AFC East: Laurence Maroney

What's the opposite of power rankings?

July, 14, 2011
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In response to the relentless stream of power rankings that have sustained us through the lockout, friend of the blog Bill Barnwell recently compiled his list of the NFL's 25 least valuable players at Grantland.com.

You probably can guess a few players with AFC East connections. Surprisingly not listed, however, was former New York Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston.

Here are the players with strong AFC East ties on Barnwell's chart, with No. 1 being the worst (as opposed to best of the least):

Top draft busts in AFC East history tallied

March, 4, 2011
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When word got out the New York Jets would release defensive end Vernon Gholston, I solicited your nominees for the AFC East's biggest draft busts.

These disappointments received the most votes for each club:

Buffalo Bills
  1. Defensive end Aaron Maybin (11th in 2009)
  2. Tackle Mike Williams (fourth in 2002)
  3. Quarterback J.P. Losman (22nd in 2004)
  4. Defensive tackle John McCargo (26th in 2006)
  5. Defensive end Erik Flowers (26th in 2000)
Comment: Sadly, Buffalo's list suggests readers don't remember the team before the Music City Miracle. Last year's strong safety, Donte Whitner, finished sixth. Epic busts Walt Patulski (first in 1972), Tony Hunter (12th in 1983) and Perry Tuttle (19th in 1982) received only one vote each. Nobody mentioned running back Terry Miller (fifth in 1978).

Miami Dolphins
  1. Receiver Yatil Green (15th in 1997)
  2. Receiver Ted Ginn (ninth in 2007)
  3. Running back John Avery (29th in 1998)
  4. Cornerback Jamar Fletcher (26th in 2001)
  5. Receiver Randal Hill (23rd in 1991), Eric Kumerow (16th in 1988), running back Sammie Smith (ninth in 1989)
Comment: The Dolphins were the most nominated team in this exercise. They led with 16 nominees and the number of votes cast. Green didn't play in his rookie or sophomore seasons because of injuries and lasted eight games his third year. My pick would have been Kumerow, whose career consisted of three seasons, zero starts and five sacks.

New England Patriots
  • Running back Laurence Maroney (21st in 2006)
  • Receiver Chad Jackson (36th in 2006)
  • Receiver Hart Lee Dykes (16th in 1989)
  • Cornerback Chris Canty (29th in 1997)
  • Offensive lineman Eugene Chung (13th in 1992), defensive end Kenneth Sims (first in 1982), linebacker Chris Singleton (eighth in 1990)
Comment: I was surprised Sims didn't receive more attention. He was the No. 1 choice ahead of Marcus Allen, Gerald Riggs, Mike Munchak, Jim McMahon and Chip Banks. Maroney received the most votes, but he also generated the most spirited debate because many readers disagreed he should be considered a bust. Jackson was a second-round pick, but the Patriots traded up 16 spots to get him.

New York Jets
  1. Running back Blair Thomas (second in 1990)
  2. Defensive end Vernon Gholston (sixth in 2008)
  3. Tight end Kyle Brady (ninth in 1995)
  4. Defensive tackle DeWayne Robertson (fourth in 2003)
  5. Receiver Johnny "Lam" Jones (second in 1980)
Comment: There was a lot of material to work with here. I was satisfied readers emphasized the magnitude of the bust over the freshness of Gholston's release by voting for Thomas. The next running back off the board in 1990 was Emmitt Smith.

Patriots make changes on coaching staff

February, 11, 2011
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The New England Patriots have a new offensive coordinator.

Before you get too excited, keep in mind they didn't have one last year.

Quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien has called the plays the past two seasons. The Patriots officially added the coordinator title Friday.

The title is mightily deserved. O'Brien has done a wonderful job overseeing the offense. A marvelous season from unanimous MVP quarterback Tom Brady didn't hurt. The Patriots also were deemed to have the NFL's best offensive line, and O'Brien's boss was voted Associated Press 2010 Coach of the Year.

But O'Brien deserves partial credit for those honors. He helped overhaul an offense that jettisoned receiver Randy Moss (the final straw likely a blowup with O'Brien) and running back Laurence Maroney, successfully incorporated overachieving backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, thrived with two rookie tight ends and dealt with dicey issues along the offensive line.

The Patriots' coaching staff became a bit of a curiosity one year ago, when Bill Belichick revealed he wouldn't have any coordinators on his staff -- not on offense, defense or special teams.

Also Friday, the Patriots announced linebackers coach Matt Patricia was moved to safeties coach. Defensive assistant Patrick Graham has been promoted to linebackers coach. Offensive and special-teams assistant Brian Flores will assume Graham's old role.

ESPNBoston writers Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak reported head strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik interviewed with the Dallas Cowboys this week. Woicik's contract is up. So the Patriots apparently are in the market for a new strength coach.

Hey, I hear Sal Alosi isn’t doing anything these days.

Position for position, Patriots produced

January, 6, 2011
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If you don't like reading about how great the New England Patriots are, then you might want to skip this item.

Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell broke down each offensive skill position using their core metrics, DYAR and DVOA, stats the show how well a player performs compared to NFL average expectations in terms of down, distance, scoring differential and the like.

As you would guess, the Patriots cleaned up.

Barnwell ranked the top five and bottom five players for an ESPN Insider column. Because the piece is for subscribers, I've been given special dispensation to share the AFC East players.

Quarterback: Tom Brady was the top-rated quarterback, as you would expect. His DVOA said he was 53.4 percent better than the average quarterback would be in the various situations.

The AFC East's other quarterbacks weren't in the top or bottom five, which probably surprises many Miami Dolphins and New York Jets fans.

Running back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead finished fourth and fifth. Barnwell wrote they "obviously benefit from the presence of a dominant passing game. They aren't the fourth- and fifth-best running backs in football in a vacuum, but their level of production this year has been better than all but three other running backs."

In the bottom-five category were former Patriots running back Laurence Maroney at No. 1 and former Jets workhorse Thomas Jones at No. 5.

Wide receiver: No receivers made the cut in either group, but Patriots star Wes Welker and Dolphins sophomore Brian Hartline were mentioned as the two receivers who performed better than anyone else compared to their stats. Randy Moss didn't register because he didn't generate any numbers worth crunching.

Tight end: Guess what ... Two more Patriots. Rob Gronkowski was No. 3 and Aaron Hernandez was No. 5. Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano was the most improved from the previous season.

Green-Ellis outruns an entire division

January, 3, 2011
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Before the season, if I'd have given you eight guesses to predict the AFC East's only 1,000-yard rusher, chances are you wouldn't have gotten the right answer.

Of all the players to choose from -- Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney -- somebody buried on his team's depth chart topped them all.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Elsa/Getty ImagesBenJarvus Green-Ellis finished the season with 1,008 rushing yards and 13 TDs.
Ladies and gentlemen, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the AFC East's only 1,000-yard rusher.

Seventeen players rushed for at least 1,000 yards, but Green-Ellis was alone in the division. He finished with 1,008 yards. His 13 touchdowns ranked second in the league.

It was one of a few surprising stats for AFC East breakout performers this year.

But a few notables fell short of milestones.

Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake went into the final weekend with the NFL sacks lead, but he was surpassed by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali. Wake finished third with 14 sacks.

Patriots running back Danny Woodhead needed 93 yards to reach 1,000 from scrimmage, but he left Sunday's game against the Dolphins with a head injury after gaining just 19 yards. Woodhead did break the club record for rushing average at 5.68 yards, edging Don Calhoun.

Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson, a 2008 seventh-round draft choice, needed another touchdown catch to tie the franchise record of 11 held by Billy Brooks, but the Bills' offense was blanked. Johnson eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards earlier.

Established stars attained some milestones.

As expected, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won the passing crown with a 111.0 rating. He threw an NFL-high 36 touchdowns and an NFL-low (among qualifying passers) four interceptions.

Brady also extended his streak of attempts without an interception to 335. He'll pick that back up in September.

Because of Brady's efficiency, the Patriots broke the record for fewest turnovers. The finished with 10, three fewer than the Dolphins and New York Giants from 2008 and two fewer than the Chiefs in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall had his streak of 100 reception seasons snapped at three (as did the deactivated Wes Welker), but Marshall did gain over 1,000 yards a fourth straight time.

Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo finished as the unofficial tackles leader with 175.

And for the rookies:

New England's Rob Gronkowski had 10 touchdown catches to tie Antonio Gates and Marcedes Lewis for the most among all tight ends.

Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty had seven interceptions, one behind Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed for the league lead.

Undrafted RBs put needs in perspective

December, 6, 2010
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No team has drafted more running backs in the first round than the Buffalo Bills, and what do they have to show for it?

They've taken a running back nine times with frustratingly inconsistent success. O.J. Simpson was transcendent. The likes of Terry Miller and Booker Moore were forgettable. Greg Bell, Ronnie Harmon, Antowain Smith, Willis McGahee and Marshawn Lynch merely passed through, failing to last beyond three or four seasons.

In fact, the five teams to draft the most first-round running backs -- Bills and Minnesota Vikings nine each, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions eight apiece -- have two Lombardi Trophies among them.

Why do I bring this up?

It underscores an interesting weekend item by Wall Street Journal and Pro Football Talk writer Michael David Smith. He noted six teams are led by undrafted running backs this year, most since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

Two AFC East teams are among them, including the Bills. Fred Jackson has performed well after the Bills traded Lynch (12th overall in 2007) to the Seattle Seahawks for a fourth-round draft choice and rookie C.J. Spiller (11th overall this year) has struggled.

Jackson has 851 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns. Spiller has 281 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown.

For the New England Patriots, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have been integral contributors and fan favorites. The Patriots traded Laurence Maroney (21st overall in 2006) and a sixth-round pick to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round choice.

Green-Ellis and Woodhead have combined for 971 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns entering Monday night's game against the New York Jets.

The NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster, wasn't drafted. The Houston Texans star has 1,230 yards and 13 touchdowns.

DanJarvus Green-Woodhead propels Pats

November, 21, 2010
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Danny WoodheadStew Milne/US PresswireUnheralded running back Danny Woodhead has helped bring balance to New England's offense.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are such iconic quarterbacks, their teams often are depicted as ancillary.

It was Brady and everybody else on the New England Patriots versus Manning and everybody else on the Indianapolis Colts.

On Sunday, everybody else on the Patriots was superior to everybody else on the Colts. The Patriots held on for a thrilling 31-28 victory in Gillette Stadium.

The latest installment of the Brady versus Manning rivalry didn't disappoint, but while Manning threw for a garish amount of yards and touchdowns, Brady didn't drive New England's offense.

The Patriots controlled the game with running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, overachievers who were neither drafted nor claimed whenever they were placed on waivers.

Patriots play-caller Bill O'Brien was masterful at mixing in the bruising Green-Ellis and the elusive Woodhead, sometimes alternating them play for play. The DanJarvus Green-Woodhead combo rushed for all but 3 of the Patriots' 168 net rushing yards.

They have added a dimension to the Patriots' run game first-round draft choice Laurence Maroney wasn't willing or capable to bring. Maroney was criticized for being too indecisive and not hitting the hole.

That's not a problem with New England's current combo.

"It's just too hard to run away from these guys," Patriots tight end Alge Crumpler said of defenders. "They're too fast, too light on their feet. You have to go through them. It's hand the ball off and run downhill. Sometimes it works that way, and it was fun it be a part of it."

A quality run game is critical for New England's offense, especially since they traded Randy Moss. Defenses are crowding the box more than before.

And with the always-reliable Kevin Faulk out for the season after two games and the disappointing Maroney traded in September, a couple of unproven backs had to step up.

Green-Ellis ran 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. He helped the Patriots grind down the clock with seven carries for 40 yards in the fourth quarter.

Woodhead had seven attempts for 69 yards. He produced a dazzling, 36-yard touchdown weave in the third quarter. He then made a stupendous tackle on the ensuing kickoff. Woodhead also caught four passes for 21 yards.

They gave the Colts fits, whatever the situation.

"With Woodhead in the game, we look at it as an empty backfield," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "He's another receiver. He has the ability to get out and, if a linebacker or safety is on him, it's a tough matchup.

"When Green-Ellis is in the game, we know they're running downhill, and they're going to get the hard yards."

[+] EnlargeNew England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Colts.
The Colts were going to win or lose with whatever Manning did. He passed for 396 yards and four touchdowns to give the Patriots a scare. But he failed to tie the game or win it when, with 31 seconds left on the clock and the Colts within field-goal range, he threw his third interception.

With Green-Ellis and Woodhead, the Patriots' offense was diversified.

Brady played a tidy game and certainly exuded his usual championship presence throughout the game. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns for a 123.1 passer rating.

Still, Green-Ellis and Woodhead were highly prominent. Of their 60 offensive snaps, the Patriots ran 34 times.

"They're getting a lot of opportunities because we're running the ball," Brady said. "It's not just drop back and throw it every time. That's certainly important, especially in a game like this, to be able to run the ball. We found ways to do it."

Green-Ellis and Woodhead became more integral to the game plan as the game wore on.

The Patriots scored the first two touchdowns and held a pair of 14-point margins in the second quarter and took another late in the third. With 10:23 left in the game, a Shayne Graham field goal gave the Patriots a 31-14 lead.

Some teams would just pound away with their feature back. The Patriots kept mixing Green-Ellis and Woodhead with wonderful success. All but one of Woodhead's rushing attempts came in the second half.

ESPN Stats & Information charted New England for 114 rushing yards up the middle, its highest total of the year. Indianapolis' defense went into the game yielding an average of 4.6 yards a carry up the middle. With linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session scratched because of injuries, Green-Ellis and Woodhead feasted.

For the season, Green-Ellis has 568 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, the first Patriots running back to run for seven touchdowns through 10 games since Corey Dillon in 2006.

Woodhead has 529 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, certainly disgusting stats for anyone who wears New York Jets apparel. The Jets waived him this year because they didn't have a roster spot for him.

Woodhead and Green-Ellis are sharing the load and making the Patriots a better team.

"Football is a team sport," Woodhead said. "We've got to work together. We're on team. We're doing this thing together."

Final Word: AFC East

October, 15, 2010
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:


[+] EnlargeDeion Branch
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesReceiver Deion Branch has rejoined the Patriots after catching 13 passes with Seattle this season.
Don't expect a huge statistical impact from Deion Branch. The Patriots traded for him to help fill the void left by Randy Moss, but there are three reasons you shouldn't expect big contributions right away: 1) Branch isn't the same type of player Moss is; 2) Moss wasn't being used as we'd come to expect anymore; 3) Branch might be sharing snaps with Brandon Tate until Branch gets comfortable with the playbook. The Patriots have established their offense this year with multiple tight ends and don't spread out three-plus receivers anymore. Moss caught only nine passes for New England before the trade. Expect Tom Brady to lean heavily on slot receiver Wes Welker, his tight ends and a revitalized ground game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been running the way Patriots fans wished Laurence Maroney would.

The Dolphins can barge back into the division title discussion with a victory at Lambeau Field. Sunday's game against the Packers is a pivotal one. Either the Dolphins will be spiraling with a third straight loss, or they'll be undefeated on the road with another upset victory against an NFC foe many considered a preseason Super Bowl contender. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers expected to be properly healed from last week's concussion, the Dolphins aren't supposed to win. But the Packers are banged up enough to remove confidence from any prediction.

The Jets don't need to win this Sunday, but a victory would put them in a dominant position. I'm not saying the Jets can afford to take a week off, but Sunday's game against the Broncos at Invesco Field is one of the least important in terms of the standings. If the Jets happen to drop this one, fans shouldn't get too worked up. The Jets have gotten off to a 4-1 start. They're undefeated within the division, have a winning record at home and away. Had you offered all of that plus a 4-2 record at the break to Rex Ryan before the season started, I'm sure he would have taken it. Sunday's game wouldn't even factor into the tie-breaking procedures until the fourth step, because the Broncos aren't a common opponent within the AFC East.

We'll find out Sunday if the Patriots' defense is up to snuff. The Ravens are a running juggernaut that can throw a little. They also lead the NFL in third-down conversions. They will be a rugged test for the Patriots' worrisome defense, which has been forgotten about recently. In that Week 4 obliteration of the Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium, the Patriots' defense and special teams enjoyed a rollicking night. They returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, blocked a punt and intercepted four passes, taking one back for a score. Then the focus shifted to the offense when the Patriots traded Moss and acquired Branch in separate deals during their bye week. The Patriots can't count on 21 points from their special teams every week to gloss over their defensive inadequacies. They rank 29th in total defense, 20th in run defense and 28th in pass defense.

The Bills have four days to turn some players into draft picks. There's little optimism surrounding the Bills at the moment. They're 0-4 and on their bye week. Five of their next seven games are against teams that either lead their divisions or won them last year. The Steelers are one of the exceptions, and they happen to be considered elite this year. The Bills won't play another game in Ralph Wilson Stadium until Nov. 14 because their next home game takes place in Toronto. So what's the next event Bills fans should be watching out for? The trade deadline is at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Maybe they'll unload some players.

Patriots welcome back Deion Branch

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
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The New England Patriots have pulled the trigger on the second phase of their Randy Moss expulsion.

Branch
Branch
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Patriots have acquired old friend Deion Branch to help fill the void created when they catapulted Moss from their roster last week. Schefter said the Patriots sent a fourth-round draft choice to the Seattle Seahawks for Branch, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX for the Patriots.

The Patriots had two fourth-round picks, having acquired another from the Denver Broncos for Laurence Maroney.

The Minnesota Vikings sent their third-round pick to the Patriots for Moss on Wednesday.

The Boston Globe reported Friday that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had been in frequent contact with Branch about a reunion before the Patriots traded Moss to the Minnesota Vikings.

In four games with Seattle this year, Branch had 13 catches for 112 yards and one touchdown. That might not sound like a lot, but he actually was their leading wide receiver. Tight end John Carlson has a team-leading 14 catches.

Branch spent his first four seasons with the Patriots, when he caught 213 passes for 2,744 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had 190 receptions for 2,347 yards and 15 touchdowns in more than four seasons with Seattle.

Patriots loaded with 2011 draft picks

October, 7, 2010
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For now, the New England Patriots have two selections in each of the first four rounds of the 2011 draft.

When I say "for now," I don't necessarily mean they could potentially trade some of those picks. There's a good chance they'll accumulate more.

The Patriots have their own picks plus these:
ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay weighed in with their thoughts on what the Patriots should do with those assets.

Kiper recommended the Patriots infuse some youth onto an aging offense. Kiper said the Patriots can come away with a quality running back and wide receiver and perhaps find a replacement for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins.

With the Raiders' first-round pick, Kiper claimed the Patriots could get Georgia receiver A.J. Green, Alabama running back Mark Ingram or Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas.

McShay predicted the Patriots will concentrate on defense because they don't have a track record of effectively drafting running backs or receivers in the first round.

McShay mentioned defensive ends Allen Bailey of Miami, Adrian Clayborn of Iowa, Cameron Heyward of Ohio State and Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson as good fits for the Patriots' scheme.

At outside linebacker, McShay pointed to Robert Quinn of Clemson, Akeem Ayers of UCLA and Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue.

ESPN Stats & Information took a look at what type of player the Patriots could expect to draft with the third-round pick they acquired for Moss.

video

Something amiss with Randy Moss trade

October, 6, 2010
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If New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick truly is a genius, then he had better have something up his hoodie we don't know about.

Wednesday's trade makes little sense given the information we have at our disposal at the moment.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeRandy Moss reportedly had a confrontation with Bill Belichick following the Dolphins game.
The Patriots dealt star receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Patriots will get a third-round draft choice in exchange.

There are many ways to dissect the deal. The Patriots gave up only a fourth-round draft choice to get Moss from the Oakland Raiders in 2007. Moss spent three-plus seasons with the Patriots, helped Tom Brady set a few records along the way and was a major reason they came within one game of an undefeated season.

In that regard, the Patriots look like winners even though they couldn't hoist a Lombardi Trophy with Moss.

They gave up little to acquire a superstar who went to the Pro Bowl in two of his three full seasons and caught 50 touchdowns in 52 games. They went 40-12 with him, including an 11-5 campaign with Matt Cassel at quarterback.

But jettisoning Moss now is puzzling.

He's a game-changing receiver who keeps defenses honest and opens up the offense for players such as slot receiver Wes Welker and, this year, rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Moss is an elite deep threat.

Even though Moss is entering the final year of his contract and he had only nine receptions through four games (the Patriots are 3-1), his value to New England's organizational objectives for this year obviously is worth more than a third-round draft choice in 2011.

The Patriots, much like the New York Yankees, are the kind of team that legitimately expects to win a championship every year.

Without Moss, the Patriots seem to be significantly weakened on offense, and that's particularly troubling given the way their defense has faltered this year. The Patriots will need to win some games by getting into shootouts to overcome their defensive vulnerabilities.

AccuScore calculates the Patriots are 10.5 percent less likely to make the playoffs without Moss.

There must be more to this story than the Patriots merely trying to acquire a draft asset for a player who would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Moss popped off a few times this year about not getting a contract extension from the Patriots and feeling unappreciated by the front office. Belichick publicly shrugged off those comments and heaped praise on Moss as a special player.

Reports surfaced Tuesday that Moss had requested to be traded after the season opener and, after being thrown at just once Monday night against the Miami Dolphins and finishing the game with zero receptions, had a confrontation with Belichick.

Maybe the trade makes the Patriots better simply by removing him, a classic addition by subtraction move to get the Patriots focused for the rest of the season.

We may learn more once Moss has unpacked his duffel bag in Minnesota.

Perhaps then this trade will make more sense.

Halftime observations from Pats at Fins

October, 4, 2010
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MIAMI -- Some halftime thoughts from the Sun Life Stadium press box, where the Miami Dolphins are leading the New England Patriots on Monday night 7-6:
  • The shootout I expected hasn't materialized yet. Both teams are passing more than running, but the throws have been short. New England's longest pass play has been 12 yards. Miami's has been 21 yards.
  • Chad Henne was an inferno to start the game. He completed his first seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. From his eighth pass on he completed 4 of 8 attempts for 31 yards and two bad interceptions to linebacker Rob Ninkovich, a Dolphins castoff.
  • Star receivers Brandon Marshall and Randy Moss have been zeroed out so far. The only time Henne threw in Marshall's direction, he forced the pass and got intercepted. Moss also has no catches on one target -- his in the end zone near the end of the half.
  • Even Wes Welker has been quiet. He didn't have a catch in the first quarter and didn't get involved until just before halftime with five receptions for a modest 33 yards.
  • The star so far has been Dolphins slot receiver Davone Bess. He has six receptions for 71 yards and the lone touchdown. He has three big catches on third down, including his 19-yard touchdown catch and run. ESPN Stats & Information has Bess down for 47 yards after the catch.
  • Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis sure gives Patriots fans a lot to cheer for. He hits the hole like they wished Laurence Maroney would. Green-Ellis has eight carries for 32 yards.
  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warmed up in the second quarter. He was 10-of-12 for 79 yards but couldn't get them into the end zone.
  • Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake recorded five tackles, two for losses, one sack and three QB hits.

AFC East High Energy Player of the Week

September, 28, 2010
9/28/10
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NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 3.

The New England Patriots badly needed a backfield boost.

[+] EnlargeBenJarvus Green-Ellis
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed 16 times for 98 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.
Five days after they traded Laurence Maroney, trusted veteran Kevin Faulk went down with a season-finishing knee injury last week.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis stepped in and propelled the Patriots to a 38-30 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Gillette Stadium. The undrafted and seldom-used running back rushed 16 times for 98 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that virtually ended the game.

"No matter who goes down, the train has to keep rolling," Green-Ellis said. "So everybody has to go out and do their part."

Green-Ellis went into Sunday with only 52 carries over his previous 18 games dating to November 2008.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss charted Green-Ellis for 23 of the Patriots' 68 offensive plays, more than any other back.

"He gets it downhill," Patriots center Dan Koppen said. "He finds what's there to get and keeps positive yards. He's a great running back to block for."

Another undrafted runner, Danny Woodhead, had a big game in his Patriots debut with three carries for 42 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown.

Bills D wants to get aggressive with Patriots

September, 24, 2010
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills are off to a dubious start. They're being talked about as possibly the NFL's worst team. Some pundits already have put them on the clock for the first draft choice of 2011.

[+] Enlarge Drayton Florence
AP Photo/Morry GashDrayton Florence and the Bills, off to an 0-2 start, face New England's touted receivers on Sunday.
The Bills are 0-2 and headed to a place they've never won to play one of the league's marquee franchises, the New England Patriots.

Bills cornerback Drayton Florence isn't quaking in his cleats, but he understands why nobody is giving his team a popsicle's chance in Hades to win Sunday.

"The way we've been playing, anytime we beat anybody it's going to be an upset," Florence told me in the Bills' locker room Friday. "You've just got to keep grinding. Nobody's giving us a chance, but who knows who's going to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the year?

"You've got to have a sense of pride in your work. If you go out there with a chip on your shoulder and some pride, this thing should get turned around."

The idea of going on the road to defend Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker can't be too appealing. But the Bills might actually match up well against the Patriots' offense. The Bills rated second in pass defense last year, you know.

In their last game, the Bills held Brady to 47.8 percent completions and a 59.1 passer rating. The Patriots won with a rushing attack led by Laurence Maroney (no longer on the team). Third-down back Kevin Faulk also is gone because of a knee injury.

Brady threw 11 passes Welker's way that frigid day, but they connected only four times. Moss caught five of his seven targets for 70 yards and a touchdown.

"They do a lot of things with Wes, getting him off the ball, putting him in motion so you can't really get a jam on him," Florence said, "but you've got to be physical with all those guys."

Florence said the key to victory will be generating a pass rush. Brady expressed glee this week when talking about old nemesis Aaron Schobel not being around anymore. Schobel sacked him 12 times for the Bills.

"I'm glad he retired," Brady said on a conference call with Bills reporters Wednesday. "Believe me. No one's happier than I am. He sacked me more than anyone in the league.

"He's a tough competitor, but the guys in his place, there's a good group of pass-rushers up there. Kyle Williams, I really like him. It's a big defensive front that can really push the pocket. So we've got to stand up to them."

The Bills' pass rush was meek against the Green Bay Packers last week, but they recorded three sacks and eight quarterback hits on the Miami Dolphins' respected offensive line in Week 1.

"Any time you can disguise coverage and get pressure on the quarterback, no matter who you're playing, that's always a plus," Florence said. "Whenever the quarterback's got to move around in the pocket to make his reads and make his adjustments, especially a guy like Tom, if you show him what you're in, he's going to know where the mismatch is.

"Playing aggressive always is going to be a key."

Kevin Faulk's injury will sting Patriots

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
3:47
PM ET
The term "third-down back" usually conjures images of a role player who can come off the sideline and turn a dump pass into a first down.

Kevin Faulk means more than that, as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. If Faulk's knee injury sidelines him, then Tom Brady won't merely lose a trusty target.

"That role is a lot more than having the ball in your hands," Belichick said. "Kevin is in there a lot of plays when he doesn't have it in his hands, blocking, blitz pickup, formation. It's not just handling the ball."

Last season, Faulk rushed for 335 yards (5.4 yards a carry) and two touchdowns, adding 37 receptions for 301 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 18 first downs and caught passes for 13 first downs.

Belichick said the Patriots still are evaluating Faulk's injury, but he reportedly will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. He was hurt in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's loss to the New York Jets and could be out a while.

Belichick wouldn't rule out Faulk for the upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills, but the coach also didn't dismiss the possibility of Faulk ending up on season-ending injured reserve.

"We'll try to put together a game plan that we can use to utilize all of our players and give ourselves the best chance to deal with the issues and the problems that Buffalo presents, which are numerous," Belichick said. "However that turns out will be whatever we feel is our best chance this week against Buffalo."

The Patriots are thin at running back after trading last year's leading rusher, Laurence Maroney, to the Denver Broncos a week ago.

One of the substitutes could be running back Danny Woodhead. The Patriots signed the former Jets reserve Saturday but didn't use him against his former team.

Belichick added he didn't have enough time to pump Woodhead for info on the Jets because by the time they signed him, the Patriots already were out of town. But signing Woodhead a day before the game probably was enough gamesmanship to get under the Jets' skin for a few hours.

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