AFC East: Matt Roth

NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC East team:

Buffalo Bills

1. Add new blood: For the most part, most of the Bills’ free-agents-to-be would not be big losses. Buffalo should have plenty of money to spend once free agency does finally open. Obviously, this has been a losing franchise for some time now, and transforming the roster and changing the culture of the organization should be a very good thing. The Bills did take a fine step in the right direction in the 2011 draft, taking several prospects from big-college programs with winning histories.

2. Keep Paul Posluszny: Although inside linebackers generally are not difficult to find, Posluszny is the type of guy Buffalo needs to keep within the organization. He is productive, tough and able to lead the defense on every down. Last season wasn’t his best, but Posluszny was fantastic in 2009, and I fully expect him to get back to that form, especially playing behind what should be a vastly improved young interior defensive line.

3. Eliminate needs: I list the Bills’ three greatest needs as left tackle, outside linebacker and tight end. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if Buffalo could knock out one or two of these needs in free agency, it would go a very long way in its rebuilding process. Jared Gaither or Doug Free could potentially fill Buffalo’s left tackle position for years to come, while Matt Light could hold down the fort and provide leadership until Chris Hairston or a future draft pick is ready. An outside linebacker such as Manny Lawson, Matt Roth or Mathias Kiwanuka could also be money very well spent to pose an edge presence opposite Arthur Moats, whom I featured in my Soon to be Stars series. Zach Miller is really the only free-agent tight end who would qualify.

Top free agents: Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Drayton Florence

Miami Dolphins

1. Add running back help: Miami used the 62nd overall pick in 2011 to select Daniel Thomas, a big, bruising runner with a lot of ability. But of course, Thomas is going to be a rookie this season, and fully counting on him to carry the load and learn the pass protections would be foolish. Miami needs a backup plan. Bringing back Ronnie Brown, or more likely, Ricky Williams, wouldn’t be a terrible situation. But just adding Brown or Williams wouldn’t be enough. Snatching up Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams would obviously be a huge addition and would push Thomas to backup status. Even bringing in a reliable back like Joseph Addai or Jason Snelling might do the trick as Thomas develops. Another option is to add a specialty player like Darren Sproles.

2. Find competition for Chad Henne: Personally, I am not ready to write off Henne. I believe in the approach that Miami has taken this offseason. The Dolphins have surrounded him with pieces to make his life much easier. But still, adding a veteran signal-caller seems like a must at this point. Suitable options include Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb or even Vince Young, who is soon to be released by Tennessee. If quarterback remains a problem after this year, then Miami needs to sell the farm to draft its next franchise quarterback. But in the meantime, this would be my approach.

3. Make a splash on D: To me, the Dolphins’ three biggest needs are quarterback, running back and then free safety. Even if Miami didn’t add a defender of any sort in free agency, I would rank its 2011 defense among the best in the NFL. I am that high on this group. But what if the Dolphins could land a real talent at free safety? Imagine the possibilities. This is a deep free-agent class of safeties. I would love to see the Dolphins sign someone like Michael Huff or especially Eric Weddle. Even adding a solid player with upside like Brodney Pool would be helpful here.

Top free agents: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Tony McDaniel, Richie Incognito, Tyler Thigpen

New England Patriots

1. Lock up Logan Mankins: Because the Patriots designated Mankins their franchise player, I didn’t include him among their top free agents. But New England does have to get him locked up. Mankins might just be the best guard in all of football. With Matt Light potentially leaving town, the Patriots cannot afford additional unrest along their offensive line. Mankins would be the ideal player to line up next to Nate Solder to help the rookie’s transition to the NFL.

2. Find a pass-rusher: I see outside linebacker as New England’s greatest need, followed distantly by wide receiver and defensive end. Although I expect Jermaine Cunningham to develop quickly into a solid starter, adding one more edge player who can be disruptive on throwing downs is something that still needs to be addressed after the team curiously ignored it in the draft. The name I like best for the Patriots here is Mathias Kiwanuka, if his health checks out. He is smart, versatile and has some experience at linebacker. Two other players who fit the bill are Matt Roth and Manny Lawson.

3. Acquire a deep threat: I am not as sold as most that New England must add a wide receiver who can stretch the field. But this is a tremendous organization, and the Pats just don’t have many needs, so picking up such a luxury player could be the difference between a Super Bowl championship or another early exit in the postseason. My favorite fit for the Patriots is Braylon Edwards. Edwards is immensely talented, and if submersed in this environment with Tom Brady throwing him the ball, he could quickly rank among the top wideouts in all of football.

Top free agents: Matt Light, Gerard Warren

New York Jets

1. Make critical decisions on their own players: The Jets have a lot of free agents, and they are one of the teams in the league with the least amount of money to spend as it stands today. New York has come very close to its goal the past couple of seasons, but this free-agency period is absolutely critical to staying among the best teams in the NFL.

2. Address wide receiver: Considering who is up for free agency, wide receiver has to be the biggest worry for the Jets right now. I greatly respect Braylon Edwards’ abilities, but Santonio Holmes is just the better player right now. In fact, I see Holmes as a top-10 wide receiver. He is incredible in the clutch. Mark Sanchez needs quality options to throw to at this point of his young career. If the Jets brought back Holmes, increased TE Dustin Keller's role and also found a bargain at wide receiver late in free agency (maybe Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco), then I think they would be OK.

3. Don’t forget about the trenches: The Jets are a physical team that is strong on both lines of scrimmage. Two of their starting offensive line spots are uncertain at this point. And although they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kendrick Ellis, rookie defensive linemen rarely make a major impact -- especially in a 3-4. Shaun Ellis is probably going to be playing elsewhere, and New York doesn’t have a high-end outside linebacker. So there are concerns up front. The Jets will have to sign some cheaper veteran options -- probably to one-year contracts -- to shore things up.

Top free agents: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Shaun Ellis, Antonio Cromartie, Brodney Pool, Brad Smith

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.

Hartline injury stings Dolphins' offense

December, 11, 2010
12/11/10
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The Miami Dolphins probably will get Brandon Marshall back Sunday against the New York Jets, but they will have to play the remainder of their season without Brian Hartline.

The Dolphins on Saturday placed Hartline on season-ending injured reserve. He hurt his finger while blocking former Dolphins outside linebacker Matt Roth in last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns. Hartline reportedly had finger surgery Tuesday.

While not a household name or a fantasy star, Hartline's contributions have been significant to the Dolphins' marginal offense. He has been their best receiver when it comes to chunk yardage, a priority stat for head coach Tony Sparano.

Hartline finished with 43 receptions for 615 yards and one touchdown. He leads the Dolphins with 14.3 yards per catch and is tied for 24th in the NFL with 10 receptions of 20-plus yards. Marshall and slot receiver Davone Bess each have seven.

Hartline made at least one gain of at least 24 yards in six straight games and was on pace for an 894-yard season before playing the Browns. He also had a 30-yard run in that stretch.

The Dolphins filled his roster spot with rookie tight end Dedrick Epps, a San Diego Chargers seventh-round draft choice.

Mark Sanchez dangerous on the run

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
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Emblematic of the New York Jets' performance Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium, quarterback Mark Sanchez made some death-defying moves to keep plays alive.

Late in the third quarter, Sanchez spent a few minutes supine on the sideline examination table, where trainers looked at his right leg. He didn't miss a play, but he moved gingerly his first series back before finally relocating his stride.

Good thing, because Sanchez made some plays with his legs in the fourth quarter and overtime to help the Jets win 26-20.

On a third-and-9 play with about eight minutes left in sudden death, Sanchez was in danger of being sacked. He spun right and danced away from outside linebacker Matt Roth and rolled left to escape linebacker Marcus Benard. Sanchez found hobbled receiver Jerricho Cotchery at midfield for a 10-yard gain.

Cotchery hurt his groin before making a spectacular catch that ESPN.com NFL editor Sheldon Spencer brilliantly labeled "Groin for Broke." Unfortunately, the play wasn't as significant as it should have been. The drive ended with a missed Nick Folk field goal.

Jets right tackle Damien Woody said they call those moments with Sanchez the "Mad Minute" because there's no textbook on how to block when he starts scrambling.

"You can sense when he's on the move because the D-linemen all of a sudden go from chilling to -- boom -- they're after him," Woody said. "Mark must still have the ball. He scrambles around and we just try to block somebody. Usually, [a receiver] ends up breaking free. Just hope Mark finds him."

ESPN Stats & Information charted all of Sanchez's passes outside the pocket. He completed five of his eight throws for 72 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown to Cotchery in the second quarter. Sanchez had a 131.3 passer rating outside the pocket.

Through his first eight games, ESPN Stats & Information had Sanchez down for 50 percent completions and a 68.0 passer rating when flushed.

AFC East links: Brohm says he's ready

July, 6, 2010
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Buffalo Bills

Quarterback Brian Brohm says he feels like he's prepared to compete for the starting job. "I've had two years in the NFL to get used to everything and get myself prepared," Brohm said. "I feel like I can fully compete for this starting job. I feel like I'm ready to take charge out there. We'll see what happens. But I feel like I'm at a position where I'll be able to put my best foot forward and make a legitimate run at the starting job."

Miami Dolphins

With Jason Taylor, Joey Porter and Matt Roth all gone, the Dolphins need Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses and Erik Walden to step up their game as pass-rushers.

Wake sounds like a guy who is prepared to do just that.

New England Patriots

Jeff Howe of NESN.com cites poor play calling as one of the reasons New England's offense struggled last season.

Despite losing a few starters in free agency, John Clayton says the Patriots are still the team to beat in the AFC East.

New York Jets

According to the New York Daily News, quarterback JaMarcus Russell is no longer on the Jets' radar.

Caylan Davis of NESN.com analyzes LaDainian Tomlinson's Super Bowl prediction.

A holiday feature: Stuff you don't need

November, 25, 2009
11/25/09
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This post was not inspired by former Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Matt Roth.

But he'll be a big part of it once I explain what I'm up to.

While flying from Buffalo to Boston early Saturday morning I couldn't sleep because the armrest jockey next to me had sharpened elbows like Bill Laimbeer. And wouldn't you know it, I didn't bring a darn thing to read. So there, in the seatback pocket, were the safety card, a barf bag and the SkyMall catalog.

After reading and re-reading the safety card and barf bag, somewhere near Schenectady I had no choice but to grab the catalog. Within those pages, at least the ones not stuck together by some stealthy passenger's discarded Freedent, are the objects of American excess.

A canine genealogy kit (page 24). A marshmallow bazooka (Page 39). A foot tanning machine to remove sock lines (Page 67). A largemouth bass to mount on your trailer hitch (Page 72).

But what struck me was the 8-by-10 facsimile autographed photo of 31 available NFL players, complete with your choice of greeting -- My #1 Fan, Best Wishes, Be the Best -- and personalized for your gift-giving pleasure (Page 49). All for the discount price of $27.99.

I don't know what's worse for a kid: unwrapping the gift and knowing immediately that Tom Brady never touched it, or realizing after months -- or years -- that Uncle Larry hadn't actually run into Brady at Knotsberry Farm and thought of you after all.

With that in mind and the holiday shopping season upon us, I decided to begin a seasonal feature called "Stuff You Don't Need," a periodic service to let you know about merchandise that truly exists.

And that's where we come back to Roth, whom the Dolphins waived Tuesday.

When making my rounds on the Internet recently, I stumbled across Roth's official site, MattRoth98.com. Guess who has merchandise.

After reviewing all of the items for purchase, my recommendation is the MattRoth98 mousepad for $20.99. This thing is lifelike. Your mouse will roll all over it.

Check back for more frivolous shopping suggestions. If you have ideas you want to share, please drop a line in the AFC East mailbag or the comments section below.

Roth MIA to out of Miami

November, 24, 2009
11/24/09
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The precipitous decline of outside linebacker Matt Roth's status with the Miami Dolphins reached full nadir Tuesday.

Roth
Roth
The Dolphins released Roth, the 46th overall draft choice in 2005. Roth started 14 games last year as one of Miami's better run-stoppers. He made 53 tackles, had five sacks (second to Joey Porter's AFC-leading 17.5) and forced two fumbles.

This year, however, has been an episode of the "Gong Show." He showed up to training camp and told the Dolphins he was ill. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, insisted Roth had a groin injury. The Dolphins were vexed and sent him to various specialists. There was speculation Roth and Rosenhaus were getting cute in an attempt to get a contract extension after a solid season.

The Dolphins placed Roth on the non-football injury list. Once he was cleared to practice, he suffered an ankle injury. The Dolphins activated him four games ago. He recorded one tackle in each game.

Roth not only was failing to make a noticeable impact, but the Dolphins also had other players to choose from at the position.

Porter has been dealing with hamstring and disciplinary issues, but the Dolphins acquired a pair of edge rushers over the offseason, bringing back Jason Taylor and signing Cameron Wake from the Canadian Football League.

Also Tuesday, the Dolphins as expected placed Jason Ferguson on injured reserve with a season-ending torn quadriceps and released safety Nate Ness. They signed defensive end Ikeaika Alma-Francis and cornerback Evan Oglesby.

Wake hopes long journey just beginning

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
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Cameron WakeAP Photo/Hans DerykCameron Wake's professional football journey has taken him from Canada to Miami.
This is not your first time. ... You've done this before. ... It's just a different-colored uniform and a little warmer. ... Get to the quarterback.

The words scrolled through Cameron Wake's mind in an endless loop on a steamy August night. He was about to play his first NFL preseason game, something he'd waited five years to experience. He didn't want to blow it.

Wake was a dynamic linebacker at Penn State, a captain. But when he left campus he might as well have fallen off the face of the earth. He wasn't drafted, and although he signed with the New York Giants, they cut him before training camp began.

So he floated. For years. He took a job shuffling mortgage papers, another as a personal trainer. A pro tryout got mixed in here or there. He assumed a new name.

Wake finally landed in the Canadian Football League and created enough of a ruckus to get another shot at the NFL.

He signed with the Miami Dolphins, and that's what brings him to that seminal moment in August at Land Shark Stadium. It's only the preseason, but he feels the moment and wants to make sure he experiences many more.

"I don't know if it's fear, but it's a feeling of wanting to make sure you're as ready as you can be when the moment comes," Wake said. "If you're not nervous when that situation comes up, then something's wrong with you. But that situation has happened many, many times.

"When I went up to Canada, every game was a chance. Coming down here [to the Dolphins] and auditioning for the various teams, this was my chance. Getting on the field was my chance. The first preseason game, 'Don't blow it.' It's something I've definitely come across more than once."

Wake has showed he belongs in the NFL. He was deactivated the first three games and gets the scrap snaps left over from veteran outside linebackers Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Matt Roth and Charlie Anderson.

But Wake has managed to get to the quarterback a few times anyway. He enters Thursday night's game against the Carolina Panthers with 4.5 sacks, tied for second on the team and one behind Taylor.

Symbolic of Wake's journey, he traveled as far as a professional football geographically could -- about 2,800 miles from Vancouver to Miami -- to get his big break. He spent the past two seasons as a 4-3 defensive end for the BC Lions. He collected 39 sacks and was named the CFL's best defensive player each year.

"It's amazing," Wake said. "I changed positions, changed leagues, changed climates, changed coaches, changed countries. I'm literally in the opposite corner of the continent. It has been a major journey."

Wake, however, won't ever admit to feeling like he has arrived.

"Once you get a little bit, you want a lot more," Wake said. "When I signed, that was fine. I was part of the Dolphins. But that wasn't enough. I wanted to make the team. I made the team. That wasn't enough. I wanted to play. When I played and got a couple sacks, that's not enough.

"I need more. Give me more. I want more responsibility. I want more everything. I know it's not going to happen overnight, but I'm hungry."

Wake will turn 28 in January. Brigham Young grads and even Chris Weinke think that's pretty old for someone with one season of NFL experience.

DobbsIt's amazing. I changed positions, changed leagues, changed climates, changed coaches, changed countries. I'm literally in the opposite corner of the continent. It has been a major journey.

-- Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake
The long road to quasi-rookie status has given Wake perspective.

He calls himself "a sponge," trying to absorb as much as he can from the wisdom that surrounds him. He played for Joe Paterno (under the name Derek Wake), but for the past nine months he has been inundated by highly concentrated football lessons from the likes of football operations boss Bill Parcells, head coach Tony Sparano, defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, the NFL's active sacks leader (Taylor) and last season's AFC sacks leader (Porter).

"Sitting in the locker room, you can see all the guys who were big names coming out of college," Wake said. "No disrespect to the easy way to the NFL, but I had to sit on the couch. Being cut from football and having to go off somewhere and having to work your way back in, you appreciate every day moreso than maybe somebody who hasn't had to go through that."

Many Dolfans would like to see Wake get more chances to produce in games. Porter hasn't been getting it done. Porter has been bothered by a hamstring problem and was benched for Sunday's victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Wake had a sack against the Buccaneers, giving him one in consecutive games.

But his signature NFL performance thus far came in his second regular-season game. He recorded 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4.

He abused Bills right tackle Kirk Chambers. Wake used speed and power to record his first NFL sack. He sprinted deep into the Bills' backfield, made a U-turn to shake off Chambers and charged at Trent Edwards from behind, jarring the ball loose.

Wake slowly climbed to his feet, stomping as he rose. He clenched his fists, and in a sudden motion arched his back, threw his arms outward and yelled at the sky.

"It's amazing to go from the couch to a game ball," Wake said. "It's hard to put into words. That journey, to get to that point, it's just the beginning."

Fins scratch Porter, but not for injury

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
11:41
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Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter won't be running down ball carriers -- or his mouth -- Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
lastname

Porter

The team confirmed Porter has been scratched because of a coach's decision, not because Porter is hurt. He missed two days of practice with a knee injury, but when he came back he was listed as probable for the game.

There's mystery surrounding head coach Tony Sparano's decision.

Is it performance-related? Porter has only 2.5 sacks this year and had zero tackles last week against the New England Patriots.

Is it because Porter has been yapping too much? Sparano hasn't expressed any qualms with Porter's boisterousness before.

Porter's absence will give Matt Roth and Cameron Wake a greater opportunity to get involved. Roth recently was activated off the non-football injury list. Wake ranks third on the Dolphins with 3.5 sacks even though he was deactivated for the first two games and saw limited snaps compared to Porter and Jason Taylor.

Porter has 17.5 sacks last year to lead the AFC and finish second only to DeMarcus Ware.

Roth in, Crowder out for Dolphins

October, 31, 2009
10/31/09
6:04
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Miami Dolphins have tinkered with their roster in preparation for Sunday's sequel with the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

Miami activated outside linebacker Matt Roth from the non-football injury list and released rookie tight end John Nalbone, a fifth-round draft choice.

Miami also downgraded inside linebacker Channing Crowder from doubtful to out because of a shoulder injury. The move extricates one of the more entertaining characters from a game that's compelling, in part, because of his vitriol.

As mentioned on this blog a few days ago, Jets coach Rex Ryan metaphorically will step over Crowder on his way to a fight. Crowder has been unable to practice since hurting his shoulder in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Roth's return is good news for the Dolphins' defense and ends a weird ordeal. Roth started 14 games last year but showed up to camp with a mysterious condition. The team claims Roth informed them he was ill, but agent Drew Rosenhaus declared Roth had a groin injury.

Roth was placed on the reserve list and was eligible to be activated last week. But he suffered an ankle injury and remained on the shelf.

Around the AFC East: Should Rex zip his lip?

October, 22, 2009
10/22/09
12:51
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots

Around the AFC East: Pats offense unreliable

October, 15, 2009
10/15/09
11:49
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New York Jets

Taylor in position to help Dolphins again

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor is ready to contribute again in Miami.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Jason Taylor was wary about the constant change and weary of prolonged rebuilding.

The Miami Dolphins defensive end hadn't been to the postseason since 2001 and hadn't won a playoff game since a year before that. The club was working with yet another new head coach, its sixth in 10 years, after a desolate 1-15 season.

Taylor's brother-in-law, Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, was given his sweet release.

A soap opera involving Taylor and Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells materialized. Parcells was said to be aggravated by Taylor's decision to participate on "Dancing With the Stars" rather than attend the offseason conditioning program.

The tension between a franchise player and an overshadowing figure intent on making the franchise his own led to the inevitable: Parcells traded Taylor to the Washington Redskins for a couple of draft picks.

The move didn't work out for Taylor.

"I was away for a year," Taylor said. "It felt about five years, to be honest. It was an interesting learning experience."

Now he's back with Miami, obviously willing to stand for change. Taylor, who turned 35 three weeks ago, signed a modest contract to return in a different role than he was accustomed to. He will make his homecoming when the Dolphins open their Land Shark Stadium schedule against the Indianapolis Colts on "Monday Night Football."

Taylor compiled Hall of Fame-caliber credentials as a right defensive end, his hand on the ground and rushing the quarterback.

In head coach Tony Sparano's 3-4 defense, and with reigning AFC sack king Joey Porter handling the weak side, Taylor crouches into a two-point stance and has coverage responsibilities as the strongside outside linebacker.

"I think I'm still more comfortable in the three- or four-point," said Taylor, the NFL's active sacks leader with 121.5. "I've done it for so long. I feel more explosive. I feel a little better coming out of it.

"I need to learn how to create that same explosion and quickness out of the two-point. It’s a work in progress. At times I catch myself wanting to inch down and get back into a three-point, but I'm working on it."

Taylor's season with the Redskins certainly contributed to his willingness to adapt.

He gained a newfound appreciation for the Dolphins during his brief separation. He couldn't avoid playing for a rookie head coach, was miscast in the Redskins' defense (17 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks), didn't make the playoffs while his old team won the AFC East title, saw snow and suffered a freak calf injury that could have led to amputation.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Jason Taylor had just 17 solo tackles and two sacks during his one season in Washington.

Other than that, Taylor had a blast.

He already has half as many sacks as he did last year. In a season-opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons, he dropped Matt Ryan, the 64th quarterback on Taylor's career victims list. The sack also tied him with Clyde Simmons for 13th all-time.

Taylor, for the record, has sacked Colts quarterback Peyton Manning five times, tied for fourth on his list with Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington and behind Tom Brady (9.5), Drew Bledsoe (6.5) and Rob Johnson (six).

"Jason's always been a guy that plays with a something-to-prove attitude," former Dolphins linebacker and defensive end Kim Bokamper said. "Jason's last year, obviously, was disappointing. I think he'll be coming after people.

"He's out to prove he's not a part-time guy, that last year was an aberration. There's really good motivation for him to show people he's still Jason Taylor."

The belief is that Taylor was brought back to rush on obvious passing downs, with burly incumbent Matt Roth there to stop the run. But a groin injury kept Roth off the field throughout training camp and all four preseason games. He opened the season on the non-football injury list, rendering him unavailable for the first six weeks.

Not having Roth hurts Miami's run defense, but there's a benefit to not switching out personnel that would telegraph a defense's intentions.

"The thing I saw with Matt last year that I thought he did extremely well was just punish the tight end," said Bokamper, who is around the Dolphins on a regular basis as a sports anchor for Miami's CBS affiliate. "He completely took them out of the game and then collapsed the corner. He was such a strong run defender.

"Having said that, I've always been a big believer of when you have a guy that can do both, you don't have to change personnel. It's advantageous. It may sound like a little thing, but sometimes little things make a difference."

Bokamper's familiar with the type of change Taylor is making, though Bokamper did it in reverse. He started out as a strongside outside linebacker, making the Pro Bowl in his third season. He finished his nine-year career as a right defensive end.

Bokamper likened the transformation to a NASCAR driver making right-hand turns or a natural righty throwing left-handed. It's mentally tricky, but not unworkable.

Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson pointed out that the switch will match Taylor more often against right tackles, who generally are better run blockers compared to left tackles and whose main responsibility is blind-side pass protection.

The change also should be beneficial for career longevity.

"It's a lot less physically demanding to play that standup outside linebacker than it was to be a down defensive end," Bokamper said. "Going against a tight end, you're facing a guy who's usually not as strong as a blocker. For Jason, being toward the latter part of his career, it probably works out better for him."

The situation in Miami, despite the positional adjustment, already is working out better for Taylor than in Washington.

"One of the neat things for Jason right now with this position," Sparano said, "is it’s not something that he can get bored with. He was playing kind of the same position for a long time in this league. As close as a guy can come to perfecting that position, you’d have to say he did.

"With what we’re asking him to do at his stage in his career right now, I think that every day he comes to work he’s pretty curious. He's curious to find out what today brings, what new things we have in store, how this position correlates to some of these new things that we have.

"It’s kind of keeping him on the edge of his seat a little bit, and ... he's starting to get the entire package."

AFC East accumulating sidelinebackers

September, 16, 2009
9/16/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


One week into the season, all four AFC East clubs are missing an important linebacker.

The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets opened the season each knowing they would be without a starting outside linebacker.

The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills lost their best inside linebackers for a few weeks because of injuries suffered Monday night in Gillette Stadium.

Let's take a look at each void and who is filling it.
Mayo

New England Patriots

Analysis: The Patriots aren't as forthcoming with injury information as other teams, so we don't know for sure how long Mayo will be sidelined, but his absence will hurt.

The Boston Globe's Monique Walker and Christopher L. Gasper, citing two unnamed sources, report Mayo suffered a sprained medial-collateral ligament. Sources differed on the length of Mayo's recovery time, with eight weeks the longest estimate.

The Patriots turned over the defense, losing four significant leaders to retirement or trades. Mayo's importance in the transition was underscored by the fact his teammates elected him a defensive captain.

Mayo is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for amassing 139 tackles.

Guyton and Thomas filled in for Mayo on Monday night but were shaky.
Posluszny

Buffalo Bills

  • Who's down? Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny.
  • Why? Broken left arm.
  • How long? Six to eight weeks (updated)
  • Who steps in? Marcus Buggs.
Analysis: What's up, Doc? That's what the Bills are asking because Buggs doesn't play anything like Posluszny.

The injury Posluszny suffered in the second quarter Monday night is similar to the one that ended his rookie season after three games in 2007. But this occurrence, while it required surgery Wednesday, it isn't as serious. Bills coach Dick Jauron said the Bills hope Posluszny will be back on the field by the season's midpoint.

Posluszny, the Butkus Award winner at Penn State four years ago, is a Bills captain. He led them with 129 tackles last year. He also had an interception, a forced fumble and a recovery.

It's a potentially season-changing blow to the lineup.
Pace

New York Jets

Analysis: Pace is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances and can't even hang out at the Jets facility.

Considering how they manhandled the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Jets did just fine without Pace and defensive end Shaun Ellis, who served a one-game suspension for getting busted with marijuana.

Gholston made four tackles, including one for a loss, but he's not even close to the player Pace is. Pace was a hellion last year, recording seven sacks, 12 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles.

The Jets proved they can make so without him, but they'll be even scarier when he returns.
Roth

Miami Dolphins

  • Who's down? Outside linebacker Matt Roth.
  • Why? Groin -- we think.
  • How long? Six weeks.
  • Who's in? Jason Taylor.
Analysis: This is the least significant of the four situations because Roth wouldn't have been an every-down player anyway, and his replacement is one of the greatest defenders in team history.

Roth, last year's starter on the strong side, arrived at training camp with what was first called an illness but was later classified a groin injury. He also wanted a new contract. Regardless, he didn't practice with the team. The Dolphins placed Roth on the injured list, meaning the soonest he must sit out the first six games.

The intention when Taylor signed with Miami was to use him on passing downs. Now the 35-year-old is playing almost every down. He recorded a sack in the season opener.

Pleasantly dull: Dolphins enter 2009 composed

September, 9, 2009
9/09/09
1:15
PM ET
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Outside of a few isolated verbal outbursts from Joey Porter and Channing Crowder, the Dolphins have had a quiet offseason.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


The Miami Dolphins haven't made sensational copy.

While the rest of the AFC East has generated tantalizing storylines throughout the summer, the Dolphins have been comparatively humdrum.

No zing. No flash. No scandal. No major injuries. No Joey Porter proclamations.

The Buffalo Bills have Terrell Owens and recently took a machete to their offense. The New York Jets traded up to draft a glamour quarterback. Their head coach talks smack. The New England Patriots are making headlines with major transactions.

What has been the Dolphins' sexiest story? The vagueness over what's wrong with outside linebacker Matt Roth? Not exactly prime material for a "Dateline" episode.

"I think boring is good," Miami coach Tony Sparano said early in training camp.

Sparano, football operations boss Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland used to work amid the drama that swirls around the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones was their boss.

In South Florida, the Dolphins' leadership triumvirate has replicated another Big D: Dullsville.

"Where you may call it dull, we just call it business as usual," Ireland said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "It is by design."

The Dolphins have been masterful at avoiding turmoil. New owner Stephen Ross is infatuated with selling off pieces of his team to celebrities, but the football department has been pleased to maintain a low-wattage profile.

"We're not trying to make a splash," Ireland said. "We're just doing what we do, and trying to get better from a day-to-day basis and flip over rocks. If it makes a splash, it makes a splash, but we couldn't care less if it does or not."

Boys-will-be-boys stuff has occurred off the field, yet nothing that could be labeled turmoil.

High tranquility and minimal disorder are substantial reasons why the Dolphins are the NFL's most overlooked defending division champs.

"We know that the target's on our backs whether we're in the papers making a splash or not," Ireland said.

They've been out of sight, out of mind since their stunning turnaround campaign -- the greatest single-season reversal in league history -- ended with a thud in the playoffs.

A couple of June eruptions threatened to roil the Dolphins. Porter, agitated the Patriots already were being trumpeted as favorites, spoke up about a perceived lack of respect. Jabber-jaw linebacker Channing Crowder got into an entertaining verbal joust with Jets coach Rex Ryan. Orations lasted a few days before Ireland stopped it.

Miami's front office expects its players to maintain a certain level of decorum. We haven't heard many colorful comments from Porter or Crowder since then.

The Dolphins got rid of outspoken kicker Jay Feely last year because they could save a couple bucks with Dan Carpenter, an undrafted rookie who knew to keep his mouth shut.

Economical sound bites are part of Parcells' one-voice philosophy that makes sure one man speaks for the team. It's a belief also practiced by Parcells coaching descendants such as Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Eric Mangini and now Sparano.

"The players on the team need to understand where the message is coming from," Ireland said. "You'd like for your team to be able to think the way you think and operate the way the leadership operates.

"This head coach is about eliminating distractions. Therefore, I'm assuming he wants his players to eliminate those distractions from their own lives."

The Dolphins prohibit their players from using Twitter.

Meanwhile, Chad Ochocinco leads the league in tweets. The Jets hired a social-networking associate to help players manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts. T.O. can't figure out why his VH-1 reality show tanked.

Even the tight-lipped Patriots have had a more colorful offseason than the Dolphins because of Tom Brady's return from reconstructive knee surgery and the notable roster moves Belichick has made.

Miami's biggest offseason acquisitions were run-blocking center Jake Grove, safety Gibril Wilson and pass-rusher Jason Taylor, a homecoming muted by lowered expectations. Taylor is coming off a disappointing season for the Washington Redskins and wasn't expected to be an every-down player when he signed a one-year contract.

The Dolphins declined to enter the market for a veteran receiver or cornerback, choosing instead to address those needs in the draft.

"The opportunity to develop younger players, and the price tag that comes along with them, they're usually the best bang for the buck," Ireland said.

Miami's front office wasn't interested in reuniting with Owens when the Cowboys cut him. At the NFL owners' meeting in March, Sparano praised Owens' game-changing skills and work ethic. But when asked twice why the Dolphins didn't pursue him, Sparano responded each time with a laugh, a shake of his head and a "No comment."

"Some teams operate certain ways," Ireland said. "Some teams operate where every signing they have, there's a press conference involved. That's not our deal.

"We felt like the moves that we made in the offseason helped this football team. There were certain aspects we knew we needed to get better. We hope that makes a splash on the football field. That's all we're looking for."

Miami Dolphins: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
9:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Biggest surprise: None of the Miami Dolphins' final cuts can be labeled a surprise.

The most notable move was putting outside linebacker Matt Roth on the non-football injury list. Roth, the strong-side incumbent, missed every rep of training camp and the preseason with a mysterious groin injury that has Dolfans wondering whether he's dogging it to protest not getting a new contract or the team is punishing him for not coming to camp in shape. Now he'll be unavailable for six games.

The biggest name among Saturday's departed was receiver Brandon London, who caught only three passes last year but was valuable on special teams. Then again, the Dolphins haven't been too happy with their special teams lately.

No-brainers: Few roster moves the Dolphins made required heavy thought, especially Saturday. The only spots up for grabs when camp opened in August were at the bottom of the roster. Yes, there were starting jobs to compete for, but they essentially knew what players were going to suit up for them on Sundays.

Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe might've been significant dismissals Saturday had they not been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago. They were the starting guards in last year's playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, but they were deemed expendable. The Dolphins previously cut veteran cornerback Eric Green.

What's next: The Dolphins seem to have some adjustments to make with numbers at certain positions. They have only eight offensive linemen, but kept an extra tight end and a running back. They have six outside linebackers and only three inside linebackers.

Those allotments could be tweaked based on what castoffs interest football operations boss Bill Parcells and coach Tony Sparano.

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