AFC East: Darius Butler

Source: DE Cunningham to be cut

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
10:56
AM ET
The Patriots informed defensive end Jermaine Cunningham that he will be released, a source confirms.

Cunningham has been hurt for most of the preseason and didn't play in a game. The move is considered a minor surprise, and also reflects some of the ups and downs the team has had in the second round of the draft, as Cunningham was a second-round pick in 2010.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer are two solid second-round picks, but the list of second-rounders that haven't panned out is quite longer, and includes receiver Chad Jackson (2006), cornerback Terrence Wheatley (2008), safety Patrick Chung (2009), defensive tackle Ron Brace (2009), cornerback Darius Butler (2009), Cunningham and cornerback Ras-I Dowling (2011).

The jury is still out on safety Tavon Wilson (2012).

At defensive end, the Patriots currently have Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette.

Pro Football Talk first reported the news on Cunningham.
Perhaps no other AFC East pick in the 2012 draft was more controversial than the New England Patriots’ selection of little-known defensive back Tavon Wilson of Illinois. Wilson, New England’s second-round pick, was the 24th rated safety by Scouts Inc. and wasn’t even invited to the NFL combine.

Wilson
This was viewed as a major reach by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who vehemently defended the pick. But looking deeper, Belichick's track record in the second round has been questionable for the past 10 drafts.

Here’s a look at Belichick’s picks in the second round since 2003:

2011: CB Ras-I Dowling and RB Shane Vereen
2010: LB Jermaine Cunningham, TE Rob Gronkowski, LB Brandon Spikes
2009: CB Darius Butler, S Pat Chung, DT Ron Brace, OT Sebastian Vollmer
2008: CB Terrence Wheatley
2006: WR Chad Jackson
2004: DE Marquise Hill
2003: S Eugene Wilson and WR Bethel Johnson

Of this group, Gronkowski and Vollmer are definite hits. Spikes and Chung have potential but need to prove they can stay healthy for a full season.

For the second round, two stud players in 14 picks (14.3 percent) is a low success rate. If you’re generous and include Chung and Spikes, that’s still only 28.5 percent.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com wrote a good column this weekend that Belichick should be trusted with the pick of Wilson. But history shows Belichick struggles in the second round, particularly with defensive backs. Butler and Wheatley were recent busts. Dowling didn't play last season and gets a chance to show what he can do this year.

Belichick may fool everyone with the Wilson pick. A player who was on no one’s radar could turn out to be a rookie contributor or starter in New England’s defense, which was ranked No. 31 last season.

But history suggests this could be another second-round whiff by Belichick. The pressure is on Wilson to change that trend.

AFC East links: Henne feeling confident

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
10:49
AM ET
Buffalo Bills

The Bills' new-look run defense will get a test Sunday when it faces the Chiefs, who had the top rushing game in the league last season.

The team claimed 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Sam Young, a 2010 sixth-round draft pick, off waivers from the Cowboys.

Miami Dolphins

Chad Henne, who had a 93.4 quarterback rating in the preseason, is brimming with confidence heading into the season, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Coach Tony Sparano said the team's decision to keep six receivers, including second-year wideout Marlon Moore, was an easy one.

New England Patriots

Deion Branch didn't have a catch in the preseason, but considering his résumé, he's not fazed.

The team cut defensive lineman Gerard Warren and signed tight end Dan Gronkowski, the younger brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Cornerback Darius Butler, who was cut by the Patriots Tuesday, was quickly claimed by Panthers.

New York Jets

The Jets will be revisiting the Mark Sanchez trade Sunday -- well, most of it, anyway. Two of the three players the Jets sent to the Browns to trade up for Sanchez in the 2009 draft , Kenyon Coleman and Abe Elam, are starting for the Cowboys.

The New York Times' Ben Shpigel takes a look at rookie Jeremy Kerley, who's expected to fill the void left by Brad Smith's departure via free agency.

Santonio Holmes said the Jets' revamped receiving corps should create matchup problems for opposing defenses all season.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 47-12 win over the Jaguars in the preseason opener:

A night for backups. Bill Belichick sat several key players, quarterback Tom Brady; receivers Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker and Deion Branch; defensive lineman Vince Wilfork; cornerback Devin McCourty and linebacker Jerod Mayo among them. This gave Belichick a chance to evaluate some younger players, while at the same time not rushing things with key personnel after just seven full-pad practices. You had to be a hard-core fan to sit through all of this one, but in all, it was a productive night for a first preseason game.

Taylor Price one of the big stories. The second-year receiver was excellent, the highlight play coming with a back-of-the-end-zone, fingertip, toe-tapping touchdown grab. Price later showed his speed on a long catch-and-run play. Price is behind Ochocinco, Branch and Welker on the depth chart, but he ensured that he's not in jeopardy of missing the final roster cut. Impressive night.

Quarterback situation looks sharp. Between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, the Patriots appear to have one of the best backup quarterback situations in the NFL. Both were impressive.

Rookie RB Stevan Ridley shines. Third-round pick Stevan Ridley showed up for camp on time and took advantage of extended reps as second-rounder Shane Vereen had yet to sign and veterans BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris could not yet practice. That showed tonight. Ridley's confidence and hard-charging style was evident on two touchdown runs and he showed good hands on a touchdown catch. Agents generally don't get a lot of praise, but Ridley's agent -- Andy Simms -- gets a tip of the cap from here. Simms is also the agent for McCourty and for two years in a row he's made sure his clients were there for the first day of practice, putting them in the best position to succeed.

Tough night for CBs Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite. Both played into the fourth quarter. That's a hard fall for Butler, the 2009 second-round pick was an opening-day starter last season. Butler and Wilhite look to be on the roster bubble.

Nate Solder passes first test. The first-round pick played the entire first half at left tackle. He was hardly noticed, which meant he did his job well.

Dane Fletcher a top performer on defense. The second-year linebacker started and led the defensive huddle. He finished with five tackles while delivering a bit hit in the process. A strong special teams player as a rookie (he made the club as a free agent), he showed he's ready if called upon as a middle linebacker in the event of injury to Brandon Spikes.

What was the Patriots' biggest weakness in 2010? Pass defense.

That won't be the case in 2011.

First off, let’s start with the cover guys. I am not entirely sold on the safeties, and the depth at this position in particular is a concern. But overall, you could do worse than Brandon Meriweather, Pat Chung and James Sanders. Still, I do think this is the weakest position now on New England’s defense.

[+] EnlargeLeigh Bodden
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireThe Patriots needs Leigh Bodden to return from the injuires that hampered his 2010 season.
The cornerback play should be vastly improved, though. First off, Leigh Bodden returns from injury. If he returns to his 2009 form, Bodden is an above-average starting corner who can excel in many different schemes. Last year’s first-round pick, Devin McCourty, would have been a legitimate candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010 -- if it weren't for Detroit's Ndamukong Suh, that is. As great as McCourty was last season, expecting improvement in his second season seems logical as well.

The Patriots also used an early second-round pick this year on Ras-I Dowling. Dowling would have been a first-round pick if not for injuries. He has a lot of ability, and along with Bodden and McCourty, gives the Patriots excellent size at corner.

In addition to the latest two early round picks, New England has a slew of younger corners in Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite. Collectively, this group has been underwhelming, but expecting improvement from these young cover men also doesn’t seem far-fetched. Even if just one of the three steps up, New England will be stacked at the position, which will allow Bill Belichick to be even more creative with his sub-package personnel. It should be noted, though, that it doesn’t yet appear Dowling is back to full health, which could stunt his growth and open the door for one of these three for early playing time.

Now, let’s discuss the pass rush, which like the coverage, should be improved. There has been a great deal of speculation that New England will be switching to more base 4-3 looks. Due to the team’s roster moves this offseason, that seems entirely likely. But I also expect Belichick to utilize many different looks from his front seven, changing on a week-to-week basis depending on the Patriots’ opponent.

If nothing else, the addition of Albert Haynesworth will pay dividends in this area. He can really get after the passer. Whether it is from a defensive end or nose tackle position in the 3-4 or as a 3-technique in the 4-3, Haynesworth will wreak havoc on quarterbacks. During his time in Tennessee, Haynesworth was used all over the defensive line, including as an outside edge rusher.

Haynesworth should pair with another newcomer, Shaun Ellis, as one of the most potent interior pass-rushing forces in the league on clear passing downs. Ellis will also contribute in the pursuit of quarterbacks from an end spot in New England’s odd front. The presence of both these players -- along with several incumbents -- should allow the Patriots to keep Haynesworth and Ellis quite fresh.

Off the edge, Jermaine Cunningham did some good things as a rookie and could be poised for a substantial step forward as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 or as a designated pass-rusher on throwing downs. He also could play some end when the Patriots use an even front. Andre Carter has consistently performed poorly when asked to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he is well suited for defensive end in the 4-3. Belichick surely recognizes this and should use him accordingly.

The foursome of Haynesworth, Ellis, Cunningham and Carter as a pass-rushing front on passing downs is a vast improvement from a season ago. Mark Anderson, another guy who is much better suited for end in the 4-3, could also factor in, especially on early downs.

To say that New England has been aggressive to cure what ailed it in 2010 is a massive understatement. I fully expect this aggression to pay off in a big way.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.

What's the opposite of power rankings?

July, 14, 2011
7/14/11
10:50
PM ET
In response to the relentless stream of power rankings that have sustained us through the lockout, friend of the blog Bill Barnwell recently compiled his list of the NFL's 25 least valuable players at Grantland.com.

You probably can guess a few players with AFC East connections. Surprisingly not listed, however, was former New York Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston.

Here are the players with strong AFC East ties on Barnwell's chart, with No. 1 being the worst (as opposed to best of the least):

Patriots end mystery with Dowling

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
6:28
PM ET
After 18 hours of speculation, the New England Patriots didn't deal out of the 33rd slot and drafted Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling to lead off the second round Friday night.

Dowling
Dowling
Why the Patriots took him: The Patriots shored a position that wasn't necessarily a need but can always afford to be strengthened. Devin McCourty went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season. Their best cornerback headed into training camp last year, Leigh Bodden, is coming back from a shoulder injury.

How it affects the roster: Last year's backups, Darius Butler and Tony Carter, are in jeopardy of losing their roster spots. Butler has been a disappointment. The Patriots had high hopes for the 2009 second-round pick, but he quickly lost his starting job to Kyle Arrington last year.

Scouts Inc. says: Can hold up in certain man-to-man matchups but would need deep-safety support versus NFL receivers with upper-echelon quickness. Has some tightness in hips, while top-end speed is very good lack of elite initial quickness can get him in trouble when he takes false steps in man coverage. However, shows an extra gear to recover when caught out of position. At his best in zone coverage, where he can keep receivers in front of him and read the quarterback's eyes.

Dolphins D cursed by dropped interceptions

March, 15, 2011
3/15/11
11:03
AM ET
Monday on the AFC East blog, dropped interceptions were a hot topic.

Today, I want to broach a totally different subject: dropped interceptions.

Sean Smith
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesMiami's Sean Smith tied for the league lead with five dropped interceptions last season.
We already know New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw the most passes defenders dropped.

But which defender dropped the most? He's from the AFC East, too.

Football Outsiders research shows Miami Dolphins right cornerback Sean Smith tied for the league lead with five dropped interceptions last year even though he didn't re-assume his starting role until Week 9.

Smith's proxy, Jason Allen, also dropped two, giving the Dolphins seven at that position alone.

The NFL average for an entire defense was 6.3 dropped interceptions last season. The Dolphins had 19 of them. The Green Bay Packers were next with 14.

Dolphins free safety Chris Clemons dropped three interceptions, tying him for sixth in the league. Cornerback Benny Sapp dropped two. Defensive ends Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford, outside linebacker Koa Misi, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, cornerback Nolan Carroll and safeties Reshad Jones and Tyrone Culver had one apiece.

The Dolphins actually snagged 11 interceptions. Only three teams recorded fewer.

Think defensive coordinator Mike Nolan tore out his hair much?

The other three AFC East teams combined didn't have nearly as many dropped interceptions as the Dolphins did.

In fact, the rest of the AFC East had just as many as Smith, Allen, Clemons and Sapp alone.

The Jets and Buffalo Bills each had five dropped interceptions. Strong safety Donte Whitner was the only defender on either team with two. Bills cornerback Drayton Florence didn't have any drops one season after leading the league with five.

The New England Patriots were incredibly fortuitous when it came to interceptions. They had 25 picks, but dropped only two: inside linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Darius Butler.

Midseason Stock Watch: Patriots

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
2:00
PM ET
Power Rankings: Preseason 9. This week 6.

2010 schedule/results

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/Amy SancettaTom Brady has kept New England winning, despite having a team offense that is ranked 20th in the league.
Where they stand: The Patriots are 6-2, the same record as the New York Jets, but are listed second in the AFC East standings because they lost their head-to-head matchup. The Patriots were rated first in last week's ESPN.com Power Rankings, but an alarmingly bad loss to the Cleveland Browns has raised serious concerns. The Patriots rank 20th in total offense and 29th in total defense.

Falling: The Patriots have put together several strong defensive performances, but they've shown vulnerabilities against the pass and the run on occasion. Browns running back Peyton Hillis trampled them for 184 yards, a 6.3-yard average and two touchdowns. New England's secondary has gone through week-to-week transitions because of injuries and disappointing play. Right cornerback Darius Butler lost his job to Kyle Arrington. Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather was a backup briefly.

As the season moves along and the sampling of games gets larger, it's becoming more evident the Patriots miss Randy Moss. Recent columns by ESPN Stats & Information researcher Jeremy Lundblad and Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders deliver all sorts of statistical evidence that shows the Patriots aren't as potent without him.

Rising: Youth has been serving the Patriots all season. They've been getting significant contributions from rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez (team-high 436 receiving yards) and Rob Gronkowski (tied for team lead with three receiving touchdowns), rookie left cornerback Devin McCourty (two interceptions, team-high seven passes defensed) and rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes (second in tackles).

The Patriots have done a fabulous job with backfield overachievers BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Each has caused damage in his own way. Green-Ellis has rushed for six touchdowns. Woodhead has two rushing touchdowns and one receiving, giving the Jets castoff more end-zone appearances this year than Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Shonn Greene, Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller.

Midseason MVP: Tom Brady not only is the Patriots MVP so far, he's also among the top candidates for the league honor. The Patriots' offense isn't as good without Moss, but the fact they've kept winning despite that trade shows how important Brady's leadership is.

Outlook: The Patriots never seem unprepared for any situation and adapt on the fly like no other team in the league. After a decade of winning, one of the safest assumptions is Bill Belichick and Brady will figure out what's wrong and make the necessary corrections. What they have going for them most of all was the ability to bag victories through the first half of the season, particularly coming from behind to beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime and holding on to beat the San Diego Chargers. At 6-2, the Patriots have wiggle room to help them through any turbulence down the homestretch.

Bye week inventory: New England Patriots

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
9:47
AM ET
A look at the New England Patriots heading into their bye weekend ...

Reason for hope: The Patriots went into their break with an emphatic reminder they must be taken seriously as a division contender. They showed their resourcefulness with a gargantuan special-teams performance to compensate for a questionable defense in Monday night's victory over the Miami Dolphins.

[+] EnlargeBenJarvus Green-Ellis
Doug Murray/Icon SMIBenJarvus Green-Ellis is averaging 5.45 yards per carry over the past two games.
Wes Welker still isn't 100 percent recovered from his knee injury, but he's close enough to be dangerous. The Patriots seem to have morphed successfully into a base offense that includes two tight ends about 60 percent of the time. Rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are contributors already. BenJarvus Green-Ellis might be the running back Patriots fans have been awaiting for a few years. And as long as Tom Brady is at quarterback and Bill Belichick is running the program, it's foolish to count them out.

Cause for concern: The Patriots can't depend on 100-yard kickoff returns and 21 points off special teams to bail them out every week. Pass defense remains the biggest question mark. They rank 28th at 272.2 yards allowed per game. The secondary needs to get settled. Inexperienced cornerbacks Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler need to grow up quickly. A pass rush needs to come from somewhere. They've registered seven sacks.

The subtraction of Randy Moss from the offense will weaken New England. It won't be able to stretch the field like before. Defenses can key on Welker more. As effective as Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have been out of the backfield, the Patriots will miss injured veteran Kevin Faulk.

Time to heal: The Patriots' active roster is in decent shape. Running back Fred Taylor certainly could use a week off to help overcome his toe problem. Welker's knee certainly will benefit, too. Left guard Nick Kaczur has the most serious injury. He's recovering from back surgery, and Belichick recently said Kaczur was doing well in his recovery. Cornerback Terrence Wheatley is nearing a return from a foot injury late in preseason.

AccuScore forecast: The Patriots are projected to win 10 games, with a 33 percent chance to claim the division title and a 61 percent chance to reach the playoffs.

Brandon Marshall an uncaged force

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
8:00
PM ET
Brandon MarshallJoel Auerbach/Getty ImagesBrandon "The Beast" Marshall gets so intense before games, coordinator Dan Henning is working with him to dial it back so he conserves evergy.
Before a game, Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall becomes an animal.

Marshall loves being known as "The Beast," a persona developed over three straight seasons of 100-plus catches. He has dubbed the section that overlooks the players' tunnel in Sun Life Stadium's west end zone "Beast Alley" and expends considerable energy exhorting fans to reach full froth with him.

"He's a high-anxiety, high-energy guy," Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "You ought to see him before the game. He's like a caged tiger. I mean, literally like a caged tiger."

Rather than throw raw meat at Marshall, the Dolphins have been flinging tanned cowhide in his direction. At any point from opening kickoff until the game clock expires, he's hungry.

In one of the NFL's bigger offseason moves, the Dolphins acquired Marshall to unlock all sorts of new offensive possibilities.

After a relatively tame first two games, the Dolphins finally unleashed their manimal last week, and there's no reason to think he'll be subdued Monday night against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

"The guy is a monster," Buffalo Bills cornerback Terrence McGee said before he faced Marshall on opening day. "He's one of the best receivers in the league, so you've definitely got to expect they're going to throw him the ball. That's what they brought him there for."

Marshall showed in Week 3 why the Dolphins traded a pair of second-round draft choices to the Denver Broncos and then signed him to a beastly four-year, $47.5 million extension.

With quarterback Chad Henne throwing for a career-high 363 yards, Marshall had 10 catches for 166 yards and his first Dolphins touchdown in a home loss to the New York Jets. The yardage tied for the second most of Marshall's career.

Marshall also ran twice for 3 yards and made his first Wildcat cameos. Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown tried to throw deep to him once.

"He's definitely a go-to player for them," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall. "They get the ball to him in a lot of different situations.

"He's big. He's like a tight end. He's huge for a receiver. He can go up and get the ball. He's a strong runner with the ball in his hands and good after the catch. He's got good speed, good quickness, good receiving skills. He's a tough guy to match up against."

The best way to negate The Beast might be when he tuckers himself out.

One of the hot topics in South Florida the past week was Marshall's energy level against the Jets in the sweltering heat. Henning revealed Marshall was so drained in the first half Sunday night that he went to the locker room early to receive intravenous fluids.

NFL Network analysts Sterling Sharpe, Solomon Wilcots and Mike Mayock faulted Marshall's lack of effort on the final set of downs with the Dolphins desperate for a touchdown. Marshall got them to the Jets' 11-yard line with a 30-yard catch and run but then disappeared over the next four downs.

"He's on the field, and he's wound up really tight before the game," Henning said. "So we're working on that, to try to get him to be patient and utilize all that energy in the game and not expend it too soon."

Said Marshall: "I'm just so passionate, and I guess when we get on that football field a lot of emotions come out, and I just turn into a different person. I think that's what helps me be successful in my young career."

It might be tough to get Marshall settled down for the Patriots because their secondary likely is causing him to drool.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireBrandon Marshall had eight catches, including two for touchdowns, in the Broncos' 20-17 win over the Patriots last season.
Conditions are right for Marshall and Henne to have another gigantic game.

For the Denver Broncos last year, Marshall had eight receptions for 64 yards and both touchdowns in a 20-17 overtime victory over the Patriots, whose secondary was more stable then compared to now.

The Patriots' pass defense has been lenient so far and chaotic in terms of personnel. Veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden and safety Brandon McGowan were placed on injured reserve, ending their seasons before they began. Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather lost his starting job in Week 2. Cornerback Darius Butler lost his last week.

Belichick said limiting Marshall's infamous yards after the catch is "a top priority."

The Patriots' defense has allowed an NFL-high seven touchdown passes. It has surrendered at least two in each game. Quarterbacks have completed 69.4 percent of their attempts, are averaging 260.3 yards and have a 101.3 passer rating against New England.

You can expect Marshall's appetite to be voracious, whether it's Henne throwing the ball or even Brown.

"Oh, absolutely," Marshall said. "I want the ball every play. What receiver doesn't?"

Video: John Clayton's AFC East Huddle

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
3:38
PM ET

ESPN.com's John Clayton analyzes the state of the AFC East in Week 4.

Fitzpatrick switch could be Buffalo's tonic

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
8:33
PM ET
The Buffalo Bills are reeling. They're 0-2 and already being mentioned as the NFL's worst team. Their next opponents, the New England Patriots, have won 13 straight games and never have lost to the Bills in Gillette Stadium.

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireRyan Fitzpatrick will attempt to take advantage of a shaky New England secondary.
Furthermore, the Bills switched quarterbacks this week. Trent Edwards has been benched. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start.

And it just might be crazy enough to work.

The Bills are 14-point underdogs for Sunday's game, but maybe -- just maybe -- Fitzpatrick can do what head coach Chan Gailey hoped when he said he was looking for a spark.

Edwards (aka Captain Checkdown) would not have tested a suspect Patriots pass defense. Fitzpatrick probably will. He's not timid about pushing downfield. Fitzpatrick called an audible and hooked up with Terrell Owens for a 98-yard touchdown last year.

"He's completely different than Trent and just a completely different quarterback," said Bills receiver Lee Evans, who Edwards failed to complete a pass to last week against the Green Bay Packers. Fitzpatrick "does things that sometimes you may not advise, but he just plays. ... He's very witty and he just plays, so with that you have a chance."

I asked Evans what he meant by Fitzpatrick's inadvisable plays.

"Just to the fact that against certain coverages, sometimes he feels like he can fit a ball in, and he'll try and it’s basically just that simple," Evans said. "He just feels the game and reacts off instinct."

Fitzpatrick's instincts should tell him to test the Patriots' secondary.

Left cornerback Devin McCourty is a rookie. Right cornerback Darius Butler was pulled from the fourth quarter of last week's loss to the New York Jets. Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather is in Bill Belichick's doghouse.

Quarterback isn't the only position change Gailey has made. Mark Ludwiczak of CBSSports.com first reported the Bills have replaced No. 2 receiver Steve Johnson with Roscoe Parrish, a trickier proposition for the Patriots.

Belichick said Evans and Parrish are "big-time threats" and "we know those guys can do a lot of damage with the ball in their hands."

And perhaps Gailey will be able to feature rookie running back C.J. Spiller in a new way.

"I'm excited for the opportunity," Fitzpatrick said. "Like I said the past few days, I'm looking to take advantage if it's there, but it’s not one of those where you've got to go out there and throw for 600 yards and throw it downfield every play.

"It's 'How are we going to win this football game?' And whatever that takes, if we have to run the ball on every snap, if we have to throw it deep, whatever it takes is what we're going to do and we're looking to get a win."

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
10:03
AM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeBraylon Edwards
Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMIBraylon Edwards will not start in Sunday's game against Miami.
Braylon Edwards, Jets receiver: If not for what transpired Tuesday morning, Edwards would be listed among the "Rising" this week. He had a big game Sunday against the Patriots, making several clutch receptions for first downs, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Then he allegedly scored again, this time a 0.16 on a breathalyzer, and brought more shame on the Jets at a time when they're trying to get their frat house in order.

Chan Gailey, Bills head coach: He's a coach who has shown creativity in generating yards and points everywhere he has been. But he hasn't found any traction in Buffalo. He already has benched Trent Edwards, the quarterback he coached to be the starter all summer. Star rookie C.J. Spiller has 9 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards and no touchdowns. The other two backs Gailey gushed about -- Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson -- have combined for 135 yards and one touchdown. Lee Evans, one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers, had zero receptions Sunday.

Darius Butler, Patriots cornerback: Bill Belichick yanked him from the game Sunday. Braylon Edwards' aforementioned big game came at Butler's expense. He also had a rough afternoon against the Bengals in Week 1, but that was glossed over by the Patriots' victory. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't Daryle Lamonica, but he does like to go deep more than Trent Edwards. If Butler is on Evans this week, the Bills certainly will test him.

RISING

Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: He rebounded from his least-productive game as a pro to have his best day. He posted a career-high 124.3 passer rating, threw three touchdown passes for the first time and completed 70 percent of his attempts.

Mike Nolan, Dolphins defensive coordinator: The Dolphins have scored only two offensive touchdowns, but they are 2-0 because Nolan's defense has been that good. Adrian Peterson gashed them for much of Sunday's game in the Metrodome, but the Dolphins came up with a great goal-line stand. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre committed four turnovers: two interceptions to Jason Allen, another to Vontae Davis and a fumble Koa Misi recovered for a big touchdown (see below).

Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker: One of Miami's biggest question marks was whether their young pass-rushers could replace the production of free-agent departures Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Wake has done a nice job so far. He has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the end zone that was recovered for the decisive touchdown in Sunday's 14-10 victory over the Vikings.

Braylon Edwards arrest raises new issues

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
9:41
AM ET
Two nights after Braylon Edwards turned in one of his best performances as a New York Jet, he embarrassed them.

Edwards was arrested for drunken driving early Tuesday morning. The New York Post reported Edwards' Range Rover was pulled over at 5:15 a.m. for having overly tinted windows. According to the Post, Edwards scored a .16 on a breathalyzer test.

Edwards
Edwards had helped the Jets overcome a tumultuous week in which the organization was accused of being too undisciplined. The NFL investigated a highly publicized incident with a female reporter, a situation for which Jets owner Woody Johnson publicly apologized. Then they had a 15-flag loss to the Baltimore Ravens on opening night.

In Sunday's feel-good victory over the New England Patriots, he caught five passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He converted some critical third downs and caught a two-point conversion. He abused Patriots cornerback Darius Butler to the point Patriots coach Bill Belichick removed Butler from the game.

Now this.

The Jets could bench Edwards and probably would be wise to do so in light of indications the organization lets its players get away with too much.

The NFL also could suspend Edwards if he already is in their substance-abuse program, which we would not know after the first offense because it's confidential for first-time offenders. The second offense carries a four-game suspension.

Jets receiver Santonio Holmes is halfway through his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, a sentence handed down when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We are very disappointed in Braylon's actions this morning," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. "The Player Protect program is in place for our organization to prevent this situation. Braylon is aware of this program and showed poor judgment.

"We are reviewing the information with the league and will impose the appropriate disciplinary measures."

The Player Protect program provides rides for players when they've had too much to drink or find themselves in a bad situation.

Next up for the Jets are the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins are 2-0 and swept the season series over the Jets last year.

video

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider