AFC East: Levi Brown

Is Buffalo or Miami a good place for Pryor?

June, 9, 2011
PM ET writer Adam Caplan broke down all the factors facing Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor's transition to the NFL.

Caplan quotes an unnamed scout who says of Pryor: "You need to get him with a team willing to be very patient. Heck, I'm not so sure he's even a quarterback at this point. He's far away from being able to handle what's going to come at him at our level. You don't really see him being asked to make a lot of tough throws. That won't be the case going forward."

With that in mind, Caplan gave five appropriate places for Pryor to play quarterback. Two of the locales are in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills: "While journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played fairly well last season, he’s in the final year of his contract. It also remains to be seen if Levi Brown, whom the Bills selected in the seventh round of last year’s draft, has a future with the team. And keep in mind, head coach Chan Gailey likes to develop mobile quarterbacks. He did a nice job of developing former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart."

Miami Dolphins: "Starter Chad Henne is in the final year of his rookie deal, and Miami doesn’t have a true developmental quarterback on its roster. Tom Brandstater, who was signed as a free agent last season, was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2009 draft by the Denver Broncos."

I agree with Caplan about the Bills. They do have a void at backup quarterback and would like to develop one for the future. Brown doesn't seem to be that guy. He wasn't good enough to make the team out of training camp or even be signed to the practice squad. The Bills didn't bring back Brown until they waived Trent Edwards in-season. Last season's primary backup, the disappointing Brian Brohm, is a free agent.

As for the Dolphins, it's hard to imagine them grabbing a player like Pryor after their experience with Pat White. The Dolphins didn't have the patience to wait around for him to develop NFL passing skills. Also consider that on the Dolphins' depth chart are Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen. Both are free agents, and while Pennington is recovering from knee surgery, either could be back.

Does Terrelle Pryor make AFC East sense?

May, 31, 2011
Aftershocks from Jim Tressel's resignation at Ohio State could cause star quarterback Terrelle Pryor to petition for the NFL's supplemental draft.

ESPN's Adam Schefter, citing an unnamed NFL source, reported Tuesday that the league plans to hold a July supplemental draft if they have applicants.

Pryor is the subject of his own investigation for improper benefits and probably doesn't have anything to gain hanging around Columbus another autumn.

The supplemental draft is set up for prospects with circumstances that've changed since the filing deadline for the regular draft. Teams bid a round they'd be willing to draft a prospect. If they have the best bid, then they get the player and lose the corresponding pick in next year's draft.

Would an AFC East club be interested in taking a shot at Pryor?

Pryor is a tremendous athlete, but not a polished passer. He would be an NFL project. In March, Mel Kiper rated Pryor the fifth-best quarterback in next year's draft, but dropped him out of his top five in subsequent lists. And that factored in another year of college seasoning for Pryor.

Maybe Pryor would be worth a fourth- or fifth-round pick for a team willing to gamble. Or he could be had for a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have room for a developmental quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the incumbent starter. Last year's second-stringer, Brian Brohm, is a free agent. Third-string quarterback Levi Brown was a seventh-round pick who couldn't make the roster out of training camp. General manager Buddy Nix has stated the Bills will sign a free-agent quarterback, too.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins also have spot on their depth chart -- for now. But would they have the patience? The Dolphins didn't want to invest any longer than one season in Pat White, and they used a second-round pick on him. Chad Henne is the only known quantity. The Dolphins didn't draft a quarterback, and last year's backups, Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen, are free agents. Pennington also is recovering from a knee injury.

New England Patriots: There appears to be no room at the inn. Tom Brady was the MVP last season. Top backup Brian Hoyer is back. They also drafted Arkansas passer Ryan Mallett. Pryor would waste a roster spot unless the Patriots wanted to convert him to receiver or tight end.

New York Jets: The Jets still list six quarterbacks on their roster and a seventh on their inactive list. Mark Sanchez, Mark Brunell, Kellen Clemens, Kevin O'Connell, Erik Ainge, Drew Willy and rookie Greg McElroy. No need to go fishing with Pryor.

Don't go changing: Bills show faith in O

May, 18, 2011
At some point, the unlikely collection of NFL teammates struck somebody as unusual, and they began to sort out who the highest draft pick was.

Together last month for a mini passing camp near quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's home in Arizona, eight Buffalo Bills players laughed about their long-shot backgrounds.

Sophomore receiver Marcus Easley was the closest thing to a bonus baby, and he was a fourth-round draft choice with zero NFL games. So who was next in line? Backup quarterback Levi Brown was the answer, a seventh-round pick last year, 209th overall, and unable to make the roster out of training camp.

Bills practice
Courtesy of David NelsonBills players (L to R) Naaman Roosevelt, Levi Brown, Steve Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, David Nelson, Donald Jones and Marcus Easley pose for a picture following a workout last month.
Wide receiver Steve Johnson went 224th, Fitzpatrick 250th. Running back Fred Jackson and receivers David Nelson, Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt weren't drafted at all.

"This is testament of who we are as a group," Nelson said Tuesday night from his home in Dallas. "We all believe in each other. We all push each other. We all compete with each other. We know we're against the odds. We're a bunch of guys nobody gave a chance to."

The Bills have a couple of first-rounders in their offense who didn't attend the workouts. Running back C.J. Spiller and receiver Lee Evans are important components, but it's impressive to consider such a big contingent of overlooked players making up a team's offensive core.

Nelson and the rest of that gang can speak with a little more conviction about their futures in Buffalo now. When they gathered for some casual workouts, there was plenty of doubt about the direction of the offense.

The draft hadn't taken place yet, and the Bills owned the third and 34th selections. There was considerable talk about a quarterback being a serious option. If Auburn star Cam Newton still were on the board, could the Bills pass him up? Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert might have been a possibility, and it was anybody's guess who would still be on the board in the second round.

"I'm sure Fitz was bracing for something," Jackson said Tuesday of the pre-draft mood. "Everybody had to be."

One thing was for sure among the Bills' players: They were rooting for the front office to stand pat at quarterback.

"We've been talking about it as a receiver group for a while," Nelson said. "We were hoping that they would stay away from quarterbacks in the draft because we have all the confidence in the world in Fitz and what he can do. We like the direction we're headed in with him."

The Bills gave their offensive players a major vote of confidence last month. Of their nine draft choices, only two play offense. They drafted Clemson tackle Chris Hairston in the fourth round and North Carolina running back Johnny White in the fifth round.

The Bills will acquire more offensive players whenever free agency dawns. General manager Buddy Nix has said they will sign another quarterback, but the club sent a strong message about Fitzpatrick's standing when they didn't draft one.

"They showed they have a lot of faith in Fitz," Jackson said. "Me and my teammates all have a lot of faith in him, too. We're excited about that. I'm looking forward to working with him and trying to build on what we did last year and making that playoff push."

Fitzpatrick and Jackson will enter the 2011 season with substantially more juice than they had last summer. Both of them were considered backups.

"You have to say that it had some kind of affect on us," Jackson said. "We weren't on the same page when we got in the lineup, but that's part of the game, and we have to adjust.

"It does hurt to not get the reps, but as long as you mentally prepare like you are the No. 1 guy, you can hit the ground running. Hopefully, now we can get those reps and go into this season as the No. 1 guys and put this team on our shoulders and make some plays."

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesThe Bills are confident in Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to lead the team.
Fitzpatrick won over the Bills' locker room and much of their fan base last year. Trent Edwards' presence had worn thin everywhere. The man known as "Captain Checkdown" was uninspiring at best. He was frequently injured and rarely showed a hint of nerve.

New coach Chan Gailey backed him in the beginning. Edwards took most of the offseason reps and was named the No. 1 quarterback when training camp opened. Edwards started all four preseason games.

Fitzpatrick, Brown and Brian Brohm fought over the scraps. Fitzpatrick attempted 23 passes before the season.

Asked at the NFL scouting combine in February whether he regretted those decisions, Gailey replied, "Shoot, yeah. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have done that."

At 0-2, the Bills made an abrupt change. They waived Edwards.

Fitzpatrick was a jolt to the huddle, to the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd, to the community. He grew a bird's-nest beard and called himself the "Amish Rifle." He wore his wedding ring during games. He actually threw the ball downfield.

He made the games entertaining again, even the defeats. Fans forgave him for occasional reckless interceptions.

Jackson was in a similar situation despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards the previous season.

He was in a crowded backfield with Marshawn Lynch and hotshot rookie Spiller and didn't start the first four games, carrying the ball 20 times for 87 yards through the first quarter of the season.

When the Bills traded Lynch for a 2011 fourth-round draft choice and a conditional 2012 sixth-round pick, the door opened for Jackson again.

"Right now, I feel like I'm the No. 1 guy and C.J. will come in and get a lot of plays," Jackson said. "I feel like I'm going to be the guy that's carrying the load and has got to make that running game go.

"I'm sure C.J.'s working hard and will [have] the opportunities as well, but I just got to shoulder the load and take the pressure off Fitz and make us a balanced offense. I want to be that guy."

Spiller generated preseason buzz for rookie of the year honors, but he had a disappointing campaign (283 rushing yards and no touchdowns, 157 receiving yards and one touchdown) and still has much to prove.

Jackson rushed for 614 yards in the second half of the season, tying with Ray Rice for sixth in the NFL in that span. The running backs ahead of them were Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Nice company.

The Bills ranked 25th in total offense, 18th in run offense and 24th in pass offense. Not too swift compared to the rest of the NFL.

But all of their best offensive superlatives in 15 categories (points, first downs, yards, etc.) happened Oct. 24 or later. The same can be said about individual player superlatives, aside from Fitzpatrick's 71.4 completion percentage in Week 3 against the New England Patriots.

The Bills obviously found enough there to make a commitment, and the players aren't crying for help. They're thrilled the group will stay together.

"We did some good things on offense last year," Jackson said. "We feel like if we could get back on the field healthy and get another crack at this thing, we'll continue to have some success."

Buffalo's QB option didn't materialize

April, 30, 2011
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix said "there were some shockers" when it came to first-round quarterbacks.

Those surprises, however, didn't take Buffalo off the quarterback scent.

The chance to take Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus with the third pick played a bigger role in their decision not to get a quarterback within the first two rounds.

"We didn't think Marcell would be there," Nix said Friday night, minutes after taking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams. "Now, the whole thing, leading up to it until the last day or two, we thought he'd be gone. But when [Auburn quarterback Cam] Newton was gone and [Dareus] was there, it was an easy pick."

Whispers around One Bills Drive were that the Bills would look hard at a quarterback at No. 3 or go with a defender there and then try to get a quarterback at No. 34.

The latter option became less likely when Washington quarterback Jake Locker went eighth to the Tennessee Titans, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert went 10th to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder went 12th to the Minnesota Vikings.

It was the first time three quarterbacks went within the first 10 picks since 1999 and only the third time it ever happened in NFL history.

"We're to the point -- and I think I said this a lot of times -- with the first pick, we wanted a franchise guy," Nix said. "If he wasn't there, then we were going to get better on defense and work on needs if the right guy was there."

Nix conceded the Bills still have to address quarterback at some point. They have only two -- incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and sophomore project Levi Brown -- under contract.

"We are still going to go to camp with probably four quarterbacks," Nix said. "So that's not to say we won't take one in the draft, but it's also not to say we wouldn't go after a veteran to be a backup for us and then take another arm to camp. It might be a college free agent."

Fitzpatrick fine, but Bills still watching QBs

January, 26, 2011
Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey has been vocal in his support of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The career backup stepped forth and produced a career year in 2010, giving Bills fans reason to think about other positions when the Bills draft third overall in three months.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix, however, won't rule out a quarterback. The obvious candidates would be Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.

"We certainly like Fitz," Nix told Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan during preparations for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Bills are coaching the South squad.

Fitzpatrick's performance "wasn't more than we expected because I knew Chan would get him to play better," Nix said. "We counted on that and he did. I really like him. I think he's got a lot of qualities you need. We just need to keep putting good players out there."

No matter how much Nix or Gailey love Fitzpatrick as their offensive leader, Bills owner Ralph Wilson will make the final call. Wilson told Associated Press reporter John Wawrow in October that drafting a quarterback was the club's top priority.

Fitzpatrick might have won Wilson over as the season wore on, but the Hall of Fame owner has a reputation for pursuing his desires with conviction once his mind is made up.

Nix said the Bills need to come out of the draft with a quarterback. Their backups are the underwhelming Brian Brohm and second-year pro Levi Brown, a seventh-round pick last year who wasn't good enough for a practice squad spot out of training camp. The Bills brought back Brown after the Bills waived Trent Edwards.

"To answer the question of third pick, whoever is there that we think is going to be a franchise impact player for us is the guy we'll draft," Nix said. "Where anybody thinks it makes sense [in terms of position], it doesn't matter to me. If it's a guy that we think long-term's an impact guy, no matter what the position, we'll take him."

Seasons greetings from Orchard Park, N.Y.

December, 26, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Cold, gray and windy is the forecast for Sunday's matchup between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Temperature at kickoff will be about 23 degrees, but it will feel like 9 degrees, with winds gusting up to 23 mph. The chance of snow is 50 percent.

New England could clinch the AFC East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while a victory over the Patriots would make Buffalo's season. The Bills have won four out of their past six games, including an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Buffalo has lost 14 straight games to New England and 19 out of 20 in the series.

The inactives:

New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills

Aaron Maybin active for Buffalo

November, 28, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Aaron Maybin will wear shoulder pads on Sunday.

Maybin, the struggling Buffalo Bills outside linebacker, doesn't appear on the inactive list for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The 11th pick in last year's draft has been a healthy scratch the five previous games.

These players have been deactivated:

Pittsburgh Steelers
Buffalo Bills

Bills bench first-round pick Aaron Maybin

October, 24, 2010
Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Aaron Maybin might already be nearing the end of the line.

The 11th overall pick of last year's draft has struggled to get on the field for one of the NFL's worst defenses. Maybin's playing time has dwindled over the past few weeks, and on Sunday he was deactivated against the Baltimore Ravens in M&T Bank Stadium.

The move not only is symbolic of his failure to develop as an NFL pass-rusher, but also must be extra difficult for Maybin to take. Maybin is from Ellicott City, Md., and considers Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis one of his mentors.

Here are the rest of Buffalo's scratches:

Jaguars at Bills inactives

October, 10, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Here are the scratches from Sunday afternoon's game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium:

Jacksonville Jaguars
Buffalo Bills

Analyzing the Chris Kelsay extension

October, 8, 2010
The Buffalo Bills have made some controversial personnel moves over the past two weeks.

They dumped quarterback Trent Edwards, their opening-day starter.

They traded Marshawn Lynch, their leading rusher, for a fourth-round draft pick.

They're perhaps the worst team in the league, but their top prospects can't get on the field.

[+] EnlargeChris Kelsay
Tim Steadman/Icon SMIChris Kelsay's contract extension takes him through the 2014 season.
They didn't feel rookie quarterback Levi Brown was worthy of their practice squad but re-signed him to the active roster.

One of the moves that really flummoxed Bills followers had nothing to do with the lineup. The Bills last week signed outside linebacker Chris Kelsay to a four-year contract extension worth about $24 million. In addition to the extension, he received an immediate $2 million bonus.

Kelsay has been a nice player for the Bills, but nothing phenomenal. He's a standup guy in the locker room. He has been a starter for seven seasons and has missed only two games since the Bills drafted him 48th overall in 2003. He has 22 sacks in 114 career games.

Readers have asked for my take on the contract, but I decided to hold off until I could gather enough information on how the deal was broken down.

With help from NFL Players Association documents and the Elias Sports Bureau, I can give you a look at Kelsay's deal with league-wide context and then ask: How would you choose to spend $5 million a year on a defensive player?

The way the math is done, Kelsay's per-year average works out to $5 million. The average consists of base salaries plus what the league calls "likely to be earned bonuses" divided by the length of the deal.

"Likely to be earned bonuses" are incentives that are easy to reach or that a player has a history of achieving. "Unlikely to be earned bonuses," such as winning the Super Bowl MVP or leading the league in kickoff return yardage (don't laugh; these types of things actually appear in some deals), are not factored into the annual average.

To determine whether Kelsay was worth the new contract, I did what a lot of agents would do when it's time to negotiate a contract for a specific client. They research for comparable players, using key criteria such as age, games played, statistics and team success.

I asked the Elias Sports Bureau to run a crosscheck of its data base to find all of the 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers who are 30 or 31 years old (Kelsay will turn 31 on Halloween) and have played at least 100 games.

The list is surprisingly small. The attached chart gives the complete rundown of 10 players who fit the description with their sack totals and average annual salary.

Of that group, Kelsay is the highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker and fourth overall, behind superstar defensive ends Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. All three have at least twice as many sacks as Kelsay.

"The thing you don't want to do is take your core guys and your leaders out of your system," Bills general manager Buddy Nix said Thursday, the first time he commented on Kelsay's extension. "We decided, obviously, that we've got four, five or six guys like that. They maybe are not great players, but good players that set the tone for what you want everybody else to be.

"Chris Kelsay is a good player. He exemplifies what we want players to do and how we want them to be. So that's the reason he's here."

Strange as it might seem, Kelsay's average per year actually went down with his new deal. The NFLPA still had him categorized as a defensive end heading into 2010 because that's the position he played his entire career before the Bills switched to a 3-4 scheme.

His average salary was $5.75 million, making him the 15th highest-paid defensive end regardless of age or experience. He was listed ahead of Robert Mathis, Shaun Ellis, Trent Cole and Chris Long, who received a gaudy contract as the second overall draft pick in 2008.

With all that in mind, I ask again why the Bills needed to sign Kelsay to an extension, and why now? Who else would have paid Kelsay this much? Did the Bills feel like they would be in danger of losing him as a free agent?

I think those are good questions.

Jets at Bills inactives

October, 3, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will be missing some notable starters for Sunday's game in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Each will be without their best defensive lineman, top cornerback and a quality linebacker.

Here are the inactives (the Jets' D-lineman I referred to is nose tackle Kris Jenkins, who's on injured reserve):

Buffalo Bills
New York Jets

Your life will be incomplete without this

October, 2, 2010
Are the New York Jets headed for a letdown against the Buffalo Bills?

Why would Bill Parcells go to the Kansas City Chiefs?

How does Randy Moss have only nine receptions for the New England Patriots?

When does Levi Brown get his shot to start for Buffalo?

Learn my answers to these pressing questions and more in this week's edition of AFC East chat wrap.

Bills bench Edwards, promote Fitzpatrick

September, 20, 2010
Chan Gailey had seven months to judge who the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback should be.

He staged what he described as an open competition into the preseason schedule, but it really wasn't an open competition. After rotating reps among his three quarterbacks, he saw enough out of Trent Edwards to give him the first-team snaps from the start of training camp.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm and draft pick Levi Brown fought over the scraps. Edwards played every preseason game. The others did not.

Now, two games into the regular season, Gailey has admitted an error in judgment.

After an 0-2 start, Gailey has benched Edwards and elevated Fitzpatrick to the starter's role.

Bills interim coach Perry Fewell did the same thing last year.

"We're going to make a change at quarterback," Buffalo News reporter Jay Skurski quoted Gailey as saying Monday afternoon. "He's going to take the reins, and see where that takes us. We're looking for a spark. We're looking for something that gives us a new look, a new thought process. … We're looking for the right combination. We haven't found that yet."

The mistake to start Edwards was compounded by Gailey's decision to give him all of the quality reps. Fitzpatrick played in only two preseason games. He worked mostly with backup players in relief of Edwards.

Fitzpatrick will get to start against an agitated New England Patriots squad in Gillette Stadium.

Buffalo Bills cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Many believed the Bills could keep an extra running back, either veteran Chad Simpson or undrafted rookie Joique Bell, because Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson have been banged up. Simpson and Bell had strong summers, but the Bills cut them both. It's also notable the Bills have given up on 2008 second-round pick James Hardy. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound target never looked as good in action as he did in a uniform. He had injury problems, missing almost all of last year while recovering from a knee injury. He had sports hernia surgery in the offseason. Undrafted rookies outperformed him in camp.

No-brainers: There was no reason to keep rookie quarterback Levi Brown on the 53-man roster. He was drafted in the seventh round out of Troy as a long-term project. He's a safe bet to clear waivers and be added to the practice squad, but if another team snags him, no big loss. The move means the Bills likely will keep backups Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm, each of whom started for them last year.

What's next: On a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years, few positions should be safe. That fact is emphasized by the number of undrafted rookies who made the squad. Bills general manager Buddy Nix will monitor the waiver wire and scrutinize all the veterans who've been dumped into the free-agent pool to see if there are any fits. The Bills will try to improve their offensive line depth and defensive front seven, especially.

AFC East preseason finale observations

September, 2, 2010
With all 32 teams wrapping up their preseason schedules Thursday night, here are a few quick hits from each AFC East game:

Detroit Lions 28, Buffalo Bills 23
  • Trent Edwards was efficient in his one quarter, completing all four of his passes for 66 yards, including a 50-yard strike down the left sideline to Lee Evans.
  • But because Edwards is so inconsistent and injury-prone, backup quarterback remains a big question mark. Ryan Fitzpatrick had the night off. Brian Brohm played less than two quarters and completed 7 of 15 passes for 78 yards and an interception that was tight end J.P. Foschi's fault.
  • Bills kicker Rian Lindell is in midseason form. He nailed field goals from 47, 50 and 41 yards. Remember when former coach Dick Jauron shied from letting Lindell try long kicks?
  • The Bills still have a tough decision to make at receiver. Chad Jackson had a game-high five catches for 59 yards, but hobbled off the field late. James Hardy, a 2008 second-round pick, was targeted seven times but made three catches for 23 yards in the second half.
New York Giants 20, New England Patriots 17
  • Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski is becoming a folk hero. He caught his fourth touchdown of the preseason, a 5-yard toss from Tom Brady on their first drive. The touchdown wasn't as eye-popping as Gronkowski's first two, but he did have a defender hanging on him.
  • New England's first-team defense looked shaky again. Eli Manning marched right through them, going 86 yards on nine plays for a touchdown to open the game. The Giants' starters picked up two more easy first downs on the second possession before punting.
  • Running back Laurence Maroney finally got some action after being a bystander the previous two games: nine carries for 32 yards. Uninspiring. For the record, Fred Taylor started the game.
  • Rookie Devin McCourty bounced back from an awful performance in the previous game, and that's a good sign with veteran Leigh Bodden sidelined for the season. McCourty played only two series but made three tackles and had a pass defensed.
New York Jets 21, Philadelphia Eagles 17
  • Rookie running back Joe McKnight had a rough preseason. He lost his third fumble, and this one was returned 64 yards for an Eagles touchdown. Rex Ryan said McKnight will make the roster and be deactivated until he proves himself in practice.
  • Had the Jets not used a fourth-round draft choice on McKnight, he'd be gone. He was outplayed by Chauncey Washington and Danny Woodhead. Washington ran 12 times for 56 yards, including a long of 22 yards. Woodhead had 12 carries for 45 yards and a 14-yard touchdown.
  • Mark Brunell had an efficient game: 11-of-17 for 118 yards and touchdown passes to Santonio Holmes and Jeff Cumberland.
  • Holmes had a busy night in what will be his last action for a month. He had four catches for 97 yards. His touchdown traveled 51 yards and came in the fourth quarter. Probably not fair to do to Philly reserves who won't be employed come Saturday. But Holmes will be out of commission while serving a four-game suspension.
Dallas Cowboys 27, Miami Dolphins 25
  • The Dolphins had a nerve-racking sequence in the second quarter. Franchise left tackle Jake Long, my pick as the club's most indispensable player, got shaken up on a play when Chad Henne absorbed a blindside sack and fumbled. Four plays later, Sam Hurd beat cornerback Sean Smith for a 43-yard touchdown.
  • Tyler Thigpen, not Pat White, received the prime mop-up duty after Henne and Chad Pennington took their turns. Thigpen did well. He was 10-of-18 for 160 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He ran three times for 20 yards.
  • Only 12 rushing attempts for Dolphins running backs, but 39 passes. Not sure what it means. Maybe coach Tony Sparano just wanted to let Pennington and Thigpen air it out. Maybe the Dolphins didn't want to waste their backs. But I doubt that ratio is a blueprint for the regular season.
  • Tough decision coming at receiver, even after the Greg Camarillo trade. Patrick Turner (one catch for 29 yards) was a third-round pick last year, but hasn't produced as much as undrafted rookies Marlon Moore (4 catches, 31 yards and a touchdown) or Roberto Wallace (3 catches, 59 yards and a touchdown).