How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

September, 29, 2009
9/29/09
11:00
AM ET

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Falling

1. Chad Pennington, Dolphins: All the guy wanted to do was stay healthy for consecutive seasons, something he hadn't done since 2002-03. Sadly, Pennington didn't get his wish. Last year's Comeback Player of the Year and runner-up to Peyton Manning for league MVP probably is done for the season because of another injury to his throwing shoulder.

Pennington faces a potentially career-threatening situation. His right shoulder has been operated on twice already and likely will need to undergo the knife again. He will be 34 years old before the start of next season.

2. Terrell Owens, Bills: For the first time in 186 games, Owens failed to catch a pass in Sunday's lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints. Fans went gaga over the Bills' decision to sign Owens. They gobbled up tickets. A crazed horde famously turned out at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where one lunatic dressed up as a popcorn box to welcome Owens.

Yet through three games, Owens ranks fifth on the team with five receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown. Running back Fred Jackson has three times as many catches. Tight end Derek Schouman didn't play Sunday and is out for the season, but he has almost double Owens' total.

3. Thomas Jones, Jets: In Week 1, the numbers looked appropriate for last year's AFC rushing leader. Jones ran 20 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. But 77 of those yards were gained on two fourth-quarter plays. Extract them, and he averaged 1.7 yards per attempt.

His next outings haven't been much better. Jones carried 14 times each of the past two games, gaining 54 and 20 yards.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Fred Taylor gives New England's rushing attack a much-needed jolt.


Rising

1. Fred Taylor, Patriots: Finally, the Patriots effectively ran the ball. After a couple of weeks in which quarterback Tom Brady aired it out 100 times, the Patriots insisted upon running against the Atlanta Falcons.

Laurence Maroney, the starter in Weeks 2 and 3, left the game with a thigh injury in the second quarter. Taylor carried the load by rushing for more yards in the first half than any Patriots back had gained in each of the first two games. Taylor finished with 105 yards and a touchdown.

2. Mark Sanchez, Jets: One solid game could be happenstance. Two solid games might be coincidence. But three in a row establishes a standard. I guess Jets fans should expect the rookie to perform well every week.

In a 24-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez demonstrated some youthful exuberance that needs to be reigned in a tad, but he once again played more like a four-year pro than a 22-year-old. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Sanchez also scored on a spectacular -- albeit reckless -- 14-yard run.

3. Brandon McGowan, Patriots: When the Patriots signed him as a free agent, he appeared to be a depth player and special-teamer. McGowan not only has been starting, but he also has been a factor.

With Sunday's game tied at 10, McGowan forced Falcons back Michael Turner to cough up the ball on the Patriots' 31-yard line. It was a key play that prevented the Falcons from asserting themselves. They didn't score again. McGowan also was a significant reason why future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was limited to one catch for 16 yards.

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