AFC East: Blaine Gabbert

Can the Bills cool off Chad Henne?

November, 28, 2012
The Buffalo Bills (4-7) will see a familiar face at quarterback Sunday when Chad Henne leads the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) into Ralph Wilson Stadium. This is a game involving two struggling teams, but the Henne element adds a little spice to the matchup.

Henne was once considered the quarterback of the future for the AFC East-rival Miami Dolphins. The 2008 second-round pick spent four seasons in Miami -– three as a starter -- and had some success against the Bills.

Henne is 2-2 in four career starts against the Bills, which includes a win in Buffalo in 2010. He’s thrown for 748 combined yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL but have found new life with Henne under center. He replaced former starter Blaine Gabbert two weeks ago against Houston and nearly led Jacksonville to an upset. Henne then won his first start of the season last week against the Tennessee Titians.

Henne comes to Buffalo with the hot hand. In two games, he’s thrown for 615 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions. Henne also has a 99.6 passer rating.

The Bills are under a lot of pressure and need to win this game. Stopping Henne, an old rival, will be key.
Our AFC East community is at odds with ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski. According to our SportsNation poll, a majority of our readers feel New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow is better than Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Jaws" began his top-30 quarterback rankings this week by ranking Gabbert (No. 29) ahead of Tebow (No. 30). That caught my eye, because Tebow is coming off an incredible season where he led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs and even beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round. Gabbert, meanwhile, looked lost at the NFL level. Still, Jaworski put Gabbert ahead of Tebow.

I agree with our AFC East community on this one. Tebow is definitely not a conventional quarterback, but he has proven skills in the NFL, such as toughness, size, athleticism and a strong worth ethic. Tebow is a winner. His throwing just leaves a lot to be desired.

I’m still not convinced about Gabbert. He looked skittish last year. His accuracy was way off most games, and he has first-round bust written all over him. I would take Tebow on my team over Gabbert any day.

Jaws: Gabbert better than Tebow

June, 14, 2012
ESPN NFL analyst and quarterback guru Ron Jaworski is ranking his top NFL quarterbacks. At No. 30 was Tim Tebow of the New York Jets, and No. 29 was Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Which quarterback is better: Blaine Gabbert or Tim Tebow?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,728)


Jaworski is one of the most respected quarterback evaluators around. He played the position himself with the Philadelphia Eagles. So his opinion that Gabbert is better than Tebow carries weight.

However, can you rank a quarterback who did not look NFL ready in 2011 over a player who led his team to the playoffs and even won a postseason game?

There are things Tebow lacks as a conventional quarterback. But he does have proven NFL tools, such as toughness, athleticism, work ethic and natural leadership. That was enough to earn Tebow a 7-4 record as a starter last year, in addition to an impressive wild-card victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Conversely Gabbert, who is more conventional, showed little last year. He looked gunshy in the pocket and was 4-10 as a starter. Some are already calling him a bust in Jacksonville.

Many will say Gabbert was more highly-touted coming out of the draft. But some forget Tebow also was a first-rounder in 2010 with the Denver Broncos. Jaworski is counting on Gabbert's potential with this ranking. Is Jaworski correct?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on who is the better quarterback between Gabbert and Tebow. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.
AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it's never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Dolphins in 2012.

Dream scenario (9-7): So much has to go right for the Dolphins to have a winning season in 2012. For example, one of the quarterbacks -- Matt Moore, David Garrard or rookie Ryan Tannehill -- will have to step up and have a stellar season. An unproven group of receivers must play above their talent level. Rookie head coach Joe Philbin has to push all the right buttons in his first year, and the defense must make a smooth transition to the 4-3. The chance of all these things falling perfectly in place for Miami is slim. But if it does, Miami could string together some wins in the AFC East and have a respectable season. Can the Dolphins carry over late momentum they gathered at the end of last season? Miami was 6-3 in its last nine games. But that was with a different coaching staff and different schemes. The Dolphins are not very talented, but they are a tough group. They could make it hard on a lot of opponents, and perhaps steal more wins than people expect.

Nightmare scenario (2-14): Miami is in the process of rebuilding. There's always an element of danger in that teams can fall apart and lose confidence when they’re not in contention. I think the Dolphins are probably a five- or six-win team next season. They could win a few games with their tough defense alone. But if nothing goes right and things fall apart, the worst-case scenario could be an ugly two-win season. The offense is a rough project. The Dolphins are installing a new West Coast offense and don't have the receivers to make it run smoothly. The biggest key is quarterback. If Moore and Garrard both struggle or get hurt, the Dolphins have no shot. It could also lead to Miami playing its first-round pick too soon. Tannehill could find himself leading a bad team before he’s ready. Think of what happened to Blaine Gabbert last season. That’s a nightmare the Dolphins want to avoid.

Walker's weekend mailbag

May, 12, 2012
Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Akhilesh from Massachusetts writes: Why do you think the Patriots drafted Tavon Wilson, a low-ranked safety, in the second round? Is it just that Bill Belichick knows something others don't or was it poor drafting?

James Walker: Wilson was a player Belichick really liked -- apparently more than anyone else. Drafting Wilson that high is certainly a risk. The Patriots might have been able to wait another round or two. This puts some pressure on Wilson to perform. If he turns out to be a solid starter, no one will care where he was drafted.

Jorge Garcia from Mexico City writes: Which Patriots veteran do you see being released when all the final roster cuts are in?

Walker: You have to look at the deep group at receivers. There's no way the Patriots will keep all 11. I think players like Chad Ochocinco, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte' Stallworth and Julian Edelman will all have to fight hard for roster spots.

Jim from Toms River, N.J., writes: What's the possibility Donald Driver lands in Miami and what would that mean for the Dolphins?

Walker: If Driver is cut by the Green Bay Packers, which looks like a possibility, Miami will be high on his radar. For one, a starting job is waiting for Driver in Miami, and that won't be the case in most places. Second, former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is now the head coach in Miami. There's a comfort level there. But none of this is possible unless Driver is released.

Shaggy Lewis from Shreveport, La., writes: What are the chances Terrell Owens signs with Miami?

Walker: Zero. Miami is rebuilding and does not want players with character questions in its locker room. Owens would not be a good fit.

Ben from Buffalo writes: It seems to me that the No. 2 receiver spot on the Bills is completely up for grabs. Given the lack of production from the guys they put out there last season, do you think T.J. Graham is the front-runner?

Walker: It’s too early to pick a front-runner. But Graham would make it very easy on the Bills if he was ready right away. That was the hope when the Bills drafted Graham in the third round. But that could be asking a lot. David Nelson is better in the slot, and if Graham and Donald Jones can step in, Buffalo's passing offense could be solid.

John from Germany writes: If you were C.J. Spiller, would you be a little upset that you're not the starter? If you are, would you leave the Bills at the end of your rookie contract?

Walker: Spiller has a gripe. But the reality is that he's not a better running back than Fred Jackson at this stage of their careers. Spiller has three more seasons on his rookie contract. By then, Jackson most likely will be ready to step aside. So it's not a certainty that Spiller walks down the road.

Chris from MA writes: I feel like I am beating my head against the wall. But could it make any more sense for the Jets to bring in Vernon Carey?

Walker: I'm surprised Carey hasn't gotten more interest. He's probably going to be one of those veterans who signs after there is a camp injury. The Jets won't sign him because they are pretty tight on salary-cap space.

Ben from Baltimore writes: Do you think Mark Sanchez still has the potential, with the right weapons and players stepping up, to have a comeback year?

Walker: I didn't like what I saw from Sanchez last year. It was my first year in the AFC East, so that was the most I've watched him on a week-to-week basis. Sanchez is in his fourth season, and I don't think his ceiling is much higher than what we've seen. But that doesn't mean Sanchez isn’t capable of playing better, or being a better decision-maker, or lowering his fumble and interception totals. These are things the Jets hope he cleans up in 2012. I doubt Sanchez will ever become an elite quarterback, but if he can make those aforementioned improvements, the Jets can win with him.

AFC East Homer of the Week

This week's homer is a BIG Chad Henne supporter.


Rick from Miami writes: James, I don't think you are dumb but please look at the facts before you write something stupid. Henne had played the equivalent of two seasons and has improved each season. He carried a team with no run game or pass defense in 2010 to seven wins and would had more if he had any run support of the defense. Look at the stats. Miami was top 16 in passing ypg with Henne and dropped to 23rd with Matt Moore. That shows Miami only won six games because of their D and run game. Stop bad-mouthing players before you read he facts. Henne is better than Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez and a whole bunch of current starters. Maybe you should read the facts instead of going with idiotic public opinion. Dan Marino thinks Henne can start in this league. Do you know more than Marino about QBs? I think not. Henne will take the Jacksonville Jaguars to the playoffs before Miami wins six games in a season.

Walker: I'm always shocked by the number of Chad Henne supporters still out there in Miami. Henne had four years with the Dolphins to show what he could do and finished with more career interceptions (37) than touchdowns (31). In fact, Henne has never had a season in which he threw more touchdowns than interceptions. Henne was robotic, a below-average decision-maker and didn't have natural leadership ability. Four years is enough time to see that. But there's still a section of people, like Rick, who defend Henne and think he should have been the long-term solution in Miami. But, Rick, it’s the last statement that makes you our AFC East Homer of the Week. Henne will not lead the Jaguars to the playoffs this year. He might not even be the starter, because the team is invested in Blaine Gabbert. Congrats on being our Homer of the Week.

Ryan Tannehill and Stephen M. RossJoel Auerbach/Getty ImagesDolphins owner Stephen Ross, right, said he hopes to retire Ryan Tannehill's jersey someday.

The Miami Dolphins believe they have found their quarterback of the future in first-round pick Ryan Tannehill. Miami took Tannehill with the No. 8 overall pick in last week's NFL draft.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland called it an "all-in" decision by the entire organization. In many ways, this is a signature moment for Ireland, rookie head coach Joe Philbin and Miami's current regime.

If Tannehill develops into a stud NFL quarterback, Miami has a good chance to turn the organization around and become a force in the AFC East. If he's a first-round bust, the Dolphins can expect several more years of misery.

But Tannehill's success or failure is not totally up to him. There is a lot the Dolphins must do to ensure their prized rookie has the best chance possible to succeed at the next level.

Here is the AFC East blog's four-step plan that Miami should follow with Tannehill.

Step No. 1: Lower expectations

Miami is already failing in this department. I cringed over the weekend when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he hoped to retire Tannehill's No. 17 jersey someday. This was during Tannehill's introductory news conference. You don't put that kind of pressure on a rookie before his first NFL snap.

It also doesn't help that Tannehill is the first quarterback taken by Miami in the opening round since Dan Marino in 1983. In fact, Tannehill (No. 8) was taken much higher than Marino (No. 27). The pressure to fill those shoes has been immense for a long time. Miami hasn't had a legitimate, franchise quarterback since Marino retired in 2000. Fans expect Tannehill to be that player.

The good news is it's not too late to temper expectations. Tannehill will take the practice field for the first time this weekend during rookie minicamp. It's a chance for the media and coaches to see Tannehill in action and set the bar for where he really stands at the pro level.

For now, one of the best things Miami can do is stop talking about retiring jerseys, winning championships and filling Marino's shoes when it comes to Tannehill. Let the rookie develop his own identity with the team at his own pace.

Step No. 2: Sit Tannehill for a year

That brings me to my next point: Do not, under any circumstances, make Tannehill the starter this year. That would be the biggest mistake Miami could make.

The Dolphins have two veteran quarterbacks ahead of the rookie -- David Garrard and Matt Moore -- and a new scheme on offense. Let Garrard and Moore battle it out this year, while Tannehill holds a clipboard and gets ready for 2013.

Miami's offense is too fragile right now for a rookie quarterback, especially one with just 19 collegiate starts. Everyone is learning first-year head coach Joe Philbin's West Coast offense this year, and there aren't enough quality personnel in place to make the scheme successful.

Tannehill shouldn't be subjected to that right away. The strange thing is the rookie quarterback is probably the most knowledgeable about Miami's offense, considering his strong ties with Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who coached Tannehill in college.

This is a rebuilding year for the Dolphins and they know it. The sooner Tannehill plays, the better the chance he looks like Blaine Gabbert. That would be disastrous for Miami.

The Dolphins should put Tannehill on ice for a year. The only circumstance in which he should play is if Garrard and Moore get injured. Perhaps one exception is starting Tannehill in Week 16 or 17 if Miami has nothing to play for and wants to get Tannehill's feet wet for 2013.

Otherwise, Miami should keep Tannehill on the bench and resist the temptation of short-term buzz and excitement. Tannehill should be treated with the long haul in mind.

Step No. 3: Use Dan Marino as a mentor

[+] EnlargeDan Marino
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireThe Dolphins had not selected a quarterback in the first round of the draft since taking Dan Marino in 1983.
Here is some free advice for the Dolphins: They should encourage Marino to be Tannehill's mentor.

Marino, a Hall of Famer, is royalty in Miami. I've said several times in the AFC East blog that Marino is an underused commodity by the Dolphins organization. This is the perfect time and situation to tap into that resource.

Marino has already accomplished what Tannehill dreams of doing. Marino also speaks the same language and can relate to Tannehill in ways that the coaching staff and front office cannot.

If Tannehill is trying to fill Marino's shoes, it makes sense for Marino to be in Tannehill's corner throughout the process to provide support. It may not seem like a big thing, but this could go a long way for the rookie quarterback.

Step No. 4: Get better wide receivers

We alluded to the personnel in Step No. 2. The Dolphins aren't ready at receiver to make things easy on Tannehill.

Philbin says the team's doesn't need a No. 1 receiver, but you do need good receivers who can makes plays and get open. A Tannehill-to-Brian Hartline connection is not all that attractive this year. Hartline is Miami's top receiver and he caught just 35 passes in 2011. Davone Bess is a solid slot receiver but may be asked to take on a bigger role due to lack of competition. The other receiver positions are wide open.

I was surprised Miami didn't take a receiver higher in this draft. The Dolphins waited until the sixth and seventh rounds, despite the position being one of the team's biggest needs. You're not going to plug every hole in the draft, but this is one more reason to keep Tannehill on the bench this year.

If the Dolphins follow this four-step plan, Miami has a good chance to get the best out of Tannehill. He has all the physical tools and potential to be a solid NFL quarterback. But it is very important that Miami does whatever it takes to give Tannehill a fair shot.

What contract can rookies expect?

April, 30, 2012
The NFL draft is in the books, and the next step is to get rookies signed with their new teams. The new rookie wage scale has helped teams sign players much easier. The drama and potential for holdouts have been taken away now that teams, players and agents already know what kind of contract to expect based on their projected slot.

Here is a quick look at what players made last year, and what the latest AFC East rookies can expect:

No. 8 pick: QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

2011 No. 8 pick: QB Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (four years, $12.58 million)

No. 10 pick: CB Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills

2011 No. 10 pick: QB Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (four years, $12 million)

No. 16 pick: DE Quinton Coples, New York Jets

2011 No. 16 pick: DE Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins (four years, $8.72 million)

No. 21 pick: DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots

2011 No. 21 pick: DT Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns (four years, $8.1 million)

No. 25 pick: LB Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots

2011 No. 25 pick: OT James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks (four years, $7.641 million)

These contracts are absolute bargains for teams. That is why so many were trading into the top 10 at an unprecedented rate.

Even Miami's pick at No. 8 will be cheap compared to what quarterbacks in the draft usually make. Tannehill will average about $3-$4 million per year on his rookie contract? That’s not much risk for the Dolphins. Other AFC East teams will be risking even less thanks to the rookie wage scale.
To no surprise, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tops the final Total Quarterback Ratings for the 2011 season in the AFC East. Brady posted a stellar score of 74.2, which was third-highest in the NFL.

The rest of the division quarterbacks didn't do so well this past season.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, this season's winner of the "Sanchez-Fitz-Moore Watch," was the second-best quarterback in the AFC East. He posted a QBR of 54.0, which was 17th in the NFL.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was third with a QBR of 51.2, which was 18th in the NFL. New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was last in the division with a QBR of 33.6. Sanchez was 30th out of a possible 34 quarterbacks graded.

The only quarterbacks who scored lower than Sanchez this season were Sam Bradford (27.3), Tim Tebow (27.2), Curtis Painter (23.4) and Blaine Gabbert (20.5).

Should teams consider Pryor a WR?

June, 3, 2011
A couple days ago, we took a gander at whether an AFC East club would be interested in grabbing besieged Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft.

Chances would be slim anybody would want him at quarterback.

But ESPN analyst Todd McShay offered another perspective: What about as a wide receiver?

McShay isn't convinced Pryor could develop NFL-level passing accuracy or interpretive skills despite tremendous speed and elusiveness. We saw how far that combination took Pat White.

But Pryor is 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds and is athletic enough to become a decent target.

McShay wrote for ESPN Insider:
Because of his size, I still think Pryor is a better prospect at wide receiver than quarterback at this point, and he would have been the No. 8 quarterback on my board -- behind Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett and Colin Kaepernick -- had he chosen to enter the 2011 draft.

Pryor carried a third-round grade following last season (and remains in that area now) based mostly on his potential to move to receiver if he does not make significant progress as a quarterback early in his NFL career, and the odds are stacked heavily against him doing so.

As a couple readers mentioned, maybe Pryor could evolve into the type of player Brad Smith was for the New York Jets, a versatile player who can take snaps out of a pistol formation, return kicks or line up at receiver.

Don't go changing: Bills show faith in O

May, 18, 2011
At some point, the unlikely collection of NFL teammates struck somebody as unusual, and they began to sort out who the highest draft pick was.

Together last month for a mini passing camp near quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's home in Arizona, eight Buffalo Bills players laughed about their long-shot backgrounds.

Sophomore receiver Marcus Easley was the closest thing to a bonus baby, and he was a fourth-round draft choice with zero NFL games. So who was next in line? Backup quarterback Levi Brown was the answer, a seventh-round pick last year, 209th overall, and unable to make the roster out of training camp.

Bills practice
Courtesy of David NelsonBills players (L to R) Naaman Roosevelt, Levi Brown, Steve Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, David Nelson, Donald Jones and Marcus Easley pose for a picture following a workout last month.
Wide receiver Steve Johnson went 224th, Fitzpatrick 250th. Running back Fred Jackson and receivers David Nelson, Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt weren't drafted at all.

"This is testament of who we are as a group," Nelson said Tuesday night from his home in Dallas. "We all believe in each other. We all push each other. We all compete with each other. We know we're against the odds. We're a bunch of guys nobody gave a chance to."

The Bills have a couple of first-rounders in their offense who didn't attend the workouts. Running back C.J. Spiller and receiver Lee Evans are important components, but it's impressive to consider such a big contingent of overlooked players making up a team's offensive core.

Nelson and the rest of that gang can speak with a little more conviction about their futures in Buffalo now. When they gathered for some casual workouts, there was plenty of doubt about the direction of the offense.

The draft hadn't taken place yet, and the Bills owned the third and 34th selections. There was considerable talk about a quarterback being a serious option. If Auburn star Cam Newton still were on the board, could the Bills pass him up? Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert might have been a possibility, and it was anybody's guess who would still be on the board in the second round.

"I'm sure Fitz was bracing for something," Jackson said Tuesday of the pre-draft mood. "Everybody had to be."

One thing was for sure among the Bills' players: They were rooting for the front office to stand pat at quarterback.

"We've been talking about it as a receiver group for a while," Nelson said. "We were hoping that they would stay away from quarterbacks in the draft because we have all the confidence in the world in Fitz and what he can do. We like the direction we're headed in with him."

The Bills gave their offensive players a major vote of confidence last month. Of their nine draft choices, only two play offense. They drafted Clemson tackle Chris Hairston in the fourth round and North Carolina running back Johnny White in the fifth round.

The Bills will acquire more offensive players whenever free agency dawns. General manager Buddy Nix has said they will sign another quarterback, but the club sent a strong message about Fitzpatrick's standing when they didn't draft one.

"They showed they have a lot of faith in Fitz," Jackson said. "Me and my teammates all have a lot of faith in him, too. We're excited about that. I'm looking forward to working with him and trying to build on what we did last year and making that playoff push."

Fitzpatrick and Jackson will enter the 2011 season with substantially more juice than they had last summer. Both of them were considered backups.

"You have to say that it had some kind of affect on us," Jackson said. "We weren't on the same page when we got in the lineup, but that's part of the game, and we have to adjust.

"It does hurt to not get the reps, but as long as you mentally prepare like you are the No. 1 guy, you can hit the ground running. Hopefully, now we can get those reps and go into this season as the No. 1 guys and put this team on our shoulders and make some plays."

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesThe Bills are confident in Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to lead the team.
Fitzpatrick won over the Bills' locker room and much of their fan base last year. Trent Edwards' presence had worn thin everywhere. The man known as "Captain Checkdown" was uninspiring at best. He was frequently injured and rarely showed a hint of nerve.

New coach Chan Gailey backed him in the beginning. Edwards took most of the offseason reps and was named the No. 1 quarterback when training camp opened. Edwards started all four preseason games.

Fitzpatrick, Brown and Brian Brohm fought over the scraps. Fitzpatrick attempted 23 passes before the season.

Asked at the NFL scouting combine in February whether he regretted those decisions, Gailey replied, "Shoot, yeah. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have done that."

At 0-2, the Bills made an abrupt change. They waived Edwards.

Fitzpatrick was a jolt to the huddle, to the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd, to the community. He grew a bird's-nest beard and called himself the "Amish Rifle." He wore his wedding ring during games. He actually threw the ball downfield.

He made the games entertaining again, even the defeats. Fans forgave him for occasional reckless interceptions.

Jackson was in a similar situation despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards the previous season.

He was in a crowded backfield with Marshawn Lynch and hotshot rookie Spiller and didn't start the first four games, carrying the ball 20 times for 87 yards through the first quarter of the season.

When the Bills traded Lynch for a 2011 fourth-round draft choice and a conditional 2012 sixth-round pick, the door opened for Jackson again.

"Right now, I feel like I'm the No. 1 guy and C.J. will come in and get a lot of plays," Jackson said. "I feel like I'm going to be the guy that's carrying the load and has got to make that running game go.

"I'm sure C.J.'s working hard and will [have] the opportunities as well, but I just got to shoulder the load and take the pressure off Fitz and make us a balanced offense. I want to be that guy."

Spiller generated preseason buzz for rookie of the year honors, but he had a disappointing campaign (283 rushing yards and no touchdowns, 157 receiving yards and one touchdown) and still has much to prove.

Jackson rushed for 614 yards in the second half of the season, tying with Ray Rice for sixth in the NFL in that span. The running backs ahead of them were Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Nice company.

The Bills ranked 25th in total offense, 18th in run offense and 24th in pass offense. Not too swift compared to the rest of the NFL.

But all of their best offensive superlatives in 15 categories (points, first downs, yards, etc.) happened Oct. 24 or later. The same can be said about individual player superlatives, aside from Fitzpatrick's 71.4 completion percentage in Week 3 against the New England Patriots.

The Bills obviously found enough there to make a commitment, and the players aren't crying for help. They're thrilled the group will stay together.

"We did some good things on offense last year," Jackson said. "We feel like if we could get back on the field healthy and get another crack at this thing, we'll continue to have some success."

Buffalo's QB option didn't materialize

April, 30, 2011
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix said "there were some shockers" when it came to first-round quarterbacks.

Those surprises, however, didn't take Buffalo off the quarterback scent.

The chance to take Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus with the third pick played a bigger role in their decision not to get a quarterback within the first two rounds.

"We didn't think Marcell would be there," Nix said Friday night, minutes after taking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams. "Now, the whole thing, leading up to it until the last day or two, we thought he'd be gone. But when [Auburn quarterback Cam] Newton was gone and [Dareus] was there, it was an easy pick."

Whispers around One Bills Drive were that the Bills would look hard at a quarterback at No. 3 or go with a defender there and then try to get a quarterback at No. 34.

The latter option became less likely when Washington quarterback Jake Locker went eighth to the Tennessee Titans, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert went 10th to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder went 12th to the Minnesota Vikings.

It was the first time three quarterbacks went within the first 10 picks since 1999 and only the third time it ever happened in NFL history.

"We're to the point -- and I think I said this a lot of times -- with the first pick, we wanted a franchise guy," Nix said. "If he wasn't there, then we were going to get better on defense and work on needs if the right guy was there."

Nix conceded the Bills still have to address quarterback at some point. They have only two -- incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and sophomore project Levi Brown -- under contract.

"We are still going to go to camp with probably four quarterbacks," Nix said. "So that's not to say we won't take one in the draft, but it's also not to say we wouldn't go after a veteran to be a backup for us and then take another arm to camp. It might be a college free agent."

'Mallett 6' script waiting to be written

April, 30, 2011
Ryan MallettChris Graythen/Getty ImagesThe New England Patriots were willing to take a risk on Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.
We'll find out what Ryan Mallett is all about.

No setting would have provided a truer test than New England, where the coach runs a tight operation and the quarterback provides the perfect template for a youngster to follow.

Team after team saw Mallett's name on the draft board and ignored it. Seventy-three picks were made, including four by the New England Patriots, before they finally added the quarterback many analysts called the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's class.

"When I got that call," Mallett said, "it was a great feeling just to know that somebody wanted me."

Mallett's humiliation couldn't have cut as deeply as what Tom Brady felt 11 years ago, when the future Hall of Famer squirmed through five-plus rounds of rejection.

Memories of that day recently made Brady cry. The anger and bitterness and appreciation for his parents' support bubbled over during an interview for "The Brady 6," an ESPN documentary about the quarterbacks taken before him.

Perhaps "The Mallett 6" already is playing on a loop inside the rookie's head.

If not, you can imagine Brady whispering constant reminders in Mallett's ear about being driven to prove all the doubters wrong and to show the world he's better than Cam Newton and Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick.

Mallett can do that in New England.

If he wants it badly enough.

"It's an opportunity for me to learn from him and further my knowledge under that coaching staff," Mallett said of Brady late Friday night. "It was something I'm really excited about when I got the call. I can't wait to get started."

When the Patriots make a selection such as this one, it's perceived as brilliant. Bill Belichick earned that presumption with three Super Bowl rings and a steady stream of AFC East championships.

Had the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals or San Francisco 49ers drafted Mallett, we would be ridiculing them right now.

Mallett, in the eyes of most, would be dooooooomed to failure.

After all, Mallett clearly was more toxic than asbestos and ready to contaminate all he came into contact with. The passing skills he demonstrated in Arkansas' pro-style offense were undeniable. And although his mobility resembles that of a drowsy turtle, the damning issues were away from the field. Vague drug accusations hovered, and while still not detailed in public, teams apparently were convinced he wasn't worth the risk.

"Obviously, we're comfortable with him," Belichick said. "We took him."

Now AFC East opponents dread the prospect of Mallett emerging as a well-tutored prodigy with a cannon arm and a Dante Scarnecchia-coached offensive line to keep harassing defenders away.

But Mallett's real advantage in this scenario is Brady.

Mallett won't need to play right away -- not this year or next and probably not the year after that. He can learn from one of the supreme overachievers of NFL history.

That's the type of competitor Mallett will be exposed to in Foxborough. Every day, he'll get to observe, extract, probe and scrutinize the actions of a genuine winner.

"He's definitely a football guy," Belichick said of Mallett. "He is a great kid to talk to. He's very into football. You can't wear him out. If you want to talk about it, he'll be there. However many hours it is, he's ready to go watch the next film. He'll talk about a new technique or a route or a read, whatever.

"His father is a football coach. He's grown up in a football family, which I can definitely relate to that. Either you get sick of it or you marry into it and love it. It's one of the two. I think he's very much of a football person.

"He's a kid that's eager to learn and has a great thirst for knowledge for his position, which there's a lot going on there. He'll certainly get an opportunity to receive a lot of knowledge at that position around here."

On the surface, the payoff for New England seems minimal. Brady should have five more good years in him. He will turn 34 in September but is at the top of his game. He's the reigning MVP and a unanimous All-Pro selection, guiding the Patriots to a 14-2 record last season and posting phenomenal efficiency numbers.

Brady is signed through 2014. Mallett might flame out before then, but even if he doesn't, he could become a free agent before Brady is ready to yield the job.

What then?

If the Patriots' highly favorable atmospheric conditions allow Mallett to grow into a young star, the Patriots will have the ability to convert him into more future assets -- a groom-and-trade exercise similar to what they pulled off with Matt Cassel.

In the meantime, Mallett would provide backup services. Brady has gotten banged up over the past few years. An insurance policy is wise.

There's always a chance disaster will strike. Another season-ending injury could befall Brady. In between serenity and panic, a broken bone could sideline Brady for a couple of games.

Then Mallett would get his chance to show everybody what he's all about.

He might very well fall flat on his facemask. But it's much easier to picture him pulling it off in a Patriots jersey, isn't it?

Buffalo thrilled Denver passed on Dareus

April, 28, 2011
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were thrilled to have Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus on the board with the third overall draft choice Thursday night.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey just met with reporters here at One Bills Drive to discuss their new player.

Nix said if Dareus wasn't on the board, the Bills "very likely" would have considered taking Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert rather than another defensive player such as Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller.

Up until the past couple days, Nix thought the Denver Broncos would take Dareus with the second pick. The Broncos took Miller instead.

"It's like Christmas, opening presents," Nix said. "We really didn't think he'd be there, but we're excited about having him."

Nix said Dareus "is about as close as it gets" to a safe draft pick in the NFL.

Dareus is remarkably versatile and could fit any scheme. Gailey envisions Dareus as a defensive end in their 3-4 alignment, but added, "I can see him lining up in a lot of different spots for us as times goes on."

In addition to solidifying Buffalo's feeble run defense, he will help their anemic pass-rush, too. The Bills allowed a league-worst 169.6 rushing yards a game. Only three teams recorded fewer than the Bills' 27.

"Sometimes people have not given him enough credit as a pass-rusher," Gailey said. "He can get on the edge of a guard. That's where he had most of his success as a pass-rusher, between the tackles. But he's a good guy coming off the outside edge as well.

"He'll have an impact. If nothing else, with him hanging around the middle in there, it doesn't allow anybody [on the offense] to go out and chip and help outside. It makes them stay inside."

Added Nix: "He can finish plays. When he gets to the quarterback, we'll have to let him know they do fine you in this league."

Bills bolster D-line with Marcell Dareus

April, 28, 2011
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills could have taken a couple of philosophical approaches when it came to building their organization's future: quarterback at No. 3 or their best defensive player on the board and try to get a quarterback with the 34th selection. They drafted Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.

Why the Bills took him: The Bills ranked dead last against the run last year, allowing 169.6 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Dareus, at 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds, is considered the best defensive lineman in the draft and highly versatile, able to play nose tackle or 5-technique defensive end in the 3-4 or line up as a defensive tackle in a 4-3.

How it affects the roster: Dareus should start immediately in the Bills' 3-4 hybrid defense and allow them to effectively mix in four-man fronts to keep offenses on their toes. Dareus would play alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Bills also are high on sophomore defensive tackle Torell Troup. The Bills released defensive end Marcus Stroud before the lockout.

Scouts Inc. says: Does an excellent job of finding the football. Elite awareness. Consistently does a great job of finding the football. Does an excellent job of disengaging from blocks; uses quick hands and feet to get out of trouble. He pursues hard, has great speed for his size, and will make some plays from behind.

One more reminder that it's all guesswork

April, 28, 2011
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With the Buffalo Bills drafting first in the AFC East (again), I'll be reporting Thursday night from their facility.

Who do you think they'll select third overall?

Before blurting out your answer, take a look at this amusing research from the Buffalo Bills media relations crew.

They charted 160 mock drafts over the past year. Here are the guesses:
That's an awful lot of incorrect guesses and a good reason I don't do a mock draft.