AFC East: Chauncey Washington

Final Word: AFC East

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireBrandon Marshall and the Dolphins can increase their profile with a win against the Steelers.
The Dolphins have a glorious opportunity to vault themselves into the Super Bowl discussion. The Dolphins are the third-best team in the AFC East, but both of their losses are against Nos. 2 and 3 in ESPN.com's latest Power Rankings -- the Jets and Patriots. The Dolphins have been overlooked because both of those losses happened in Sun Life Stadium and in prime time. But they can grab everyone's attention with a victory at home against the No. 1 Steelers. While winless at home, the Dolphins are 3-0 on the road and have beaten a pair of NFC teams commonly forecasted to reach the Super Bowl. They're good, but they haven't established themselves as a contender yet. That could change Sunday.

Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather will need to be careful Sunday in San Diego. There's heightened awareness on big hits. Increased ejections are possible, and officials will be mindful of Meriweather. He was fined $50,000 for his helmet-to-helmet shot on Ravens tight end Todd Heap. The Patriots head cross country with depleted numbers at safety. Jarrad Page hurt his calf against the Ravens and hasn't been able to practice. James Sanders is expected to return, but he has been bothered by a hamstring problem. If Meriweather isn't on his best behavior, the Patriots could find themselves even more short-handed against Philip Rivers, who has completed 63.5 percent of his passes between the field numbers.

The Bills have one weird offense. Let's try to figure this one out ... The Bills rank fourth in the league and second in the AFC in yards gained on first down at 6.3 a pop. They rank fifth in average gained per rush at 4.8 yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 99.9 passer rating. Only two teams have committed fewer penalties. So how in the world do the Bills rank 31st in third-down conversions? The NFL doesn't cull stats specifically for second down, but something must be going on there. Have the Bills been skipping straight from first down to third down and nobody has noticed?

The Joe McKnight draft choice continues to dog the Jets. They used a fourth-round draft choice to draft McKnight out of USC. That wasn't a huge investment, but the trickle-down affect continues to make the decision look terrible. McKnight lost the coaching staff's trust in the preseason because he couldn't pick up the playbook and fumbled too much. But they stuck with him and eventually lost Danny Woodhead and Chauncey Washington to other teams. While McKnight has been deactivated for all but one game, Woodhead has become a smash hit among Patriots fans. I'm pretty sure Woodhead jerseys are being stitched together as I type this. I have hard time imagining anybody wearing one of McKnight's.

We haven't heard anything from the Jets this week, and that's a good thing for Jets fans. One of the bigger concerns for Jets fans had to be their players being unoccupied by work for a week during their bye. They have a few major players -- Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes -- with track records of landing in hot water, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan gave his team the entire week off. Ryan is far more generous than most of his colleagues. Bills coach Chan Gailey, for instance, had his player practice through Friday afternoon of their bye week. The Jets are 5-1 and looking quite solid in their quest to make a Super Bowl run. The last thing they need is another off-field distraction.

Jets backfield depth a serious concern

September, 28, 2010
9/28/10
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The New York Jets seem to have made the right call in the backfield by releasing Thomas Jones and signing LaDainian Tomlinson.

Their other move at running back, however, is backfiring loudly. The Jets traded Leon Washington to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Jets were wary of Washington's recovery from a compound leg fracture, but he has been a star there so far, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

The Jets drafted USC's Joe McKnight in the third round. McKnight has been invisible. He had a terrible preseason and hasn't been activated for a regular-season game yet because head coach Rex Ryan doesn't trust him.

Meanwhile, the Jets have seen a pair of their running backs -- passed over because of McKnight -- go to other teams recently. The New England Patriots picked up Danny Woodhead. The St. Louis Rams signed Chauncey Washington from the Jets' practice squad.

Leon Washington appeared on ESPN's "First Take" on Tuesday to talk about his comeback season.

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Jets continue to whack veteran leaders

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
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From the starting lineup of their regular-season finale, the New York Jets have lopped 77 seasons of experience.

No wonder head coach Rex Ryan was bemoaning a lack of leadership in the latest episode of "Hard Knocks."

On Sunday, the Jets released veteran fullback Tony Richardson -- a day after he survived the cutdown deadline for the 53-man roster.

Richardson is trying to play a 16th NFL season. He was outplayed by rookie John Conner, but it was clear watching "Hard Knocks" the Jets coaching staff viewed Richardson as highly important to the 2010 cause. He was considered perhaps the most prominent leader in the locker room.

"Each season, there are difficult choices when constructing the 53-man roster, and this year is no exception," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement. "We appreciate Tony's contributions and leadership over the past two seasons and have nothing but the highest respect for him as a person and as a player."

The Jets also waived running back Chauncey Washington and receiver David Clowney. The dismissals cleared way for three waiver pickups: receiver Patrick Turner from the Miami Dolphins, tackle Patrick Brown from the Minnesota Vikings and defensive tackle Marcus Dixon from the Dallas Cowboys.

Richardson joined a long list of veterans who aren't around from a roster that was good enough to get the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, among them running back Thomas Jones (10 seasons), guard Alan Faneca (12 seasons), defensive end Marques Douglas (nine seasons), kicker Jay Feely (nine seasons) and long snapper James Dearth (nine seasons).

In fact, of the 10 most experienced players on the Jets' final roster last year, including injured reserve, only three remain: right tackle Damien Woody, nose tackle Kris Jenkins and defensive end Shaun Ellis.

Granted, the Jets did add veterans via free agency. Quarterback Mark Brunell is entering his 18th season, running back LaDainian Tomlinson his 10th and pass-rusher Jason Taylor his 14th. But all of them were signed with the intention to be backups.

You have to wonder whether the Jets have over-tinkered their roster.

AFC East preseason finale observations

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
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With all 32 teams wrapping up their preseason schedules Thursday night, here are a few quick hits from each AFC East game:

Detroit Lions 28, Buffalo Bills 23
  • Trent Edwards was efficient in his one quarter, completing all four of his passes for 66 yards, including a 50-yard strike down the left sideline to Lee Evans.
  • But because Edwards is so inconsistent and injury-prone, backup quarterback remains a big question mark. Ryan Fitzpatrick had the night off. Brian Brohm played less than two quarters and completed 7 of 15 passes for 78 yards and an interception that was tight end J.P. Foschi's fault.
  • Bills kicker Rian Lindell is in midseason form. He nailed field goals from 47, 50 and 41 yards. Remember when former coach Dick Jauron shied from letting Lindell try long kicks?
  • The Bills still have a tough decision to make at receiver. Chad Jackson had a game-high five catches for 59 yards, but hobbled off the field late. James Hardy, a 2008 second-round pick, was targeted seven times but made three catches for 23 yards in the second half.
New York Giants 20, New England Patriots 17
  • Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski is becoming a folk hero. He caught his fourth touchdown of the preseason, a 5-yard toss from Tom Brady on their first drive. The touchdown wasn't as eye-popping as Gronkowski's first two, but he did have a defender hanging on him.
  • New England's first-team defense looked shaky again. Eli Manning marched right through them, going 86 yards on nine plays for a touchdown to open the game. The Giants' starters picked up two more easy first downs on the second possession before punting.
  • Running back Laurence Maroney finally got some action after being a bystander the previous two games: nine carries for 32 yards. Uninspiring. For the record, Fred Taylor started the game.
  • Rookie Devin McCourty bounced back from an awful performance in the previous game, and that's a good sign with veteran Leigh Bodden sidelined for the season. McCourty played only two series but made three tackles and had a pass defensed.
New York Jets 21, Philadelphia Eagles 17
  • Rookie running back Joe McKnight had a rough preseason. He lost his third fumble, and this one was returned 64 yards for an Eagles touchdown. Rex Ryan said McKnight will make the roster and be deactivated until he proves himself in practice.
  • Had the Jets not used a fourth-round draft choice on McKnight, he'd be gone. He was outplayed by Chauncey Washington and Danny Woodhead. Washington ran 12 times for 56 yards, including a long of 22 yards. Woodhead had 12 carries for 45 yards and a 14-yard touchdown.
  • Mark Brunell had an efficient game: 11-of-17 for 118 yards and touchdown passes to Santonio Holmes and Jeff Cumberland.
  • Holmes had a busy night in what will be his last action for a month. He had four catches for 97 yards. His touchdown traveled 51 yards and came in the fourth quarter. Probably not fair to do to Philly reserves who won't be employed come Saturday. But Holmes will be out of commission while serving a four-game suspension.
Dallas Cowboys 27, Miami Dolphins 25
  • The Dolphins had a nerve-racking sequence in the second quarter. Franchise left tackle Jake Long, my pick as the club's most indispensable player, got shaken up on a play when Chad Henne absorbed a blindside sack and fumbled. Four plays later, Sam Hurd beat cornerback Sean Smith for a 43-yard touchdown.
  • Tyler Thigpen, not Pat White, received the prime mop-up duty after Henne and Chad Pennington took their turns. Thigpen did well. He was 10-of-18 for 160 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He ran three times for 20 yards.
  • Only 12 rushing attempts for Dolphins running backs, but 39 passes. Not sure what it means. Maybe coach Tony Sparano just wanted to let Pennington and Thigpen air it out. Maybe the Dolphins didn't want to waste their backs. But I doubt that ratio is a blueprint for the regular season.
  • Tough decision coming at receiver, even after the Greg Camarillo trade. Patrick Turner (one catch for 29 yards) was a third-round pick last year, but hasn't produced as much as undrafted rookies Marlon Moore (4 catches, 31 yards and a touchdown) or Roberto Wallace (3 catches, 59 yards and a touchdown).

Podcast: Updated preview of AFC East

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
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Bill Daughtry from ESPN 1050 in New York invited me onto his show late Thursday night to talk about the New York Jets and preview the AFC East.

We talked about the latest episode of "Hard Knocks" and the revelations of the Jets' internal depth chart, which included notes on some players who might be doomed. Other topics included the New England Patriots' vulnerability on defense and the low-profile Miami Dolphins being a dangerous opponent.

'Knocks' reveals Jets' internal depth chart

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
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Storylines for this week's episode of "Hard Knocks" focused on the New York Jets' fringe players, laying the groundwork for drama on final cutdown day in a couple weekends.

Most revealing from my perspective was the chance to eavesdrop on general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan discussing their roster numbers. On a dry-erase board, Tannenbaum tried to do the math and gave a glimpse of what the 53-man roster will look like, more or less.

Next to the team's official depth chart, Tannenbaum scrawled out the number of players they plan to keep at each position, with the caveat they can adjust for special teams.

Offense (25 players):
  • Three quarterbacks
  • Five running backs
  • Five wide receivers (including Santonio Holmes)
  • Four tight ends
  • Eight offensive linemen

Defense (23 players):
  • Six defensive linemen
  • Four outside linebackers
  • Four inside linebackers
  • Five cornerbacks (I think because I couldn't decipher the abbreviation)
  • Four safeties (I think for the same reason)

Add a kicker, punter and long-snapper, and that's 51 players, leaving two special-teams spots for everybody else to fight over.

The show suggested the bubble players were running back Danny Woodhead, fullback Jason Davis, receivers David Clowney and Larry Taylor, tight end Matthew Mulligan and linebacker Lance Laury.

Injuries, of course, can impact the numbers. The breakdown was done before defensive end Ropati Pitoitua suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Saturday's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.

Pitoitua's injury was significant for Rodrique Wright, who had an "X" next to his name on the depth chart, suggesting the Jets planned to cut him.

"Hey, you going to make this [expletive] team?" Ryan says to Wright on the sideline after learning of Pitoitua's injury. "This kid just tore his [expletive] Achilles. Or do I need to pick somebody else up?"

"Hard Knocks" revealed others with an "X" next to his name or a "PS" to indicate practice squad. For effect, "Hard Knocks" slowly panned all the name plates to set up the scene. That helped determine who'd been labeled in the shots that showed Tannenbaum sketching out the roster.

These were the other "X" players still on the roster I could decipher thanks to the high-def on my big-screen plasma: quarterback Kellen Clemens, running back Chauncey Washington, center Robby Felix, guard Marlon Davis and tackles Dan Gay and Michael Turkovich. An "X" also appeared next to a blank spot at fullback, suggesting Jason Davis.

These were the "PS" players: defensive linemen Matthew Kroul, Ty Steinkuhler and Martin Tevaseu and safety Emanuel Cook.

Also notable about the depth chart, rookie Vladimir Ducasse was above Matt Slauson at left guard. Shonn Greene was on top of LaDainian Tomlinson in case you were wondering.

Not a lot of surprises, but interesting nevertheless.

Yet based on Ryan's comments about his third-stringers late in the 9-3 victory over the Panthers, there's plenty of room to make an impression over the final couple weeks.

"Guys, we're dead with this group. We have replacements?" Ryan says into his headset to his defensive assistants in the press box. Ryan's voice gets angrier. "Do we have any replacements? Get me the No. Twos out there! I'm not going to lose this [expletive] game! Give me the [expletive] Twos out there. Finish the [expletive] job!

"We're leaving the Twos out there if we have to. Finish the game. I don't give two [expletive]. Some of those guys can't play dead in a B western."

Washington, for example, went from having an "X" next to his name to receiving a game ball for a jarring hit on punt coverage and strong running.

Tannebaum doesn't need more picks

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets have downsized their drafts in recent years, dealing picks to trade up and procure players they wanted especially.

They selected a grand total of three players a year ago and 13 players over the past three years.

At some point, don't they need to have a healthy draft class to fortify the team's depth?

General manager Mike Tannenbaum doesn't think so.

"That would be the case, but we have such a talented scouting department," Tannenbaum said Friday at the NFL scouting combine in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales and senior personnel executive have identified contributors who were overlooked by other teams.

"We've added guys who are maybe not household names like [defensive tackle] Mike DeVito and [linebacker] Jamaal Westerman," Tannenbaum said. "We have a lot of young guys who we really like, who have really helped us."

Tannenbaum also pointed to the acquisition of receiver David Clowney and running back Chauncey Washington from the Green Bay Packers' and Dallas Cowboys' practice squads, respectively.

Tannenbaum certainly would've preferred to mention more significant names than those. Clowney had 14 catches for 191 yards and one touchdown. Washington joined the team last year with three games left and was deactivated for each one.

Tannenbaum contended the Jets aren't forced to amass picks, or have a bloated class like they did in 2006, his first year as GM. They selected 10 players, three of whom have made a Pro Bowl. Seven started at least one game last year.

"Because of those other avenues to improve the team," Tannenbaum said, "that has complemented the fact we haven't had a lot of picks."

When the Jets have dealt draft picks to move up in the order, their decisions have worked out. They traded up last year to get quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene. In their four-man class of 2007, they twice traded three picks for two picks to move up and select cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris.

"When you trade up, you trade away valuable resources, and there is no guarantee on any of these guys," Tannenbaum said. "But you'd better be as close to pretty darn sure as you can. Fortunately for us, we had real organizational conviction in those situations be it Mark or Shonn last year or Revis or David Harris. We felt really strong.

"You have to make those value judgments of 'Is this price reasonable?' because to give up picks in our system is a heavy lift. Every situation is unique. We actually have traded back a few times, but no one ever seems to talk about that. Every situation is unique, but I fall back to we have a great college scouting staff that gives me good information."

Jets at Colts inactives

January, 24, 2010
1/24/10
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INDIANAPOLIS -- No surprises among the New York Jets' list of inactives for the AFC Championship Game.

The biggest name is Indianapolis Colts right cornerback Jerraud Powers, who was downgraded to doubtful Saturday night.

New York Jets

Indianapolis Colts

Jets-Chargers inactives

January, 17, 2010
1/17/10
3:44
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SAN DIEGO -- No surprises on the inactive list for Sunday's playoff game in Qualcomm Stadium.

New York Jets

San Diego Chargers

Salutations from Cincinnati

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
3:13
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CINCINNATI -- It's warmer here in Paul Brown Stadium than it was six days ago in the Meadowlands.

Still, my blood turned to slush on my walk from the parking garage to the press box.

A handful of players are milling about on the field to get ready for the 4:30 p.m. kickoff, but not as many as you'd usually see about 90 minutes before kickoff. The game forecast is for a wind chill of 14 degrees, but only a 10 percent chance of snow.

The field appears to be in decent shape. Snow encrusts the bottom rim of the stadium floor where it meets the stands. But the playing surface appears to be free of ice.

Referee Bill Leavy's crew has drawn the assignment.

A quick look at the 2009 officiating ledger shows Leavy's crew has called 188 penalties, fifth-fewest among the NFL's 17 crews. Nothing unusual jumps out about the types of calls from Leavy and his men. Offensive holding (36) and offsides (31) led the way, as you would expect. They called defensive pass interference 10 times.

Here are the inactives for the game:

New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals-Jets inactives

January, 3, 2010
1/03/10
7:26
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Cincinnati Bengals are going to rest at least one key starter Sunday night against the New York Jets.

The Bengals have scratched running back Cedric Benson and named rookie Bernard Scott the starter. The Bengals also have Larry Johnson. Benson rushed for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns this year and is a candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Cincinnati Bengals
New York Jets

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