AFC East: Jumbo Elliott
Two AFC East clubs and a Bill Belichick team made the cut.
The 1995 Cleveland Browns were 10th. Belichick took Cleveland to the playoffs the year before and got off to a 3-1 start before owner Art Modell's shocking decision to move the team to Baltimore. Cleveland meekly limped to a 5-11 exit.
Ninth were the 1996 New York Jets. They'd gone an unpromising 3-13 the year before, but McCormick rattles off a list of expensive veteran acquisitions that were supposed to turn around Rick Kotite's squad: quarterback Neil O'Donnell, left tackle Jumbo Elliott and right tackle David Williams. The Jets also drafted receiver Keyshawn Johnson first overall. They went 1-15.
The 1995 Miami Dolphins came in fifth. That was Don Shula's swan song. They'd gone 10-6 the previous season, winning the AFC East with a healthy Dan Marino. They added tight end Eric Green, defensive end Trace Armstrong and cornerback Terrell Buckley. They got off to a 4-0 start but fizzled as a wild-card playoff team and a quick exit.
He dissected the Dolphins' season opener while preparing for last Sunday's game against the New York Jets. He has been examining the Dolphins even more for their meeting this Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
One of the recurring highlights for Belichick has been Dolphins rookie LT Jake Long, the No. 1 draft pick out of Michigan. Belichick compared Long to Jets LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the fourth-overall selection in 2006.
"Long is relative to Ferguson, [but] is a lot bigger and physical player," Belichick said on his Tuesday conference call. "He may not be as quick or athletically gifted, but he is a much bigger and much more physical guy."
Belichick can tell why Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells, his old mentor from the New York Giants days, chose Long over anyone else. Belichick noted Long plays the same style as fellow Michigan alum Jumbo Elliott, the Giants' left tackle for the second of Parcells' two Super Bowl titles.
That Long is 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds didn't hurt.
"I think he already is a good, solid tackle," Belichick said. "I am sure he will end up being one of the top tackles in football as he develops and gets into his prime.
"He is being well-coached down there, and he is very fundamentally sound as well as big, tough and athletic. He is a good finisher. He pretty much does everything well. He run blocks, pass blocks, plays in space, is consistent [and] is a good technique player."If Long hasn't had his welcome-to-the-NFL moment yet, it will come Sunday. The Patriots own the best defensive line in football and a front seven the likes of which Long hasn't seen yet.