Tuesday, September 15, 2009
How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
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1. Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills kick returner: He's electric when he fields a kickoff, but a bad decision followed by carelessness jump-started the New England Patriots and cost the Bills what would have been their greatest victory of the past decade. If the Bills can't trust him, they can't use him.
With 2:06 to play and Buffalo's hands team on the field for a possible on-side kick, McKelvin caught the ball in the end zone and chose to run it out despite not having his usual blockers. When he encountered contact he didn't go down. He tried to fight through tackles and fumbled. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski recovered, and Tom Brady eventually threw the winning touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson.
2. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins left tackle: Last year's No. 1 overall draft pick went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He was the Dolphins best run-blocker and yielded 2.5 sacks to help them win the AFC East.
In a 19-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on opening day, the Falcons went past him for two sacks in a shoddy offensive performance. Chad Pennington was sacked four times.
3. Anthony Fasano, Dolphins tight end: Fasano was one of the most important players' to the Dolphins' shocking success last year. His seven touchdowns led the team and tied the club record for most by a tight end.
In Sunday's opener, he caught two passes and fumbled them both -- one of them on the Falcons' 16-yard line. The Dolphins committed 13 turnovers last year to match the NFL record for fewest in a season, but they've coughed it up four times already.
1. New York Jets defense: Nobody doubted head coach Rex Ryan's system. But there was plenty of skepticism he would be able to transfer the success he had with the Baltimore Ravens right away. One week into his new gig, Ryan looks like he might have pulled it off.
The Jets -- minus Shaun Ellis and Calvin Pace -- smothered a respectable Houston Texans offense in Reliant Stadium. Ryan's crew didn't surrender a point, allowed 183 net yards and 11 first downs, limited Steve Slaton to 17 yards rushing and Andre Johnson to 35 yards receiving.
2. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: There was a belief he would be good, otherwise the Jets wouldn't have traded up to draft him with the fifth overall pick in April. But to see him so composed in his first NFL game has to thrill Jets fans.
Sanchez became the fourth rookie quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger to win on the road on opening day. He completed 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
3. Brandon Meriweather, New England Patriots safety: Despite his late-game heroics Monday night, can you really say Tom Brady's stock improved? In the absence of so many retired veterans on the Patriots' defense, Meriweather showed signs he's ready to step into a leadership role.
Meriweather was credited with a team-high eight tackles against the Bills. He threw Fred Jackson for a 4-yard loss and made the initial hit that stood McKelvin up before he fumbled.