AFC East: Jason Allen

AFC East's best: No. 20 Vontae Davis

June, 27, 2011
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The countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

About the choice: Vontae Davis ranked fifth in tackles with 51 and first in passes defensed with a dozen. He had one interception, mostly because quarterbacks chose to throw at Sean Smith and Jason Allen (17 combined passes defensed) on the other side. Davis forced a fumble on special teams. He led the Dolphins with four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, his rookie season.

Key fact: Davis held New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss without a catch, snapping Moss' 51-game reception streak. Two days later, the Patriots traded Moss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Hint about No. 19: ESPN Stats & Information data had him tied for 14th in end-zone targets, but he was third in overall targets within the AFC.

Previous picks:

First round is coming, but at what cost?

April, 26, 2011
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Long/GholstonDoug Murray/Icon SMIBoom (Jake Long) or bust (Vernon Gholston), teams have spent plenty on first-round picks since 2000.
Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix recently said rare circumstances would be required to trade the club's third overall draft choice. He sounded fixed on making that pick, even though he has no idea how much it will cost him.

There's curiosity over what the New England Patriots will do with their abundance of draft assets. They have enough picks that they could trade up into the top 10. Yet they don't know how rich that territory will be.

We know the NFL draft will begin Thursday night. Unclear are the dollars it will take to sign those picks.

Rookie cost controls almost certainly will be part of the next collective bargaining agreement, but will that deal be hammered out before the 2011 season?

If not, then teams might operate under last year's rules. That would mean more outrageous guaranteed dollars to prospects who haven't snapped an NFL chinstrap. A league source calculated NFL teams have committed over $3.154 billion in guarantees to first-round draft choices since 2000.

The Associated Press reported the NFL's proposal for a rookie pay system -- made before the lockout -- included $300 million in diverted funds that instead would go to veteran contracts and player benefits and slow the rapid growth of guaranteed first-round money (up 233 percent since 2000).

The money would be saved by shrinking the already-in-place rookie salary pool system, where the league allocates a certain number of dollars to be spent based on the number of picks and their spots in the order.

Also in the reported proposal: first-round contracts would be capped at five years under the proposal. All other draft picks would be capped at four years. The player's maximum allowable salary would go down if he hadn't signed by training camp, a deterrent to holding out.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan recently estimated the Bills would save roughly $15 million on their No. 3 pick with rookie cost controls. That certainly would make another Aaron Maybinesque pick more digestible.

With all this in mind, let's examine how much guaranteed money AFC East clubs have spent on their first-round draft picks since 2000. Data provided from the aforementioned league source shows the Patriots have spent most efficiently, the New York Jets have spent the most total dollars and the Miami Dolphins have spent the most per player.

The Dolphins have drafted eight first-rounders since 2000 and spent an average of $12.043 million in guaranteed money. That figure ranks eighth among all NFL clubs, but those players averaged only 37 starts for Miami.

Only the Buffalo Bills averaged fewer starts from their first-rounders at 36.2, but the Bills rank 19th in average guaranteed dollars committed.

Left tackle Jake Long's mammoth contract inflates Miami's dollar figure. The top 2008 pick became the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history days before commissioner Roger Goodell said Long's name at Radio City Music Hall. Running back Ronnie Brown was rewarded with $19.5 million guaranteed as the second pick in 2005.

Those picks were successful, but the Dolphins also committed $13.865 million to receiver Ted Ginn, $9.016 million to cornerback Jason Allen and $7.133 million to defensive end Jared Odrick.

The Jets' massive guarantee total includes left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($29.6 million), quarterback Mark Sanchez ($28 million), outside whatever Vernon Gholston ($21 million), cornerback Darrelle Revis ($14.7 million) and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson ($14.7 million).

There are a couple royal busts in there, but the Jets still have spent relatively well. Despite picking in roughly the same average first-round slot as the Dolphins and Bills since 2000, the Jets have averaged nearly 61 starts per player.

The Bills' big-ticket items have been running back C.J. Spiller ($18.9 million), left tackle Mike Williams ($14.4 million) and Maybin ($10.9 million).

Buffalo's first-round picks ranked 19th in the NFL when it came to average guaranteed dollars.

The Patriots have committed eight figures in guaranteed money to only two of their 10 first-round selections since 2000 because of their penchant to trade back. Their average first-rounder is taken 20.7th overall.

Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo ($13.8 million) and defensive end Richard Seymour ($11 million) are the Patriots' lone top-10 picks under Bill Belichick and look like basement bargains compared to other names mentioned above.

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.

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.

AFC East Week 11 decisive moment

November, 23, 2010
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Miami Dolphins got rid of cornerback Jason Allen two weeks ago because he was a liability.

He continued to hurt them Sunday even though he was 1,300 miles away and wearing another uniform.

With 24 seconds left and trailing by four points, the New York Jets needed a touchdown against the Houston Texans. The Jets had the ball on the Texans' 48-yard line.

Allen, picked up to help an obviously desperate Texans pass defense, lined up against Braylon Edwards.

Edwards sprinted up the right sideline, drifted farther outside and got behind Allen with no resistance. Mark Sanchez feathered a gorgeous pass in between Allen and converging safety Eugene Wilson for an astonishingly easy 42-yard reception, moving the Jets to the 6-yard line with 16 seconds to go.

The Jets closed out their awesome triumph on the next play, another pretty Sanchez pass to Santonio Holmes in the left corner of the end zone.

But the long completion to Edwards was the backbreaker.

Pick our AFC East High Energy player

November, 22, 2010
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ESPN.com has a series in which each division blogger chooses a "High Energy Player of the Week."

There's no set criteria for us to go by. It's open to individual interpretation. But my philosophy all season has been to select an overachiever, someone who might be a role player or not yet established or cast aside by another team or unheard from in a long while.

I've generally tried to avoid repeat winners. But I did ignore that policy when I went with Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Weeks 3 and 8, and the deeper we get into the season, the less likely a new name will burst out.

There's a good chance this week's honoree will repeat, too.

Since Week 11 presented so many great individual performances, I want you to help me make the call. Drop your vote in the comments section below.
  • Jets receiver Santonio Holmes (honored in Week 9) had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including the miraculous winning score in the closing seconds to shock the Texans.
  • Bills receiver Steve Johnson (honored in Week 7) had eight receptions for 137 yards and three touchdowns in a wild victory over the Bengals.
  • Patriots running back Danny Woodhead, unable to make the Jets' roster, ran seven times for 69 yards, including a sensational 36-yard dash to help the Patriots beat the Colts.

Here's a rundown of the previous AFC East High Energy Players of the Week and links to their stories:

Week 1: Patrick Chung, Patriots safety

Week 2: Jason Allen, Dolphins cornerback

Week 3: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots running back

Week 4: Rob Ninkovich, Patriots linebacker

Week 5: Nick Folk, Jets kicker

Week 6: Deion Branch, Patriots receiver

Week 7: Steve Johnson, Bills receiver

Week 8: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots running back

Week 9: Santonio Holmes, Jets receiver

Week 10: Fred Jackson, Bills running back

Dolphins dump top '06 pick Jason Allen

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
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To make room for new cornerback Al Harris, the Miami Dolphins have parted ways with Jason Allen, the 16th overall selection of the 2006 draft.

Allen never panned out. At best he was a top-notch special-teams player. At worst, he couldn't get on the field despite his lofty draft position. He was the last player remaining from the '06 draft class, leaving the Dolphins with only two players on their roster from 2006 and 2007 drafts.

Allen roused Dolfans with a two-interception performance against Brett Favre in Week 2. He added another pick in a Week 7 victory over the Green Bay Packers, giving him three of the team's five interceptions this year.

Allen was a surprise starter at right cornerback, winning the job from incumbent sophomore Sean Smith. But the Dolphins returned Smith to the starting lineup last week.

Dolphins bolster secondary with Al Harris

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
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The Miami Dolphins have signed some veteran help to shore up a position of weakness, adding free-agent cornerback Al Harris on Wednesday.

lastname
Harris
The Green Bay Packers waived Harris on Monday. The 13-year veteran went unclaimed, allowing him to sign with any team. Harris was a Pro Bowler in 2007 and 2008, but he'll turn 36 in December and had a season-ending knee injury 12 months ago.

The Dolphins have been set at left cornerback with Vontae Davis, but they've been unsatisfied at right cornerback and nickelback -- not to mention with their ability to force turnovers.

Last year's right-side starter, Sean Smith, lost his job to Jason Allen just before the start of the regular season. Smith regained the job last week and dropped what would have been an interception for a touchdown in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Dolphins added cornerback Nate Ness off waivers last week.

Harris has started every one of the 102 games he played for Green Bay. He spent his first five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and has 21 career interceptions.

AFC East Week 8 decisive moment

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

In Halloween black and orange, the Cincinnati Bengals were like zombies in awkward, relentless pursuit of the Miami Dolphins.

The Bengals stumble-stalked. The Dolphins seemed vulnerable regardless of their wherewithal to get away.

Had the Dolphins managed to turn one of their five field goals into a touchdown, they would have been comfortably ahead. Had Dolphins safety Chris Clemons not bobbled a surefire interception right to Terrell Owens for a freak touchdown at the end of the first half, the game would have been over.

Instead, the Bengals were in a one-score game and driving with about three minutes left.

On the 15th play of a series in which the Bengals converted three third downs and a fourth down, Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith knocked the zombies' heads off.

Smith, who lost his starting job at right cornerback to Jason Allen just before the regular season began, recorded his first NFL interception.

Carson Palmer threw a fluttering ball to Owens, but it went right to Smith at Miami's 7-yard line. Smith returned it 18 yards to give the Dolphins possession with 2:43 to play.

The Bengals had one timeout to burn. After two Ricky Williams runs, the Dolphins were in victory formation to kill the clock.

More than a decisive moment for the game, the play could prove decisive for Smith, a young player who has lost his swagger since the Dolphins drafted him in the second round last year and started him all 16 games.

Wrap-up: Dolphins 22, Bengals 14

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
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A few thoughts on the Dolphins' 22-14 win against the Bengals:

What it means: The Dolphins remained undefeated through four road games and pulled within a game of -- at least -- second place despite more offensive problems. The New York Jets were shut out at home and slipped to 5-2. The New England Patriots played at 4:15 p.m.

Red-zone trend: The Dolphins got inside the Bengals' 25-yard line five times, but managed only one touchdown, a 1-yard Ricky Williams run in the fourth quarter.

Carpenter on fire: Miami's inability to score touchdowns meant another big day for kicker Dan Carpenter. For the second straight week, he converted five attempts to keep Miami in the game. He made a 54-yarder at the end of the first half to pull Miami within two points.

Clutch play: Sean Smith, who lost his starting right cornerback job to Jason Allen just before the season started, recorded his first NFL interception to kill a 15-play Bengals drive at the Dolphins' 7-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

Defensive containment: The Dolphins didn't record a sack or force a fumble. They had only one tackle for a loss. Their leading tackler was slot corner Benny Sapp. But they kept the Bengals in check. Bengals running back Cedric Benson averaged 3.5 yards a carry. Carson Palmer passed for only 156 yards and completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

What's next: The Dolphins will visit M&T Stadium to play the Baltimore Ravens, who will be coming off their bye.

Final Word: AFC East

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
David Butler II/US PresswireWith a win Sunday, Tom Brady will have won 23 straight home games.
Tom Brady should emerge Sunday night with his streak still intact. There are contradictory reports about whether Brett Favre or Tarvaris Jackson will be Minnesota's starting quarterback. But it's safe to say Favre's incredible streak of 291 games (315 counting the postseason) has never been in more jeopardy. Brady is working on his own streak. He has won 23 straight home games. A victory over the Vikings in Gillette Stadium would put him one away from Favre's NFL record set from 1995 to 1998.

It's time for the Dolphins to give Sean Smith another shot at right cornerback. Smith started 16 games as a rookie last year. But after a shaky camp and preseason, he lost his job to veteran reserve Jason Allen before the regular season began. Smith obviously lost his swagger. Allen occasionally makes a big play and has three interceptions, but he's clearly a target. Steelers receiver Mike Wallace singed Allen for a 53-yard touchdown last week. The Bengals are a tough opponent to help Smith back on track, but as a player who thrives on confidence, a solid performance Sunday could get him going again.

I'm officially rooting for Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to stay hot. The Bills are 0-6 and don't have much to look forward to. Their national relevance is rooted in being winless, but Fitzpatrick's play has given Bills fans something positive to talk about. He's a career backup, an underdog who was overlooked by the Bills before taking over for Trent Edwards in Week 3. Fitzpatrick's 102.2 passer rating ranks second to Peyton Manning's 103.4. Fitzpatrick has played only four games, but he has 11 touchdown passes, the same as Brady and Tony Romo. Only six quarterbacks have more.

Jets rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson is playing his way off the field. At the news conference to discuss why they selected him 29th overall, Jets coach Rex Ryan declared Wilson would be their punt returner and nickel corner. As star cornerback Darrelle Revis' holdout dragged on, Wilson was in line to start and eventually did (three games) after Revis yanked his hamstring. But Wilson, who has committed three penalties for 54 yards, has been losing time to Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman. "His role is shrinking," Ryan said of Wilson. "There is only one way to get a bigger role, and that's to show it on the practice field. When you do get your opportunities in the game, you have to step up. That's it."

The Patriots must stop Adrian Peterson if they're going to stop Randy Moss. It won't matter who Minnesota's quarterback is in this regard. Jackson has the ability to hang a ball in the air for Moss, too. The way to negate that possibility is keeping both Patriots safeties deep. That can't happen if the Patriots' front seven can’t contain Peterson, who has that rare combination of speed, strength and a knack for evading tackles.

Steelers at Dolphins halftime observations

October, 24, 2010
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MIAMI -- Halftime thoughts from Sun Life Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins trail the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-16 on Sunday afternoon:
  • Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne has hung in there against the vaunted Steelers pass rush. The Steelers haven't recorded a sack. Henne has looked a little jumpy at times, but he's 12 of 20 for 153 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
  • Dolphins cornerback Jason Allen was victimized on a 53-yard Ben Roethlisberger strike to Mike Wallace in the second quarter. Allen gave Wallace a nice cushion, yet still got scorched by Wallace, who simply flashed past for a touchdown.
  • As you'd expect, the Dolphins are having trouble against the NFL's top-rated run defense. Ronnie Brown has five carries for 2 yards. Ricky Williams has six attempts for 20 yards.
  • There's been some bad tackling by both teams. Steelers receiver Hines Ward ducked and dodged his way into the end zone from 21 yards out, and Dolphins receiver Davone Bess juked past a couple Steelers defenders for a 26-yard score to pull the Dolphins within a point.
  • Here's a quirky stat: Thanks to the Steelers fumbling the opening kickoff and going three and out on their first possession, the Dolphins scored six points on 7 total yards in the first quarter. The Dolphins went three-and-out field goal, three-and-out field goal and then three-and-out punt.
  • That first-quarter punt was an impressive example of how to flip the field. With Miami on its 14-yard line, Brandon Fields crushed a 66-yarder. Antwaan Randle-El lost a yard on the return, plus a holding penalty put Pittsburgh on its 10-yard line.
  • Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams suffered an apparent left ankle or Achilles injury early in the second quarter and was replaced by former Buffalo Bills tackle Jonathan Scott.

Bye week inventory: Miami Dolphins

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
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A look at the Miami Dolphins heading into their bye weekend ...

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIBrandon Marshall has 27 receptions for 340 yards so far this season.
Reason for hope: The Dolphins stagger into their bye week with back-to-back home losses, but they are 2-2 because they won both of their road games. The Dolphins are a balanced team seemingly with playoff-caliber talent on both offense and defense. Although they're still finding their way, I still can envision the Dolphins making a run at the division title.

Brandon Marshall has showed flashes of why he's considered one of the NFL's biggest receiving threats. He can dominate a game. Davone Bess has become a top-notch slot receiver who's clutch on third down. Ronnie Brown is averaging 4.7 yards a carry, and Ricky Williams looks sensational, even though he isn't getting the same turn-back-the-clock attention as LaDainian Tomlinson. Defensively, cornerback Vontae Davis is forcing teams to throw away from him. Outside linebacker Cameron Wake is on pace for 12 sacks.

Cause for concern: A quarter into the season, the Dolphins still are searching for their offensive identity. They appear torn between being that run-dominant club of the past two years and a team that wants to sling the ball with Chad Henne and Marshall as the stars. Henne doesn't look too comfortable in the role yet. Also, the Dolphins remain attached to the Wildcat despite averaging less than 2 yards a try.

Special teams has been a glaring weakness. Head coach Tony Sparano made a move to correct that by firing coordinator John Bonamego and promoting assistant Darren Rizzi. They have two weeks to patch up their problems there. Pass defense has been another issue. While the Dolphins rank sixth in allowing only 181.5 air yards a game, that number is skewed. They faced Trent Edwards in Week 1, a bumbling Brett Favre in Week 2 and Tom Brady hardly had to throw in Monday night's 41-14 "Gong Show." The Dolphins still have trouble covering tight ends, and right cornerback Jason Allen is a liability on No. 2 receivers.

Time to heal: A week off will help Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long cope with the knee that has been bothering him. Rookie defensive end Jared Odrick, their first-round pick, should return from an ankle injury after the bye. Inside linebacker Channing Crowder is slowly recovering from a groin problem that has keep him off the field all season.

AccuScore forecast: The projection is for a 9-7 record. The Dolphins have a 10 percent chance to win the AFC East, and a 24 percent chance to get into the playoffs.

Final Word: AFC East

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireMark Sanchez has had back-to-back games of three touchdowns and 120-plus passer ratings.
The Buffalo Bills might be better off to ignore Mark Sanchez this time. Sanchez is molten, with back-to-back games of three touchdowns and 120-plus passer ratings. But the key for the Bills will be to forget they intercepted him five times last year and to concentrate on the run. Sanchez leads the NFL in passer rating against five or more pass-rushers. So he's been dangerous against teams that come after him anyway. And let's not forget the Jets piled up an incredible 567 rushing yards and 6.8 yards per carry against the Bills last year. A steady ground attack will be even more appealing for the Jets because the Bills' front seven will be short-handed. Top defensive lineman Marcus Stroud and inside linebacker Andra Davis won't play. But last year's leading tackler, Paul Posluszny, will return from a knee injury.

Chad Henne should have another big night versus the Patriots' pass defense. The Patriots are having serious problems. Career backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked great for the Bills last week. Henne is coming off a 363-yard performance and Brandon Marshall exploded for 10 catches against a Jets secondary that's far more talented at cornerback than the Patriots are. Opposing quarterbacks have a 101.3 passer rating against the Patriots, fifth-highest in the NFL. They're averaging 260.3 yards a game. No defense has yielded more than the Patriots' seven receiving touchdowns.

Dolphins cornerback Jason Allen will be in the crosshairs again Monday night. Tom Brady will be looking Allen's way Monday night. With the respect cornerback Vontae Davis is garnering plus Allen's spotty track record, the choice is obvious. Allen was one of the heroes in Week 2, when the Dolphins went into the Metrodome and stole a victory from the Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre tried to exploit Allen, who came down with two interceptions. But last week, Sanchez picked on him. Allen whiffed while trying to make a tackle on Braylon Edwards, and the play turned into a devastating 67-yard touchdown. Allen also committed a fourth-quarter pass interference in the end zone.

The Bills have cleaned up their act. The Bills were one of the NFL's most undisciplined teams last year. They committed 107 penalties for 855 yards. Their offensive line got flagged a league-high 48 times -- an outrageous 25 times for false starts. New head coach Chan Gailey has made substantial corrections so far. The Bills have committed 15 penalties through three games. Only six teams have been whistled for fewer and only four teams have given up more penalty yardage. Buffalo's offensive linemen have committed only six infractions, three of which have been false starts. Last year's biggest transgressor, left tackle Demetrius Bell, has been charged once.

My last word on Trent Edwards. I received a few notes regarding my critical stance on the Bills' decision to waive Edwards on Monday. The general sentiment was that Edwards was awful and deserved to be dumped. Let's not confuse the issue. I agree that Edwards had proved himself incapable of being Buffalo's quarterback. The issue, however, wasn't whether Edwards should keep his job. I questioned Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix because they assessed Edwards to be a worthy starter after six months of workouts and meetings, an entire training camp, four preseason games and three years of reviewable game film. A veteran coach known for his work with quarterbacks should easily be able to 1) identify a quarterback who doesn't deserve to be on his roster, and 2) figure out he's not worthy of the starting job to begin with. But eight days after Edwards started for the Bills (by Gailey's choice and not injury) and 24 hours after Edwards was the backup (not deactivated as the third QB), the Bills waived him. The end was justified. The means were indefensible.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Donte Whitner, Bills safety: A few days before playing the Patriots, he grumbled about being tired of hearing opponents laugh at the Bills during games. Then, in a game when the Bills offense and special teams put up a fight, Whitner had one of his worst games in a defensive collapse. Whitner, the eight overall draft pick in 2006, twice was flummoxed on Randy Moss touchdowns and had trouble with rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski.

[+] EnlargeJason Allen
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyBraylon Edwards and the New York Jets took advantage of Jason Allen.
2. Jason Allen, Dolphins cornerback: With the emergence of young cornerback Vontae Davis on the left side and Allen's track record, quarterbacks are going to be throwing Allen's direction as long as the Dolphins keep him out there. Allen thrived against Brett Favre in Week 2, but Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't have much problem. Allen whiffed on Braylon Edwards' 67-yard catch and run and committed pass interference on third-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter. The extra set of downs allowed the Jets to score a touchdown and take an eight-point lead.

3. Jets' pass defense without Darrelle Revis: They looked far from formidable Sunday night. Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets couldn't contain Brandon Marshall. All told, the Dolphins amassed 436 yards, the most the Rex Ryan-coached Jets have surrendered in a victory by nearly a full football field.

RISING

1. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: I generally don't include a player as "rising" or "falling" two Stock Watches in a row. If you're up, then you're up, etc. But Sanchez has put together his best two games as a pro back-to-back. Headed into Week 2, he'd never thrown three touchdowns or recorded higher than a 107.0 passer rating. Sanchez notched three TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of at least 120.5 each of the past two games.

2. Dustin Keller, Jets tight end: After a clunker of a performance on opening night -- really, how many Jets didn't have that kind of game? -- Keller has regained his footing as a game-changer. He had six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday night's victory over the Dolphins. Keller already has matched his season-high with three touchdown catches and, counting last year's playoffs, has scored at least one in five of his past six games.

3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots running back: With trusted veteran Kevin Faulk done for the year, the Patriots will need to rely upon their backfield committee approach even more. On any given week, we could see anybody step up, but Green-Ellis got to be the chairman Sunday against the Bills. He pounded out 16 carries for 98 yards and a late touchdown.

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