AFC East: Rob Ryan

Rex visits 'Nawlins for intel and gumbo

November, 11, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan celebrated his win over the New Orleans Saints by visiting New Orleans during the bye week.

Mostly, it was a fact-finding mission, according to Ryan. The New York Jets' coach flew down to the Big Easy last weekend to spend a couple of days with his twin brother, Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator, picking his brain for intel on the Buffalo Bills.

At least that was the company line.

The Saints defeated the Bills, 35-17, only two weeks ago, but who knows the Bills better than Rex Ryan? He's 7-2 against the Bills, including a 27-20 win in Week 3. Ryan admitted there may have been a ulterior motive for the trip, namely gumbo and jambalaya. He also wanted to see his nephew, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound high-school sophomore, play football.

Ryan maintained his usual bye-week approach, giving the team six consecutive days off. It hasn't worked too well in the past, as his Ryan is 1-3 in games after the bye week. A year ago, they lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 28-7.

This time, he doesn't expect a letdown because of the positive vibes he felt at the facility among players and staff.

"We were struggling (last year) and I don't know if I felt that energy," Ryan said.

We'll see. As Ryan likes to say, the proof will be in the pudding.


W2W4: Saints at Jets

November, 1, 2013
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On paper, this screams, "Bad matchup!"

The New York Jets (4-4) are coming off one of the worst defensive performances of the Rex Ryan era and the New Orleans Saints (6-1), who have rediscovered their pre-Bountygate mojo, are producing crazy numbers on offense.

"This is the New Orleans Saints, so this is about as good as it gets in the NFL," Ryan said. "So if we find a way to get a win here, it would be huge. This is an outstanding football team. Again, we expect to win, but we also know it’s a huge challenge. There’s no doubt, it’s going to be a huge challenge."

Huge, but not impossible. Kickoff is 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium. What to watch for:

[+] EnlargeRyan
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsRex Ryan has shown the ability to get his team to bounce back from ugly performances.
1. The Rebound Effect: If the Jets continue with the script -- 4-0 in odd weeks -- they should pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season. OK, now let's get serious: The odd-week thing is an anomaly, but there's no denying the Jets' resilience. They have a knack for rebounding from ugly losses. After getting blown out by the Tennessee Titans, they won impressively on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. After being pushed around by the Pittsburgh Steelers, they responded by stunning the New England Patriots.

It's a good quality to have, but it's a dangerous way to play a season. It can be mentally taxing on a team, and there's always the chance of doubt creeping into the psyche, especially after a stinker like the 40-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals -- the season's largest margin of defeat in the NFL. We'll learn a lot about the Jets in this game.

2. Geno vs. Rex's evil twin: Rookie QB Geno Smith faced a Ryan-coached defense every day in training camp; now he gets to play against Rex's identical twin, Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator. Rob, who inherited one of the worst defenses in history (you can look it up), has turned the Saints into a playmaking unit. Led by DE Cameron Jordan (six sacks) and CB Keenan Lewis (three interceptions), the Saints have registered 24 sacks and 15 takeaways. They've allowed fewer than 20 points in six of seven games, and we all know the Jets have been held under 20 in five of eight games.

Rob Ryan isn't blitzing at an unusually high rate, but his blitzes are effective. In fact, the Saints' sack rate when sending five or more rushers is 14.5 percent, the best in the league. You can bet he will try to confuse Smith with new looks, forcing him to hold the ball. He can't fall into the trap of throwing late on sideline passes; he got burned twice last week on those, resulting in pick-sixes. Smith's turnover total is up to 16, the second-highest in the league.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsChris Ivory and the Jets running backs could have a big day against the Saints defense, which is allowing a league-high 4.8 yards per carry.
3. Just run, baby: Rex and Rob look alike and sound alike, but their defenses are the exact opposite. The Jets defend the run better than any team in the league and the Saints are allowing a league-high 4.8 yards per carry. No doubt, the Jets will try to exploit that weakness. If they can control the clock and shorten the game by running the ball, they have a chance to win. This could be a big day for Chris Ivory, who should be highly motivated against his former team.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, hurting at tight end, will have to get creative with his approach to running the ball. He might want to use some of the wrinkles he employed against the Falcons -- a three-back formation, sprinkling in some Pistol looks. The trick is keeping it a close game. If the Jets fall behind and have to start throwing, they'll fall into the Saints' wheelhouse. And that won't be pretty.

4. Get physical with the receivers: The Jets' secondary was atrocious last week, in part, because the corners were passive at the line, giving too much cushion. Whatever happened to bump-and-run coverage? DE Muhammad Wilkerson, usually not one to speak out, said the corners have to do a better job of holding up the receivers, allowing the pass rush to get home.

The spotlight will be on struggling rookie Dee Milliner, who will be targeted by Drew Brees the moment he steps on the field. Ryan stuck his neck out by talking up Milliner, predicting a strong second half of the season. It was a transparent attempt to bolster the kid's sagging confidence; let's see if it works. The Jets also need a better game from Antonio Cromartie, who could be involved in coverage plan for TE Jimmy Graham. Cromartie needs to be more aggressive in press man. If the secondary has a bad day, it'll be a 400-yard passing day for Brees, who averages 327 per game.

5. A Mo better effort: The pass rush, frustrated by Andy Dalton's quick throws, stunk last week. There will be sack opportunities because Brees likes to push the ball downfield, meaning he's willing to hang in the pocket. He knows what he's doing, because he leads the league with eight touchdown passes of 20 yards or more. On the flip side, he hasn't faced a defensive line this good. Brees' pass protection is suspect -- already 18 sacks -- so this is a chance for the Jets' pass-rushers to redeem themselves after last week's no-show. Brees may not have his best lineman, standout G Jahri Evans (hip). If Brees gets in trouble, he can check down to super-quick RB Darren Sproles, a matchup nightmare for the Jets.
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets can upset the New Orleans Saints on Sunday -- yes, they can -- but they have to play the game on their terms. It has to be a street fight, old-school football, a game in the trenches. It can't be a basketball game, with Drew Brees leading the fast break, because the Jets aren't equipped to play that style.

The Saints are a finesse team, the model of what the NFL has become. The tenets that once shaped the game -- run the ball, stop the run -- don't apply to the Saints. They don't run it particularly well and they're giving up a league-high 4.8 yards per rush, but they're winning because they can throw it and catch it better than perhaps any team in the league.

The Jets recognize this. They respect the Saints, but they also believe they can knock them out of their comfort zone by playing big-boy football, smashing them in the mouth. Four weeks ago, they did it to the Atlanta Falcons, another team built around its skill players. The Jets see a lot of similarities between the Falcons and Saints, NFC South rivals.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsBruising back Chris Ivory of the Jets could do some damage against his former team.
"If we can handle Atlanta, we should, in theory, be able to handle New Orleans," linebacker Calvin Pace said Thursday.

It's not just a defensive thing. It's not just an offensive thing. It's an everything thing. The Jets have to set an early tone, on both sides of the ball, letting the Saints know it will be a two-chinstrap game, as coach Rex Ryan likes to say.

They can start by establishing a running attack, feeding Bilal Powell and ex-Saint Chris Ivory, who, no matter how much he downplays it, would love to rip a hole in his former team. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has done a nice job in his first season with the Saints, as his twin brother has pointed out every day this week, but it's hard to ignore that big, fat rushing stat: 4.8 yards per carry.

That's an engraved invitation for the Jets to impose their will on the Saints. They have to shorten the game, keep Brees on the sideline and make those New Orleans pass-rushers get dirty in the trenches, defending the run. They don't like to do that.

"Honestly, I feel like with the guys we have up front, we should be able to run the ball on everybody," right tackle Austin Howard said.

Everything the Saints do revolves around Brees and their high-scoring offense. When they jump to a quick lead, it allows Rob Ryan to be more aggressive on defense. It's easy to be a swashbuckling playcaller on defense when you have a 14-point lead every week. The Saints have 15 takeaways and 24 sacks, with 13 different players in the sack column.

"I think my brother is the only one without a sack on that team," Rex cracked.

For the Jets, it's all about Brees.

After getting shredded by a Brees wannabe, the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton, it's fair to wonder if they have what it takes to handle the real deal. The front four couldn't get close enough to Dalton to see the whites of his eyes, but it should have more chances against the Saints because of their vertical passing attack. Brees, looking downfield, will take deep dropbacks and hold the ball. There should be enough time for Muhammad Wilkerson & Co. to get home against the Saints' suspect line.

"We've shown we have one of the most explosive fronts in the game," linebacker Demario Davis said. "If we can cover for two or three seconds, and he's still holding the ball, I'm pretty sure somebody will be in his face."

Brees' favorite target is Jimmy Graham. He's a wide receiver in a tight end's body, and the Jets can't let him run freely through the secondary. He already has eight touchdown receptions, the same number as the entire Jets team. They want to get physical with him, show him the Bronx, so to speak. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Antonio Allen could take turns on Graham.

"I just have to get my hands on him and beat him up," said Allen, echoing the theme of the game plan.

The Jets have to play the game in the trenches, not on the perimeter. It's the only way to beat the Saints, a new-age team disproving the time-honored doctrines of the sport.

"I think the game has changed a little bit, obviously," Rex Ryan said. "When you're that prolific throwing the football, as they are -- and New England and Denver are -- that's how you get away with it."

The Jets have to turn back the calendar and go old school on the Saints. It's their only chance.

Twin tweaks: Rex jabs brother Rob Ryan

October, 30, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- This time, Rex Ryan didn't try to impersonate his brother by wearing a long-haired wig and stuffing a pillow beneath his shirt. He did that before facing him in 2009. Ryan toned it down Wednesday, but he still managed a subtle jab with the help of a visual.

As he read the New York Jets' injury report at his daily news conference, Ryan held up a laminated sheet of paper. On the back, facing the room of reporters and cameras, were two photos: One of his brother, Rob, the New Orleans' Saints' defensive coordinator, grimacing when he lost three weeks ago on Tom Brady's last-second touchdown pass; the other photo was of himself, flashing a big, wide smile.

Under Rob's picture, it said: "Sorry about that Jets" -- a reference to how a Saints win over the New England Patriots would've helped the Jets in the AFC East standings.

Under Rex's photo, it said: "I wish I could look as good as my twin."

These days, Rex isn't nearly as theatrical as he once was, but he still had some fun with the whole brother thing. After all, this doesn't happen too often. This will mark the 10th time they've faced each other, but the first seven occurred in the college ranks. Rex is 2-0 in NFL meetings, 6-3 overall.

Asked which of them is better looking, Rex cracked, "Oh, please. It’s pretty obvious the lap band has worked for me. I’m just going to say that, putting it out there.”

Following Rex's lead, Rob decided to have the weight-reduction surgery. Clearly, he's more than a few pounds behind his brother.

Rex, relaying information he received from the New Orleans media, said one of the hottest-selling Halloween costumes in New Orleans is his brother's face.

"No surprise there," he said.

Double Coverage: Bills at Saints

October, 24, 2013
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Williams-BreesUSA TODAY SportsMario Williams and the Bills' defense will attempt to slow down Saints QB Drew Brees.
The New Orleans Saints (5-1) are one of the NFL's most dominant home teams (3-0 this year, 32-11 since 2008). They've also won four straight games following bye weeks. So Sunday's matchup against the Buffalo Bills (3-4) certainly seems like a favorable one.

However, the Bills have proven to be a tough out. They're coming off of a 23-21 victory at Miami. All but one of their games has been decided by a touchdown or less. And they'll bring one of the NFL's most disruptive pass rushes into the Superdome, led by Mario Williams.

Injuries will be a key issue, especially on offense. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (foot) and Bills running backs C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (knee) all are battling ailments.

ESPN.com Saints reporter Mike Triplett and Bills reporter Mike Rodak break down the matchup:

Triplett: I saw that Williams and the Bills' pass rush certainly delivered last week with a game-changing sack and forced fumble in the fourth quarter to beat the Dolphins. How good is that pass rush? And do you think the Bills' defense overall is capable of slowing down Drew Brees and the Saints' high-powered offense?

Rodak: Mike, the pass rush has been the strength of what has been a banged-up defense. Williams has 10 sacks this season and the Bills are disrupting 20.1 percent of opponent dropbacks (measured by sacks, passes defensed, interceptions and batted balls), which is second to the 7-0 Chiefs (26.5 percent).

As for facing the Saints' offense, I think the Bills are better equipped for the challenge now than they would have been earlier this season. With Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore back from injuries and being eased into action, the Buffalo defense will have its best playmakers on the field. Still, we're talking about a middle-of-the-pack defense that has yet to have everything click. The run defense has struggled and the Bills have shown a tendency to give up the big play at times. The Saints will have their chances.

I haven't had a chance yet to watch the Saints live this season, but I can tell you that those who were left in the Ralph Wilson Stadium press box two weeks ago had their eyes glued to that Saints-Patriots thriller. If the Saints pull that out, they're 6-0. Can we attribute their success early this season entirely to Sean Payton's return, or is there more to it?

Triplett: Payton's return is a huge part of it. Essentially, the Saints have been proving that their 7-9 season in 2012 was a fluke. I think many people nationally forgot just how good this offense was in 2011, when Graham and Darren Sproles emerged as weapons for them. They went 13-3 that year and set the NFL record for yards gained. Now, they're back in their comfort zone with Payton back as one of the NFL's best game planners and motivators.

This year, the biggest surprise is how well the defense has been playing after such an abysmal performance in 2012. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, young pass-rushers Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette and the entire secondary have been huge for them. And I think it's legit.

Speaking of coaches, Mike, I have to ask about the impact Doug Marrone is making there. He has ties here after serving as Payton's first offensive coordinator and offensive line coach from 2006-08.

Rodak: Indeed, Marrone does have ties to New Orleans, not only as a coach, but also as a player. He was asked about it Monday and, probably trying to keep the focus on this week's game, didn't wax nostalgic about his time there, but simply said it was a good experience in his progression to becoming an NFL head coach.

As far as what he has done in Buffalo, I'd say it's so far, so good. But naturally as a first-year coach, the jury is still very much out on him. A lot will depend on how EJ Manuel performs when he returns this season and then beyond. But most importantly, Marrone has been able to avoid distractions or controversy, like what we saw with the Greg Schiano-Josh Freeman situation after Schiano made the jump from the college game. This seems to be a tight-knit locker room and a team that has closely contested each of its games this season.

Mike, there's a pair of recent first-round picks in Kenny Vaccaro and Jordan who have helped anchor the new-look Saints defense under Ryan. Tell me about what they've done, but also about what holes on defense the Bills might exploit.

Triplett: Jordan has been the Saints' defensive MVP so far. In fact, he was probably their defensive MVP last year, too. But this year he's starting to gain national attention for the impact he's making as a power pass-rusher and standout run defender. He's a big athlete at 6-foot-4 and about 290 pounds. So he's a good fit at 3-4 end but also at 4-3 end, where he's essentially lined up for most of this year since they play so much nickel and dime. Jordan has five sacks, a forced fumble and 24 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

Vaccaro, meanwhile, has been fun to watch since Ryan moves him around so much (deep safety, in the slot, blitzing, sometimes even at linebacker and corner). It's similar to the way the Pittsburgh Steelers use Troy Polamalu, though Vaccaro is obviously not at that level yet. He's still developing, but he's played almost every snap this year and has made several impact plays.

If the Bills' run game is going strong, that could give the Saints a few problems. Their run defense hasn't been their strength. But it's something they've been willing to sacrifice while making it a priority to prevent big plays. The Bills need to keep this game close so they're not forced to play catch-up -- which is no easy task. Do you think they've found some stability with Thad Lewis at quarterback? Or might we see Matt Flynn instead this week?

Rodak: They've definitely found some stability with Lewis at quarterback. While I don't think there's much of a chance that Lewis remains the starter when Manuel returns, it's not a stretch to say that Lewis has actually played better than the rookie. He has shown better accuracy on some of his passes and also seems more willing to drive the ball downfield when he needs to. His statistics haven't blown anyone away -- he ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in QBR in each of his two starts -- but the Bills seem more than happy with what they're getting out of him.

Flynn was inactive Sunday against the Dolphins, six days after arriving in Buffalo. I think the Bills would ideally like to have him as their backup instead of undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. But as far as surpassing Lewis, I think that would take a collapse by Lewis over the next few games and an impressive showing by Flynn in practice.

Mike, how do you see this game playing out? Do you expect Graham to be available for the Saints?

Triplett: I think Graham will be highly questionable all week. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he's out or limited, which would obviously put a dent in the Saints' offense. But I still think Brees has enough weapons -- starting with Sproles, Marques Colston and Pierre Thomas in the passing game -- to move the ball and put up close to 30 points or more.

If New Orleans scores early and forces Buffalo to play catch-up, the Bills could really be in trouble. And if the Saints are the ones who have to play catch-up, they've proven they can do that. Buffalo's best chance is to control the clock with its run game, win the turnover battle and force the Saints to settle for field goals.

Morning take: Rob Ryan in New York?

January, 9, 2013
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Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC East:
  • Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired by the Dallas Cowboys. Could he join twin brother Rex Ryan with the New York Jets?
Morning take: If it happens it will only be as a position's coach. Rex Ryan plans to promote secondary coach Dennis Thurman as New York's next defensive coordinator.
  • The Buffalo Bills will hire former Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for the same position.
Morning take: Former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone is bringing his own guys to Buffalo. Now all the Bills need is Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib to complete the trifecta on offense.
  • New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes said it's "go hard or go home" in the playoffs.
Morning take: That pretty much sums up the divisional round. This weekend will separate the pretenders from the true title contenders.
Morning take: Bush rushed for more than 2,000 yards over the past two seasons, but I still think Miami plays hardball. The Dolphins have two young running backs in Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas who can share the load next season.

Final Word: AFC East

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Here are five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

Battle in the trenches: If you're looking for a big-time matchup in Sunday's AFC East grudge match, look no further than the battle between New York Jets Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold and New England Patriots Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. These are two of the best at their positions, and both have a lot of respect for one another. It's no secret the Jets want to ground-and-pound New England's struggling defense. The winner of the Mangold-Wilfork matchup will have a lot of say in who wins this game.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
Richard Mackson/US PresswireJets running back Shonn Greene is averaging 4.82 yards per carry over the past two games.
Greene picking up steam: One of the biggest reasons for the Jets' turnaround is the increased production of starting tailback Shonn Greene. The third-year player has 188 rushing yards in New York's past two games, wins against the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. He averaged 4.82 yards per carry in those games, well above his season average of 3.8 yards. Greene, a power back, is known for having his best games late in the season. The Jets hope he turns it on again in November and December to help New York make a playoff run.

Another week, another Ryan: The Bills get another tall task in facing Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. His twin brother, Rex Ryan, gave Buffalo's offense fits last week in a 27-11 trouncing by the Jets. Dallas also runs a 3-4 scheme with some similar concepts. The goal for the Cowboys is to pressure and confuse the quarterback. That happened last week to Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had his worst game of the season against the Jets' defense, throwing for 191 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Homecoming for Jackson, Nelson: It will be a homecoming in Texas for two of the Bills' key players. Tailback Fred Jackson grew up a Cowboys fan and was raised in Arlington, Texas, where Dallas' new mega stadium was built. Jackson is excited to return home and play against his childhood team. Bills receiver David Nelson grew up Dallas. And here is an interesting wrinkle: Nelson's girlfriend is a Cowboys cheerleader.

Bringing life to Sun Life Stadium: Will the Miami Dolphins finally win a home game? Miami is 1-12 in its past 13 games at Sun Life Stadium and hasn't won at home since Nov. 14, 2010. The Dolphins (1-7) have a winnable game Sunday against the struggling Washington Redskins (3-5). Miami plays three of its next four at home and has a chance to gather some momentum.

Rex Ryan responds to Rob Ryan

November, 4, 2011
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New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan rarely passes up an opportunity to respond to trash-talking -- even if it's from his twin bother. That was the case again this week as Rob Ryan started from friendly banter.

Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, recently said he will be a better head coach than Rex Ryan, who's led New York to back-to-back AFC title games.

Here was Rex Ryan's response:
"Hopefully one day we get to find out. I hope he does get the opportunity to be a head coach. Rob is a great coach, and he certainly wants that opportunity, as every coach in this league wants that opportunity. But you know what, at the end of the day, he's not going to be quite as good as his brother. I don't know, because all I'm doing is basing it on facts. When we were kids, my batting average was a little higher than his, okay. The only thing he's got on me is probably test scores, academic test score, but other than that, from an athletic standpoint or something like that, I think I've always been able to be just a little bit better. But I hope he gets that opportunity. I'm sure he'll be a great head coach, I really do."

Rob Ryan has been rumored to be a potential candidate for the Miami Dolphins if they choose to look for a hot assistant coach.

Two Ryans in the AFC East? How wild would that be?

Morning take: Brad Smith vs. Jets

November, 2, 2011
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Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday morning in the AFC East:
  • Buffalo Bills receiver Brad Smith talks about his first game against his former team, the New York Jets.
Morning take: Smith made some dynamic plays in New York and is still trying to find his niche in Buffalo. Could Sunday’s game against his former team get him going in the right direction?
Morning take: That is a lofty goal. Rex Ryan has been to back-to-back AFC title games. That success should help Rob Ryan get an opportunity. Will Miami make the call?
Morning take: Click on the link and find out. Bills fans will be happy.
Morning take: The offense hasn’t scored as many points the past two weeks. But I don’t think that’s enough cause for concern. New England is 5-2.

Poll Friday: Miami's next coach?

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
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Our latest "Poll Friday" is a special one for suffering Miami Dolphins fans.

The question: Who do you want to be the team's next head coach in 2012?

Current Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is on a very hot seat in Miami after losing nine games in a row. Barring a historic turnaround, he will not make it beyond this season. Sparano even put his South Florida home on the market, although he said it wasn't related to his job status.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has deep pockets, and he will be willing to spend on the best candidate. Should Ross go top shelf to land an A-list candidate like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden?

What about veteran coach Jeff Fisher? He had a lengthy run with the Tennessee Titans and is one of the top names on the market next year.

Should Miami go "other," which can be the assistant route? Top assistants like Rob Ryan and Perry Fewell have been mentioned as future candidates for head-coaching positions. Maybe there is another name you like out there for Miami.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on who the Dolphins should hire to be their next head coach. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Final Word: AFC East

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Can Rex Ryan beat the Dolphins? Surprisingly, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan has had more success against the New England Patriots in the AFC East than the Miami Dolphins. Ryan is just 1-3 against Miami since joining the Jets in 2009. Ryan has never beaten the Dolphins at home. Miami has come into East Rutherford and beaten the Jets two years in a row. That streak has to end for New York, because this is a must-win game for the Jets (2-3). New York is on a three-game losing streak and is falling behind in the AFC East and playoff races.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Kerley
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJeremy Kerley has earned the chance for more playing time with the Jets.
Kerley's time: The Jets believe they got a steal in fifth-round pick Jeremy Kerley. The rookie from TCU has shown promise in the return game and at wide receiver. That is why the Jets were not hesitant this week to trade unhappy veteran receiver Derrick Mason to the Houston Texans. Kerley will get a chance to play Mason's former role as the No. 3 receiver against the Dolphins. Kerley caught three passes for 35 yards and a touchdown last week after Mason was benched in a loss to New England.

Battle of No. 28s: Miami's defense entered the season with high expectations. It was ranked No. 6 in the NFL last year. But not much has gone right for this group in its first four games. The Dolphins (0-4) are ranked No. 28 in total defense but have a chance to get back on track against the Jets' struggling offense, which also is ranked 28th. Something has to give between these two underachieving units. Miami's biggest issue is giving up big passing plays. The Dolphins are ranked 31st in passing yards allowed. New York hasn't made many big plays in general in recent weeks.

Pats face a second Ryan: One week after beating Rex Ryan and the Jets, the Patriots host his twin brother, Rob Ryan, who is the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. Both brothers have similar philosophies. Therefore, expect heavy blitzing and attempts to confuse and batter quarterback Tom Brady. Rob Ryan had success against New England's offense last year. As defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, Ryan and Cleveland pounded New England 34-14 last November.

Rookie contributions: The Buffalo Bills are getting strong contributions from their rookie class. It's been a quiet part of Buffalo's 4-1 start. First-round draft pick Marcell Dareus has been a force on the defensive line all season. Third-round pick Kelvin Sheppard is starting to come on at linebacker, and fourth-round pick Chris Hairston is expected to start his second game at left tackle in place of the injured Demetrius Bell. Rookie defensive back and second-round pick Aaron Williams also contributed before his collarbone injury in Week 3.

Morning take: Williams, Mangold ailing

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East:
  • Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams could miss the game against the New York Giants with a foot injury.
Morning take: Williams quietly battled this injury since training camp. He hasn't looked like his usual self this season. Maybe sitting a game will help.
Morning take: Mangold came back sooner than most from a high-ankle sprain. The Jets' medical staff has to monitor this closely to make sure he doesn't have a chance for re-injury.
  • Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor talks about his next game against the New York Jets.
Morning take: Taylor played on the other side with the Jets for one season, which toned down the hatred. But Taylor is a Dolphin first and his team needs to end their winless streak.
  • Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was the last to control the New England Patriots' offense.
Morning take: Ryan coached the Browns' defense in 2010 when they beat New England, 34-14. Expect a similarly aggressive scheme from Dallas to come after and try to confuse Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Rex to Rob: 'See you in the Super Bowl'

September, 12, 2011
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When it was over and the New York Jets had the game won, 27-24, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan exhaled a few expletives and stomped onto the field for the postgame handshake with his twin brother, Rex, who offered six consoling words.

"[Rex] just said, 'See you in the Super Bowl,'" Rob said. "I said, 'I'll see you there.'"

If the Jets had lost, their head coach might have been just as unhappy.

"I'd much rather be on this end than on the other end," Rex said. "As much as I love him, I always want to beat him and that's it. Like I said, hopefully we'll meet again."

AFC East links: Merriman 'over the hump'

September, 8, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

Shawne Merriman said the nagging injuries that have dogged him the past few seasons are no longer an issue . "I'm pretty much over the hump in getting back into the groove of things and playing football," Merriman said.

Coach Chan Gailey talked about who's expected to start on the offensive line, at linebacker and at kick returner against Kansas City.

Miami Dolphins


Vontae Davis was surprised by the reaction to his claim that he and Sean Smith are the league's best cornerback duo. "I absolutely was surprised, because they kind of got blown out of proportion," Davis told The Boston Herald. “I mean, I respect all the guys before I came into the league that I looked up to, the [Darrelle] Revis and the [Antonio] Cromartie. But I play with confidence. And I didn't expect to that get much attention. But I mean, that's the media for you."

Despite missing the entire preseason, Jake Long says he's ready to go for the season opener.

Despite playing at home in the upcoming Monday night game against the Patriots, coach Tony Sparano was preparing his team for crowd noise in practice.

New England Patriots

ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss: “Two of the top three spots at safety have been turned over, and there are two new cornerbacks filling out the depth chart. No doubt, this is a new look for the New England Patriots secondary.”

Quarterback Tom Brady has his sights set on another Super Bowl title.

New York Jets

Mark Sanchez wasn't bothered by comments Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made about the Jets QB's photo spread in GQ.

Brian Costello of the New York Post looks at the differences between Rex and Rob Ryan's defenses.

Best of NFL: AFC East coaches

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
2:00
PM ET
Best of NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

As part of the Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the AFC East:

Best at telling it like it is, Chan Gailey: Many would expect the Jets' Rex Ryan to be my pick here. But Ryan uses the microphone to talk up his players too often -- even when they don't deserve it. Ryan has fawned over Vernon Gholston and has a tendency to hype up unproven youngsters. But the Bills' Gailey has demonstrated a refreshing candor when evaluating his players. He has no patience for silliness and has publicly criticized outside linebacker Aaron Maybin and cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Before the 2009 draft, Gailey said he wanted to draft a scatback. The Bills selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMIRex Ryan showed off his sense of humor during a media conference by dressing as his twin brother Rob of the Cleveland Browns.
Best sense of humor, Rex Ryan: He steps to the lectern for news conferences with one-liners jotted down and ready to fire, frequently quotes his favorite comedies and can hold his own with David Letterman. Ryan's rapier wit likely was sharpened by daily debates growing up with twin brother Rob Ryan. Before facing Rob Ryan and the Cleveland Browns last season, Rex Ryan wore a wig to publicly ridicule his brother. What makes Rex Ryan's brand of comedy even more endearing is that his favorite punchline is himself.

Best grinder, Tony Sparano: For these Best of the NFL blog posts, we were provided a list of categories we could choose from. And every time I see the word "grinder," I immediately think of Miami's Sparano because when NFL Network reporter Albert Breer and I get together we have a running joke that's probably humorous only to us and annoying to everyone around us. I do a poor impersonation of Sparano that cracks us up, and in it, Sparano talks about how proud he is that his guys are grinding. I just did a search of "Sparano" and "grind" in my email archives, and it turned up in 19 Sparano interview transcripts dating back to June 2009.

Best coach-GM tandem: Bill Belichick and Bill Belichick: You can't argue with the track record. While the New York Jets' tandem of Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum has been highly successful, reaching the AFC Championship Game in back-to-back seasons, no other AFC East coach or GM has won a Super Bowl. Belichick has won three titles while, in effect, handling both roles.

Best ego manager, Rex Ryan: The other three coaches don't have much tolerance for egos. Ryan, on the other hand, welcomes personalities big and small -- just as long as they can play. Ryan encourages players to be themselves and to express their opinions. Ryan has taken on players other teams couldn't handle anymore, namely receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

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