AFC East: Melvin Fowler
When I linked to KC Joyner's blog about the Buffalo Bills' point-of-attack blocking percentages Thursday morning, readers craved more. They wanted to know details about individual performances and wondered how other AFC East clubs fared.
I reached out to Joyner to see if he would be willing to share more information earmarked for his book, Scientific Football, which is scheduled to be shipped in August.
Those who pre-order his book are granted advance access to Joyner's research as it becomes available, but he was gracious enough to send some of his analysis my way for the purpose of sharing it with AFC East blog visitors.
Throughout the afternoon I will post last year's run-blocking numbers for each of the division's offensive lines.
The chart breaks down a lineman's performance by net point-of-attack attempts (plays in which he was at the point of attack plus penalties committed and drawn), yards gained on these plays and his blocking success rate.
Joyner explains that an 80 percent POA success rate is considered the low end of acceptability.
With that in mind, the Bills didn't fare so well. As run-blocking metrics for the other three AFC East teams are posted Friday, the Bills' will look even worse by comparison.
Two Bills linemen eclipsed the 80 percent threshold, and neither of them is on the roster anymore.
Jason Peters, who at 90.9 percent led all tackles in a division that has some good ones, was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles before the draft. The Bills previously cut left guard Derrick Dockery, who won 81.4 percent of his POA blocks.
Joyner breaks down each play in such detail that he tallies the number of times a lineman gets stuffed, pushed into the backfield or strung out, or allows a defender to make contact with a ball carrier in the backfield.
The other AFC East centers combined were pushed back only six times, half of Buffalo's total. New England Patriots center Dan Koppen was pushed back six times, while Nick Mangold of the New York Jets and Samson Satele of the Miami Dolphins weren't pushed back at all.
Right guard Brad Butler, who could be moving out to right tackle this year, was pushed into the backfield six times, most among non-centers and tied with Koppen for second-worst. But Koppen had 197 net POA attempts, while Butler had 112.
Bills right tackle Langston Walker allowed seven defenders to
make contact with a runner in the backfield. That also led the division. Peters gave up one such play.
The Bills knocked on Wood with the No. 28 pick they received from the Philadelphia Eagles in the Jason Peters trade. Wood was considered the second-best center in the draft behind California's Alex Mack, who went No. 21 to the Cleveland Browns.
Bills coach Dick Jauron said the Bills will keep free-agent acquisition Geoff Hangartner, who also can play both positions, at center. The Bills allowed both of last year's centers Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler to walk via free agency.
"We see Hangartner as our center," Jauron said. "Eric will come in, we'll plug him in at guard and see how that goes.
"We're very optimistic about that. We really like his play, like his demeanor, like his toughness, like his intelligence. He gives us depth at two positions at the very least.
"We were kind of holding our breath when it came close to that pick and ultimately he got there."
Wood measured 6-foot-4 and 304 pounds at the combine. He started 49 straight games at center for Louisville, but he played guard in the Senior Bowl and said he has no qualms about switching for the Bills.
Many thought the Bills had to replace Peters, but they needed to rebuild the left side of their line. Not only did they trade their two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, but they also cut their high-priced left guard, Derrick Dockery.
INDIANAPOLIS -- With center a focal point for the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, I had the opportunity Sunday to ask NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock what he thought of the position after seeing them work out at the scouting combine.
Mayock notes the best of this year's center class are Oregon's Max Unger, Louisville's Eric Wood, California's Alex Mack, Penn State's A.Q. Shipley, Alabama's Antoine Caldwell and TCU's Blake Schlueter.
"We didn't get to see Mack, who I really wanted to see a little bit. Wood from Louisville, he's not a fast guy. I didn't expect him to be a fast guy. I think I know what he is. I think Wood and Unger, to me, are the two top centers in the draft.
"But it's a really deep position. I can keep going down that list. I've got A.Q. Shipley from Penn State, who a lot of teams don't like because he has the shortest arms at the combine. Every time I put the tap on, A.Q. Shipley's a good football player. Antoine Caldwell from Alabama, are you kidding me? He had a great Senior Bowl, a better player than I thought. A kid that wasn't even invited here, Blake Schlueter from TCU. I think he can play in the NFL.
"I think the tight end/H-back group, the center group and the outside linebacker group are three of the strongest groups in this draft."
I followed up by asking if any center was worth a first-round pick this year:
"At the end of the first round, if you're a playoff team and your guy is not there, you wanted so-and-so and so-and-so's not there. You've got to have a guy in your back pocket that's probably more of a second-round guy that you know can be a starter, that won't give you any problems and he's going to be good value for the money.
"A lot of times those centers and guards that are the top guys at their position, a high second-round pick, they end up getting [drafted late in the first round]. An Unger or a Mack or a Wood wouldn't surprise me. I got them all in the second round, but if one of those guys jumped up it wouldn't surprise me."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills have a healthy number of free agents in every category, but not many regular starters among them.
The Bills are about $27 million to $30 million under the salary cap.
Unrestricted (free to negotiate with any team beginning Feb. 27)
- T Kirk Chambers
- LB Angelo Crowell
- C Melvin Fowler
- CB Jabari Greer
- LB Teddy Lehman
- QB J.P. Losman
- FB Corey McIntyre
- C Duke Preston
- G Jason Whittle
Restricted (Bills have right to match offer from other team)
Ferguson didn't practice until Friday because of an oblique injury that sidelined him in the first quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, who gained 140 yards on them.
Dolphins receiver Ernest Wilford is inactive for the fourth time despite his four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million guaranteed. He has one catch this season.
As expected, Bills cornerback Terrence McGee is back after missing two games with a sprained knee and is listed as a starter. Starting center Melvin Fowler also will play after missing last week with an elbow injury.
Here are Friday's significant updates from AFC East injury reports:
Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Shobel (foot), starting right guard Brad Butler (knee) and reserve linebacker John DiGiorgio (knee) already have been ruled out for Sunday's road game against the Dolphins.
Cornerback Michael Lehan, who had been battling an ankle injury, pulled a hamstring this week in practice. The Dolphins placed him on injured reserve Friday.
Starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson (oblique) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. He was full go Friday and is listed as questionable for the Bills.
New England Patriots
All of the following did not practice Friday and are listed as doubtful Sunday versus the St. Louis Rams: running backs Sammy Morris (knee) and LaMont Jordan (calf), linebackers Eric Alexander (hamstring) and Shawn Crable (shin) and cornerback Lewis Sanders (hamstring).
Receiver Laveranues Coles, coming back from a concussion, was listed as probable.
Bills coach Dick Jauron already has ruled out starting cornerback Terrence McGee, who suffered a knee injury in Week 4. Another cornerback, Ashton Youbouty, is listed as questionable with a sore foot.
"He is very limited in team [drills] and very limited in the look-squad stuff," Jauron said of Youboty. "So we're just trying to get him through it. Again, we'll just have to see how that thing feels at game time."
That should be troubling for Bills fans. The Chargers have the No. 8 ranked passing offense and are coming off a game in which Philip Rivers targeted the New England Patriots corners for several long gains. Rivers threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. He did so without Chris Chambers, who's listed as doubtful for Sunday.
Asked if the Bills will need to get creative in how they line up in the secondary, Jauron simply replied "Absolutely."Listed as questionable on the Bills' injury report are Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel (foot) and starting center Melvin Fowler (elbow). Duke Preston would start if Fowler can't go.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Here's your Cutdown Day edition of the AFC East mailbag.
May you make it through the afternoon without hearing the words "Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook."
Mr. Anonymous in Vienna, Va., writes: Eric Mangini's offense was a modified West Coast offense based on the weak-yet-accurate arm of Chad Pennington. Do you think this will change or be modified a little bit because of the arrival of a gunslinger like Brett Favre? Or do you think that the offense will remain like Green Bay's strict West Coast offense?
Tim Graham: The Jets went into training camp preparing for the possibility Kellen Clemens would be the starter, so the offense wasn't geared for Pennington. In fact, there was a strong sense the Jets wanted Clemens to win the job. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer surely will rely more heavily on different parts of the playbook now that Favre's around, but any drastic overhaul would force 11 guys to adjust as opposed to one.
Rob in Miami writes: What's the word on Wes Welker?
Tim Graham: We would have a better chance of finding out Welker's status if he were involved in Black Ops. You know how the FBI will declassify documents about a person only once they're dead? That might be when we find out how bad Welker's rib injury is.
Tim Graham: I think Maroney and Jordan will be a formidable tandem for the Patriots. They're more than talented enough to give the Patriots an effective ground game week in, week out.
There are reasons to be worried about the Patriots' secondary. CB Fernando Bryant is respectable but not as good as Pro Bowler Asante Samuel, who left via free agency. Bryant also has a sketchy past when it comes to injuries. Rookie CB Terrence Wheatley will be a good one eventually, but he's not ready for an every-down role yet. FS John Lynch will be a steadying factor in some ways, but he can't be used in pass coverage anymore, especially not at the same time as SS Rodney Harrison.