/4 of the league in both passing and scoring.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

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#57 by LionInAZ // May 10, 2012 - 9:10pm

Your assessment is probably right. My general point was that you want to put your rookie QB in a position to succeed, and the general philosophy is to give him relatively safe weapons (a steady TE and a decent RB who can run and catch) until he can get up to NFL speed. You don't saddle him with a #1 WR who has personal issues. I guess I missed a point that the Dolphins didn't get enough in return for unloading Marshall. Hard to say, given that we don't know how his legal issues will pan out. I'd say the Bears took as much of a risk on Marshall as the Dolphins did in dumping him.

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#60 by Mr Shush // May 11, 2012 - 6:02am

They shouldn't even think about letting Tannehill on the field this season. I know they probably will, but they shouldn't.

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#16 by jackiel // May 09, 2012 - 6:54am

Or maybe the owner just wanted Marshall gone within 96 hours of his incident in NYC.

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#26 by johonny (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 11:31am

But why did they wait until the late rounds to draft a WR in a draft loaded with wideouts? It's not just that they dumped their prime target at WR. It's that they really didn't replace him with anyone likely to be that type of guy. The reason why, my guess, is they believe they are deeper at wideout than people think. Their GM likes to play guys he drafts. I'm not saying I think these guys are as good as Greenbay's guys, or even Ireland is right. I'm just saying I think that is what the team is doing.

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#43 by Noahrk // May 09, 2012 - 2:36pm

They do have Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace, a couple of guys with nice tools. They've been working with them for several years and they have made steady progress. It's not too far-fetched to imagine one of them will make the jump.

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

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#55 by LionInAZ // May 09, 2012 - 11:34pm

I think they're just going to go with the common wisdom of letting the rookie QB and WRs sort things out among themselves, without the distraction of Brandon Marshall's personal issues. To s certain extent that smart. It's not as if keeping Marshall is going to make the Dolphins an immediate playoff contender with all the other problems they have.

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#9 by Jerry P (not verified) // May 08, 2012 - 9:51pm

Nobody cares about Matt Simms. He certainly isn't going to make any tabloid back pages.

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#17 by Podge (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 7:49am

Surely the Dolphins can address their weakness at WR by moving Tannehill there?

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#30 by xanderphilip // May 09, 2012 - 12:03pm

I would like to here thoughts on Alex Tanney.

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#32 by Jerry Garcia (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 1:18pm

Wayne Hunter... ? Matt Slauson.. ? Ducasse .. ?
An offensive line made out of toilet paper and chop sticks ?

Somehow most everyone blames Sanchez for this ! It's his 26 touchdowns ! It's his inability to read a defense! He just can't make the throws !

You would think the fact that his offensive line is beyond pathetic might have some relevance here. You tell people Sanchez has Eli Manning & Drew Brees like numbers after season 3.. and that's about where the intelligent discourse ends.

So - I guess it's all Sanchez' fault. Jets need a QB. Tebow will be starting by week 3. And so it goes . . .

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#33 by Dean // May 09, 2012 - 1:27pm

Nick Mangold called. He said, "bitch, please."

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#34 by chemical burn // May 09, 2012 - 1:35pm

Yeah, the Jets line has two very legit, perennial Pro Bowlers in D'Brick and Mangold - they have holes in their line, but it's not like they're anywhere near the dregs of the league. Sanchez gets blamed because he's a highly drafted pick who appears to have hit his ceiling at "good sometimes, frequently mediocre." A flawless o-line wouldn't turn him into a great QB. Now, maybe some run support and a few WR's who aren't headcases might help...

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#37 by jsa (not verified) // May 09, 2012 - 2:09pm

I think "chemical burn" gets it right. The Jets OL took a big step back last year with Hunter at RT, but by this site's adjusted sack rate they were ranked 17th, basically average. The previous two years they had one of the best OL's. Yet even in those two years, when he had as close to a flawless OL as you can have, Sanchez was not a good QB.

Last year Sanchez didn't really face more pressure than your average QB. The problem is he is exceptionally bad when facing pressure (and not that good when he isn't) Pro Football Focus rates him the worst QB when under pressure.

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#45 by Noahrk // May 09, 2012 - 2:38pm

Is PFF any goo, by the way?

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

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#51 by Sean McCormick // May 09, 2012 - 4:29pm

That may be true, but it doesn't account for the fact that the Jets basically had to remove their deep passing game from the playbook because the blocking wouldn't hold up for it. Some of Sanchez's most effective plays his first two seasons involved him running play action and going deep to a streaking Braylon Edwards, but those kinds of plays were non-starters with Hunter getting manhandled on the edge. What made Hunter even more of a liability was that the Jets didn't have a reliable blocking tight end to help him out.

Sanchez appears to be getting better, but not at the rate that you might expect a highly drafted player. I happen to think that the quality of the personnel around him has been deteriorating, which helps mask some of that development. And there is no question that he's been coached to be a game manager, which is not how he started off his career. What you see is what the coaching staff has asked for.

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#53 by mtrjets // May 09, 2012 - 5:37pm

Yes and no....He didn't have a "streaking Braylon Edwards" last year, he had a "plodding Plaxico Burress" and the "corpse of Derrick Mason". Also, yes he looked gunshy at the end of the year, but I think the Jets know Hunter and Ducasse are better going forward than backward-Hence the change in offensive scheme, and the trade up in the draft for a "streaking Stephen Hill".

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#54 by Joseph // May 09, 2012 - 5:58pm

I think that's what he meant--last year, he DIDN'T have "streaking Braylon Edwards" and thus lost the deep threat which he had utilized reasonably well in his first two years.
However, "streaking Braylon Edwards" intimates that Edwards was left alone by opposing DB's and well-"covered" by the opposing's teams cheerleaders. No wonder Sanchez had good success with long bombs. :p

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#58 by commissionerleaf // May 10, 2012 - 9:29pm

Braylon was better than Burress, but "plodding" is a bit tough on Plaxico for last year. He did have a 3-TD game, in a game where Sanchez didn't even throw the ball very well. The problem with Sanchez is that his accuracy has not really improved since he entered the league, especially on throws to the outside. This implies that the problem may be arm strength... which was the knock on him in the first place.

Deep throws aren't the hardest throws an NFL quarterback makes.

[Of course, the poster child for that last comment is Sanchez' competition...]

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#63 by Led // May 11, 2012 - 10:03am

I think "plodding" is appropriate for Burress last year. He was still a very effective red zone target, but he couldn't get any separation. He was like a 6-5 tight end with long arms and great ball skills, but no YAC ability at all. That's a useful thing to have, but not as your #2 receiver. I was actually shocked that Burress made it through the season and contributed as much as he did.

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#36 by Thomas_beardown // May 09, 2012 - 2:01pm

Drew Brees and Eli were not very good their first 3 years. Drew Brees in fact played his way into his team drafting a QB in the top 5 to replace him.

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#39 by chemical burn // May 09, 2012 - 2:20pm

Also, if we're talking traditional stats, they're comparable. In his third year Eli had solidly positive DVOA and was ranked 16th in the league. Sanchez has solidly negative DVOA and was ranked 28th in league. Eli improved every year and had decent starter-quality production. Sanchez was one of the worst starters in the league, on the border what could reasonably be considered NFL starter level quality.

In his third year, Brees was not comparable to Sanchez but notably worse - and his team quite reasonably made the decision to draft a QB and move on. That Brees broke out in 2004 and went to the Pro Bowl doesn't mean the Chargers were wrong - if the Jets were smart, they would have been looking this year for a Philip Rivers. Brees is also a fairly unique case, which of course means that there's a non-zero possibility that Sanchez could be another such special case... but betting on a rare outcome (Sanchez takes a leap comparable to Brees in between his 3rd and 4th year) is a good way to set your team's development back.

Please let me know if the reasonable discourse has gone out the window.

(Also, for the record, I watch almost every Jets game and go to a couple a year in person and I actually really like Sanchez and fall in the "he could be good" camp more than a lot of FO readers - but let's be clear he HASN'T been good and HASN'T earned an unquestioned starting spot. Truthfully, i think Rex has a bit of his dad in him in that he's got a decent QB prospect in his care and is going to wreck him but just not being good at teaching and managing the position - that's purely subjective, though, and throwing reasonable discourse under the bus.)

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#52 by Sean McCormick // May 09, 2012 - 4:30pm

I completely agree.

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#62 by RC (not verified) // May 11, 2012 - 9:09am

" McCourty was terrific as a rookie in 2010, but struggled mightily last year when asked to play more press coverage. By the end of the season he was playing free safety, but all indications are that McCourty will return to man one of the starting cornerback spots. Ideally"

Corner wasn't the problem last year. Safety was.

The corners weren't great, but the safeties were atrocious.

That being said "they didn't get any better" is a bit strong. The Patriots didn't lose the superbowl because of their defense.

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#64 by MJK // May 16, 2012 - 2:44pm

The Patriots didn't lose the superbowl because of their defense

Well, except for the fact that they had the lead late in the game and needed one defensive stop to win...and didn't get it. (Granted, if the offense had converted the previous drive into points, they wouldn't have needed one defensive stop, but still, they were let down by both their offense and their defense late in the game).

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#65 by JonFrum // May 17, 2012 - 2:00pm

Corner wasn't the problem???

McCourty was among the league leaders in 100 yard games and 20+ yard receptions allowed. All year, he ran shoulder to shoulder with receivers without turning around, as if he was being paid by the tackle. He didn't get moved to safety because the safeties were so bad. He got moved to safety because HE was so bad. Starting cornerbacks NEVER get moved to safety unless they just can't play corner any more. That's fine for old veterans, but not for second year players.

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#67 by dryheat // May 17, 2012 - 4:07pm

No no, he got moved to safety because once Chung had to miss time, the Pats were down to Sergio Brown, James Ihedigbo, and Ross Ventrone for a while.

McCourty regressed, certainly, but safety play was far worse than corner play all season long. The DB unit got strengthened when the Patriots were able to get McCourty, Ihedigbo, Arrington, and Sterling Moore on the field together. They got much better once Chung came back and they could get Ihedigbo off the field in passing situations.

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#68 by Mr Shush // May 18, 2012 - 5:27am

The Texans moved Glover Quin to safety even though he's a far better corner than anyone else they had available to start opposite Jonathan Joseph. Teams use the resources available to them in whatever way they think will help most.

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#66 by JonFrum // May 17, 2012 - 2:07pm

Ras-I Dowling has had bad luck the last two years, but the three years before that he played in 12, 11 and 12 games. Last year, one injury took him out for the season. I don't know if that adds up to 'comical.' If he misses major time this year, get back to me.

Points: 0

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