AFC East: Davone Bess

QBs Tannehill, Weeden under spotlight

September, 5, 2013
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill played against Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden several times in college. However, Tannehill only views his record as 0-1 against Weeden.

“The other times I was playing receiver,” Tannehill said this week. “It was a good game. We lost by two points, I think.”

Tannehill (Texas A&M) and Weeden (Oklahoma State) played in the Big 12 conference for four years together from 2008-11. But as Tannehill mentioned, he started his college career as a wide receiver and transitioned to quarterback for his final year and a half. Weeden’s Cowboys beat Tannehill’s Aggies, 30-29, in their only meeting in 2011 -- Tannehill was off by one point -- and both quarterbacks were drafted in the first round one year later.

Tannehill and Weeden are the forgotten quarterbacks of the famed 2012 draft class. They didn’t put up the same numbers as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson as rookies. But Miami and Cleveland’s quarterbacks both showed flashes.

They will face off for the first time in the NFL when the Dolphins travel to play the Browns on Sunday. If both players develop into franchise quarterbacks, this could be the first of several meetings in the pros.

“Brandon is a great guy, got to know him a little bit after we were done playing,” Tannehill said. “I think it was in New York and at the Manning Camp. He’s a great guy, a lot like me, and I know he wants to be good.”

A lot will be on the shoulders of both quarterbacks. The front seven on defense is a strength for Cleveland and Miami, which means Tannehill and Weeden must make plays with their arms at some point to be successful.

Former Dolphin and current Browns slot receiver Davone Bess caught passes from Tannehill and Weeden in the past year and sees potential in both players.

“They are two different players, and a big part of that is they’re in two different systems,” Bess said this week in a conference call. “I would say from a mental standpoint they are both sharp players, very poised and don’t get too high and too low. Those are great attributes to win in this league. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other in any particular category.”

Tannehill and Weeden will both be under the spotlight on Sunday. The Dolphins and Browns hope they have the right quarterbacks, and a good performance right away in Week 1 would be a step in the right direction.
NFL football will return in about one month when the Miami Dolphins take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 3. That means the regular season also is just around the corner.

With that in mind, let's take an early peek at Week 1 matchups and see which AFC East teams are best positioned to get off to a fast start.

No. 1: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Storylines: This is a big game to kick off the AFC East season. The Patriots have owned the Bills over the years. However, Buffalo may be catching New England at the right time. The Patriots are reeling after back and arm surgeries to Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is questionable for Week 1, and cutting star tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was charged for murder and faces five additional gun charges. New England also will be using a new cast of receivers around quarterback Tom Brady this year, and it could take time to get on the same page. Considering the excitement of a home opener and first game under new Bills coach Doug Marrone, this could be a tricky first game for New England.

Very early favorite: Patriots

No. 2: Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns

Storylines: This is an underrated game involving two young teams with a lot to prove. It also involves an interesting battle of two second-year quarterbacks: Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden. These were two players from the famed 2012 quarterback class that few people talk about on a national scale. The new-look Dolphins spent more than $200 million in free agency and need to get off to a fast start amid high expectations. Miami also will get to face former Dolphins receiver Davone Bess, who was traded to Cleveland this spring.

Very early favorite: Dolphins

No. 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets

Storylines: This game will be hyped by the fact that star cornerback Darrelle Revis is expected to make his Tampa debut and return to New York against the Jets. It’s a perfect recipe for disaster if you're the Jets. New Jets general manager John Idzik traded Revis to their Week 1 opponent, and Revis gets a chance to kick off New York’s season with a loss. Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith have not provided any optimism in organized team activities and minicamp that they can attack Revis. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is in a must-win year and has to come up with a wise strategy.

Very early favorite: Buccaneers
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday the AFC East:
  • New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was not pleased with quarterback Mark Sanchez's three interceptions in practice Wednesday.
Morning take: It is easy to say it’s just practice. But Sanchez is in a four-way competition and needs to begin separating himself if he wants to claim the starting job. Three interceptions will not cut it.
Morning take: It is good for Buffalo’s rookie quarterback and receiver to work together. Perhaps the two will also bond on the field and have good chemistry.
  • The New England Patriots claimed another former Rutgers player off waivers: offensive tackle Kevin Haslam.
Morning take: That brings the Patriots up to eight former Rutgers players on the roster, the most of any college. Belichick has strong ties to the school and is taking advantage of the inside knowledge.
Morning take: Miami has to fill a void left by the trade of Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns. Gibson is not a natural slot receiver, but he’s probably the third-best receiver on Miami’s roster.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: Miami is four deep at wide receiver and could use the extra pick in the NFL draft, which begins tonight, to help fill out another position. The Cleveland Browns reportedly are interested. If the value is right, I have no issue with this move.
Morning take: This is a luxury move for New York. The team can use depth at tailback but is not looking for a starter. If the price is too high, the Jets can get an extra running back later in the draft.
Morning take: Rhodes would be solid value for New England. I would prefer the Patriots to draft a receiver, but cornerback would be the second or third position on my list.
  • Will the Buffalo Bills take Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the No. 8 overall pick?
Morning take: I just don’t see this happening. Buffalo could take a quarterback high in the first round, which I think would be a mistake. But Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith appear more likely with the Bills' first pick than Manuel.
We are nearly a month into free agency, which means most of the major signings are complete.

So let's take a look at updated salary-cap space for the AFC East. The latest numbers were provided this week by the NFLPA:
Unlike 2012, the Bills have been very cautious in free agency this year. Buffalo didn't do much in the beginning but signed some players in the second wave, like quarterback Kevin Kolb and defensive tackle Alan Branch. Buffalo still has decent room left to make quality signings. But it appears the Bills are more focused on building through the draft under first-year head coach Doug Marrone.

New York entered the offseason tied to a lot of bad contracts. But first-year general manager John Idzik did a solid job of gutting the team to get under the cap. The problem now in New York is fielding a competitive team. The Jets signed a few bargain-basement players but haven't done much in free agency. Expect a few more cuts or trades for cap relief. Star cornerback Darrelle Revis and popular backup quarterback Tim Tebow are the most likely targets.

The Patriots have been an interesting team in free agency. A contract extension with quarterback Tom Brady provided some room to make quality free-agent signings such as Adrian Wilson, Danny Amendola, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib. With just $10.3 million left, the Patriots most likely are done with major signings.

The Dolphins entered the offseason with more than $40 million in cap room and spent it freely on big-name free agents such as Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Brent Grimes, Dustin Keller and Philip Wheeler. Miami now has the lowest amount of cap room remaining in the AFC East at $8.26 million. I expect the Dolphins to make a couple more trades or roster cuts this offseason to provide some cap relief. Candidates include wide receiver Davone Bess and cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East:
  • Former NFL receiver Terrell Owens is working out with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at USC. Is Owens angling for a job with the Patriots?
Morning take: I doubt it. New England could use a veteran wide receiver -- but the Chad Johnson experiment didn't go well, and I expect the Patriots to learn from that mistake.
  • Are the Buffalo Bills rebuilding in 2013?
Morning take: I like to say they're a team in transition. Any time you have a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator and new quarterback, it will take time to get on the same page.
Morning take: The Jets have a lot of needs -- so chances are they can get both. The draft is the best way for the salary-cap-strapped franchise to improve the roster this year.
Morning take: The Dolphins have more than enough receivers. When Davone Bess is fourth on the depth chart, it's a deep group.

Eight in the Box: WR status check

March, 29, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver, and what still needs to be done?

Buffalo Bills: The Bills are decent -- but not great -- at wide receiver. The biggest thing in Buffalo's favor is the team has a consistent threat in Steve Johnson. He is the only receiver currently in the AFC East with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Johnson may not be a game-breaker, but he is productive. The biggest issue for the Bills is getting someone to successfully pair with Johnson. Buffalo let go of slot receiver David Nelson and former starter Donald Jones, who signed with the Patriots. The Bills still have high hopes for 2012 third-round pick T.J. Graham, who was inconsistent as a rookie. Buffalo still needs to find a more consistent starter via the draft or free agency.

Miami Dolphins: Entering the offseason, this was Miami's biggest weakness. Several weeks later, it's one of the team's deepest areas. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland did a solid job of landing wide receivers in free agency. First, Ireland re-signed 2012 leading receiver Brian Hartline. Then, Ireland went out and landed former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace and former St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson. The Dolphins are now four deep at the position with Wallace, Hartline, Gibson and slot receiver Davone Bess. Add to the group new pass-catching tight end Dustin Keller, and you have a formidable cast of skill players around second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

New England Patriots: The Patriots lost two starting receivers from last season. They cut Brandon Lloyd and allowed Wes Welker to leave to the Denver Broncos in free agency. New England signed Danny Amendola to replace Welker in the slot, but the outside positions remain open. As we mentioned earlier, the Patriots signed Jones from Buffalo. New England also added 10-year veteran Michael Jenkins this week. But is that enough? The additions of Jones and Jenkins most likely reduce the chances of Lloyd's return to New England. The only exception would be if Lloyd got very little interest elsewhere and would be willing to re-sign with the Patriots on a team-friendly contract. New England also could take a receiver high in the draft. Some of the possibilities include Keenan Allen of Cal, Baylor's Terrance Williams or Aaron Dobson of Marshall.

New York Jets: The Jets have questions at wide receiver, but the hope in New York is that answers are already on the roster. Former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes is returning from a season-ending foot injury, and the Jets are counting on Holmes to still be a No. 1 receiver. Also, 2012 second-round pick Stephen Hill has size and speed but was inconsistent as a rookie. The Jets expect Hill to make the jump in his second season. If all goes well with these two players, New York should be decent at receiver. Jeremy Kerley proved last year that he's solid, but he's best in the slot. The Jets need a little luck and good health at the position to be competitive in 2013. Adding another receiver via the draft for depth purposes wouldn't be a bad idea.
In one week, the Miami Dolphins went from one of the least threatening passing offenses in the NFL to one of the league’s deepest and most formidable.

The Dolphins spent a lot of resources at receiver and tight end in free agency. They signed receivers Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller to boost their air attack.

Miami’s receivers were last in the NFL with three touchdowns in 2012. Wallace and Gibson combined for 13 touchdowns last season and will bring those talents to Miami. Keller also added two touchdowns at tight end. Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to be smiling this week.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said he would get Tannehill upgrades at the skill positions and he delivered. Perhaps the only unknown is the future of receiver Davone Bess.

Gibson signed a three-year contract, but Bess is the only true slot receiver on the roster. If Bess isn’t traded or released, either Bess or Gibson will get little playing time as a fourth receiver next season.

But this is a good problem to have. Last year, Miami had too few receivers. This year, the Dolphins have too many.

Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland wasn't kidding when he said he would get young quarterback Ryan Tannehill more weapons.

The Dolphins signed former St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon Gibson on Friday, the team announced. Gibson is the third offensive skill player Miami has added since free agency began. The Dolphins also signed speedy receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Dustin Keller this week.

Miami's new-look offense looks formidable. Tannehill proved he could make all the throws last season. He led the Dolphins to a 7-9 record despite not having many playmakers to work with. That will change this season.

Gibson is a quality third receiver to go with likely starters Wallace and Brian Hartline. In 2012, Gibson had 51 receptions for 691 yards and five touchdowns for the Rams.

"We are happy that Brandon is joining the team,” Ireland said in a statement Friday. “Coupled with the earlier addition today of Dustin Keller, we feel that we have added some very good pieces to our passing game."

The signing of Gibson leaves open one question: What is the future of slot receiver Davone Bess? He recorded 61 receptions for the Dolphins last season, but new additions may put his roster spot in jeopardy.

The Dolphins proved this week that they aren't afraid to cut in-house veterans after signing outside free agents. The team recently released veteran linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett after signing big-name free agents Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler.
It should be an exciting week with the start of NFL free agency. Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC East: Morning take: New England could use another pass-rusher. Harrison won't come cheap. The Patriots have bigger needs on defense and need to use their resources in the secondary.
Morning take: Buffalo has most of the leverage after using the one-year franchise tag. But with free agency set to begin, extension talks with Byrd will be put on hold for a while.
Morning take: Gibson sounds like Mike Wallace insurance. The Dolphins already re-signed Brian Hartline and have Davone Bess in the slot. If Wallace signs elsewhere, Gibson could be Plan B.
  • The New York Jets could target Dallas Cowboys free agent linebacker Victor Butler.
Morning take: Butler was a backup in Dallas, and the Jets are looking for cheaper alternatives. The Jets do not have the cap room to make a splash in free agency and need to get creative with less-proven players like Butler.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week's topic: Who should be the primary target (including trades) for each team when free agency begins?

Buffalo Bills: Buffalo has quite a bit of money to spend in free agency and few of its own players should be top priorities, with the exception of franchised safety Jairus Byrd and guard Andy Levitre, who should be the most sought-after free agent at his position. Bringing Levitre back should be a focus, and Buffalo could use more pieces on defense, but the Bills really need to add offensive weapons (especially if they plan to select a quarterback early in the 2013 draft). There are a lot of tight ends on the market and in the upcoming draft class, but free-agent wideout Greg Jennings would be my No. 1 target. Jennings is an established receiver who could legitimize the passing attack. The presence of Jennings would also allow Steve Johnson to see more favorable coverage matchups.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have a lot of money to work with and should be one of the most active teams in free agency. On defense, cornerback and an edge pass-rusher are areas of need, but this offseason needs to be all about building around second-year franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That would put Jennings in play here, too, but Steelers wideout Mike Wallace is younger and his fantastic speed would complement Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, who has reportedly agreed to a five-year contract to stay in Miami. Wallace also would allow Tannehill to show off his big arm downfield and help create room for Miami’s running game. And with Anthony Fasano also a free agent, Miami needs to address the tight end spot as well.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have plenty of cap room to be aggressive in free agency and improve an already-stacked roster, but they also have major contributors of their own whose contracts are up. The Tom Brady/Bill Belichick window could be closing in the near future, so expect the Pats to go all-in to upgrade their roster, which could possibly include trading backup quarterback Ryan Mallett for more draft picks that could further improve New England’s young core. The Pats’ roster could look much different next season, but former New England standout defensive lineman Richard Seymour would be a great guy to pursue. Seymour is familiar with how Belichick does things and the defense as a whole. He is getting on in age, but maybe the Patriots can get him at a slight discount. Because of the defensive tackles they presently have on the roster, New England would not have to play Seymour a high number of snaps, which could appeal to the veteran and allow him to stay fresh throughout the season. Seymour’s interior pass-rush skills would help a defense that lacks consistent interior push.

New York Jets: Considering their salary-cap situation, it is possible the Jets will be without cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie next season, which opens up yet another hole on a roster that needs a lot of work. On offense, the Jets needs to improve at the skill positions, and bringing back stalwart guard Brandon Moore also would be wise for this run-first team. Quarterback is a massive need, but there isn't an obvious name to meet that need right now. However, Rex Ryan's brother, Rob, coached outside linebacker Victor Butler in Dallas. Although Butler was a backup to DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer in Dallas' 3-4 scheme, he was very productive when called upon. Butler is young, the arrow is pointing up and the Jets' pass rush desperately needs a boost from the outside linebacker position. With the Jets' cap constraints, Butler would be the perfect option to fill that need at a reasonable price.

Dolphins sign kicker Nate Kaeding

December, 21, 2012
The Miami Dolphins signed veteran kicker Nate Kaeding, the team announced Friday. Incumbent kicker Dan Carpenter was hampered by a groin injury and placed on injured reserve.

Keading is a former two-time Pro Bowl selection with the San Diego Chargers. He will replace Carpenter for the rest of the season.

Miami has been fortunate with injuries all season, but the injury bug is hurting the team in December. In addition to Carpenter, Miami could be without starting wide receivers Davone Bess and/or Brian Hartline, who are dealing with back injuries.

The Dolphins will host the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

Wes Welker is racking up the YAC

November, 8, 2012
Wes Welker is not the biggest or fastest receiver in the NFL. In fact, he’s one of the smallest at 5-foot-9 and would probably lose to half of NFL receivers in a foot race.

However, the New England Patriots Pro Bowl receiver is using his quickness and smarts to get open -- wide open. Welker leads the AFC in yards after catch.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, 374 of Welker’s 736 yards this season have been gained after the catch. This is an impressive stat because Welker is not a deep threat. Most of his catches are short gains across the middle of the field, and Welker has to find holes in the defense and make defenders miss.

Welker only trails Minnesota Vikings speedy receiver Percy Harvin, who has 528 yards after the catch. Harvin has made huge plays this season and averages 8.5 in YAC.

Welker, who is playing on a one-year franchise tag, continues to increase his value ahead of free agency. He leads New England with 60 receptions.

Here are the AFC East YAC leaders at the midpoint of the season:
  1. Patriots WR Welker, 374 yards
  2. Bills RB C.J. Spiller, 259 yards
  3. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, 225 yards
  4. Dolphins RB Reggie Bush, 174 yards
  5. Dolphins WR Davone Bess, 165 yards

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 17, Rams 14

October, 14, 2012

MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the Dolphins' 17-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

What it means: After a slow 1-3 start, the Dolphins have won two in a row to climb back to .500 (3-3). Miami is overachieving beyond most people's expectations. This is projected to be a rebuilding year with a rookie quarterback, but Miami is a tough out each week and starting to win close games.

Tannehill stands tall: The Rams' defense knows how to get after the quarterback. One week after sacking Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb nine times, St. Louis sacked Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill two times and hit him three additional times. But Tannehill stood tall and fought back with 185 yards and two touchdown passes. Tannehill's passer rating was 112.0.

Third option: All season, the Dolphins have been waiting for a third receiver to step up opposite starters Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. It turns out Marlon Moore finally shows up in Week 6. Moore recorded three receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown. Opponents are focusing so much more on Hartline and Bess that it opens up opportunities for other players like Moore to step up.

Good field goal karma: This season, it has been the Dolphins missing key field goals. But that luck changed on Sunday, as the Rams missed two big attempts that were costly in the first half. St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein was 2-for-5, and the trio of misses haunted the Rams. Miami kicker Dan Carpenter, who has struggled this season, made his only field goal attempt.

What's next: The Dolphins have a much-needed bye week to rest and get healthy. Miami will play three of its next four games on the road, and it starts with a big division road game Oct. 28 against the rival New York Jets. New York won the first meeting in a 23-20 overtime thriller in Week 3.
The Miami Dolphins released the best receiver in their training camp Sunday night, cutting six-time Pro Bowler Chad Johnson after he was charged with domestic abuse. He was on pace to be the No. 1 receiver in Miami's new West Coast offense.

So what's next for Miami’s passing game? That is the big question facing first-year Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

Here is a look at Miami’s remaining receivers:
It's not a star-studded group -- but it's what the Dolphins are left with after cutting Johnson. The Dolphins clearly didn’t feel the 34-year-old veteran was worth the headache and distraction he brought to the locker room.

But someone from this group must step up. Hartline, Naanee and Bess are the most proven; they will get the first chance. After that, younger receivers like Wallace, Pruitt and Gates have a chance to finally live up to their potential.

The Dolphins set an example of character over talent by cutting Johnson. But it’s a decision Miami also has to live with on the field.