AFC East: John DiGiorgio

Observations from first weekend of Bills camp

July, 26, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have finished their second day of training camp, already completing their two-a-day portion. There will be single sessions and walkthroughs henceforth at St. John Fisher College.

Monday morning's workout will be their first in full pads. Plenty of kapows should resound.

"The intensity picks up a little bit," Buffalo receiver Lee Evans said. "When you have pads on the intensity picks up. It's easy to run around here with no pads on, but when the pads come on it's a different ball game."

Until then, here are a few observations and updates from the weekend:

  • Second-year right cornerback Leodis McKelvin should have stayed in bed Sunday. Evans and Terrell Owens abused last year's 11th overall draft pick in both sessions.
In the morning, Owens torched him twice and Evans once on long, arcing Trent Edwards bombs. In the afternoon, Evans made a sensational grab near the end zone on another long ball despite coverage from McKelvin and safety Donte Whitner. Not long after, Owens caught a quick in and then cut back to the sideline, sending the helpless McKelvin sliding on his rump.

At least McKelvin was getting beaten by some of the best in the business. Then again, he'll have to defend similar players during the season.

  • Sophomore tackle Demetrius Bell, who has been the second-team left tackle, took some first-team reps at left guard Sunday.
  • Marcus Stroud revealed he has been limited because he tweaked a hamstring Saturday. He called the injury "minor."
  • Langston Walker, after years as a right tackle, on learning the left side now that Pro Bowler Jason Peters is gone: "I'm a prideful person, and it is a challenge. And I'm sure there are a lot of detractors out there, but I'm here to prove them wrong."
  • Neither loss is substantial, but the Bills have suffered a pair of season-ending injuries already.

Linebacker John DiGiorgio was waived because he failed his physical after right knee surgery.

Running back Justise Hairston somehow suffered a season-ending knee injury during a walkthrough drill. Hairston was a long shot to make the team, but the New England Patriots' sixth-round draft pick in 2007 was a neat story, making the Bills camp roster through a group tryout after spending last year out of football.

  • Edwards on optimizing the no-huddle offense: "The hard thing about that is to make sure the defense doesn't get into a routine and understanding their calls -- making sure you're changing some things up, making sure you're putting in some double moves. You're putting in some dummy calls in there, too. ... It's pretty easy for a defense to pick up on some calls. So that's something that we're working on every day, and I feel like we're progressing pretty well on that."

Around the AFC East: Dolphin's death at 25 years

June, 22, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

Miami Dolphins

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Around the AFC East: Tom's knee is terrific

February, 19, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Bills free-agency dossier

January, 16, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills have a healthy number of free agents in every category, but not many regular starters among them.

Buffalo's priority free agents appear to be cornerback Jabari Greer, linebacker Keith Ellison, center Duke Preston, third-string quarterback Gibran Hamdan and not much else.

The Bills are about $27 million to $30 million under the salary cap.

Unrestricted (free to negotiate with any team beginning Feb. 27)

Restricted (Bills have right to match offer from other team)

Exclusive rights (cannot negotiate with other teams if tendered qualifying offer)

Bills defensive coordinator 'disappointed'

November, 26, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills went into 2008 with high hopes on defense. Strong safety Donte Whitner was so psyched up about the season he issued a playoff guarantee over the summer.

The Bills traded for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. Linebacker Paul Posluszny, a former Butkus Award winner, and Ko Simpson were returning from season-erasing injuries.

After 11 games, the Bills are about as pedestrian as you can get. They rank 19th in scoring defense, 16th in total defense, 20th in run defense and 16th in pass defense.

"I am disappointed with where we are at this point," Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Wednesday. "I didn't think we were an elite defense. I thought we were good enough to be in the top 15 or top 10 defenses.

"When you allow explosive plays, that screws up every number that you could think of. And then we had trouble, maybe two weeks we didn't do very well on third down, maybe three weeks. It's an accumulation of things like our continuity isn't as good as it was early, and so now we just have to get our continuity back and try and get our mojo back."

A few injuries have exposed a stunning lack of depth.

While the New England Patriots suffer a series of monumental, year-ending injuries and keep winning, the Bills are staggered by some nagging problems.

Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel has been the biggest loss, a bum foot keeping him out six straight games. Whitner has missed time with a separated shoulder. Cornerbacks Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer have battled sprained knees.

"As we always say, everybody's got their injuries," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "You just have to find a way to play through them, over them, and find a way to get a victory somehow."

But what of their reserve linebackers? They made a controversial decision to put last year's leading tackler, Angelo Crowell, on injured reserve, seemingly to punish him for opting to have relatively minor knee surgery right before the season.

The backups behind Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell and Keith Ellison (he didn't practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury) have been a crew comprised of Blake Costanzo, Teddy Lehman, Jon Corto, Marcus Buggs and John DiGiorgio -- names that could be mistaken for the Tonawanda City Council.

Bryan Scott, the 6-foot-1, 219-pound safety, has been working out with the linebackers.

AFC East injury report rundown

October, 24, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

Here are Friday's significant updates from AFC East injury reports:

Buffalo Bills
Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Shobel (foot), starting right guard Brad Butler (knee) and reserve linebacker John DiGiorgio (knee) already have been ruled out for Sunday's road game against the Dolphins.

Center Melvin Fowler (elbow) and cornerback Terrence McGee (knee) were limited in Friday's practice and listed as questionable.

Miami Dolphins
Cornerback Michael Lehan, who had been battling an ankle injury, pulled a hamstring this week in practice. The Dolphins placed him on injured reserve Friday.

Starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson (oblique) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. He was full go Friday and is listed as questionable for the Bills.

New England Patriots
All of the following did not practice Friday and are listed as doubtful Sunday versus the St. Louis Rams: running backs Sammy Morris (knee) and LaMont Jordan (calf), linebackers Eric Alexander (hamstring) and Shawn Crable (shin) and cornerback Lewis Sanders (hamstring).

Starting right tackle Nick Kaczur and defensive end Jarvis Green were limited with ankle injuries and are questionable.

New York Jets
Tight end Bubba Franks (hip) is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Meadowlands.

Questionable are receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), tight end Chris Baker (back), right tackle Damien Woody (calf).

Receiver Laveranues Coles, coming back from a concussion, was listed as probable.

Bills' decision on LB Crowell gets more significant

October, 22, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills middle linebacker John DiGiorgio is done for the year because of a knee injury.


I wonder what Angelo Crowell is up to these days?

Doesn't matter, I suppose. The Bills placed Crowell, their leading tackler last year, on injured reserve just before the season began even though he might've been back on the field by now.

Crowell's strange situation became that much more dubious with DiGiorgio's season coming to an end.

For those unfamiliar with Crowell's tale, here is a story I wrote last month. To summarize, the Bills were upset Crowell decided two days before the season opener he wanted to have arthroscopic surgery that likely would have sidelined him about four weeks. But the Bills were caught unaware. Incensed by the timing, they put him on IR.

Their hasty decision could haunt them.

Crowell played the strong-side linebacker position in Buffalo's 4-3 defense and amassed 126 tackles by the team's count. DiGiorgio was last year's starting middle linebacker when a broken forearm shelved Paul Posluszny.

Although they played slightly different positions, DiGiorgio's absence leaves Buffalo's depth that much weaker. They also lost rookie Alvin Bowen in training camp. To say the Bills couldn't use a healthy Crowell would be absurd.

Blake Costanzo, cut in training camp but re-signed when Crowell was placed on IR, is Buffalo's most seasoned backup. Costanzo has played nine career NFL games, including six this year, with zero starts. He is listed second on the depth chart behind Keith Ellison at Crowell's old position.

Crowell, whose contract is up after the season, left the Bills when they placed him on IR. His season already over, he opted for a more extensive procedure in mid-September and has been rehabbing in Pensacola, Fla.

Audibles: AFC East Week 1 preview

September, 5, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

One month ago, nobody could have envisioned the Jets and Dolphins being the sexiest Week 1 game in the AFC East. They combined to win five games last year.

But the elements have changed, and fans haven't stopped drooling for weeks.

The Jets pulled off the biggest blockbuster trade in franchise history and obtained future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre. The Dolphins wound up with a fine hand-me-down, signing Chad Pennington and giving him an opportunity for immediate retribution.

Sunday's storylines also include Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells lifting the curtain on his latest project -- against one of his former teams, no less. Dolphins rookie head coach Tony Sparano will make his debut against Eric Mangini, who is from another branch on the Parcells coaching tree. Mangini for the first time will be squaring off to some degree with his former mentor. Dolphins RB Ricky Williams is making his eleventy-sixth comeback and the Jets' rebuilt offensive line will be on display.

So there's some stuff to watch -- if you're into that kind of thing.

Most intriguing about the latest installment of this illustrious AFL rivalry, however, are the QB subplots. Aside from special teams, either Favre or Pennington will be on the field throughout.

The Dolphins might hold a significant advantage with Pennington. He spent eight years with the Jets and was with them through voluntary workouts, minicamp and the first two weeks of training camp.

When he lines up behind C Samson Satele and surveys the defense, it should feel like taking a ride through the old neighborhood. Pennington is the most efficient passer in NFL history and is known as one of the most cerebral. It will be interesting to see how he integrates the familiarity.

Favre, meanwhile, is learning a system and teammates Pennington knows better than he does. Favre showed proficiency with Brian Schottenheimer's playbook in the preseason, but does he know enough of the calls to make them work in Week 1?

For this game anyway, the edge should be Pennington's.

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Jets 21

Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

If the Bills are realists, they know they're playing for a wild-card berth barring a New England Patriots collapse. The Bills need to win every game they're supposed to, and this is one of them. They are opening their season at home against a Seahawks squad thinned by injuries and suspensions.

The Bills, however, are suffering from an internal crisis. The Bills already were without Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters, whose contract dispute doesn't appear close to a conclusion, when they learned Thursday their top returning tackler from last year was done for the year.

LB Angelo Crowell stunned the Bills by electing to have knee surgery. The Bills, apparently upset that another player was thinking of himself first and the team second, responded by placing Crowell on injured reserve.

But Sunday will come down to how the players respond, not the front office. The Bills either can rally together or wallow in discontent. Backup QB J.P. Losman supposedly is done pouting about his role, but WR Lee Evans expected to have his new contract finalized by now.

The game likely will be decided by the Bills' front seven defenders, their six regulars and whomever replaces Crowell -- either Keith Ellison or John DiGiorgio. The Seahawks are smarting at receiver and will need to run the ball effectively to win. That means they'll need to neutralize DT Marcus Stroud and then deal with MLB Paul Posluszny and strong-side LB Kawika Mitchell.

On offense, all eyes will be on QB Trent Edwards. He was limited to only four series in two preseason games because of a deep thigh bruise. How quickly he can find his game rhythm will be crucial. Bulldozer RB Marshawn Lynch should help.

Prediction: Bills 21, Seahawks 17

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

Patriots coach Bill Belichick should rest QB Tom Brady and give the Chiefs a sporting chance -- kind of like taking the laser sight off the rifle before you shoot fish in a bucket. Or something like that.

The Patriots are among the best two or three teams in the NFL. The Chiefs smell worse than Manny Ramirez's batting helmet.

New England does have a weakness: its secondary. Problem is, Kansas City doesn't appear to have the tools to exploit that shortcoming or accomplish much else. Miami's starters totally manhandled Kansas City's starters in the third exhibition game, traditionally the preseason game that most resembles a regular-season contest.

In case you've forgotten, the Patriots feature WRs Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney, RBs Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan and the most formidable defensive front in the league. They have that Brady guy, too.

Prediction: Patriots 42, Chiefs 10

Around the AFC East: Jets WR Clowney hurt

August, 18, 2008

Posted by's Tim Graham

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Buffalo postmarks all over AFC East mailbag

August, 16, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- I can't say I'm surprised.

In honor of making my first visit to Buffalo Bills training camp and then their exhibition Thursday night in Toronto, I made one request for Bills fans to submit their questions and comments for this week's AFC East mailbag.

The response was amazing. Seventy-two questions came in over four days, and all but six of them were about the Bills. There was one Dolphins question, one Patriots question, one Jets question and three complaints that I write about Brett Favre too much.

So let me answer the non-Bills questions now: Jerod Mayo appears to be gaining Bill Belichick's trust and could be an immediate contributor; Vernon Gholston looks very uncomfortable when he's not in a three-point stance but he's making strides; Chad Pennington could put Miami in the five- or six-win range.

The rest of this mailbag is dedicated to the Bills because their fans came out strong.

While I read every question, answering each would get repetitive for you to sort through. I received many questions several times over. The most popular subjects were the holdout of Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters (13 questions), Buffalo's playoff chances (seven), the potential for a quarterback controversy after the first preseason game (four), what we can expect from Trent Edwards (three) and how good linebacker Paul Posluszny looks (three).

Matt in Rochester writes: Every year in Western New York there is a sense of hope and promise this is the year the Bills will finally make the playoffs for the first time since the Doug Flutie era. You have gone out on a limb to predict that the Bills will finally make the playoffs (pre-Favre trade). What makes the difference this year?

Tim Graham: Thanks for following my blog, Matt. You're right that I picked the Bills to make the playoffs before the Favre trade -- and before we knew the Jason Peters holdout would drag out so long.

I'm not totally backing off that prediction because I think the Bills have playoff-worthy talent. I just look at the various components and see a 7-9 team that will be better at every position. They clearly were the second-best team in the AFC East last year, and I think they're capable of 9-7 or 10-6 if their youth decides to make a statement.

Mark in Syracuse writes: I am personally drained by the Favre saga, but does having him play for the Jets kill the chance of the Bills to possibly make a run at a wild card spot?

Tim Graham: Favre doesn't totally snuff the Bills' hopes for the wild card, but he makes it harder. With Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens at quarterback, the Bills had an excellent shot at going 4-0 against the Jets and Dolphins. Now, with Favre to the Jets (and Pennington on the Dolphins), those gimme games got tougher.

Jim in Nashville writes: I need to understand the issue with Jason Peters. It seems that there is more than just a holdout here. I've been a Bills fan for 30 years and don't remember the last time they drew a line in the sand with an important player. Bruce Smith was crucial and whined a lot about money and the more they paid him the better he played. It's obvious we need Peters. Why waste another year on "potential" alone? The Bills need to make some noise.

Tim Graham: I hear you, Jim. This holdout should be worrisome for Bills fans. I think the Bills are drawing a line because they're a small-market team that hasn't made the playoffs since the 1999 season. There's not a lot of extra postseason cash lying around like there was in the Super Bowl years -- as evidenced by their need to outsource games to Toronto. The Bills need to stand firm with Peters for the same reason the police don't negotiate with kidnappers. Buckle once, and everybody knows you might again. The Bills can't afford to reward that approach.

Jason in Rochester writes: The Bills played a preseason game against the Redskins on Saturday. While it wasn't impressive, it was more interesting than 5,000 words on a lap by Favre, don't ya think?

Tim Graham: I saw that first preseason game. Sorry. Favre's penalty lap was more interesting and, thankfully, it was over with much sooner.

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