AFC East: Drayton Florence

Here are the most interesting stories Friday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Revis is scheduled to make $13.5 million over the next two years, which is a bargain for the best corner in football. The Jets don’t have the cap room to pay Revis market value unless they slice some salaries. For now, Revis isn't making it an issue.
Morning take: Head coach Bill Belichick felt he needed to make a change after last year’s horrific performance on defense. Patricia coached linebackers and safeties in the past and now will try to do a good job with the whole unit.
Morning take: Corners with starting experience don’t last long on the market. So it's no surprise Florence found a job quickly. He joins Peyton Manning and Co. and will contend in the AFC.
Morning take: The Dolphins are working hard to overcome low expectations. Most will pick Miami to finish last in the division, and maybe that will motivate the Dolphins.
The Buffalo Bills announced the release of veteran cornerback Drayton Florence Friday. The move paves the way for rookie first-round pick Stephon Gilmore to take over the position.

Here are several thoughts on the move:
  • Cutting Florence shows a tremendous amount of confidence in Gilmore, who has yet to play a down in the NFL. Gilmore is viewed as one of the safest and most NFL-ready players in this draft. Buffalo is ready to put him to the test after investing the No. 10 overall pick. Gilmore is projected to be a Week 1 starter.
  • Some might be surprised that Florence was cut after being one of the team's most productive corners. He recorded 50 tackles and three interceptions in 2011. However, Buffalo wants to get younger at the position and decided to cut ties with Florence, 31. Buffalo has a trio of young corners in Gilmore, Aaron Williams and Leodis McKelvin who it wants to get on the field. All were high draft picks, and the Bills are ready to see if some or all are ready for more playing time.
  • This move puts some pressure on Bills safeties George Wilson and Jairus Byrd. The Bills need their veteran safeties to take command of the secondary. Buffalo will certainly be more athletic at corner next season but lost some experience and veteran presence in Florence.

Camp Confidential: Buffalo Bills

August, 15, 2011
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Nick Barnett knew bad news was coming this summer, and he still couldn’t fully accept it. Despite his eight seasons with Green Bay, the speculation was that the Packers had to trade or release him this offseason. Barnett had been placed on injured reserve in both the 2008 and 2010 seasons, and his heir apparent, Desmond Bishop, already was in place. It was a no-brainer move to most observers, even though Barnett was still thinking about the possibility of helping the Packers repeat as Super Bowl champions. “If you read my tweets,” he said, “that’s all I kept talking about.”

These days Barnett is talking about something different -- how he can help the Bills transform one of the league’s worst defenses into a sturdy, reliable unit. No team in the NFL was worse against the run in 2010 (Buffalo allowed 169.6 yards per game), and that was one key reason the team signed Barnett so quickly after the Packers released him in late July. At 30, he still has the quickness and playmaking ability that allowed him to amass 787 tackles, 15.5 sacks and nine interceptions during his Green Bay career. He’s also aware that his energy and leadership will be invaluable to a team that lost its top tackler, Paul Posluszny, in free agency.

Bills assistant head coach and linebackers coach Dave Wannstedt said Barnett already is the team’s best linebacker. Head coach Chan Gailey has raved about his new player’s approach. “He brings experience and speed to this defense,” Gailey said. “He’s a guy who always plays fast.” Added Barnett: “I’m just trying to be myself. I haven’t played since Week 4 [a dislocated wrist ended his season] so I’m still finding my way. But the biggest thing I wanted to bring to this team was an attitude. I want to help the younger guys relax and have fun out there because that’s what I do.”

Though Barnett needed some time to accept his release from the Packers -- “I’ve never been fired from anything before,” he said -- he quickly sensed that Buffalo was the right place for him. He liked the team atmosphere, the family environment and the die-hard fans who are the city’s trademark. In many ways, Barnett felt like he was going to a place quite similar to Green Bay. “The talent level is there,” Barnett said. “But like everything, it’s going to come down to communication and attitude. If we do those things, we’ll be productive.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Will Ryan Fitzpatrick be better? Yes. Fitzpatrick was a decent quarterback in 2010 -- 3,000 yards, 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions -- especially considering that he was basically thrown into the job after the Bills gave up on former starter Trent Edwards. Fitzpatrick also has far more advantages coming into this season, despite not having an entire offseason to work with coaches. The major areas that he needs to improve? Accuracy and consistency. What he doesn’t have to worry about any longer? Proving to his teammates that he can lead this team and knowing whether the job is his alone. “Last season was interesting, but my whole career has been about being ready to show what you can do when the opportunity comes,” said Fitzpatrick, who spent his first five NFL seasons as a backup before getting his shot as a full-time starter three games into 2010. “One of the good things we have as an offense is that we have a lot of guys who’ve spent an entire season playing together and getting familiar with each other. When you look at the offenses in New England and Indianapolis, that continuity is what makes them so successful, and now we’re one step closer to that.”

[+] EnlargeShawne Merriman
Richard Mackson/US PresswireBuffalo defense is relying on Shawne Merriman to return to Pro-Bowl form.
2. Can Shawne Merriman return to an elite level? As long as he’s healthy. Right now the three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker thinks that the strained Achilles that limited him to only three games last season won’t be an issue. The bigger challenge for him is finding a comfort level after registering only four sacks over the past three seasons. The Bills are banking on his getting up to speed in a hurry. For a team that tied for 27th in the NFL in sacks last season (with 27), having a rejuvenated Merriman harassing opposing quarterbacks would be a much-needed blessing. “I don’t feel like I need to respond to people who’ve been counting me out over the last couple years because all you have to do is watch me practice,” said Merriman, who had 43.5 sacks in his first 60 career games. “It’s definitely been hard [not playing] but I also feel like I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do to get back. I can see good things happening this season.”

3. What role will C.J. Spiller play in the offense? One of the more disappointing aspects of the Bills' offense in 2010 was the lack of productivity from Spiller. Drafted ninth overall in last year’s draft, he was supposed to bring breathtaking speed and elusiveness to the Bills. Instead, Spiller wound up with only 283 rushing yards and 24 receptions in his rookie season. Those numbers should increase now that Buffalo has a less crowded backfield (the team traded Marshawn Lynch to Seattle midway through last season) and a greater sense of urgency about involving Spiller. “We need to get him more touches,” Gailey said. “We need to find more ways to get him in space so he can use that speed. He’s already grown as a runner because he’s better at running inside, and he’s shown more patience. The one thing I’d really like to see him improve on now is ball security. He had some problems with fumbles last year [Spiller had five fumbles and lost three], and we can’t have that.”

WELCOME SIGHT

Roscoe Parrish: The Bills' offensive players know that Parrish has developed into a valuable receiver after being used mainly as a returner early in his career. They realize it even more now that he’s healthy. After missing the last eight games of 2010 with a broken wrist, Parrish has been impressing teammates with his trademark speed and quickness. The explosiveness he brings to the offense after sitting out half a year also hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Now that he’s back, you remember how much he means to this offense,” Fitzpatrick said. “He really adds another dimension.”

PLAYER TO WATCH

Brad Smith: Don’t be surprised if Smith becomes a more dangerous playmaker in the Bills’ offense. He made his name as a kick returner/wide receiver/Wildcat quarterback with the New York Jets, and rule changes should allow him to increase his playing time in Buffalo. The NFL agreed to abolish the rule requiring teams to determine a third quarterback on game-day rosters -- that player could participate only in emergency situations, and his presence would prevent the team from using any other quarterback during a game. Now a player like Smith can be used far more often in Wildcat situations. Even if Smith appears as a quarterback in three or four plays a game, his involvement won’t limit his coaches’ options. “We were going to use him in a similar role anyway, but that rule really helps,” said Gailey, who has gained a reputation for finding creative roles for versatile players. “Now you don’t have to wonder about whether he needs to be listed as a third quarterback who can only play in emergency situations or if he can be used as a Wildcat quarterback whenever we like. It’s going to make a big difference.”

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
    Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesFirst round draft pick Marcell Dareus has impressed his coaches in training camp.
    Rookie defensive end Marcell Dareus hasn’t needed much time to make a strong impression on his coaches. Wannstedt called him a “special kid with the right approach to the game,” and Gailey thinks it shouldn’t take long for Dareus to prove why he was worthy of the third overall pick in this year’s draft. “He’s a big, physical guy and he’s got an edge to him,” Gailey said of Dareus, who's 6-3 and weighs 323. “You have to like that about him.”

  • Even though the Bills lost their second-best tackler from last season -- strong safety Donte Whitner -- the loss may not be as troubling as it looks. Though he was a strong presence in run support, the team thinks strong safety George Wilson can help the Bills more in the playmaking department. When Whitner was injured two years ago, the tandem of Wilson and Jairus Byrd gave the secondary a bigger boost with their pass defense skills.

  • The emphasis on stopping the run is going to put more pressure on the Bills cornerbacks this season. Gailey believes he has the personnel to handle the increased responsibility, and Terrence McGee is essential to this approach. He has spent more time covering slot receivers in training camp, which will allow Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence to handle outside receivers when the defense faces three-receiver looks.

  • Wide receiver Donald Jones is another player worth watching. When asked about teammates who have caught his eye early in training camp, Fitzpatrick said Jones had elevated his game in his second season. An undrafted rookie in 2010, Jones was a nice surprise in camp and finished with 18 receptions. This year he’s using his size and strength to make himself a tough receiver to handle at the line of scrimmage.

  • The Bills recognize that their biggest challenge this season will be learning how to change expectations. Gailey has talked about the difference between hoping to win and expecting to win, and his players believe they can make great strides. Fitzpatrick agreed that last season, too many players were worried about losing their jobs as the team transitioned into Gailey’s tenure. This year, there is far more comfort and a sense of purpose on a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999. “We definitely need to take the approach that we deserve to win,” Fitzpatrick said. “And we have a chip on our shoulders. We hear all the people talking about how tough the AFC East is, and nobody mentions our name. That can be fuel for our fire, and we have to believe we can surprise people.”

AFC East links: Baby steps for Plaxico

August, 12, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

During a radio interview Thursday, GM Buddy Nix didn't deny that Lee Evans is available on the trade market.

The New York Times' Andy Benoit has a season preview for the Bills.

The Bills still have some needs to fill, but with veterans Drayton Florence, Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin in the secondary, the team is set at cornerback.

Miami Dolphins

Coach Tony Sparano admitted the Dolphins will stick to a rudimentary game plan for the team's preseason opener. Sparano on expectations for the offense: "I don’t want to use the term vanilla, but that’s kind of where you’re going to be.”

Considering what's gone wrong for the Dolphins over the past year, they could use an image makeover, according to TCPalm.com's Ben Becker.

More details are emerging about the April incident that left both Brandon Marshall and his wife Michi-Nogami Marshall injured. According to reports, the police "found a 13-inch kitchen knife laying next to a magazine clip from a firearm on a table outside of Marshall’s office. Both were covered in blood."

New England Patriots

Receiver Taylor Price, a 2010 third-round pick, impressed Bill Belichick with his performance in Thursday night's preseason opener. Belichick on Price: "Taylor had some good plays, made a couple good catches. ... But again, he’s done some of those things in practice over the last couple weeks. It’s good to see them happen in the game, but he’s been very competitive in training camp this year. The year’s made a big difference.”

Rookie running back Stevan Ridley didn't waste any time making a big impression in his first NFL action.

Tom Brady was among a number of New England's starters would did not see any action in the opener.

New York Jets

The Associated Press has a profile on Mark Sanchez and Scotty McKnight, childhood best friends who have been reunited as teammates on the Jets.

Center Nick Mangold was fine after leaving Thursday's practice early with what was later described as a stinger.

Rex Ryan said he plans to play Plaxico Burress for a few snaps in Monday’s preseason opener with the Texans, even though Burress continues to be limited in practice due to an ankle injury.

The Star-Ledger's Conor Orr looks at Dustin Keller and the Jets' depth at tight end heading into the season.

AFC East links: Haynesworth's fresh start

August, 3, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

With a new deal in place, Drayton Florence finds himself in familiar territory.

Former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley is getting a chance to see if coaching is in his future.

Miami Dolphins

Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald: "I believe the Kyle Orton possibility is definitely not dead -- at least not yet. And I believe before this team finishes the preseason, it will find a way to stage a legit quarterback competition between [Chad] Henne and another quarterback not named Matt Moore, who is a third-stringer in my eyes."

Rookie Mike Pouncey is turning some heads in the early stages of training camp.

New England Patriots

Albert Haynesworth says his fresh start in New England provides a chance to "restore my name."

Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "The issue before the Patriots is one of risk vs. reward. Is Albert Haynesworth, this seemingly intelligent, rational man, capable of behaving himself, both in the locker room and once he ventures out into the world? His lengthy track record suggests otherwise. Is the mere act of putting on a Patriots uniform going to make him a changed man?"

New York Jets

Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh on Mark Sanchez: "He's acting like a junior in high school instead of a freshman. Freshmen are a little bit in awe and sometimes there's a false bravado. The next year, you're more comfortable and less intimidated. By junior year, you feel real good. You know everybody, everybody says 'Hi' in the hallway and you know the names of all the teachers."

Rookie defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is impressing the Jets' coaches.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC East team:

Buffalo Bills

1. Add new blood: For the most part, most of the Bills’ free-agents-to-be would not be big losses. Buffalo should have plenty of money to spend once free agency does finally open. Obviously, this has been a losing franchise for some time now, and transforming the roster and changing the culture of the organization should be a very good thing. The Bills did take a fine step in the right direction in the 2011 draft, taking several prospects from big-college programs with winning histories.

2. Keep Paul Posluszny: Although inside linebackers generally are not difficult to find, Posluszny is the type of guy Buffalo needs to keep within the organization. He is productive, tough and able to lead the defense on every down. Last season wasn’t his best, but Posluszny was fantastic in 2009, and I fully expect him to get back to that form, especially playing behind what should be a vastly improved young interior defensive line.

3. Eliminate needs: I list the Bills’ three greatest needs as left tackle, outside linebacker and tight end. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if Buffalo could knock out one or two of these needs in free agency, it would go a very long way in its rebuilding process. Jared Gaither or Doug Free could potentially fill Buffalo’s left tackle position for years to come, while Matt Light could hold down the fort and provide leadership until Chris Hairston or a future draft pick is ready. An outside linebacker such as Manny Lawson, Matt Roth or Mathias Kiwanuka could also be money very well spent to pose an edge presence opposite Arthur Moats, whom I featured in my Soon to be Stars series. Zach Miller is really the only free-agent tight end who would qualify.

Top free agents: Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Drayton Florence

Miami Dolphins

1. Add running back help: Miami used the 62nd overall pick in 2011 to select Daniel Thomas, a big, bruising runner with a lot of ability. But of course, Thomas is going to be a rookie this season, and fully counting on him to carry the load and learn the pass protections would be foolish. Miami needs a backup plan. Bringing back Ronnie Brown, or more likely, Ricky Williams, wouldn’t be a terrible situation. But just adding Brown or Williams wouldn’t be enough. Snatching up Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams would obviously be a huge addition and would push Thomas to backup status. Even bringing in a reliable back like Joseph Addai or Jason Snelling might do the trick as Thomas develops. Another option is to add a specialty player like Darren Sproles.

2. Find competition for Chad Henne: Personally, I am not ready to write off Henne. I believe in the approach that Miami has taken this offseason. The Dolphins have surrounded him with pieces to make his life much easier. But still, adding a veteran signal-caller seems like a must at this point. Suitable options include Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb or even Vince Young, who is soon to be released by Tennessee. If quarterback remains a problem after this year, then Miami needs to sell the farm to draft its next franchise quarterback. But in the meantime, this would be my approach.

3. Make a splash on D: To me, the Dolphins’ three biggest needs are quarterback, running back and then free safety. Even if Miami didn’t add a defender of any sort in free agency, I would rank its 2011 defense among the best in the NFL. I am that high on this group. But what if the Dolphins could land a real talent at free safety? Imagine the possibilities. This is a deep free-agent class of safeties. I would love to see the Dolphins sign someone like Michael Huff or especially Eric Weddle. Even adding a solid player with upside like Brodney Pool would be helpful here.

Top free agents: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Tony McDaniel, Richie Incognito, Tyler Thigpen

New England Patriots

1. Lock up Logan Mankins: Because the Patriots designated Mankins their franchise player, I didn’t include him among their top free agents. But New England does have to get him locked up. Mankins might just be the best guard in all of football. With Matt Light potentially leaving town, the Patriots cannot afford additional unrest along their offensive line. Mankins would be the ideal player to line up next to Nate Solder to help the rookie’s transition to the NFL.

2. Find a pass-rusher: I see outside linebacker as New England’s greatest need, followed distantly by wide receiver and defensive end. Although I expect Jermaine Cunningham to develop quickly into a solid starter, adding one more edge player who can be disruptive on throwing downs is something that still needs to be addressed after the team curiously ignored it in the draft. The name I like best for the Patriots here is Mathias Kiwanuka, if his health checks out. He is smart, versatile and has some experience at linebacker. Two other players who fit the bill are Matt Roth and Manny Lawson.

3. Acquire a deep threat: I am not as sold as most that New England must add a wide receiver who can stretch the field. But this is a tremendous organization, and the Pats just don’t have many needs, so picking up such a luxury player could be the difference between a Super Bowl championship or another early exit in the postseason. My favorite fit for the Patriots is Braylon Edwards. Edwards is immensely talented, and if submersed in this environment with Tom Brady throwing him the ball, he could quickly rank among the top wideouts in all of football.

Top free agents: Matt Light, Gerard Warren

New York Jets

1. Make critical decisions on their own players: The Jets have a lot of free agents, and they are one of the teams in the league with the least amount of money to spend as it stands today. New York has come very close to its goal the past couple of seasons, but this free-agency period is absolutely critical to staying among the best teams in the NFL.

2. Address wide receiver: Considering who is up for free agency, wide receiver has to be the biggest worry for the Jets right now. I greatly respect Braylon Edwards’ abilities, but Santonio Holmes is just the better player right now. In fact, I see Holmes as a top-10 wide receiver. He is incredible in the clutch. Mark Sanchez needs quality options to throw to at this point of his young career. If the Jets brought back Holmes, increased TE Dustin Keller's role and also found a bargain at wide receiver late in free agency (maybe Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco), then I think they would be OK.

3. Don’t forget about the trenches: The Jets are a physical team that is strong on both lines of scrimmage. Two of their starting offensive line spots are uncertain at this point. And although they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kendrick Ellis, rookie defensive linemen rarely make a major impact -- especially in a 3-4. Shaun Ellis is probably going to be playing elsewhere, and New York doesn’t have a high-end outside linebacker. So there are concerns up front. The Jets will have to sign some cheaper veteran options -- probably to one-year contracts -- to shore things up.

Top free agents: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Shaun Ellis, Antonio Cromartie, Brodney Pool, Brad Smith

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

Bills back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Bills will need every moment they can find to prepare for the season. Their offensive skill players gathered at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's home in April. A larger contingent convened in Western New York for casual workouts in May.

Biggest challenge: Buffalo must find a defensive identity quickly. The Bills switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 with bad results last year. As it became obvious they had the NFL's worst run defense, they mixed their fronts. Head coach Chan Gailey has said that they will be a hybrid defense leaning toward a 3-4 base. Then he hired longtime 4-3 mastermind Dave Wannstedt -- not to replace defensive coordinator George Edwards, but as assistant head coach and linebackers coach.

Line in the sand: The Bills have a tenuous offensive line, although all the late-season starters are back. The line mostly has been mediocre and often riddled with injuries. Demetrius Bell has been a bargain at left tackle, but far from dominant. Right guard Eric Wood could eventually shift to center.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Inside linebacker Paul Posluszny and safety Donte Whitner have been two of the Bills' most prolific tacklers. Cornerback Drayton Florence is an overlooked free agent who could be popular on the open market. Disappointing former first-round pick John McCargo is a goner.

AFC East links: Whitner done in Buffalo?

May, 3, 2011
5/03/11
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Buffalo Bills

BuffaloNews.com's Allen Wilson took a rough survey of media reaction to the Bills' draft and found that 11 of 16 national publications gave the team at least a B grade.

In an interview on WEDG 103.3 Monday, GM Buddy Nix weighed in on the futures of Drayton Florence and Donte Whitner. Asked whether the two veteran defensive backs were finished in Buffalo, Nix said, "Drayton Florence, absolutely not. We think Drayton wants to be here, and we want him here. We're going to try to sign Drayton Florence. Donte Whitner, I don't think wants to be here, and he probably won't."

Miami Dolphins

The silver lining of the lockout is it allows teams more time to identify the undrafted free agents they're interested in. "I think [the lockout] is really going to give us a great opportunity to reset the board, kind of look back at what we have on the team right now and kind of refocus our efforts on going after the right college free agents that we want for our team," GM Jeff Ireland said.

First-round pick Mike Pouncey loves to run block. "I love being down there and being physical with the guys. I think I'm a better run-blocker than pass-blocker," Pouncey said.

New England Patriots

The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian suggests the Patriots’ draft class may have better equipped the team to beat the Jets.

The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard breaks down the Patriots' post-draft roster.

New York Jets

ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini grades the Jets' draft and gives the team a B.

Mark Sanchez is holding his "Jets West" camp, which gives the Jets quarterback and offensive skill players such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards a chance to practice together during the lockout.

Bills stick with defense on 34th pick

April, 29, 2011
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With some sexy players still on the board at No. 34, the Buffalo Bills went with another safe defensive pick Friday night, taking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams.

Williams
Williams
Why the Bills took him: In a division with Tom Brady and some big, play-making receivers, Bills general manager Buddy Nix wanted to upgrade coverage skills with the 6-foot defensive back. Some scouts projected Williams as a safety, but Nix said they would keep him at cornerback.

How it affects the roster: Right cornerback Drayton Florence and backup Ashton Youboty are free agents. Although Nix wouldn't rule out re-signing Florence, the odds don't look good. Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin and Reggie Corner (nickel) are back, which will put Williams in a competitive mix.

Scouts Inc. says: Inconsistent but talented and most weaknesses can be improved. High in backpedal. Can allow some separation out of breaks and recovery burst is just average. Can give receivers too much of a cushion. Too quick to open and turn on comeback routes. Not as physical in press coverage as in run support and doesn't always re-route receivers with powerful stab at the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, has fluid hips. Can open and run with receivers in press-bail coverage. Quick feet and changes directions well for size. Closes quickly when receivers catch the ball in front of him and can limit production after the catch.

Dolphins D cursed by dropped interceptions

March, 15, 2011
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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.

Highlights from Chan Gailey at combine

February, 24, 2011
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey and Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland have completed their media responsibilities at the NFL scouting combine.

Here are some quick highlights from Gailey's gathering, with an Ireland report to follow. I'll elaborate on the more interesting issues later:
  • How Gailey would describe the roster: "I think we're on the right track. I do. I believe we have character on the team. I believe they understand. Hopefully, we're going to get better in each phase. You've just got to get them to understand how to win that close game."
  • On the No. 3 overall pick, Gailey said the general philosophy was to "take care of immediate needs and, at the same time, take care of the long-term franchise good. You have to consider all scenarios."
  • Gailey said that includes possibly trading up or trading down: "We don't turn our phone off at night."
  • He is "anxious" to see Auburn quarterback Cam Newton work out in Lucas Oil Stadium and called him "a big athlete that's in that Wildcat mode, but obviously has the ability to go to the dropback-passer mode."
  • Gailey claimed he wasn't concerned with Newton being a one-year starter at Auburn.
  • Ten years ago, the NFL dictated to colleges how quarterbacks should play. In the next decade, Gailey foresees college football dictating how the NFL uses the quarterbacks who emerge from whatever offenses are popular.
  • Gailey also declared he's "extremely confident" in incumbent starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and admitted he made a big mistake in not going with him instead of Trent Edwards last year: "Shoot, yeah! If I knew then what I knew now, I wouldn't do that. But you do what you can with the information you have, make a decision, hope you learn from it quickly and rectify the situation."
  • Gailey noted he's never been on a team where he thought he had too many good cornerbacks, there's always room for more. Drayton Florence and Ashton Youboty are about to become free agents. Gailey bluntly added former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin "left something on the table," but still has the chance to be a top-notch cornerback. I hope he'll commit to what he needs to commit to," Gailey said.
  • Reports on outside linebacker Shawne Merriman's recovery from Achilles surgery have been "all positive."
  • Last year's first-round pick, running back C.J. Spiller, needs to become better with ball security and pass blocking: "It didn't work out like anybody planned -- he planned, I planned, any fan out there planned. I still think he's going to be a very good to great player for the Buffalo Bills. I'll do better at finding ways to use him more."
  • The Bills consider their defense neither 3-4 nor 4-3, but a mixture: "If we are a hybrid, which I think we will be, it allows you to take Chris Kelsay and shift all the 3-4 over and now Kelsay or Merriman is a rush guy. We feel like we can massage that as we need to, getting the best football players on the field."
  • The Bills plan to draft defensive linemen based on talent more than positional fit and then find ways to use them.
  • New assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt, who has overseen great 4-3 defenses, will have wide-ranging roles as Gailey's top consultant on both sides of the ball.
  • Free-agent safety Bob Sanders visited the Bills while Gailey was out of town and he didn't have an update on where that stands.
  • The Bills have made an organizational decision not to comment on the NFL labor situation.

Does AFC East have big D trend covered?

January, 25, 2011
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ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer provided his insight on a top offensive trend earlier Tuesday.

He also shared thoughts on a defensive movement he speculated could dictate schemes for the next decade.

Not long ago, Tampa 2-style zone defenses were en vogue. Dilfer now sees the NFL widely adopting a "coverage-based" philosophy.

"The trend now in the NFL for the dominant defenses is that it's become about coverage," Dilfer said. "At times it's pass rush. At times it's zones. At times it's blitz. But, ultimately, this has become a coverage league.

"When you can find corners on the outside that can play man-to-man defense -- old-school man-to-man, 'I got you' all over the field -- it creates so much flexibility in your schemes defensively to keep the offenses off balance.

"What are offenses doing? They're spreading you out. They're trying to attack zones. The defenses that lock up and still put pressure on the quarterback are the defenses that are having success."

What does that mean for the AFC East?

If this becomes the preferred method of defense, then the New York Jets are in good shape as long as they have Darrelle Revis at cornerback. Antonio Cromartie is a free agent, but he could be back, helping the Jets maintain a formidable tandem.

The New England Patriots also have a strong coverage foundation. Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty was voted to the Pro Bowl after a season of covering the opposition's best receivers. He had seven interceptions. Reliable veteran Leigh Bodden missed the season with a torn rotator cuff. But he'll be back. Bodden is under contract through 2013.

The Miami Dolphins are confident in Vontae Davis, but coverage on the opposite side of the field has been erratic. Sean Smith possesses tremendous athleticism, but the Dolphins haven't been comfortable with him as a starter. They removed Smith as a starter when the season began and eventually cut the player who replaced him, Jason Allen.

The Buffalo Bills' cornerbacks are an interesting group. Drayton Florence has been their best pass defender and showed a knack for the big play in 2010, but he's a free agent. Terrence McGee is a formidable player when healthy, but he missed seven games. Leodis McKelvin, the 11th overall draft choice three years ago, is an athletic specimen but gets burnt way too often.

Chop-chop: Pick the High Energy player

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
11:11
AM ET
You need to act quickly to choose this week's AFC East High Energy performer.

But at least you don't have much to mull.

The High Energy performer series runs at 3 p.m. every Tuesday. When I opened up the selection process to the readers a couple weeks back, I was able to announce the candidates Monday. That gave you a day to cast your vote.

Not this week. With two AFC East teams playing Monday night, we had to wait.

Maybe we're just going through the motions here, but to make it official you still get to select from a collection of 180 active players -- 45 who experienced victory in Week 13.

The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills were embarrassed. The Miami Dolphins suffered a demoralizing home loss in a must-win situation.

In general, preference has been given to players on winning teams who aren't regular stars. But when I asked the readers to start choosing two weeks ago, I opened it up to the big guns, too.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the obvious star Monday night. He completed 21 of his 29 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and a 148.9 passer rating.

Who else was there in Week 13?

Patriots running back Danny Woodhead (four catches for a game-high 104 yards against the team that dumped him), Patriots inside linebacker Brandon Spikes (seven tackles, first career interception to end a deep Jets drive), Bills cornerback Drayton Florence (two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown) or Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake (1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits).

Wrap-up: Vikings 38, Bills 14

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
4:00
PM ET
The Buffalo Bills scored the first touchdown and then got swatted in a 38-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome.

What it means: After a string of highly competitive games, the Bills suffered one of the their worst losses. The Vikings rolled even with quarterback Brett Favre, receivers Percy Harvin and Greg Lewis and right guard Steve Hutchinson sidelined. The Bills are 2-10.

Hero: Adrian Peterson thrived against the NFL's worst defense. Bills rookie linebacker Arthur Moats knocked Favre out of the game on the third play, but the Vikings didn't need him. Peterson rushed 16 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns.

Goat: Bills cornerback and kick returner Leodis McKelvin had a rough afternoon. Vikings receiver Sidney Rice made a scintillating play to outjockey McKelvin and come down with a 31-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. McKelvin fumbled the ensuing kickoff, helping the Vikings score 28 points in a 5:45 stretch.

Streak extended: Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick needed almost 56 minutes to lengthen his streak to 13 games with a touchdown pass, finding David Nelson for a 12-yarder with the game out of hand. Fitzpatrick also fumbled twice, losing one.

Defensive highlights: Buffalo's defense had its moments despite the lopsided score. Cornerback Drayton Florence had his first multi-interception game and his first interception return for a touchdown. Donte Whitner and McKelvin picked one apiece.

What's next: The Bills and Cleveland Browns have played some awful games in recent years. Remember that 6-3 gem last year? Next week's meeting should be livelier, with Trent Edwards and Derek Anderson long gone. The Browns defeated the Miami Dolphins 13-10 in Sun Life Stadium.

Wrap-up: Bills 49, Bengals 31

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
4:28
PM ET
A few thoughts on Buffalo's win over Cincinnati:

What it means: The Bills are on a winning streak. A week after their first victory of the season, the Bills seemed on the verge of getting annihilated at Paul Brown Stadium. They trailed 28-7 in the second quarter, but surged in the second half to crush the Bengals.

How they did it: The Bills scored 35 unanswered points after the intermission to flip a blowout loss into a blowout victory. The Bills entered the game with two interceptions all year, but in the second half intercepted Carson Palmer twice and recovered a Cedric Benson fumble. Drayton Florence returned the fumble 27 yards for a touchdown.

The villain as a hero: Steve Johnson scrawled "Why so serious?" on his undershirt in homage to The Joker, a role Johnson wanted to play against the self-proclaimed Batman and Robin, Bengals receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Johnson finished with eight catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Batman and Robin combined for six receptions, 91 yards and two touchdowns.

Unhappy returns: Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played poorly for much of his first game back in Cincinnati, where he spent two seasons and started a dozen games. Fitzpatrick threw two first-half interceptions to Johnathan Joseph, who returned one of them 21 yards for a touchdown to put Cincinnati up 28-7.

Happy returns: Fitzpatrick rebounded in the second half to complete seven of 10 throws for 139 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. In two seasons with Buffalo, he already has 27 touchdown passes, two more than Trent Edwards had in his three-plus seasons.

High-profile inactives: The Bills scratched four first-round draft choices: running back C.J. Spiller (injured), defensive lineman John McCargo (healthy) and outside linebackers Aaron Maybin (healthy) and Shawne Merriman (injured).

What's next: The Bills welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 12.

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