AFC East: Heath Evans
NFL Network analyst Heath Evans is the first to jump the Tebow bandwagon. Evans says the Jets can win 10 games this season if they don’t waste their time with starter Mark Sanchez.
Start Tebow now, Evans advises, and the Jets will make the playoffs.
"A Rex Ryan defense and a Tebow-led offense could work together to easily frustrate 10 teams on the Jets' schedule. New York's defense matches up extremely well with almost every squad the Jets play this season, except for the Patriots, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Jets turn Tebow loose under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, and truly play "ground and pound" football, they could make the playoffs in 2012, rather than miss out for a second consecutive season."
Are the Jets a playoff team with Tebow this year? I don't see it.
I think New York's best chance to win is with Sanchez passing well and Tebow running well. Asking Tebow to be the primary passer on the team is risky given his very bad mechanics and lacking accuracy.
The Jets would have to change their entire offense and this is a team that probably couldn't handle something so drastic. Tebow worked his magic last year as the starter with the Denver Broncos, but I can’t see a repeat of that with the Jets. New York should stick with Sanchez unless he struggles.
The Bills are ready to hit the ground running.
Brad Smith on agreeing to a deal with the Bills: "I just want to come in and have an opportunity to compete and help the football team. I think that's the vibe I got from the coaches, the staff, the front office, they're trying to build something, everybody's working together, understanding their roles and coming together to win games. That's the bottom line."
Jeff Darlington of The Miami Herald: "The Dolphins are still working toward adding a veteran quarterback to provide [Chad] Henne with a legitimate battle for the starting job, but the question remained Thursday whether Denver’s Kyle Orton will be the player to fill that role."
Marshall Faulk and Heath Evans expect Reggie Bush to play a big role in the Dolphins' offense.
New England Patriots
Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe: "A day after Patriots fans grumbled at the lack of noise coming out of One Patriot Place during the most frenzied transaction period in NFL history, [Bill] Belichick traded for the most talented defensive lineman in the league [Albert Haynesworth], and the receiver who over the past 10 years ranked second and third, respectively, in yards and receptions [Chad Ochocinco]."
Ron Borges gives Patriots fans plenty of reasons to worry about the acquisition of Haynesworth.
New York Jets
The Jets remain in a holding pattern when it comes to free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post: "If Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum pulls this one off, we'll have to refer to him as 'Magic Mike' from now on."
"Outside the Lines" examines the 2010 New York Jets and whether a campaign that featured such off-field turmoil yet went deep into the postseason before falling short of the Super Bowl should be viewed as acceptable.
There are two three-minute videos of the discussion with Jets radio voice Bob Wischusen, retired linebacker Derrick Brooks and New Orleans Saints fullback Heath Evans. When you're done watching this segment, you'll be able to click on the next one.
On Monday, I contacted three decorated Jets alumni to find out if they viewed the 2010 season as a success or a failure.
The Miami Dolphins received one. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets didn't get any.
All the picks were revealed Monday night at the NFL owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.
Compensatory picks are awarded to clubs based on a secret formula more guarded than Colonel Sanders' recipe. We know the formula involves the number of free agents gained and lost the previous offseason and how well those players performed the ensuing season. We think the formula factors in the players' salaries, playing time and awards.
New England lost five qualifying free agents (running back LaMont Jordan, fullback Heath Evans, receiver Jabar Gaffney, linebacker Larry Izzo and long-snapper Lonie Paxton) and signed only one (safety Brandon McGowan).
The NFL compensated the Patriots with one sixth-round pick and three seventh-round picks. The selections are Nos. 205, 247, 248 and 250.
Miami lost two qualifying free agents (cornerback Andre Goodman and safety Renaldo Hill) and signed two (center Jake Grove and center Joe Berger).
The Dolphins were given a seventh-round pick, No. 252.
The unanswerable question I'm referring to: "How does the NFL determine compensatory picks?"
Nobody knows because the league refuses to provide detailed insight into the formula. We know it depends on the number of free agents gained and lost the previous offseason and how well those players performed that year. Factors include the player's salary, playing time and awards -- we think.
But there's a compensatory vigilante out there who goes by the handle AdamJT13. He seems to have darn near cracked the code and has been giving accurate forecasts for 10 years.
My personal policy is not to link to people who write anonymously, but AdamJT13 has a track record and provides a unique service. With that in mind, here are his compensatory projections for AFC East clubs. The NFL will announce the official rundown in a couple weeks.
Buffalo Bills: None. They signed two qualifying free agents (quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, center Geoff Hangartner) and lost two (cornerback Jabari Greer, linebacker Angelo Crowell). AdamJT13 adds the Bills could get a compensatory pick at the end of the seventh round based on net value of the players lost, depending on the evaluations.
Miami Dolphins: Sixth-round pick. AdamJT13 notes it might be a seventh-rounder, or depending on how the NFL views guard Joe Berger, nothing at all. They signed one definite qualifying free agent (center Jake Grove) and lost two definites (cornerback Andre' Goodman and safety Renaldo Hill).
New England Patriots: Four seventh-round picks for losing receiver Jabar Gaffney, long-snapper Lonie Paxton, fullback Heath Evans and running back LaMont Jordan, but not signing any definite qualifying free agents. Gaffney could be good enough for a sixth-rounder.
New York Jets: None. They signed at least as many qualifying free agents (linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard, cornerback Donald Strickland and maybe linebacker Larry Izzo) as they lost (receiver Laveranues Coles, linebacker Eric Barton, defensive end C.J. Mosley and maybe cornerback Hank Poteat).
Evans was the New England Patriots' fullback in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. He witnessed Manning will the Indianapolis Colts to a 38-34 victory, driving them 80 yards in 77 seconds for the winning touchdown with a minute to play.
The Colts went on to win the Super Bowl, and Manning's greatness was validated.
Evans, an injured reserve with the New Orleans Saints, recalled Manning's breakout game -- a liberation from previous losses to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick -- at NFL media day in Sun Life Stadium.
"I think about the comeback aspect of that game, 21-6 at halftime, a prime opportunity for a lesser team to say 'Oh, this game's over and done with,' " Evans said. "Peyton was Peyton and brought them back.
"Maybe a huge stepping stone, but definitely has thrust him into that 'We can beat anybody at any time, no matter what the deficit, no matter what the team, no matter what the coaching staff.' "
Evans wondered out loud if Manning would have broken through had he not done so that night in the RCA Dome.
"If they wouldn't have beat us, then we would have gone on an hopefully beat the Bears," Evans said. "That would have put another year, another notch in Tommy's belt, another notch against Peyton that 'Oh, he can't beat [the Patriots]. He can't beat the Gators.' It would have been one of those things, but he came back and beat us good."
Evans, who played for the Patriots from 2005 through 2008, has been idled since suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Miami Dolphins on the same field the Saints will play on Sunday night. He scored three touchdowns in seven games.
He still intends to contribute by imparting whatever wisdom he gathered with the Patriots.
"That's why I was brought here," Evans said. Saints head coach Sean Payton "wants better leaders, better character guys. It's highly known that Bill only brings in good guys in New England. What I learned from him was priceless.
"I'm constantly trying to dive into that memory bank of stories or experiences or whatever they may have been that really benefited me in my four years with the Pats. Just with the Patriots history of trying to beat the Colts and the wars we had, I've tried my best to lay it on the line for my guys.
"This isn't the Eagles. This isn't the Cowboys. This is a different opponent. If you're not prepared, they won't just beat you, they'll embarrass you."
- Newark Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi wonders how the Jets can, in good conscience, announce two-week furloughs days after signing Bart Scott to a six-year, $48 million contract.
- Bucky Brooks of Sports Illustrated says the Jets' defense looks championship-quality.
- Buffalo News reporter Allen Wilson reviews the long list of free agents the Bills have hosted but haven't signed.
- Edgar Thompson of the Palm Beach Post takes a look at Bill Parcells' history of drafting receivers.
- Pro Football Weekly writer Matt Sohn deduces a receiver is what Miami wants most in the draft.
All sorts of paperwork flew around Thursday in Foxborough, Mass.
Here's a review of all the moves that we know about:
- In their ongoing search for Asante Samuel's replacement, ESPN's Len Pasquarelli reports the Patriots agreed to terms with former Washington Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs.
- They sent a 2009 draft choice to the Philadelphia Eagles for receiver Greg Lewis, who figures to replace free-agent departure Jabar Gaffney as the No. 3 target. Here's a Lewis analysis from the Boston Globe's Mike Reiss.
- The Patriots announced they've re-signed linebacker Eric Alexander, safety James Sanders and punter Chris Hanson and released practice-squad linebacker Darrell Robertson.
- The Patriots also lost their fullback of the past four seasons, when Heath Evans joined the New Orleans Saints.
- Former Packers coordinator and new Bills defensive line coach Bob Sanders tells BuffaloBills.com what he's all about.
- Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reporter Sal Maiorana doubts finalists Andre Reed and Ralph Wilson will be elected Pro Football Hall of Famers this weekend.
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Harvey Fialkov asks quarterback Chad Pennington about the possibility of a contract extension.
- Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero notes there aren't any notable former Dolphins on either Super Bowl roster -- and that's good for the Dolphins.
New England Patriots
- Boston Globe reporter Mike Reiss becomes the 437th person to interview quarterback Matt Cassel in the past two days. Cassel says there have been no contract talks with the Patriots yet.
- Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald checks in with Gil Brandt on the Patriots' decision to hire Floyd Reese as senior football advisor.
- Patriots fullback Heath Evans breaks down the Super Bowl matchup for WEEI.com's Christopher Price.
New York Jets
Matt Cassel has decided to endure the grieving process surrounded by his teammates.
The New England Patriots quarterback, whose father was found dead Tuesday morning, returned to the team Thursday and practiced at San Jose State in preparation for Sunday's big game against the Oakland Raiders.
Cassel left the Patriots on Wednesday to be with his family in Southern California. There had been no indication of how long Cassel would be gone. The funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
"Maybe being around the guys might ease [things] a bit," said fullback Heath Evans in a Boston Globe blog by reporter Christopher L. Gasper. "I don't know that for a fact. [But when I saw him this morning] I kind of wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him I love him. At this time, that's about the only thing you can know how to do. Hopefully, we can be of some encouragement to him and that helps him out."
MIAMI -- Reporters lowered their microphones, and the TV cameras went dark as the crowd dispersed from Langston Walker's locker.
But I wanted to ask the Buffalo Bills right tackle one more question about the tightening divisional race.
All of the AFC East teams played at 1 p.m. Sunday. The first-place Bills were the only ones to lose, beaten by the Miami Dolphins, no less, 25-16.
|Steve Mitchell/US Presswire|
|Joey Porter's Dolphins may be in last place in the AFC East, but they are far from out of the race after beating the Bills, 25-16, Sunday.|
"We're still in first place, aren't we?" Walker said as he extended the handle on his rolling suitcase and headed for the door. "End of story."
If only it were that simple.
This thing's just getting started.
The New England Patriots fended off the St. Louis Rams and are now tied with the Bills at 5-2. The New York Jets came back to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the final minute to pull within a game of the division leaders.
The Dolphins are 3-4, but have a lot more going for them than most last-place clubs. They're merely two games out of first place. They own the AFC East's best intra-divisional record at 2-1. They were one play away from beating the Jets and the Houston Texans.
"We can be right there, man," said Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who registered two sacks (one which led to a safety), forced a fumble and recovered another. "We can't lose the games we're supposed to win. The games we're supposed to win? This is the first close game that we pulled out.
"We could easily be sitting in a different situation. But it is what it is, and we're 3-4. We could easily be a [5-2] team. We're not supposed to be where we're at at 3-4. But we can't cry over that."
Plenty of time remains. Nine games per team, no less. The Bills, in fact, still have five divisional games left.
Here is a team-by-team look at what's to come: