AFC East: Rex Grossman
Observations from the Buffalo Bills' 30-7 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday:
Kolb has possible concussion: With rookie EJ Manuel sidelined following knee surgery, Saturday's game was supposed to be veteran Kevin Kolb's chance to make his mark in the quarterback competition. However, Kolb left in the first quarter with a possible concussion. On a third-and-5 run on the second offensive drive, Kolb scrambled for 8 yards -- and the first down -- but was kneed in the back of his helmet by a Redskins defender. He stayed in the game for four plays but departed for the locker room soon after. Kolb finished 2-for-4 passing for 16 yards.
Tuel's time: Once Kolb left the game, the Bills were down to just one healthy quarterback. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel saw his most extensive action of the preseason, which was valuable playing time for the Washington State product. Tuel completed 10 of 17 passes for 63 yards, an underwhelming performance on just about any other day. But for Tuel and the Bills, the most important statistic was that Tuel did not throw any interceptions. If the Bills are without Manuel and Kolb for the regular-season opener -- a possibility the Bills must now consider -- then avoiding critical mistakes is what the team will need more than anything from Tuel.
Gilmore injured: Flying under the radar Saturday was cornerback Stephon Gilmore leaving the game in the second quarter with a wrist injury. He did not return. Gilmore is the Bills' top cornerback and is another hit to a position that has seen several players hobbled this preseason. If Gilmore misses any extended action, it would be a big blow to Buffalo's defense.
Defense takes step back: After a strong outing in their win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Bills defense did not have answers for the Redskins offense on Saturday. Buffalo allowed 452 total yards, 27 first downs and 208 yards rushing yards. Part of that can be attributed to an anemic offense -- the Bills were crushed 38:52 to 21:08 in time of possession -- but it was hardly an encouraging sign from Mike Pettine's group. Even without Robert Griffin III, the Redskins were able to get solid performances from Rex Grossman (11-for-21, 171 yards, one touchdown) and Pat White (7-for-14, 96 yards, one rushing touchdown) at quarterback.
Spiller's scare: Running back C.J. Spiller was slow to get up after a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and grabbed his right knee after the play. The injury, which brought coach Doug Marrone onto the field to check on Spiller, turned out not to be serious, and Spiller returned to the game. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Spiller was simply cut on his knee after being spiked.
What's next: The Bills will return to their practice facility in Orchard Park, N.Y., for the first time this preseason before hosting their preseason finale against the Detroit Lions next Thursday. They will have to cut down their roster to 75 players (Tuesday) and 53 players (Saturday) by the end of next week.
New England's weakest unit has had the benefit of facing backup quarterbacks Tyler Palko and Vince Young in recent victories. This week, the Patriots get the backup of the backup in Dan Orlovsky of the Indianapolis Colts (0-11). With Peyton Manning and Kerry Collins out for the season and Curtis Painter benched, Orlovsky is the Colts' fourth option.
New England's pass defense has been awful, but it won't matter this week . Young torched the Patriots for 400 yards passing in last week's 38-20 Patriots win. Although most NFL quarterbacks have had success against the Patriots this season, Orlovsky most likely isn't capable of having a great game.
After Orlovsky, New England's defense faces quarterbacks Rex Grossman of the Washington Redskins and Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos in back-to-back weeks. This three-game stretch should help the Patriots improve their pass-defense numbers, which are the worst in the NFL at 307.5 yards per game.
Here are some thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 20-9 victory against the Washington Redskins:
What it means: After an awful 0-7 start, the Dolphins have won two straight. The victory against the Redskins also was Miami's first home win at Sun Life Stadium this season. The Dolphins are playing hard in the second half of the season under embattled head coach Tony Sparano, who continues to audition for his job beyond this season.
What I liked: Miami running back Reggie Bush continues to have his best stretch of the season. Bush didn't register a lot of yards. But he scored both of Miami's touchdowns on the ground, including a fourth-quarter score with 6:17 remaining to seal the game. The Dolphins' defense also took advantage of Washington's rotating door at quarterback. Former Dolphins quarterback John Beck didn't play in his return to Miami. He was benched Sunday in favor of Rex Grossman, who struggled and threw two costly interceptions for Washington.
What I didn't like: There's not much to complain about with Miami's performance. But if I had to nitpick, Miami starting quarterback Matt Moore didn't play as well as last week. He had two key turnovers in the first half (one interception, one fumble) that kept Washington in the game until the fourth quarter. Moore finished with 209 yards and two turnovers. He needs to be more consistent in taking care of the football.
What's next: The Dolphins (2-7) will host the Buffalo Bills (5-4) in their first of two meetings this season. With Buffalo struggling and Miami playing its best football of the season, it could be anyone's game next week at Sun Life Stadium.
Forty percent involved AFC East clubs, and in only one case were they not the suckers. In some instances there were no winners on either side of the deal.
The Miami Dolphins were indicted twice. Their succession of quarterback trades from 2005 through 2008 ranked eighth. Tanier called them a "series of ill-conceived trades for backups and has-beens."
The Dolphins' 1992 trade of Sammie Smith to the Denver Broncos for Bobby Humphrey came in at No. 7. It was "a one-for-one, headache-for-headache deal that turned out to be a waste of everyone's time," Tanier wrote.
Fourth on the list was the New York Jets' 2003 draft trade with the Chicago Bears. The Jets moved up to fourth in the order and drafted Dewayne Robertson. The Bears eventually drafted defensive end Michael Haynes (not Ty Warren) and quarterback Rex Grossman in the first round.
The New England Patriots came out ahead in the 2006 deal that ranked 10th. They dealt receiver Deion Branch to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round draft choice that became Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather. Three seasons later, the Patriots got Branch back for a fourth-round pick.
- You can see why the Bills hotly pursued Mike Shanahan to be their overlord. The Redskins went 4-12 last season, but looked like a far more polished team under Shanahan than the Bills did under their new coach, Chan Gailey.
- Buffalo was sharp on its opening drive, despite losing running backs Fred Jackson (hand) and Marshawn Lynch (ankle) to injuries. Trent Edwards completed all but one of his five passes for 44 yards. Every throw was to a different target. A 20-yard Lynch run was wiped out by a penalty.
- That was about all that went right for the Bills' starters or second-stringers. It seemed unfair to watch veteran quarterback Rex Grossman hook up with prospect Devin Thomas on a 44-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The Bills don't nearly have that kind of depth.
- This is how Buffalo ended a span of seven straight possessions, beginning with its second and lasting deep into the third quarter: interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.
- Of those seven series, only one began inside the Bills' own 20-yard line. None went farther than their own 38. Five of those six punts were of the three-and-out variety. They had another in the fourth quarter.
- It didn't matter what Redskins offensive unit was on the field when it came to figuring out the Bills' new 3-4 defense. Not helping was inside linebacker Paul Posluszny being scratched. He missed the first part of training camp while recovering from groin surgery and should be OK.
- The Bills were destroyed in every phase. The first game without special teams coordinator Bobby April, and Bruce DeHaven's return to Buffalo, was ugly. The Bills allowed a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown. Ellis Lankster fumbled away a punt return.
- Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin played deep into the fourth quarter and appeared to get pushed around. He finished with two tackles and was called for roughing the passer on what should have been an incomplete pass on third-and-6 in the first quarter. The Redskins eventually scored a touchdown.
- But Maybin did record his third sack in an NFL uniform, getting to Miami Dolphins castoff John Beck in the fourth quarter. All three of Maybin's sacks have been in preseason games.
- For you Dolfans out there, Beck struggled with his third team. He completed two of seven attempts for 27 yards, fumbled once and was sacked twice.
- On a positive Bills note, backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick closed out a drive late in the third quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson. The score capitalized on a 43-yard Chad Simpson run two snaps earlier.
- Nelson finished with a game-high five catches for 47 yards.
- With Jackson and Lynch sidelined, Simpson and undrafted rookie Joique Bell had their moments. Bell ran five times for 52 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown.
- Brian Brohm didn't play. Many Bills fans hoped Brohm would win the starting job, because he presents unknown possibilities that Edwards and Fitzpatrick don't. Seventh-round draft choice Levi Brown completed three of seven passes for 28 yards and an interception.
- Gailey said Brohm will play Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts, while Fitzpatrick sits out.
Mack from Waverly writes: Hey Tim I have a couple of questions regarding the patriots defense. Alot of people are counting on the pats to draft a corner high or get one in free agency. I really felt like the defense improved down the stretch after Jonathan Wiilhite was injected into the starting lineup. Do you think he might be the answer at corner? Also do you think the pats might ask Junior Seau back for depth since he has bailed them out for three straight years?
Tim Graham: I'm with you on Jonathan Wilhite. I thought he played well opposite Ellis Hobbs late in the season and may have convinced the Patriots they're OK at cornerback for next year. Junior Seau was an emergency replacement late in the season. He won't be back in 2009 unless disaster strikes -- repeatedly.
Brian in Fort Myers, Fla., writes: I do not see Buffalo taking the TE from OSU, he is unpolished and has too many off the field issues in his past. I actually think he could be a bust and we need help at DE and LB, who do you see the Bills looking at with their first two picks. Thanks--Go Bills!
Tim Graham: You're correct that defensive end and linebacker are needs. The Bills also need a center, but that's not a position you take in the top third of the first round unless he's elite, and there are no elite centers in this year's draft class. That said, Bills fans should be happy if Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew is the pick.
Matthew in Wichita, Kan., writes: There Rumor going on net that Pats hired Romo back to staff. That Pats going after Free agents in nfl as well look at draft because of Jared Mayo.And look at May talking Ray Lewis.
Tim Graham: See what I deal with here? I get about 47 questions like this in my chat every week and another dozen in my mailbag.
Mr. Anonymous in Phoenix writes: tim, i seem to be the only bills fan that doesn't blame dick jauron for yet another losing season (bills seem to have a history of it). do you think he can get the bills to 9 wins or should i wait until the team is sold to another town to see a winning season.
Tim Graham: I've written in my chats and mailbags before I think Jauron is a satisfactory coach. Buffalo's problems are systemic, not coach-oriented. When the Bills decided to retain Jauron and make few front-office changes, Bills fans must hope they've at least decided to adopt a new philosophy on spending money and obtaining players.
The free-agency period hasn't begun yet, so it's too early to tell for sure, but fact the Bills went hard after CFL sackmaster Cameron Wake -- they lost out to the Dolphins -- could indicate they'll be active in pursuing free agents.
Josh in Norfolk, Va., writes: Mr. Graham -- do you think the Phins will pursue Julius Peppers?
Tim Graham: It wouldn't appear the Dolphins would be hot for Peppers, whose agent recently announced the Carolina Panthers defensive end would like to play linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The Dolphins already have Joey Porter, and last week they spent a healthy chunk (by CFL standards) on Wake. They also gave an exorbitant sum to Charlie Anderson last year.
Doug in Memphis, Tenn., writes: Kurt Warner will QB a second team in the Super Bowl. How many other QB's have done that?
Tim Graham: Kurt Warner is the third quarterback to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl, joining Craig Morton (Cowboys, Broncos) and Earl Morrall (Colts, Dolphins). But Morton was the first to start both Super Bowls. Bob Griese came back from injury in time to start Super Bowl VII in place of Morrall.
George in Wilmington, Del., writes: The last time the Jets drafted an offensive weapon in the 1st round was in 2001 (Santana Moss) and before that it was Keyshawn. Do you think this has contributed to gang greens woes? Was sticking with Tannenbaum over Mangini (or sticking with him at all) a bad choice? Is there a roadmap for the Jets to make a play-off run next season? I am not looking forward to another 5 or more years of having my heart broken.
Tim Graham: Great football teams are about the organization, the culture, the system. Mike Tannenbaum has made more moves that contribute to establishing a winner than he has made mistakes.
The Rex Ryan hire was a great one, even though he is another in a line of defensive-minded coaches. That's where their affinity for taking defensive players in the first round stems from.
Ryan will establish his tone and begin to weed out the players who don't fit his mind-set while adding players who do. But the Jets aren't in need of a major overhaul. They won nine games last year and have talent on the roster. If the Dolphins can go from one victory to 11 in one year's time, then the Jets certainly can make the playoffs next year.
Mark in Danville writes: With McCoy and Bradford electing to return to school does that increase the potential trade value for Matt Cassel should the Pats look to move him before the draft?
Tim Graham: Fewer available prospects will affect Cassel's value somewhat. It's about supply and demand. But the Patriots won't be able to trade Cassel before the draft because they won't know enough about Tom Brady's rebuilt left knee by then. The primary reason they'll franchise Cassel is to provide insurance in case Brady's not ready.
TK in Brooklyn, N.Y., writes: Hey Tim, this seems like a no brainer to me, but is there any chance the Bills go after former Colts defensive cooridinator Ron Meeks? Buffalo runs that Tampa 2 defense he ran under Dungy, and he would be a great help in improving their defense; plus he knows how to defend Brady and the Patriots. The Bills would be foolish not to try and get this guy on their staff in some capacity or another. Please tell me this is going to happen.