AFC East: Byron Leftwich

Roethlisberger decision affects Dolphins

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
6:26
PM ET
Ben Roethlisberger's good news wasn't so pleasant for the Miami Dolphins.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday reduced Roethlisberger's suspension from six games to four. The Pittsburgh Steelers' sixth game is against the Miami Dolphins, the only AFC East team that will be affected by Goodell's decision.

Miami would have a better chance versus Pittsburgh's alternative than against Roethlisberger in Sun Life Stadium.

Pittsburgh's top backup quarterback, Byron Leftwich, reportedly will miss the first two to four weeks with a sprained knee ligament. That leaves the job to Dennis Dixon, who’s entering his third season but has played in only two games.

The AFC East plays the AFC North this year.

The Steelers play the New England Patriots in Week 10, the Buffalo Bills in Week 12 and the New York Jets in Week 15.

Dolphins, Jets will face toughest QB opposition

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
3:10
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

While on a lunch run Friday afternoon I caught a bit of Colin Cowherd's ESPN Radio show, during which he went down the list of quarterbacks the New York Jets would face this year.

Cowherd was making a point that regardless of how much coach Rex Ryan ramps up the Jets' defense, they'll probably find themselves in more shootouts than 16-14 games. On those grounds, Cowherd made the case the Jets should use the more experienced Kellen Clemens instead of glamour rookie Mark Sanchez.

That inspired me to put together a rundown of all the quarterbacks each AFC East team will face this year.

On paper, it looks like the Miami Dolphins and Jets will face the scariest lineups. The New England Patriots catch a break because, well, they don't have to face Tom Brady twice like the rest of the division does.

Here's the rundown, alphabetized by AFC East team and in rough order of who'll they face as the season goes on:

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

  • Tom Brady, Patriots (twice)
  • Trent Edwards, Bills (twice)
  • Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens (twice)
  • Matt Ryan, Falcons
  • Peyton Manning, Colts
  • Philip Rivers, Chargers
  • Drew Brees, Saints
  • Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers
  • Jake Delhomme, Panthers
  • David Garrard, Jaguars
  • Kerry Collins, Titans
  • Matt Schaub, Texans
  • Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

New England Patriots

  • Trent Edwards, Bills (twice)
  • Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens (twice)
  • Chad Pennington, Dolphins (twice)
  • Matt Ryan, Falcons
  • Joe Flacco, Ravens
  • Kyle Orton, Broncos
  • Kerry Collins, Titans
  • Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers
  • Peyton Manning, Colts
  • Drew Brees, Saints
  • Jake Delhomme, Panthers
  • David Garrard, Jaguars
  • Matt Schaub, Texans

New York Jets

  • Tom Brady, Patriots (twice)
  • Chad Pennington, Dolphins (twice)
  • Trent Edwards, Bills (twice)
  • Matt Schaub, Texans
  • Kerry Collins, Titans
  • Drew Brees, Saints
  • JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
  • David Garrard, Jaguars
  • Jake Delhomme, Panthers
  • Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers
  • Matt Ryan, Falcons
  • Peyton Manning, Colts
  • Carson Palmer, Bengals

No Cutler? Jets still might be looking for QB help

April, 2, 2009
4/02/09
6:54
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff can breathe a sigh of relief -- for now.

The New York Jets didn't make a strong enough play for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who went to the Chicago Bears instead.

Clemens and Ratliff won't have to worry about another All-Pro trumping them on the depth chart, but what they do need to be wary of is the possibility their quarterback battle still will become more crowded.

The Jets still have the draft coming up, and they have either interviewed or plan to interview all of the top quarterbacks in this year's class.

If the Jets select a quarterback, especially if they trade up to do so, that will be trouble for Clemens and Ratliff.

Both of them joined the Jets under general manager Mike Tannenbaum and have worked with returning offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, but whoever the Jets draft will be the first selection of new head coach Rex Ryan's tenure.

Furthermore, Ryan has predicted Schottenheimer will be a head coach next year, meaning Ryan expects to have a new coordinator calling the plays in 2010.

Then there's the possibility of bringing in a veteran. Now that Cutler is spoken for, the Jets might be willing to consider other game-worn options. Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich and J.P. Losman are among the unemployed former starters.

The Cutler drama is over with the Jets, but the quarterback battle could evolve yet.

Jets first look to roster for Favre's replacement

February, 11, 2009
2/11/09
1:15
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum was coy on the subject of acquiring a new quarterback, but he and owner Woody Johnson conveyed optimism in a Wednesday afternoon conference call that Brett Favre's replacement already is on their roster.

 
  Al Pereira/Getty Images
  Kellen Clemens is considered a candidate to replace Brett Favre.

Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge have a total of eight NFL starts among them. One might follow a legend who started 269 straight.

"We do feel good about the players we have," said Tannenbaum, who traded for Favre and then released veteran Chad Pennington to make room in August. "If the opportunity presents itself [in free agency], we'll measure it carefully and do whatever's best for the Jets."

Said Johnson: "We've got three quarterbacks on the roster, and we feel pretty good with competition among those guys we'll end up with a pretty good quarterback."

Favre's decision will clear precious salary-cap space for the Jets, who were over and needed to trim by the end of the month to be in compliance with league rules. Clemens, Ratliff and Ainge aren't expensive, and the Jets might be content to move forward without spending for a free agent.

Scouts Inc. ranks the best free-agent quarterbacks as Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins, Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich and J.P. Losman.

The draft is another avenue the Jets could explore. They own the 17th overall selection. Top-rated prospect Matthew Stafford of Georgia will be long gone by then. Southern California's Mark Sanchez likely will be off the board, too. But strong-armed Kansas State passer Josh Freeman should be there.

Podcast: Kellen Clemens
Jets QB Kellen Clemens says no one from the Jets has talked to him yet about what Brett Favre's departure means for him. Clemens says he actually found out about Favre's retirement from SportsCenter.

"If and when we do add another quarterback, those situations will present themselves when they come up," Tannenbaum said. "We like what we have on the team. We will try to improve what we have on the team at every position, but we're going to move forward with those three quarterbacks on the roster."

Here is a breakdown of the Jets' QB depth chart:

  • Clemens was drafted out of Oregon with the 49th overall selection in 2006. He started eight games in 2007, taking over when Chad Pennington got hurt and then becoming Eric Mangini's quarterback of preference -- but with trepidation. Clemens completed 52 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had a 60.9 passer rating.
  • Ratliff wasn't drafted out of Utah. He spent 2007 on the practice squad. While Clemens struggled and it became evident the Jets didn't want Pennington to win the job in training camp, Ratliff stood out. He outplayed Clemens. It would have been interesting to see who would have emerged in a battle between the two.
  • Ainge, a fifth-round draft pick from Tennessee, had a difficult rookie campaign. Favre's arrival marginalized him. A foot injury sent Ainge to injured reserve. In November, he was suspended four games for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Podcast: The future of Favre and the Jets

February, 3, 2009
2/03/09
2:29
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

ESPN.com's John Clayton peers into the future on several offseason topics Tuesday on "Mike & Mike in the Morning."

The biggest issue they tackle is what quarterback Brett Favre will do and what the New York Jets' primary options would be to replace him. Clayton thinks Byron Leftwich and Derek Anderson are possibilities.

Clayton also thinks the Arizona Cardinals will trade Anquan Boldin. Hear that, Dolfans?

Leftwich divulges Pennington's glee

January, 30, 2009
1/30/09
8:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini had an interesting exchange with Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich in Tampa.

While Leftwich wouldn't bite when asked if he would be interested in joining the New York Jets next year -- Leftwich will be an unrestricted free agent -- he did talk about fellow Marshall University teammate Chad Pennington's retribution.

Pennington, cut by the Jets to make room for Brett Favre, landed with the Miami Dolphins. Pennington beat the Jets in the season finale, clinching the AFC East title for Miami. He has been ultra-diplomatic in downplaying the victory.

"He won't say it, but I will: It meant a lot to him," Leftwich said in Cimini's blog, the Jets Stream.

"Sometimes when you feel you're getting the short end of the stick, or you're the fall guy ... He watched me go through it as a player [with the Jacksonville Jaguars] and he helped me. So when it was happening to him, I tried to help him through the process. ... Football is justice. It [the showdown against the Jets] was going to happen. There was no other way."

Leftwich wasn't a fan of the Jets' decision to cut Pennington -- even though it might have triggered a sequence of events that could create a job opening.

"I don't understand," he said. "He's always been a good quarterback, leading them to the playoffs all those years. Just like that, people forgot. ... I know that felt good for him [to beat the Jets]. I know it felt good for him."

You'll regret not reading this AFC East mailbag

January, 24, 2009
1/24/09
9:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Mack from Waverly writes: Hey Tim I have a couple of questions regarding the patriots defense. Alot of people are counting on the pats to draft a corner high or get one in free agency. I really felt like the defense improved down the stretch after Jonathan Wiilhite was injected into the starting lineup. Do you think he might be the answer at corner? Also do you think the pats might ask Junior Seau back for depth since he has bailed them out for three straight years?

Tim Graham: I'm with you on Jonathan Wilhite. I thought he played well opposite Ellis Hobbs late in the season and may have convinced the Patriots they're OK at cornerback for next year. Junior Seau was an emergency replacement late in the season. He won't be back in 2009 unless disaster strikes -- repeatedly.


Brian in Fort Myers, Fla., writes: I do not see Buffalo taking the TE from OSU, he is unpolished and has too many off the field issues in his past. I actually think he could be a bust and we need help at DE and LB, who do you see the Bills looking at with their first two picks. Thanks--Go Bills!

Tim Graham: You're correct that defensive end and linebacker are needs. The Bills also need a center, but that's not a position you take in the top third of the first round unless he's elite, and there are no elite centers in this year's draft class. That said, Bills fans should be happy if Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew is the pick.


Matthew in Wichita, Kan., writes: There Rumor going on net that Pats hired Romo back to staff. That Pats going after Free agents in nfl as well look at draft because of Jared Mayo.And look at May talking Ray Lewis.

Tim Graham: See what I deal with here? I get about 47 questions like this in my chat every week and another dozen in my mailbag.


Mr. Anonymous in Phoenix writes: tim, i seem to be the only bills fan that doesn't blame dick jauron for yet another losing season (bills seem to have a history of it). do you think he can get the bills to 9 wins or should i wait until the team is sold to another town to see a winning season.

Tim Graham: I've written in my chats and mailbags before I think Jauron is a satisfactory coach. Buffalo's problems are systemic, not coach-oriented. When the Bills decided to retain Jauron and make few front-office changes, Bills fans must hope they've at least decided to adopt a new philosophy on spending money and obtaining players.

The free-agency period hasn't begun yet, so it's too early to tell for sure, but fact the Bills went hard after CFL sackmaster Cameron Wake -- they lost out to the Dolphins -- could indicate they'll be active in pursuing free agents.


Josh in Norfolk, Va., writes: Mr. Graham -- do you think the Phins will pursue Julius Peppers?

Tim Graham: It wouldn't appear the Dolphins would be hot for Peppers, whose agent recently announced the Carolina Panthers defensive end would like to play linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The Dolphins already have Joey Porter, and last week they spent a healthy chunk (by CFL standards) on Wake. They also gave an exorbitant sum to Charlie Anderson last year.


Doug in Memphis, Tenn., writes: Kurt Warner will QB a second team in the Super Bowl. How many other QB's have done that?

Tim Graham: Kurt Warner is the third quarterback to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl, joining Craig Morton (Cowboys, Broncos) and Earl Morrall (Colts, Dolphins). But Morton was the first to start both Super Bowls. Bob Griese came back from injury in time to start Super Bowl VII in place of Morrall.


George in Wilmington, Del., writes: The last time the Jets drafted an offensive weapon in the 1st round was in 2001 (Santana Moss) and before that it was Keyshawn. Do you think this has contributed to gang greens woes? Was sticking with Tannenbaum over Mangini (or sticking with him at all) a bad choice? Is there a roadmap for the Jets to make a play-off run next season? I am not looking forward to another 5 or more years of having my heart broken.

Tim Graham: Great football teams are about the organization, the culture, the system. Mike Tannenbaum has made more moves that contribute to establishing a winner than he has made mistakes.

The Rex Ryan hire was a great one, even though he is another in a line of defensive-minded coaches. That's where their affinity for taking defensive players in the first round stems from.

Ryan will establish his tone and begin to weed out the players who don't fit his mind-set while adding players who do. But the Jets aren't in need of a major overhaul. They won nine games last year and have talent on the roster. If the Dolphins can go from one victory to 11 in one year's time, then the Jets certainly can make the playoffs next year.


Mark in Danville writes: With McCoy and Bradford electing to return to school does that increase the potential trade value for Matt Cassel should the Pats look to move him before the draft?

Tim Graham: Fewer available prospects will affect Cassel's value somewhat. It's about supply and demand. But the Patriots won't be able to trade Cassel before the draft because they won't know enough about Tom Brady's rebuilt left knee by then. The primary reason they'll franchise Cassel is to provide insurance in case Brady's not ready.


TK in Brooklyn, N.Y., writes: Hey Tim, this seems like a no brainer to me, but is there any chance the Bills go after former Colts defensive cooridinator Ron Meeks? Buffalo runs that Tampa 2 defense he ran under Dungy, and he would be a great help in improving their defense; plus he knows how to defend Brady and the Patriots. The Bills would be foolish not to try and get this guy on their staff in some capacity or another. Please tell me this is going to happen.

(Read full post)

Around the AFC East: Jets keep coach, Pats lose 1

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
2:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets

New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

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