AFC East: Derek Hagan
Most significant move: The Bills kept four quarterbacks on their roster -- sort of. Buffalo retained backup Tyler Thigpen to be the emergency quarterback behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and No. 2 quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. This is surprising because the Bills worked the versatile Brad Smith extensively at quarterback this offseason. But it appears the Bills aren’t fully comfortable with Smith as the No. 3 quarterback at the moment. Another significant move decision was to release three productive wide receivers. Marcus Easley, Naaman Roosevelt and Derek Hagan were all competing for the No. 2 receiver role behind starter Steve Johnson. Different receivers made plays at different times, but no one in this trio really stepped up to claim a starting role. It turns out Buffalo parted ways with all three and will stick with Donald Jones as the starter opposite Johnson. But cutting Easley, Roosevelt and Hagan certainly affects Buffalo’s depth at wide receiver.
Onward and upward: Perhaps the player cut by the Bills who will be most sought after in free agency will be defensive tackle Dwan Edwards -- a solid player who could be a starter on some teams. But Buffalo has two stud defensive tackles in Marcell Dareus and a now-healthy Kyle Williams. The Bills would’ve liked to keep Edwards, but chances are his salary was too much for the role Buffalo had in mind for him in 2012. Edwards should have no problem finding a new team. Solid defensive tackles are hard to find.
What’s next: The Bills’ starters are set. This is a team that spent a lot of money and resources in free agency and the draft to put together a roster to try to compete with the New England Patriots in the AFC East. The only question now is depth. Does Buffalo have enough quality backups to sustain through injuries? That will be the focus as the team scans the waiver wires this weekend.
Here are some notes and observations:
- It was a up-and-down day for starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Quarterbacks coach David Lee has really worked on Fitzpatrick's fundamentals to build consistency, but it's still a work in progress. A perfect example on Tuesday was when Fitzpatrick's deep pass to receiver Derek Hagan went for a touchdown in team drills. And the very next play Fitzpatrick threw an interception. That's been the story of Fitzpatrick's career. He led the NFL in interceptions in 2011. If Fitzpatrick reduces his turnovers, the Bills should be in better position to win games. Fitzpatrick had a solid day overall, minus a few throws.
- Speaking of Hagan, Buffalo's receivers made some plays. Hagan and rookie receiver T.J. Graham both stood out. They are among several receivers competing for the No. 2 receiver slot in training camp. Hagan got good separation throughout the day, while Graham made some catches over the middle. It appears different receivers are making plays on different days for Buffalo.
- Buffalo has a variety of options at punt return. Running back C.J. Spiller, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and receiver Donald Jones all fielded kicks on Tuesday. Spiller and McKelvin are probably the favorites.
- The play of the day came from backup quarterback/receiver Brad Smith. He threw a beautiful deep ball to receiver David Clowney that earned cheers from the crowd. Both Smith and Clowney were former teammates with the New York Jets.
- Bills coach Chan Gailey had a message for the team after practice. He wants his team to said, “Be the best we can be every day.” Gailey acknowledged to his team that Buffalo has the talent. But hard work is what will set teams apart.
The Bills actually were the AFC East's most efficient club when it came to drafting starters since Modrak came aboard in 2002.
Several factors certainly play into that from team to team. Importance of the position, holes that allow for immediate contributions and reliance on free agents to fill out a roster all make a difference. So do the number of players drafted.
But, in general, I thought it was an interesting snapshot to share. Because the research was done to put Modrak's tenure in perspective, numbers are from 2002 through the present.
First through third rounds: 28 players; 804 starts (15th)
Fourth through seventh rounds: 45 players; 417 starts (eighth)
Analysis: Among AFC East teams, only the New England Patriots generated more starts within the first three rounds. No other division opponent found more starts from the fourth round and beyond. The Bills have whiffed badly on some early picks, as noted in Thursday's story about Modrak. But they have done well in locating solid help in the later rounds, namely 1,000-yard receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round) and top cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round).
First through third rounds: 25 players; 599 starts (31st)
Fourth through seventh rounds: 43 players; 333 starts (16th)
Analysis: The Dolphins have done well with their recent first-round picks. Although receiver Ted Ginn with the ninth pick in 2007 was controversial, they found keepers with tackles Jake Long and Vernon Carey and running back Ronnie Brown. But the second and third rounds have been a wasteland: quarterbacks John Beck and Pat White, running back Lorenzo Booker, receivers Patrick Turner and Derek Hagan, linebacker Eddie Moore. Miami's best later-round pickups since 2002 have been franchise-tagged nose tackle Paul Soliai (fourth round), Pro Bowl safety Yeremiah Bell (sixth round) and tight end Randy McMichael (fourth round).
New England Patriots
First through third rounds: 31 players; 823 starts (12th)
Fourth through seventh rounds: 50 players; 379 starts (11th)
Analysis: The Patriots have found their share of gems in the later rounds, including four eventual Pro Bowlers. They picked up cornerback Asante Samuel and kicker Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round, center Dan Koppen in the fifth and quarterback Matt Cassel in the seventh. They've also done incredibly well with their first-round selections. Five of their past six first-rounders have gone to the Pro Bowl. Where the Patriots have been shaky is in the second and third rounds. They've gotten receiver Deion Branch, tight end Rob Gronkowski, tackle Sebastian Vollmer and safety Patrick Chung there, for instance, but they've also misfired with quarterback Kevin O'Connell, receivers Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson and cornerback Terrence Wheatley.
New York Jets
First through third rounds: 24 players; 766 starts (19th)
Fourth through seventh rounds: 32 players; 314 starts (18th)
Analysis: The Jets' start totals look worse because they haven't drafted as many players as the other AFC East teams. Their early round players average 32 starts, about 5 1/2 more than the Patriots. But the team that accumulated the most starts here -- the Jacksonville Jaguars with 1,172 -- averaged an extraordinary 43 per player. The Jets obviously failed with 2008 sixth overall pick Vernon Gholston and 2003 fourth overall pick Dewayne Robertson, but they've generally identified quality players inside the first three rounds, including All-Pros Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis and franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez.
|Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMI|
|Greg Camarillo might not be the prototypical NFL receiver, but he leads the Dolphins with 372 receiving yards.|
He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. He ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at his pro workout day before the draft. He wears size medium gloves.
Drive toward the illuminated light stanchions in your town on a Friday night and look through the chain-link fence. You'll see high school players who fit Camarillo's general description.
Those kids could play in the NFL, too. They almost certainly won't. If it was that easy, then Camarillo's story wouldn't be considered exceptional.
"I'm still amazed by it sometimes," Camarillo said while hunkered over a plastic plate of barbeque chicken, rice and beans at his stall in the Miami Dolphins locker room. "I wasn't supposed to be here.
"Pretty much every step of my journey I wasn't supposed to take the next step. Odds were against me. That's how my athletic career has been. I've always been the underdog, and I kind of like that."
Unrecruited, unable to score in college, not invited to the scouting combine and undrafted is not a good formula for becoming a go-to NFL target.
Yet Camarillo, who forever will be remembered as the hero who saved the Dolphins from the embarrassment of a winless season last year, leads them with 32 catches for 372 yards and a touchdown.
He has more catches than last year's ninth overall draft pick (Ted Ginn) and has started every game, while a handsomely paid offseason acquisition (Ernest Wilford) and a 2006 third-round pick (Derek Hagan) watch in street clothes.
"He's a guy that from the day that I walked in the door here has done nothing but make plays," Dolphins first-year head coach Tony Sparano said. "Every practice that I'm out there, Camarillo separates from somebody, makes a play, dives for a ball, makes a great catch, beats somebody that he's not maybe on paper not supposed to beat in man-to-man coverage."
The Dolphins signed him to a four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million in guarantees. He has been a healthy scratch the past two games. They club also deactivated him for the season opener.
Wilford, who has one catch for 15 yards this year, has been a frequent topic at Dolphins coach Tony Sparano's news conferences, but Thursday's exchange with reporters was the most enlightening on why Wilford can't get on the field.
Part of Wilford's problem is he's not effective on special teams. Another reason is the Dolphins prefer to run more than throw -- Sparano said his ideal offensive balance is 40 runs and 25 passes -- and sometimes use two tight ends.
That said, Wilford's inability to get on the field is astonishing.
He hasn't been able to wedge his way into a receiving corps that includes beleaguered first-round pick Ted Ginn and three undrafted players: Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and Brandon London. London made his NFL debut this year. Bess is a rookie.
So I asked Sparano what has been lacking from Wilford, the team's highest-paid spectator.
Sparano broke the situation down in great detail.
"I don't think it's something that's lacking one way or the other," Sparano replied. "One of the things we've been fortunate with right now is that we have not had a lot of injuries. As of late, we've had a couple of injuries. [Fullback] Casey Cramer wasn't able to play last week in the ballgame. [Tight end] David Martin got dinged up a couple weeks ago in practice, but you weren't sure maybe what was going to happen at the game, so you had to take another tight end and do some of those things.
"It depends largely on what personnel you think you're going to feature in the game plan. If you're going to feature three wide receivers in the game plan, then you should take five of them. But if you're going to feature what we call 'Detroit' personnel, which is two tight ends, or our '22' personnel packages, which is heavy two tight ends, sometimes three tight ends, then you're not going to take five wide receivers. You're going to try to take the extra tight end.
"Where Ernest falls into that is 'Hey, there's Camarillo, who's been one of the most consistent guys that I've had out there right now. There's Ginn, who's getting better and better. He returned some kicks for us last week. There's Bess, who does return the punts. He has a large role on special teams that way, is the third-down guy when we go out there and we play in half personnel. So you're at three, and then there's London, who's giving me 20 plays a game. I know he's giving me 20 plays a game when I go to the game. If he doesn't play one play on offense, he's playing 20 plays.
"So, that's kind of how [Wilford], unfortunately, falls into that. No different than [2006 third-round pick Derek] Hagan. They're both working hard. That's just the way it falls."
MIAMI -- Seven weeks into the season, the Miami Dolphins still are looking for receivers they feel comfortable with.
Wilford has been inactive for three games this season, including the season opener. The Dolphins signed Wilford to a four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million in guarantees. He has one catch.
Hagan, a third-round draft choice, has been inactive three straight weeks after playing the first 35 games of his NFL career. Hagan has three catches for 51 yards.
Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano this week lauded the recent development of waiver-wire acquisition Brandon London, who will play his fourth game but has yet to make his first NFL catch. London is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.
"He's getting a whole lot better fast," Sparano said. " He's very athletic at the position, a long guy that gets on you pretty fast when he runs his routes."
London, undrafted last year out of Massachusetts, spent his rookie season on the New York Giants practice squad.
MIAMI -- Two significant scratches from this afternoon's game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
The Chargers will play without linebacker Jyles Tucker, who has played fabulously in place of the injured Shawne Merriman. Tucker has a team-leading three sacks, three quarterback hits, four tackles for losses and 18 tackles.
The Dolphins deactivated receiver Derek Hagan. The third-year pro never has missed a game. But he hasn't done much this year. He has three catches for 51 yards.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A few pregame notes from Dolphin Stadium:
- Dolphins RB Ricky Williams will get the start ahead of Ronnie Brown.
- Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo will start ahead of Derek Hagan.
- Jets WR Laveranues Coles will start.
- Jets K Mike Nugent seemed to handle kicking from the infield dirt. He was hitting them well from about 45 yards. Off the grass, he made one from 57 yards.
- Fans won't get the chance to cheer or boo Jets QB Brett Favre during introductions. Both teams have opted to come out of the tunnel as groups.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Here are some highlights of what we learned Wednesday afternoon at the Miami Dolphins practice facility:
- Head coach Tony Sparano declared OLB Joey Porter 100 percent healthy for Sunday's season opener against the New York Jets. Porter has been dealing with a back injury.
- Sparano declined to confirm if Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown would be the starter on Sunday but said Brown looked impressive today in practice.
- College walk-on, undrafted free agent and former practice squad player Greg Camarillo has supplanted Derek Hagan as the starting No. 2 WR.
- The Dolphins voted QB Chad Pennington, NT Jason Ferguson and DE Vonnie Holliday captains. Sparano will name the special teams captain each week.
There was curiosity about what role the Dolphins expected Wilford to play. Was he going to be the No. 1 receiver for a young team? Was Ted Ginn ready for that role? Would Wilford be the No. 2?
So after Wilford stopped for the paparazzi's flashbulbs and strolled toward the reporters in his tux, his wife attached to his arm, I asked what he envisioned this year.
"I'm here to do what's best for the organization," Wilford said. "If they label me No. 1 or No. 2, I don't care. I'm going to go there and try to make plays and help this organization win games."
Would you care if they wanted to label you No. 3, I joked.
"I can't never be No. 3," he said with a disdainful laugh.
Well, how about No. 4?
As Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post writes, Wilford heads into tonight's exhibition finale in a tenuous spot and might be in jeopardy of not making the 53-man roster.
The former Jacksonville Jaguar has only three receptions for 12 yards in the preseason and is listed on the depth chart as the second-string WR behind Ginn. Derek Hagan is the other starter.
But Wilford has one huge number in his favor: $6 million. That's how much guaranteed money the Dolphins gave him.
Volin reports Wilford has been brushing past reporters lately, so we don't know what's going through the veteran's mind. But Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has liked what he has seen from Wilford -- recently.
"He has practiced much better in the last 10 days," Sparano said. "It almost looks like he's got a little bit of a second wind right now. He's playing a little bit faster with more confidence."
Sorry for so many odd-hour posts, but Monday was a travel day from Jet Favre camp on Long Island to the Buffalo Bills' outpost in suburban Rochester.
Because the Bills staged a night practice I'm just now sorting through the goings on elsewhere in the AFC East.
One of the bigger stories was Chad Pennington's practice debut with the Miami Dolphins, and by all accounts he made a fine on-field impression on his new teammates. The career Jet completed 13 of 21 passes in 11-on-11 drills.
Here are the stories from the three major South Florida papers:
"Not to disrespect the guys who were in there, but Chad brings a certain presence. Everybody had a little swagger on the other side of the ball." -- CB Andre Goodman
"Obviously, with Chad here, he just brings that veteran leadership. He definitely knows what he's talking about, definitely takes command of the huddle. We've been waiting for that, looking for that and we got that with Chad." -- WR Derek Hagan
"The ball comes out on time. The receiver turns his head and it almost hit him in the face a couple of times. It's amazing to see that on Day One." -- Goodman
"He doesn't know any of us from the man on the moon. You can't say enough about his leadership in the huddle. He's really positive.'' -- G Justin Smiley
"We're kind of out of the hurtin'-people's-feelings business right now. We're getting into the real deal here. We've got to get people ready to play that we think are going to be headed to the game." -- coach Tony Sparano
And a couple words from Pennington:
"Did we even practice? Because it went by real fast. It was like a blur. I remember when I was a rookie and everything was just a blur."
"I try to remain calm on the outside, and I'm like a tornado on the inside. There are a lot of things going through my brain right now, trying to sift through some things, work through some things."
"Rome wasn't built in a day and this football team and where we want to go isn't going to be built in a day, or even a year. But that doesn't mean we can't be successful, and that doesn't mean we can't win games."
Here it is, as promised: your non-Favre mailbag.
Granted, the trade of the legendary quarterback to the New York Jets will ripple through the AFC East and couldn't be avoided when discussing how his presence will affect the Buffalo Bills' playoff chances or Chad Pennington's release.
But from this point downward, you won't read his name.
Enjoy the respite.
Dylan in Bardonia, N.Y., writes: After watching the Jets, which of the WRs do you think will make the team? Also, who looks like the favorite to start at CB across from Darrelle Revis and at safety?
Tim Graham: The top five receivers I've seen are (in order) Jerricho Cotchery, Laveranues Coles, Chansi Stuckey, Brad Smith and Wallace Wright.
It looks like Justin Miller has the edge in the CB battle opposite Revis, but Dwight Lowery has played well. Kerry Rhodes will be the free safety, while Eric Smith is ahead of Abram Elam in the strong safety battle.
Vinnie from Parts Unknown writes: What chance does S John Lynch have to become a Patriot. He would like to go with a strong contender. Hell, he even looks like a Patriot.
Tim Graham: The Patriots are trying to get younger, not get a vanload of guys together for the Early Bird Special. Besides, the Patriots already have Rodney Harrison and James Sanders, who is injured but they really like him. Sanders took the job from Eugene Wilson. Young Brandon Meriweather has been filling in admirably for Sanders.
Ryan in Port St. Lucie, Fla., writes: I love Davone Bess as a receiver for the Dolphins. Barring a Terry Glenn pickup, who are the favorites to make the team at WR? I've been hearing Derek Hagan, Ernest Wilford and Ted Ginn are locks, with Greg Camarillo and David Kircus making up the second tier.
Tim Graham: Bess has been sensational in some practices, and just OK in others. The three guarantees are Wilford, Ginn and Hagan. After that, the competition could go down to the final cuts. Kircus and Camarillo are bigger than the 5-foot-10 Bess and line up on multiple special-teams units.
Matt in Rochester, N.Y., writes: What are the chances that Bills T Jason Peters will hold out through the entire preseason and maybe into the regular season?
Tim Graham: This showdown could get ugly. I don't know how resolute the Peters camp is because they've been silent. But I do know the Bills plan to dig in their heels. The front office doesn't want to set a precedent for rewarding players who go MIA. For example, they are renegotiating WR Lee Evans' contract. He came to camp.
|Joel Auerbach/US Presswire|
|Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano on his receivers' performance in camp: "We have to keep the ball off of the ground."|
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins went into training camp with an ambiguous outlook at receiver.
There's uncertainty whether Ted Ginn Jr. or Ernest Wilford can handle the No. 1 role. Derek Hagan has questions to answer entering his third season. Free agents David Kircus, Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess are fighting to make the roster.
To hear Dolphins coach Tony Sparano tell it, the position isn't sorting itself out so far in training camp.
Sparano sounded off Wednesday about the recent abundance of drops, stimulating speculation the Dolphins will sign free agent Terry Glenn if his knee's healthy.
"To be honest with you, there were too many dropped passes [Tuesday]," Sparano said. "There were 10 in [Tuesday's] practice, and there's too many dropped passes today. Individual period today, we didn't catch the ball. I mean, we're running routes on air and we're not catching the ball.
"We go to the game [Saturday's preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers] and we don't catch the ball ... I can get anybody to do that. We really need to make sure that we're concentrating on catching the ball.
"I have not been happy with that end of the deal right now. We have to keep the ball off of the ground."
Sparano is vexed because he's making his receivers do extra work on the JUGS machines, but "at the end of the day, it's throwing and catching. Some of these guys have been doing it since they were six years old," he said.
"They've been working with these quarterbacks since the day they got here," Sparano said. "It's not like we have different quarterbacks rolling in and out of here that you have to worry about the velocity or any of those things, the ball coming out different.
"We just need to concentrate better on catching the ball. ... We need to catch the ball."
Speculation the Miami Dolphins were pursuing free-agent WR Terry Glenn didn't pan out today.
That doesn't mean the Dolphins aren't interested.
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, at his daily news conference, went out of his way to praise the receivers already on the roster. The top three are Ernest Wilford, Ted Ginn and Derek Hagan. Free agents such as David Kircus and undrafted rookie Davone Bess also have received high marks through the offseason.
Sparano's applause notwithstanding, there's room for Glenn on that roster.
And if any staff outside of the Dallas Cowboys is aware of what Glenn can do, it would be the Dolphins. Bill Parcells raided the Cowboys football operations department in the winter.
"I'm sure it makes sense that you'd be interested because we know the guy," said Sparano, the former Dallas offensive line coach and running game coordinator. "We know him. We've coached him. Bill's coached him for years. I've had him for four or five years down there in Dallas. So I know the guy."
Sparano, however, noted once he left the Cowboys in January he didn't know what happened to Glenn or what information was used when the Cowboys opted to cut him. Glenn had two surgeries on his right knee last year and missed 15 games.
But it's a safe bet Parcells and GM Jeff Ireland, another Cowboys emigre, have checked into Glenn's health for him.
"The thing that I do know, I have two people upstairs that do their due diligence on any player out there. Any player," Sparano said. "So I'm sure that Terry Glenn or anybody else would be treated the same that way.
"Jeff and Bill will do their due diligence that way. They'll turn over every stone one way or the other to try to make this football team better."
Nobody asked Sparano the obvious follow-up question:
Have the Dolphins contacted the Green Bay Packers about Brett Favre?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
New England Patriots
- LB Tedy Bruschi explains to Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti why Brett Favre should stay retired. "When you say you're going to hang it up, that's got to be your (final) decision," Bruschi said.
- Providence Journal reporter Shalise Manza Young checks in on the Tank Williams experiment. Is he a LB? He claims he's not sure.
- He wasn't exactly Steve Tasker for the Bills, but the Patriots saw enough out of WR Sam Aiken to sign him up for their special teams.
- K Stephen Gostkowski said his lack of long field-goal attempts last year was because the offense was so good it rarely left him too far away.
- Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reporter Sal Maiorana writes WR Lee Evans was staunchly behind J.P. Losman in last year's QB controversy, but Trent Edwards has won him over. Good thing because Edwards will be the one throwing him the ball.
- Losman missed Tuesday night's sloppy practice under the lights with a swollen passing thumb.
- The Bills pray DT John McCargo can overcome his faulty foot to make an impact. "We are hoping like hell that he can take that next step and play like we hoped," D-line coach Bill Kollar told the Buffalo News.
- Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote writes about RB Ricky Williams' self-reclamation project. Not many outside South Florida have addressed what, at the moment, seems a tired tale, but Williams' return will become the team's biggest storyline of '08.
- The Miami Herald headline says WR Derek Hagan is "getting rave reviews." But if he were really standing out, then they probably wouldn't be going after Terry Glenn.
- Carlos Frias of the Palm Beach Post catches up with young ILB Channing Crowder, who has the unenviable task of replacing the beloved Zach Thomas.
New York Jets
- At a time when most everybody else has been wishy-washy about the Jets' quarterback situation, Chad Pennington is refreshingly blunt. New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden is convinced Pennington should be the starter.
- Newsday beat reporter Eric Boland writes CB/KR Justin Miller is happy to be on his feet after missing much of last year's camp with a bum hammy and blowing out his right knee in Week 2.
- J.P. Pelzman of the Bergen Daily Record takes a look at G Alan Faneca's role in anchoring the Jets offensive line.
- Another big-ticket free agent, OLB Calvin Pace, is trying to overcome perceptions in Arizona he was a bust.