AFC East: Maurkice Pouncey

Double Coverage: Bills at Steelers

November, 8, 2013
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Roethlisberger/ManuelUSA TODAY SportsBen Roethlisberger, left, and EJ Manuel are trying to guide their teams through difficult seasons.
Two teams that have combined for five wins and don’t appear to be going anywhere this season meet Sunday at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be angry after getting routed Sunday in New England, but the Buffalo Bills might be equally desperate after losing four of their past five games.

It looks like EJ Manuel will return for the Bills, but rookie quarterbacks have not fared well against Dick LeBeau defenses. But no rookie quarterback has faced the Steelers defense when it has been this vulnerable under LeBeau.

ESPN.com reporters Mike Rodak (Bills) and Scott Brown (Steelers) take an in-depth look at the first meeting between the teams since the Steelers won a 19-16 overtime game at Buffalo in 2010.

Brown: Mike, is this team Pittsburgh North? There are a lot of Steelers connections there with general manager Doug Whaley and a handful of the players. The two I’m interested in hearing about are the starting guards -- Doug Legursky and Kraig Urbik. How have the two played, and how has the offensive line played overall?

Rodak: Scott, I think Whaley would like it to be Pittsburgh North, eventually. The Steelers are one of the most successful franchises, and Whaley comes from that background. Defensively, there are similarities between Mike Pettine's blitz-heavy scheme and much of the zone blitzing that LeBeau uses. And offensively, Manuel is a big, mobile quarterback with some speedy receivers, much like Ben Roethlisberger and his pass-catchers in Pittsburgh. Ultimately, though, I think the Bills want to forge their own identity, and the Steelers connections don't run much deeper than Whaley and a few others.

As far as Urbik and Legursky, they haven't been Pro Bowlers by any stretch. Returning from a knee injury last month, Legursky helped stabilize a left guard position that has been reeling since losing Andy Levitre in free agency last offseason. But as a whole, the offensive line has allowed more sacks -- the seventh most in the NFL, to be precise -- than it would prefer.

Looking at the Steelers' big picture, what has gone wrong this season? From an outside perspective, an aging defense appears to be part of it, but that can't tell the whole story. What are the biggest problem areas?

Brown: Age is only part of the equation when looking at the Steelers’ struggles. The other half is that the Steelers were so good for so long at developing younger players to step in for veteran stalwarts who retired or signed elsewhere. That hasn’t happened in recent years, in part because the quality of Steelers’ drafts has slipped.

The drop-off in talent hasn’t been as severe as it would seem for a team that has lost 11 of its past 15 games, which leads me to perhaps the Steelers’ biggest problem on the field: This team is simply allergic to momentum. The Steelers, when they were winning regularly, played so well off one another as far as the different units. This season, more often than not, the offense has not been able to bail out the defense and vice versa.

I’m curious what has held back the Bills, aside from the instability and inexperience at quarterback. This team seems to have its share of talent, so why aren’t the Bills winning more?

Rodak: The quarterback situation is a big part of it, like you said. No matter who's been out there -- Manuel, Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel -- they haven't been able to make enough plays to win in the NFL. It's really been the defense that has picked up the slack in two of the Bills' three wins this season. Against the Baltimore Ravens, it intercepted Joe Flacco five times, and just when it looked like the Miami Dolphins were going to win a few weeks ago, Mario Williams came up with a game-changing strip-sack. So when dissecting why the Bills are 3-6, their quarterback play is the overriding factor.

Otherwise, I think the story is similar to Pittsburgh's. The defense has played well at times, but when it hasn't played well, the offense hasn't been up to snuff. And when the offense has started cranking -- and that's been rare -- the defense has dropped off. Doug Marrone referenced Wednesday the need for the defense to generate more turnovers -- it hasn't forced one in more than two games -- which has caused the Bills' turnover differential for the season to turn negative this week.

What has been the problem offensively for the Steelers? I've always counted Roethlisberger among the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, and at least on paper, there is some serious talent between Le'Veon Bell, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown. Is the offensive line really that bad to drag everyone down?

Brown: The offense played without Bell and Miller for the first two games, and it showed as the Steelers managed just two touchdowns in those contests. Bell has stabilized the running game, and Miller’s return has been huge considering his value in the running and passing game.

The offense’s struggles stem most from the ongoing shuffling along the offensive line. The unit, for whatever reason, is consistently decimated by injuries, and this season is no different. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a season-ending knee injury in the opener. The Steelers even lost a lineman (Levi Brown) to a season-ending injury in pregame warm-ups. Those kinds of things have happened to the Steelers’ offensive line, it seems, every season since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007.

The line has played better in recent weeks, and I thought it did fairly well in New England even with the crowd noise forcing the Steelers to use a silent snap count. It faces another challenge this week as the Bills have the kind of defensive line that can really give the Steelers fits.

Williams has been a beast, and the Steelers will probably have to give left tackle Kelvin Beachum some help with Williams. Mike, what about the two interior lineman, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus? They seem like they can be plenty disruptive.

Rodak: They certainly can be, Scott. Each has four sacks this season, which puts both on pace for career highs. It seems like each week, when we talk to opposing head coaches, they start off by mentioning Dareus, Mario Williams and Kyle Williams. They're the strength of the team. Kyle Williams in particular has shown a knack for being disruptive in the backfield at the right time, while Dareus has improved from what some felt were subpar seasons since being drafted third overall in 2011. The Steelers' offensive line will need to hold its ground and allow Roethlisberger to take shots at the weaker points of the defense.

What do the Steelers need to do to turn this season around? Does any hope remain that they will make the playoffs?

Brown: Believe it or not, the players still believe they have a shot at the playoffs given how mediocre the AFC has been aside from a few teams. But they are also realistic that their focus has to stay squarely on what is in front of them.

The biggest thing the Steelers need to do to turn around their season is get back to what has worked for them for so long. That starts with stopping the run. As much as some Steelers fans want to lay blame for the defense’s failings on LeBeau -- and the fact that he is 76 -- the reality is this: LeBeau didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. However, his defense doesn’t work if the Steelers can’t stop the run and force teams into obvious passing situations.

Offensively, the Steelers have been at their best this season when they have established balance. If they want to take better care of Roethlisberger, who is taking another beating this season, they need to limit his passing attempts. The best way to do that is establish the ground game and run Bell early and often. Sounds easy enough, no?

 

Links: Hill says Jets to go 'deep in playoffs'

July, 16, 2013
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Buffalo Bills

Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd is the only franchise tagged player to have not signed his tender. Sources close to the situation told The Buffalo News the parties did not speak Monday and didn’t have any talks last week. David Canter, the agent for Chargers safety Eric Weddle, tweeted some harsh words for Warren Sapp, who tells Byrd to go back to work and earn a deal. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas reacted to Byrd's demands by tweeting, "Pay that man...lol."

Just how fast will the Bills' offense run under coordinator Nathaniel Hackett? "We’ve averaged from four seconds to 18 seconds (per play)," Hackett tells Chris Brown of the team's official website.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Gary Horton ranks Bills running back C.J. Spiller as one of the AFC's most versatile players.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Herald's David J. Neal opines on the impact of free speech in this age of social media, and how it reflected on Mike and Maurkice Pouncey: "The Pounceys turn 24 on July 24. They don’t remember when 'Free [jailed person here]' once carried a social element."

"We haven’t yet heard from Mike (Pouncey), but you can be assured Dolphins coach Joe Philbin will talk to him. Most likely he’ll ask him where the hats came from, why they wore them, and tell Mike not to put the team is such a position again. End of story," writes Chris Perkins of the Sun-Sentinel.

"I wouldn't trade Cam Wake for anybody in our league," Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle recently told the Dolphins' official website.

Rookie defensive end Dion Jordan answers five offseason questions, including how he'll accept feedback from veteran players.

New England Patriots

Former Patriot Willie McGinest predicts New England will finish 11-5 in 2013 because of his belief in both quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork will be honored at this year's "The Tradition" event in Boston.

Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2013, ESPNBoston.com takes a closer look at cornerback Ras-I Dowling.

The Boston Globe takes a closer look at what life is like for former Patriot Aaron Hernandez in jail.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Gary Horton ranks Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman as one of the AFC's most versatile players.

New York Jets

Wide receiver Stephen Hill says the Jets "will be in the playoffs, and deep in the playoffs."

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com says Mike Goodson is the Jets' wild card among the running backs heading into the 2013 season.

A one-time short-term replacement for Darrelle Revis, defensive back Aaron Berry looks to find his place on a roster that now includes Dee Milliner.

"It won't matter to fantasy owners whether the Jets' quarterback is past pariah Mark Sanchez or potential messiah Geno Smith; worrying about it will be as worthless as agonizing over a last-round kicker," writes Sports Illustrated's Eric Mack.

Video: Pouncey's 'Free Hernandez' hats

July, 15, 2013
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Tim Hasselbeck weighs in on Maurkice and Mike Pouncey wearing "Free Hernandez" hats.

Stephania Bell on Gronkowski's ankle

January, 30, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The big injury news during Super Bowl week is the left ankle of New England Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The extent of the injury hasn't been revealed by the Patriots, who would only say Gronkowski is day-to-day. But Gronkowski's father, Gordy Gronkowski, said his son has a high ankle sprain, which is one of the worst forms to the ankle joint.

Assuming Rob Gronkowski's dad is accurate, the AFC East blog caught up with ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell to examine the issues of the injury. Bell provided insight into the challenges Rob Gronkowski potentially faces.

Stephania, besides the location, what are some differences with a regular ankle sprain and a high ankle sprain?

Stephania Bell: Standard ankle sprains tend to be what we call lateral ankle sprains. Many people refer to them as basketball sprains, because it's what you see a lot in basketball when a guy goes up for a shot and maybe lands on another player's foot. His ankle rolls and turns in, which sprains and injures the ligaments on the front and lateral side of the ankle. In a high ankle sprain, the injury is usually a little bit different. The foot is typically pointed outward and is a rotational injury most of the time. If you go back and look at the view of when Gronkowski sprained his ankle, you can actually see some of that when he got caught from behind. It kind of forced his foot to twist so his toes were pointing outward. So that rotational component injures the ligament that basically attaches to the top of the ankle, which is called the "high ankle." It attaches the two lower leg bones where the roof of the ankle is formed.

Players often complain that the injury is very painful. Where does the pain come from?

SB: What makes it difficult functionally is every time you step on your foot, it creates a force that wants to spread those two lower leg bones apart. Every time you take a normal step and your shin bone, if you will, advances over your ankle, which is what normally happens when you step forward, those ligaments are under stress. They are attached there to help prevent those two bones from spreading. When there's injury there, because of the stress on those ligaments, that's why it's so painful. That's why when you saw Ben Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain, he couldn't step into his throws. Why couldn't he step into them? He couldn't put that full weight over the ankle because he couldn't advance the leg bone over the ankle joint without recreating that severe pain. And [Steelers center] Maurkice Pouncey, the reason he couldn't play in the Super Bowl with it is because of the stance he has to get in. That really stresses full weight bearing over that ankle joint.

You mentioned Roethlisberger and Pouncey, who play quarterback and center, respectively. Does Rob Gronkowski have any advantage or disadvantage over those two playing tight end?

SB: I think it's tough for him. Every time he takes a step it's hard to have your normal mechanics. Part of what Gronkowski does is he moves down the field. So everything mobility wise will be compromised. It's going to be harder for him to run. I'm not saying he won't be able to. One thing that's important to emphasize is we don't know the degree of his injury. So it's hard to know what kind of problem it will be. But the bonus the Patriots have is two weeks. Last week I wasn't surprised at all that he didn't practice. The idea is to keep him non-weight bearing, keep him in a boot, protect that area and accomplish as much healing in that area as you can. Really the key is to ensure he has as much maneuverability as possible by the time he gets to the game.

Video: What if QBs go 1-2 ahead of Bills?

April, 27, 2011
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With the NFL draft one day away, Scouts Inc. analysts Kevin Weidl and Steve Muench tap into the latest buzz.

They discuss the possibility quarterbacks come off the board with the first two picks. That would leave the Buffalo Bills with virtually no choice but to draft a defender at No. 3, but they'd get the best one in the entire draft class.

Also discussed is Florida center Mike Pouncey to the Miami Dolphins at No. 15 or to the New England Patriots at No. 17.

Video: Pouncey brothers talk draft dreams

April, 22, 2011
4/22/11
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"First Take" host Dana Jacobson talks with the Pouncey twins about playing on the offensive line together in the NFL. Florida center Mike Pouncey has frequently been projected to the Miami Dolphins with the 15th pick, and some think he could land with the New England Patriots.

Maurkice Pouncey was a rookie Pro Bowl center for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

More cornerback love in AFC East mock

April, 19, 2011
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With the 26th pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the Baltimore Ravens select ... Brandon Harris, cornerback, Miami.

Readers felt the Ravens' biggest need was at cornerback. With Jimmy Smith taken off the draft board one pick earlier, Harris was the next one in line.

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward also received a healthy number of votes but fell a few short in our mission to draw up the most accurate first-round mock we can.

Here's where we stand with six picks to go ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Colorado tackle Nate Solder
  23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
  24. New Orleans Saints: Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson
  25. Seattle Seahawks: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith
  26. Baltimore Ravens: Miami cornerback Brandon Harris

The Atlanta Falcons hold the 27th selection and are up.

Please drop your nomination in the comments section below this article. Facebook friends can cast their ballots on my page under the link.

As a reminder, you can visit ESPN.com's draft page if you'd like to research team needs and top prospects with analysis from Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Scouts Inc.

AFC East reader mock down to final seven

April, 18, 2011
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With the 25th pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the Seattle Seahawks select ... Jimmy Smith, cornerback, Colorado.

Smith has been nominated for many previous picks but never generated enough votes to get the nod. He barely earned this spot ahead of Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

Of the five players readers nominated, three were quarterbacks. Ryan Mallett of Arkansas and Christian Ponder of Florida State also were mentioned.

Seven slots remain to be filled in our mock project. Two of them belong to the AFC East's playoff teams from last year, the New England Patriots at No. 28 and the New York Jets at No. 30.

As a reminder of what we're doing, readers are voting each weekday to choose which prospects will represent the AFC East blog in a mock draft. After the real draft next week, we'll compare our mock to those from ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to see how we fared.

Here's what out first round looks like so far ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Colorado tackle Nate Solder
  23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
  24. New Orleans Saints: Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson
  25. Seattle Seahawks: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith

The Baltimore Ravens are on the clock with the 26th choice.

Please drop your recommendation in the comments section below this article. Those who get their links to the AFC East blog via my Facebook page can submit a nomination under the link there.

AFC East mock takes first non-BCS player

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
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With the 24th pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the New Orleans Saints select ... Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive end, Temple.

Readers fired a shotgun at the remaining names on the draft board. Ten players -- all on defense -- were nominated for the Saints' selection. The first non-BCS player in our mock came out on top.

Wilkerson still won comfortably because most nominees received just one or two votes. Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn came in second.

I want to thank everybody for keeping the momentum on our mock endeavor. We're about to hit the homestretch, with the last two AFC East picks coming up next week -- the New England Patriots and New York Jets.

What we have ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Colorado tackle Nate Solder
  23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
  24. New Orleans Saints: Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson

The Seattle Seahawks are next up with the 25th selection.

I'll count up the votes left in the comments section below this article and any left on my Facebook page and reveal it Monday.

Readers tab Sherrod in AFC East mock draft

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
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With the 23rd pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select ... Derek Sherrod, tackle, Mississippi State.

Sherrod emerged as the choice ahead of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith in a razor-thin vote.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay agrees with the choice. McShay also projects Philadelphia to grab Sherrod in this slot. But colleague Mel Kiper suggests that's a reach. Kiper sees Sherrod going to the Packers with the first round's final pick.

Our lineup card to date reads ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Colorado tackle Nate Solder
  23. Philadelphia Eagles: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod

The New Orleans Saints are next up in the order with the 24th selection.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Please submit your vote in the comments section of this article or underneath the link on my Facebook page.

Solder to Colts in AFC East reader mock

April, 13, 2011
4/13/11
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With the 22nd pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the Indianapolis Colts select ... Nate Solder, tackle, Colorado.

In one of the emptiest ballot boxes we've had so far in our 32-part series, Solder edged out Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod. At least voters were adamant the Colts needed a tackle to help protect Peyton Manning.

Interestingly, the player who finished third was Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Here's our imaginary round so far ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
  22. Indianapolis Colts: Colorado tackle Nate Solder

We're down to the final 10 picks. The Philadelphia Eagles are on the clock with the 23rd selection.

Predict who the Eagles will pick in the comments section beneath this article or beneath the link on my Facebook page.

Carimi to Chiefs; Colts on the mock clock

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
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With the 21st pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select ... Gabe Carimi, tackle, Wisconsin.

This pick provided a wonderful example about the value of providing a reason for your vote in addition to merely submitting one.

After three of the first five nominations were for Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor, frequent commenter frankb1031 wrote of the Chiefs:
"they took DT Glenn Dorsey(4 sacks in 3 years) #5 in 2008 and DE Tyson Jackson(1 sack in 2 years) #3 in 2009, they also took a safety in 2010 ... so i think they will take an offensive player in the draft ... Dorsey and Jackson didnt really pan out as top 5 worthy and i think they could use a NT like Phil Taylor or a DE/OLB like Justin Houston or Brooks Reed but i just cant see them having 3 first round picks all on the DLINE ... if they stay at 21 in think they will pick OT GABE CARIMI and he starts right away at RT"

Carimi went on to accumulate the most votes, and frankb1031's explanation probably played a role.

Much thanks to him and all the other regulars who have kept this project running for the past few weeks.

Our mock draft board to date ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  21. Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi

The Indianapolis Colts own the 22nd pick and are on the proverbial clock.

Please drop your vote in the comments section below this article or venture over to my Facebook page and leave it beneath the link.

Kerrigan off board in AFC East mock draft

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
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With the 20th pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select ... Ryan Kerrigan, defensive end, Purdue.

Kerrigan has been a popular nominee for the past several picks but couldn't get enough votes until now.

ESPN draft cleric Mel Kiper agrees with you. He also has Kerrigan landing with the Bucs in this spot.

We're entering the final third of the order, with two more AFC East picks to come. Let's keep up the momentum.

Your first round so far ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan

The Kansas City Chiefs are on the clock with the 21st choice.

Discuss your nominees in the comments section below this article or visit my Facebook page to submit a vote underneath the link.

Mike Pouncey finds team in AFC East mock

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
8:43
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With the 19th pick in the 2011 AFC East reader mock draft, the New York Giants select ... Mike Pouncey, center, Florida.

Pouncey is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year's draft class. His stock has been buoyed by his brother, Maurkice Pouncey, who was selected for the Pro Bowl last season as a rookie.

Mike Pouncey has generated even more buzz lately. Miami Dolphins fans are interested in him to solidify their interior line because he also can play guard, but Pouncey tweeted Wednesday he expects to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, who own the ninth pick.

ESPN draft generalissimo Mel Kiper also has Pouncey going to the Giants here. Mock draft frenemy Todd McShay has Pouncey headed to the Dolphins.

Off our board so far ...
  1. Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  2. Denver Broncos: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  3. Buffalo Bills: Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert
  5. Arizona Cardinals: Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson
  6. Cleveland Browns: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
  8. Tennessee Titans: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  9. Dallas Cowboys: USC tackle Tyron Smith
  10. Washington Redskins: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  11. Houston Texans: North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn
  12. Minnesota Vikings: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  13. Detroit Lions: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
  14. St. Louis Rams: Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget
  15. Miami Dolphins: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith
  17. New England Patriots: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
  18. San Diego Chargers: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
  19. New York Giants: Florida center Mike Pouncey

Next up are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 20. Vote for their selection by casting your vote in the comments section under this article or by swinging over to my Facebook page to drop a name beneath the story link.

This project runs on weekdays only, so we'll reveal the tally on Monday morning.

AFC East draft season: Who needs what?

February, 9, 2011
2/09/11
5:25
PM ET
Gabbert, Ingram & Ayers US PresswireBlaine Gabbert (Bills), Mark Ingram (Miami), and Akeem Ayers (Patriots) could all fit in the AFC East.
Nobody can say for sure when the 2011 NFL season will begin or what the free-agency period will resemble.

But we do know there will be a draft in April.

Rather than depress everybody with labor musings, let's focus on the only player personnel activities we can count on.

To set the stage for draft season and the NFL scouting combine in two weeks, I canvassed four evaluators I respect to compile a list of positional needs for the AFC East.

I asked National Football Post scouting guru Wes Bunting, Scouts Inc. draft analyst Steve Muench, Pro Football Weekly senior editor Nolan Nawrocki, and CBSSports.com senior analyst Rob Rang to share their rundown of shortcomings for each club.

I merged their insights to come up with a consensus. From there, I targeted some candidates who fit the profile of need combined with draft position.

The new collective bargaining agreement can impact these projections significantly. If a CBA can be hammered out before the draft, then perhaps teams will be able to address some needs via free agency. Otherwise, front offices will have more roster uncertainties than usual when they're on the clock in Radio City Music Hall.

Buffalo Bills

Pick: Third.

Consensus needs: Offensive line, quarterback, defensive tackle, outside linebacker.

Analysis: An asterisk should be affixed to any Bills forecast. Few experts would have rated running back as a target area last year, but they selected C.J. Spiller ninth overall out of Clemson. So who knows what they're thinking?

All four analysts rated offensive line either first or second among the Bills' most needful areas. Nawrocki and Muench were specific about tackles -- a position the Bills haven't drafted earlier than the fifth round since 2002. Nawrocki called tackle the No. 1 priority.

Muench and Bunting rated quarterback as the most important position.

The good news for the Bills is that they likely will be able to take the first quarterback or tackle off the board if they choose.

But none of the analysts projected the Bills to take an offensive lineman third overall. The best prospects simply aren't considered worth that high of a slot.

"Ryan Fitzpatrick is an excellent backup and stopgap, but he's an adequate at best starter," Muench said. "If the Bills can get Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert at No. 3, then I think they pull the trigger."

Rang labeled defensive line Buffalo's biggest concern, noting opponents averaged a gaudy 169.6 rushing yards last season, and this year's draft class is deep along the defensive front.

Who could be there: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers are top candidates. Gabbert should be on the board when the Bills pick. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton almost certainly will be available. The two teams drafting ahead of the Bills, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, aren't expected to take a quarterback.

Miami Dolphins

Pick: 15th.

Consensus needs: Running back, interior offensive line, quarterback.

Analysis: Of the four AFC East teams, the Dolphins presented the most straightforward consensus among the panel. Three of four rated running back as the chief concern. Three of four listed guard second.

Two experts listed quarterback, with Bunting deeming it the greatest deficiency. Even so, Bunting added Alabama running back Mark Ingram is an attractive possibility in the first round.

Free agency mysteries could put the Dolphins in a backfield bind. Contracts for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are about to expire.

"Running back is an obvious concern," Rang said. "Lex Hilliard could surprise if given a real opportunity, but many believe the Dolphins will be tempted by Ingram in the first round."

Muench found quarterback to be an interesting position for Miami in the draft.

"The argument could be made that quarterback is the Dolphins' top need," Muench said, "but not from a draft perspective. Miami won't find a better quarterback than Chad Henne at pick 15, and trading up will prove difficult.

"If the Dolphins have decided to move on from Henne, then signing a free agent or trading for a quarterback makes the most sense. Regardless, they should take a chance on a developmental prospect in the middle rounds."

Who could be there: The Bills' slot is the only one in the AFC East that comes with some clarity. The middle of the first round is dicey to predict. Will Ingram still be on the board? The Dolphins also could be tempted to grab Newton if he's still waiting by his phone or Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, although multiple reports suggest Mallett's stock is plummeting. As for interior linemen, the 15th slot seems way too soon for anybody in this year's class. The top candidate is Florida guard Mike Pouncey, younger brother of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.

New England Patriots

Pick: 17th and 28th.

Consensus needs: Outside linebacker, offensive line, running back, defensive end.

Analysis: The Patriots have a pair of first-round choices to address their needs. They also have two picks each in the second and third rounds. With so much inventory to wheel and deal, it's hard to speculate what Bill Belichick will do or where he will end up picking within the first couple rounds.

None of the four analysts prioritized the same top position for New England, but all of them ranked outside linebacker among their top three needs.

Nawrocki was specific in stating the Patriots need a five-technique defensive end, although veteran Ty Warren is returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for 2010.

Bunting's emphasis was on a do-it-all running back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a nice campaign as the AFC East's lone 1,000-yard rusher, but he's not a threat in the passing game. Danny Woodhead is a top-notch complementary player, but he doesn't have the size to be a workhorse.

[+] EnlargeLogan Mankins
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaThe contract status of guard Logan Mankins could impact New England's draft needs this year.
Three of the four analysts viewed New England's offensive line as an issue dependent upon the ability to re-sign Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins and ambiguity over the futures of veteran left tackle Matt Light and right guard Stephen Neal.

"Light has been a solid bookend for the past 10 years, but he turns 33 this offseason, and explosive edge rushers gave him problems last year," Muench said. "It's also worth pointing out that New England wants its young tight ends making plays downfield and not helping in pass protection."

Who could be there: Pass-rushers always are a hot commodity, and this year is no different. Defensive ends and outside linebackers can be difficult to sort because teams will project them into different roles. UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers and Missouri outside linebacker Aldon Smith are strong possibilities. It's foreseeable New England will be considering the fifth or sixth best defensive end on its board at No. 17 -- if you believe the Patriots will keep that pick, of course. Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt project in that range. Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure is considered second in this year's class behind Ingram.

New York Jets

Pick: 30th.

Consensus needs: Outside linebacker, wide receiver, defensive line, safety.

Analysis: Analysts were fragmented on the Jets, and a major reason for that is their volume of free agents and the degree of difficulty general manager Mike Tannenbaum will have in re-signing the most important ones.

"Collectively, their roster is one of the strongest in the league, but they do have some questions to answer," Nawrocki said.

For instance, receiver either could be a huge offseason weakness or a major strength. Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith are free agents, but Tannenbaum stated he intends to re-sign them all. The likelihood of that happening is dubious, as illustrated by three of the four panelists rating wide receiver either second or third for the Jets.

Nawrocki and Rang each listed outside linebacker first.

"The Jets must account for the failure of Vernon Gholston, who likely will be released soon, and get younger at outside linebacker," Nawrocki said.

Gholston was the sixth overall selection in the 2008 draft and has failed to record an NFL sack. Jason Taylor had five sacks last season, but he'll turn 37 at the start of next season and might not be back.

"The Jets need a pass-rusher to take the next step," Rang said. "If there is a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect they like on the board at No. 30, he's the favorite."

Muench rated free safety as the Jets' biggest need. Not only could the Jets stand to upgrade that position, but also Brodney Pool and Eric Smith are free agents.

"As good as this defense is," Muench said, "imagine if Rex Ryan had a safety that can match up with receivers and play a center-field role like he had with Ed Reed in Baltimore."

Who could be there: Draft boards are highly unreliable by the end of the first round. Prospects you thought would go in the top 15 drop into the 20s. A player expected to be available early in the second round is long gone. Nawrocki's mock draft has Ayers slipping to the Jets. Bunting and Rang each have Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor slotted 30th.

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