AFC East: Maimi Dolphins

Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: This is a roster lacking depth and talented playmakers. Teams must trim rosters by Friday, and I expect the Dolphins to make many of those pickups to improve their team.
Morning take: The context of the comments was about the struggling offense. New York has yet to score a preseason touchdown, and Tebow might be able to help in the red zone. The Jets have a lot of issues to fix before Sept. 9.
Morning take: Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer will both make the team, and Belichick probably won’t designate a backup until he has to. We thought Mallett had the better preseason, but he still lacks experience.
Morning take: Two playoff teams from the AFC East this season won’t be easy. It will probably take 10 wins to be safe. Are the Bills up for that challenge? They must first learn how to win inside the division.
We have another interesting "Poll Friday" question in the AFC East. Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush recently stated he wanted to lead the NFL in rushing, which brings up our latest topic.

SportsNation

Which RB will lead the AFC East in rushing in 2012?

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    53%
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    30%
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    10%
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    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,815)

Which AFC East running back will lead the division in rushing?

Will it be Bush, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season in 2011? Bush proved to be durable last year and played in 15 games. With a questionable passing attack, Miami will need his production.

Or will it be another 1,000-yard rusher: Shonn Greene of the New York Jets? Greene will be at the head of New York's ground-and-pound offense. The Jets plan to run the ball a lot, and Greene could reach 300 carries if he stays healthy.

Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills was on a tear last year before a season-ending leg injury. Jackson, 31, is out to prove he still has a lot left in the tank. Will he lead the AFC East in rushing this season?

Finally, we have a bevy of New England Patriots running backs. The reigning AFC champions will use a tailback by committee and throw the ball a ton with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. But I'm sure there are Patriot homers out there who would vote for Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Joseph Addai or Danny Woodhead to lead the division in rushing.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on who you think will win the AFC East rushing crown in 2012. You can also share your thoughts in the comments section below.
To no surprise, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tops the final Total Quarterback Ratings for the 2011 season in the AFC East. Brady posted a stellar score of 74.2, which was third-highest in the NFL.

Brady
The rest of the division quarterbacks didn't do so well this past season.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, this season's winner of the "Sanchez-Fitz-Moore Watch," was the second-best quarterback in the AFC East. He posted a QBR of 54.0, which was 17th in the NFL.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was third with a QBR of 51.2, which was 18th in the NFL. New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was last in the division with a QBR of 33.6. Sanchez was 30th out of a possible 34 quarterbacks graded.

The only quarterbacks who scored lower than Sanchez this season were Sam Bradford (27.3), Tim Tebow (27.2), Curtis Painter (23.4) and Blaine Gabbert (20.5).

Seven-step drop: Andre Carter on a tear

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
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Here are seven notes and observations from Week 10 in the AFC East:
    [+] EnlargeAndre Carter
    William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswirePatriots defensive end Andre Carter had 4.5 sacks against Mark Sanchez and the Jets on Sunday.

  • The New England Patriots received a lot of press for making big-name acquisitions like Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. But New England's best offseason addition turned out to be an under-the-radar free agent. Veteran defensive end Andre Carter signed with the Patriots in August and didn't create many headlines. He was one of several defensive linemen added to the team for depth, which included Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis. But Carter is on a tear with the Patriots this season. He had 4.5 sacks in Sunday's important win against the New York Jets and is tied for fourth in the NFL with nine sacks. Carter is on pace to shatter his career-best total of 11 sacks from 2009.
  • The Patriots have depth issues at several positions, but offensive tackle is not one of them. New England flexed its muscle at tackle against the Jets and didn't allow any sacks on quarterback Tom Brady. Left tackle Matt Light and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer got the start and played great, while rookie first-round pick Nate Solder was used as a sub in heavy packages and temporarily when Vollmer was hurt. Both Vollmer and Solder were questionable heading into the game. The Patriots also have a young offensive tackle on their practice squad in Matt Kopa who has potential. The second-year player from Stanford could be additional insurance if New England has any major injuries at the position.
  • The Jets (5-4) are essentially two games back in the AFC East and could run into issues in the wild-card race. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head meetings, and the Jets lost to a pair of wild-card contenders in the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) and Oakland Raiders (5-4). New York has to hope the Ravens and Raiders win their divisions. The Jets also have to worry about the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) and maybe the struggling Buffalo Bills (5-4). The Jets and Bills could have an elimination game in two weeks at the Meadowlands.
  • Speaking of Buffalo, a lot of pressure now is on Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He was paid $59 million to be the long-term solution and face of the franchise. Fitzpatrick is no longer a cute, surprising story. With the $10 million per year price tag comes high expectations for Fitzpatrick to consistently produce. It's poor timing for Fitzpatrick to play his worst football of the season. He's thrown for 337 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions the past two weeks. As a result, Buffalo has been outscored 71-18 in that span against the Jets and Dallas Cowboys. The bar has been raised and Fitzpatrick will get a lion's share of the blame when things don't go well. That's par for the course for other franchise quarterbacks around the league.
  • Buffalo has a lot of issues defensively. But the biggest issue haunting the Bills is their lack of pass rush. Buffalo thought it fixed its pass-rush issues in Toronto after registering 10 sacks against the Washington Redskins. It was the second-most sacks in Bills history. But that proved to be a fluke. Buffalo has just one sack in its past two games, and quarterbacks are taking advantage. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was very comfortable in the pocket. He was 23 of 26 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Is winning the best thing for the Miami Dolphins? Miami fans have to be torn about the Dolphins' two-game winning streak. The Dolphins are finally playing well. But it comes after the team has no pressure and no shot at the postseason. On the flip side, it's a virtual certainty Miami played itself out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Indianapolis Colts (0-10) cannot win three of their final six games. Miami (2-7) also would have to lose its final seven games. That doesn't appear likely, either.
  • Next week's game between Buffalo and Miami will be more interesting than expected. The AFC East blog will be covering that contest next week at Sun Life Stadium. I think this is a must-win game for Buffalo. The Bills are in the middle of their three-game road trip, and this is the most winnable one on their schedule. Miami, meanwhile, will have a lot of say in who wins the AFC East. The Dolphins have four division games remaining and seem to be relishing their "spoiler" role. Miami can put a huge dent in Buffalo's season next week.

Morning take: Waiting on Haynesworth

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Chad Ochocinco's lackluster production actually took pressure off Haynesworth, who has been in and out of the lineup. But the Patriots need Hanynesworth to have a good second half of the season more than they need Ochocinco.
Morning take: Miami needs to win games. That's the bottom line. If the Dolphins remain winless and in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick, talk of Luck won't go away.
Morning take: Buffalo has good chemistry in the locker room, which usually is the case with winning teams. Sunday's game against Washington is a big opportunity for Buffalo to improve to 5-2.
Morning take: New York plays aggressive. Penalties come with that style of play. The Jets could get better, but there are bigger concerns on the team.
New England Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco caught one pass for 14 yards in Monday's 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots still won going away, as quarterback Tom Brady threw for 517 yards and four touchdowns.

But Ochocinco's lack of production got under the skin of former Patriot Tedy Bruschi. The ESPN analyst ripped Ochocinco for the receiver's tweet praising Brady's performance.

Here is the transcript of Bruschi with WEEI radio via Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England:
"Drop the awe factor, OK, Ocho, Chad, drop the awe factor. You're not a fan, all right? You're not someone who's on another team or watching TV. You're not an analyst. You're a part of it. They want you to be a part of it. So get with the program because obviously you're not getting it and you're tweeting because you're saying, 'It's amazing to see'? It's amazing to see because you don't understand it! You still don't understand it and it's amazing to you because you can't get it.

"Stop tweeting and get in your playbook. Wake up! If you're just waking up now -- I don't know when this was, six minutes ago? -- get out your bed and get to the stadium and watch some film if you still think its amazing. If you're in it and you know what you're doing and you execute out there you don't think it's amazing. You know why? Because it's what you're supposed to do."

Ouch!

It's true that Ochocinco isn't up the speed. That was evident when Wes Welker and Deion Branch got most of the reps Monday.

But is Bruschi's criticism fair? This is Ochocinco's first year in New England's system and it was Week 1. He was acquired in a trade this summer from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ochocinco can be a huge target, and often he brings that attention on himself. But this wasn't one of those instances. Many athletes tweet. Ochocinco was only praising a teammate who had a phenomenal performance.

The luxury for New England is that the Patriots don't need Ochocinco this early. They're good enough to win without him for now.

But if Ochocinco is still trying to learn the offense and catching one pass a game around midseason, the criticism would be warranted and more timely.

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