AFC East: Sal Alosi

AFC East links: Brady 'on course'

May, 4, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

Bills seventh-round pick, nose tackle Mike Jasper, is a heavy-duty investment.

CBSSports.com's Clark Judge writes the Bills aced the draft, despite not getting a quarterback.

The Bills are unlikely to re-sign unhappy safety Donte Whitner, says general manager Buddy Nix.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero looks at the Dolphins' remaining options at quarterback.

The Dolphins are hosting "A Celebration of Jim Mandich's Life" Wednesday night at Sun Life Stadium to honor their former tight end and broadcaster.

New England Patriots

Quarterback Tom Brady is "working out aggressively" and is on course to start the season on time despite offseason foot surgery, reports ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

While some may scratch their heads at the Patriots' draft, you can't fault them for drafting left tackle Nate Solder, writes Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

New York Jets

Despite not showing up for the first two days of quarterback Mark Sanchez's "Jets West" camp, free-agent receiver Braylon Edwards "doesn't want to go anywhere else" and hopes to re-sign with the Jets.

LaDainian Tomlinson wants to be the NFL's "best third-down back."

Head coach Rex Ryan told David Letterman on Monday that former Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi deserves another shot at the NFL.

Rex Ryan's book doesn't tell all, but enough

April, 27, 2011
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When I heard Rex Ryan was working on an autobiography, I wondered what he could put on those pages that we didn't already know.

Ryan has been an open, nearly unabridged book his entire life. It's one of the main reasons he's so beloved by his players and fans. Since he became head coach of the New York Jets two years ago, seemingly every aspect of his life has been reported.

But it turns out Ryan's entertaining style makes "Play Like You Mean It" a page-turner with fresh ideas and revelations.

About the only aspect of his life not illuminated was last year's foot-fetish storyline, but he did comment on the Jets' other prominent scandals that drew league investigations: the Ines Sainz sexual harassment claim and the Sal Alosi sideline trip of Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll.

ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini previewed the book and shared some of the sexier passages.

Ryan gave details about the transition away from Brett Favre, revealed his disgust over Tony Dungy's criticism of his language and knocked former players such as safety Kerry Rhodes and defensive draft bust Vernon Gholston.

Ryan called Rhodes "a selfish-ass guy. He wouldn't work and he was a Hollywood type, flashing and needing attention."

While still defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, Ryan said he warned then-Jets head coach Eric Mangini not to draft Gholston.

"Truth be told, I didn't like the kid coming out of college," Ryan said. "He's a good athlete and a smart guy, but I thought he was a phony."

Ryan also took a dig at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who last year spat how much he hated the Jets.

"I really don't know Tom Brady, but who wouldn't hate him?" Ryan said. "Look at his life. Actually, look at his wife. Every man in America hates Tom Brady, and he should be proud of that."

AFC East links: Jets tag David Harris

February, 15, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

The team is looking at upgrading the playing surface at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Quarterback remains a hot topic of conversation when it comes to the Bills and the NFL draft.

Miami Dolphins

Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald shares some comparisons that might make Dolphins fans smile.

Former Dolphins offensive lineman Bob Kuechenberg was arrested Saturday night on a DUI charge.

New England Patriots

As expected, the Patriots put their franchise tag on left guard Logan Mankins.

Tom Brady's agent has come up with an idea on dealing with an 18-game regular-season schedule.

New York Jets

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Jets have placed the franchise tag on linebacker David Harris.

The Jets have hired Bill Hughan as their new strength coach, replacing Sal Alosi.

Patriots make changes on coaching staff

February, 11, 2011
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The New England Patriots have a new offensive coordinator.

Before you get too excited, keep in mind they didn't have one last year.

Quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien has called the plays the past two seasons. The Patriots officially added the coordinator title Friday.

The title is mightily deserved. O'Brien has done a wonderful job overseeing the offense. A marvelous season from unanimous MVP quarterback Tom Brady didn't hurt. The Patriots also were deemed to have the NFL's best offensive line, and O'Brien's boss was voted Associated Press 2010 Coach of the Year.

But O'Brien deserves partial credit for those honors. He helped overhaul an offense that jettisoned receiver Randy Moss (the final straw likely a blowup with O'Brien) and running back Laurence Maroney, successfully incorporated overachieving backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, thrived with two rookie tight ends and dealt with dicey issues along the offensive line.

The Patriots' coaching staff became a bit of a curiosity one year ago, when Bill Belichick revealed he wouldn't have any coordinators on his staff -- not on offense, defense or special teams.

Also Friday, the Patriots announced linebackers coach Matt Patricia was moved to safeties coach. Defensive assistant Patrick Graham has been promoted to linebackers coach. Offensive and special-teams assistant Brian Flores will assume Graham's old role.

ESPNBoston writers Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak reported head strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik interviewed with the Dallas Cowboys this week. Woicik's contract is up. So the Patriots apparently are in the market for a new strength coach.

Hey, I hear Sal Alosi isn’t doing anything these days.

No hardware, but AFC East rookies solid

February, 4, 2011
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Winners for the Associated Press 2010 Rookies of the Year will be announced Friday. Both appear to be foregone conclusions.

What a shock it would be if St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh didn't represent his side of the ball.

Still, it's an appropriate time to recognize a few remarkable rookie campaigns in the AFC East.

New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez should get a few votes.

McCourty was forced to grow up fast when Leigh Bodden suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in training camp. McCourty lined up against the opposition's top receivers and finished second in the league with seven interceptions. He was voted to the Pro Bowl.

Gronkowski had 10 touchdown receptions, a Patriots record for tight ends of any age and for rookies of any position. He came two touchdowns short of Mike Ditka's NFL record for rookie tight ends. Gronkowski broke another Patriots rookie record with three touchdowns in one game.

Hernandez broke the Patriots record for receptions from a rookie tight end. He had 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns.

None of the three other teams had particularly stellar rookies, but let's take a look at each team.

C.J. Spiller generated a lot of praise in the preseason. He was the ninth overall pick at a position favorable to rookie awards. But Spiller rushed for 283 yards and no touchdowns and added 157 receiving yards with a touchdown.

Some Bills fans might argue linebacker Arthur Moats was their best rookie. The sixth-round pick gained fame for the hit that essentially ended Brett Favre's career. Moats had 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He added 10 special-teams tackles.

But I submit the Bills' best rookie wasn't drafted. David Nelson caught 31 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't get on the field regularly until late in the season. Fourteen catches and all of his TDs came in a three-game stretch in December before an injury wiped out his last two games.

The Miami Dolphins caught a bad break when first-round pick Jared Odrick suffered a hairline leg fracture in the season opener. Second-round outside linebacker Koa Misi had a strong campaign with 4.5 sacks.

Defensive back Nolan Carroll, a fifth-round choice, had a wonderful year. Aside from being known as the guy Sal Alosi tripped at the Meadowlands, Carroll was a regular contributor in the secondary and was the Dolphins' top kickoff returner. His mother also was elected Florida's lieutenant governor.

For all the impressive things the New York Jets did in 2010, rookie production didn't rate. They drafted only four players, and all were disappointments to varying degrees.

First-round pick Kyle Wilson played every game but didn't become the nickelback Rex Ryan said he'd be. Second-round offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse was healthy all season but played in three games. Fourth-round running back Joe McKnight became a punch line for his lack of conditioning and will be known as the player who led the Jets to cut Danny Woodhead. Fifth-round fullback John Conner didn't live up to his "Hard Knocks" hype and was deactivated at the end of the year.

Jets regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 9

[+] EnlargeDavid Harris
AP Photo/David DrapkinLinebacker David Harris led the Jets with 119 tackles this season.
Biggest surprise: LaDainian Tomlinson was supposed to limp into the sunset when he left the San Diego Chargers. The Jets were criticized for dumping their 2009 MVP, Thomas Jones, and picking up an older player with lower expectations. But Tomlinson showed he still had plenty to offer. He took over the lead duties from Shonn Greene and carried the Jets to a 5-1 record at their bye. He had 490 rushing yards with five touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards a carry at the time. But more importantly he took pressure off sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez. When Tomlinson's production waned after the bye -- he hasn't rushed for more than 55 yards in a game since -- Sanchez became more of a liability. Tomlinson finished with 914 yards and probably would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark had Rex Ryan not rested him for Sunday's game against the gracious Buffalo Bills run defense.

Biggest disappointment: If you drafted the Jets in your fantasy scandal league, then you ran away with the title. They led the league in NFL investigations, including Brett Favre's sexting scandal with Jenn Sterger, the Jets' admitted mistreatment of female reporter Ines Sainz and $100,000 in fines over setting up a sideline wall that led to strength coach Sal Alosi tripping Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll. They drew even more unwanted attention over Ryan's purported foot-fetish videos and Braylon Edwards' DUI arrest. ... Purely from a football standpoint, Ryan's defense didn't live up to the hype. Top cornerback Darrelle Revis' contract standoff and hamstring injury caused a negative ripple effect. Season-ending injuries to nose tackle Kris Jenkins and safety Jim Leonhard were damaging.

Biggest need: The Jets will have some difficult roster decisions to make over the offseason because so many players have expiring contracts. The biggest holes might not reveal themselves for a while, but upgrading the offensive line will be a priority regardless. Jenkins has undergone reconstructive knee surgery two years in a row. Sione Pouha was an admirable replacement. Overachiever Mike Devito was solid at defensive tackle, and Shaun Ellis was one of their better quarterback chasers. But Ryan's defense needs to be more dynamic up front, especially if Jenkins doesn't return. Ellis will turn 34 and Pouha 31 before next season. Their top backup at defensive end is Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall draft pick in 2008 who has zero NFL sacks.

Team MVP: David Harris, inside linebacker. Other Jets might have played like bigger MVPs for segments of the season -- Tomlinson through the first six games, Santonio Holmes in November -- but Harris was the most constant and consistent presence. Harris led the Jets with 119 tackles and 14 quarterback hits. He had three sacks, one forced fumble and one recovery. Harris also is one the Jets' quieter personalities, which earns him bonus points for 2010.

Yardage by committee: The Jets' offense features several decorated players, but none of them reached the 1,000-yard barrier and none scored more than seven touchdowns. Tomlinson came closest, but Greene appeared to supplant him toward the end of the season. The Jets had five players with at least 41 receptions, but none with more than 55. Tight end Dustin Keller, Edwards, Holmes and Tomlinson finished within three catches and two touchdowns of each other.

Video: Jets are ultimate must-see TV

January, 2, 2011
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Miami Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez whipped out his TV Guide during the "Parting Shots" segment of "The Sports Reporters" and counted all the episodes that make the New York Jets the embodiment of must-see TV.

Sal Alosi wall draws $100,000 fine for Jets

December, 30, 2010
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The New York Jets avoided disciplinary action when the Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger sexting investigation came to a close Wednesday, but another day brought another opportunity.

The NFL has fined the Jets $100,000 for events surrounding Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi's infamous trip of Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll in Week 14.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declared Alosi violated rules by ordering inactive players to form a sideline phalanx that would hinder gunners on punt coverage.

The NFL released a statement that said Alosi "placed players in a prohibited area on the sideline to impede an opposing team's special teams players and gain a competitive advantage. This is both a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic."

The $100,000 fine also extends to a broadcast claim Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff made that the New England Patriots have used a similar ploy.

"Both the NFL Constitution and Bylaws and other league policies require clubs to report actual or suspected violations of competitive rules by other teams only to the league office and not to engage in public criticism of other clubs," the league statement read.

The Jets have been ensnared by a series of embarrassing scandals this year, including Braylon Edwards' DUI arrest, their mistreatment of female sports reporter Ines Sainz that led Jets owner Woody Johnson to fund a league-wide training program to educate players, and last week's report head coach Rex Ryan and his wife had posted foot-fetish videos on the internet.

video

Woody Johnson fully supports Rex Ryan

December, 23, 2010
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New York Jets owner Woody Johnson held a news conference Thursday to reaffirm his support for Rex Ryan in light of recent incidents that have ensnared the head coach and the organization.

"He's still the coach of the New York Jets," Johnson said. "I have a lot of respect for Rex and his family.

"My respect has not diminished one iota."

Ryan has declined to discuss a recent Deadspin.com report he and his wife produced foot fetish videos that were posted on YouTube. Ryan repeatedly called them "a personal matter." The Jets and the NFL agree.

The allegations came a week after the Jets had drawn NFL scrutiny for strength coach Sal Alosi's trip of Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll.

Johnson also addressed that investigation. He said he has apologized to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for the trip and to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft after Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff accused the Patriots of forming the same phalanx Alosi organized along the sideline to inhibit gunners.

"We're going to make mistakes," Johnson said of the organizations repeated problems, which also included an NFL investigation for treatment of female reporter Ines Sainz and receiver Braylon Edwards' DUI arrest. "We're not perfect, but we are pretty good -- once we’ve made a mistake -- at trying to make remedies, trying to cure, trying to correct what we're doing.

"We're trying to get better every year. We're going to work on things like our culture. We're going to work on trying to make ourselves an organization that doesn't have, preferably, any incidents."

New Jets distraction trumps them all

December, 22, 2010
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The New York Jets latest distraction is their most bizarre yet.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan didn't deny a Deadspin.com report that included several foot-fetish videos of a woman who looks strikingly similar to Ryan's wife, Michelle, showing off her feet to a cameraman who sounds exactly like Rex Ryan.

Rex Ryan was asked about the report Wednesday morning during a conference call with Chicago Bears media.

"I know you need to ask," Ryan said. "It's a personal matter."

Ryan's normally scheduled news conference with New York reporters is Wednesday afternoon, but the Jets previously released a statement that Ryan wouldn't address the report.

Over my 20 years as a sports reporter, I always use Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear as the baseline for surrealism.

When I clicked on one of the alleged Michelle Ryan videos and heard the cameraman's voice, I might have found a new standard.

The Jets have dealt with a series of distractions since Ryan took over as head coach. Not all of them are his fault, but he was photographed flipping off Miami Dolphins fans at an MMA event last February and came under fire -- his mother even called him out publicly -- for gratuitous profanity on "Hard Knocks."

NFL investigators have been to the Jets' facility three times this year because of the Brett Favre sexting scandal, boorish treatment of female reporter Ines Sainz and Sal Alosi's trip of Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll.

Braylon Edwards was arrested for DUI in September.

Other than that, it has been a quiet season for the Jets.

Jets answer fraud alert in Pittsburgh

December, 19, 2010
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Mark SanchezKarl Walter/Getty ImagesMark Sanchez scrambled for the Jets' first offensive touchdown in 12 quarters and helped key a much-needed win.
PITTSBURGH -- There's a faint line between counterfeits and contenders.

For the past two weeks, the New York Jets appeared to be posers. No team had a better record at the end of November. Then a pair of unsettling defeats and a sideline controversy knocked the Jets catawampus.

Faster than you could say "Rich Kotite," the Jets went from cruising along to crisis time.

"People thought we were falling off and we were frauds," Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "In the end, we just put it behind us amid everything that was going on."

The Jets returned to the contender ranks Sunday with a gritty 22-17 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers at snow-blown Heinz Field. The Jets are all but in the playoffs with their 10th victory and two games left.

So much went well for the Jets (10-4), their performance practically was a mind-eraser of the past two weeks.

Beleaguered offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called an effective game against the NFL's fourth-rated defense. The Jets' struggling ground attack frequently came through. Tormented quarterback Mark Sanchez was sharp and efficient, leading the Jets to their first offensive touchdown in 12 quarters. Their scandalous special teams produced a touchdown on the first play. Their defense denied Ben Roethlisberger on the final drive.

"You guys get tired of [hearing] it, and I don't care," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "This football team is resilient. We had some adversity, obviously, that we were dealing with. But our team responded.

"Same old Jets came down to Pittsburgh and got a win."

Ryan's snarky comment was a swipe at the familiar refrain crestfallen Jets fans have heard and recited over the years. Just when you think they're about to do something special ...

Obviously, these weren't those same old Jets, who never had won a game in the state of Pennsylvania -- let alone at Pittsburgh (10-4) -- in franchise history.

Had the Jets lost in Pittsburgh, however, the mad descent would have gained exponential velocity. The Jets would've taken a three-game skid into next week's game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. They would have been dreading the possibility of needing to beat the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale to get into the playoffs.

Athletes aren't supposed to think in those terms. They're trained to compartmentalize -- forget the last result, concentrate on the upcoming game, don't think beyond that.

But they're human beings. The Jets' minds were drifting into dark places.

"It's natural," Ellis said. "We don't want to go down that road."

Instead, the Jets pulled a U-turn.

They were reeling after a pair of appalling defeats to division opponents. The New England Patriots plastered them 45-3 in Week 14. The Miami Dolphins beat them 10-6 at the Meadowlands in Week 15 -- the Jets' third game without a touchdown in their new $1.6 billion stadium.

Then there was the spectacle created by strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi's sideline scandal. The Jets were visited by NFL officials for the third time this season, perhaps a league-leading stat, because Alosi formed a cordon and tripped Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll. But how much did special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff know? And when did he know it?

"There were so many reasons," said Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor, "why we needed to get back to winning."

Brad Smith gave the Jets a jolt when he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. That certainly helped ease the tension.

In retrospect, maybe the Alosi headlines took some of the pressure off Sanchez and Schottenheimer.

Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery marveled at the offense Sunday. He said he and right guard Brandon Moore at one point locked eyes in the huddle, amazed at the calls Schottenheimer was making and the personnel packages he was inserting. There was a palpable rhythm to the offense, Cotchery noted.

"It was the 'Six and Schotty Show,' " Cotchery said. Sanchez wears No. 6.

Sanchez completed 19 of his 29 attempts for 170 yards -- modest numbers. But he ran a bootleg into the end zone from 7 yards out and oversaw an offense that didn't commit a turnover.

Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards eight times for 100 yards, including a 38-yard strike up the right sideline to set up a Nick Folk field goal in the second quarter.

LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene combined for 89 yards on 23 carries, which was enough to keep the Steelers' top-rated run defense honest. The Steelers had allowed a measly 60.1 rushing yards a game entering Sunday.

Sanchez completed six of his seven play-action passes for 84 yards.

"That's about as gutsy a performance as you'll find," Ryan said of Sanchez. "He was absolutely outstanding. I knew he would respond. He's tougher than nails."

The Jets boarded their charter flight back to New Jersey in a much better mood than they've gone home the past two weeks. Their burden has eased considerably. That prized ticket to the AFC tournament is within their reach.

The Jets, for this week, are contenders again.

"It was damn near a must win for us," Ellis said. "It's great to pull this game out.

"But who knows what happens next?"

Halftime thoughts from Jets at Steelers

December, 19, 2010
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PITTSBURGH -- Some halftime thoughts from Heinz Field, where the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers are tied at 10:
  • Jets gadget man Brad Smith has 115 kickoff return yards, with 97 coming on the first play of the game. The Jets' offense, which hasn't scored a touchdown in 11 quarters and counting, has 124 yards.
  • Smith's touchdown return had to be a relief to special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who experienced a long week with the Sal Alosi wall/trip fallout.
  • So much for The Weather Channel forecast that there was just a 10 percent chance of precipitation. Snowflakes have been flying since kickoff. Looks quite nice, actually.
  • On the Steelers' 96-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, the Jets gave up third-down conversions of 10 and 18 yards. The touchdown came on a third-and-4 from the Jets' 9-yard line. But the Steelers might have picked up a gift on the 18-yard gain. According to the TV line, Hines Ward appeared to come up short, but the linesmen were late in catching up to the play and spotted the ball beyond the marker. I wonder if Rex Ryan was too afraid to challenge because of what happened in New England.
  • Jets fans must be thrilled to see the run game produce a little. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson have been ineffective for a few weeks, but Tomlinson has six carries for 31 yards. That doesn't sound like much, but it is for them.
  • I have no clue what the Jets were thinking at the end of the first half. They started a possession at their own 37-yard line with 29 seconds left and two timeouts. Mark Sanchez completed a 6-yard pass to Braylon Edwards and let the clock run down to nine seconds before snapping on second down. A 6-yard completion to Tomlinson left them with three seconds.
  • Sanchez has played a tidy game. He has completed nine of 13 passes for 82 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.

Esiason: Jets hung Sal Alosi out to dry

December, 19, 2010
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On Sunday's edition of "The NFL Today," CBS Sports analysts Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason discussed the controversy swirling around the New York Jets after Sal Alosi's villainous trip brought attention to the sideline wall they constructed to inhibit gunners on punt coverage.

Esiason said the Jets made Alosi the fall guy, suspending him indefinitely without pay and fining him $25,000 while head coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff denied they knew anything about it.

Marino: "Yeah, he is ultimately responsible. So is Mike Westhoff. But at the same time, I talked to Mike Westhoff. They say they did not teach this at any time. They did not know this was going on with the team, especially him and Rex Ryan both. I played on the Dolphins for 17 years. Mike Westhoff, 16 of those years was the special teams coach. He wouldn't lie to me. He said he doesn't teach it. He doesn't know anything about it."

Esiason: "It's all semantics here. What doesn't he teach? He doesn't teach to stick the knee out. That's what he's not teaching. But he does teach to line them up on the sideline. And I will tell you this: Sal Alosi is not a rat. He will not throw the coaches under the bus. Although I do think that Mike Westhoff did throw Sal Alosi under the bus this week by playing semantics with his language."

Joe Namath doesn't believe Rex Ryan

December, 18, 2010
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Joe Namath loves the New York Jets.

The Hall of Fame quarterback still isn't going to withhold a harsh opinion when he has one.

Namath said "I find it very difficult to accept" Jets head coach Rex Ryan's repeated claims of ignorance about strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi's commands to form cordons along the sideline to inhibit gunners on punt returns.

Namath noted that even if other teams are doing it with any degree of effectiveness, as Jets special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff claimed the New England Patriots have, then a head coach will be aware of it universally.

“I think every head coach in football knows what’s taking place over there when it comes to the team," Namath said on "The Broadway Blitz with Joe Namath," his weekly show on Sirius NFL Radio. "As far as knowing what's going on over there, it's the head coach's job to know.

"I've never been a head coach, so Rex, you know, they have different ways about them. But I can't see how you wouldn't understand that if something is working for the other teams you are not going to implement it or somebody on your side's not going to implement it.

"You don't have to directly tell Alosi to form a wall over there. They sit in these meetings. They see special-teams play of the other teams as well. And I wouldn't doubt that Alosi simply inferred, rather than being told to do that, that that was the right thing to do because everyone else was doing it."

Final Word: AFC East

December, 17, 2010
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:

[+] EnlargeSantonio Holmes
Al Bello/Getty ImagesReceiver Santonio Holmes will be facing his former team, the Steelers, for the first time as a New York Jet.
Santonio Holmes can wipe out his droptastic game with a successful homecoming. Holmes committed one of the worst gaffes of the season when he wasted a perfectly thrown Mark Sanchez pass in the left corner of the end zone against the Dolphins last week. Holmes can erase that memory and help the Jets move on from two weeks of turmoil with a big game Sunday against his old team. The Steelers traded the Super Bowl MVP for a fifth-round draft pick because they were tired of dealing with him at a time when Ben Roethlisberger was embarrassing the organization, too. Holmes had been suspended four games for violating the NFL's drug policy. But he still felt betrayed to be dumped. "It's been on my mind for quite some time, and I just never let it play a factor until now," Holmes said. "Now is the time to get a chance to play against these guys. I spent four years there. It's definitely time to show these guys 'Why let me go?' "

Brains are working overtime to find a formula to beat the Patriots. In this week's "Hot Read" feature, ESPN.com senior writer Greg Garber explores how the seemingly invincible Patriots can be beaten. The formula looks simple:

  • Harass or confuse Tom Brady into making mistakes.
  • Win the turnover battle.
  • Run the ball effectively to limit Patriots possessions.
  • Score enough points against a middling defense.

"That's the magic formula," ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi told Garber with a laugh. "Easier said than done." ESPN Insider contributor KC Joyner also tried to crack the Patriots' offensive code with some suggestions for the Packers on Sunday. He advises them to get Wes Welker into traffic, put cover corner Tramon Williams on Deion Branch and defend rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez like a receiver.

Don't worry about Cameron Wake not being higher in the Pro Bowl voting. I've noticed some resentment from South Florida regarding Wake's lack of Pro Bowl votes among outside linebackers. He entered the week fifth behind James Harrison, Terrell Suggs, LaMarr Woodley and Shaun Phillips. Fret not, Dolfans. Wake not only will make the roster, but he will generate attention for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. Wake leads the league with 14 sacks and should add to his total Sunday against the Bills. There's no denying his impact.

Thanks to Sal Alosi's bad trip, Brian Schottenheimer has avoided the spotlight this week. The controversy Alosi kicked up with his trip of Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll eclipsed the aggravation Jets fans have developed with Schottenheimer. Jets head coach Rex Ryan was subjected to chants to fire Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator after losing back-to-back games without a touchdown. Not only has Sanchez crumbled, but the run game also has disappeared. Schottenheimer owned up Thursday at a news conference. "Overall I'm in charge of the offense," Schottenheimer said. "I take a lot of pride in that. I take a lot of pride in my job. I take a lot of pride in our unit, and we're not playing very well. It's my job to put the players in position to make plays. It's my job along with the staff to get them to do the fundamentals right."

If Ryan Fitzpatrick can remain upright Sunday, then the Bills will have a chance. The Bills' offensive line is in rough shape and is about to face one of the NFL's stingiest teams. The Dolphins rank fifth in total defense, seventh in run defense and sixth in pass defense. Fitzpatrick has shown he can make good decisions. Despite the Bills' record and the fact they're often playing from behind, Fitzpatrick has thrown 21 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions. But he won't have receiver Lee Evans to loosen up coverages, and will face a pass rush that registered six sacks against of the Jets, who own one of the NFL's better offensive lines. Wake will be matched up against Mansfield Wrotto, a third-year pro who was out of work until October.

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