AFC East: Spencer Larsen

Rapid reaction: Bucs 30, Pats 28

August, 24, 2012
TAMPA -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 30-28 loss to the Buccaneers in preseason action:

PatriotsBucsUgly night for Patriots. This was somewhat similar to last season’s third preseason game at Detroit in which the Patriots were pushed around and quarterback Tom Brady took too many hits. The Buccaneers were aggressive on defense and had success disrupting the rhythm of the passing game by getting to Brady early and building a 20-7 halftime lead. The overall pass protection -- from the line, to tight end, to running backs -- was shaky. Some might also say Brady didn’t always help his cause by holding on to the ball too long on some plays. The Patriots got behind early -- the defense was shredded on the opening drive -- and were playing catch-up the rest of the night. Bill Belichick will likely say that the team has a lot to work on after this one. He’d be speaking the truth.

Brady plays into late third quarter. Brady’s final play came with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter and was a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. This highlighted Bill Belichick’s approach of playing Brady and the top guns into the second half in this “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. It was hot and humid here in Tampa, so while the results weren’t necessarily desired, one positive was that the Patriots’ conditioning was tested.

Three injuries of note -- Vereen, Larsen, Arrington. Second-year running back Shane Vereen and fifth-year fullback Spencer Larsen limped off in the first half and did not return. That left the offensive backfield a bit thin. Vereen had been making a charge for some more playing time, and in his absence, Stevan Ridley was one of the bright spots for the Patriots and looks like he’s positioned to be the opening-day starter and lead option. Meanwhile, cornerback Kyle Arrington was replaced by Ras-I Dowling for the final two series of the second quarter and was having his back examined by the athletic training staff on the sideline. All three players did not return.

Writing on the wall for Stallworth? With Wes Welker not dressing for the game, the Patriots didn’t turn to Donte' Stallworth -- who played extensively on Monday night -- until late in the fourth quarter (he had a few late catches). Julian Edelman received a lot of playing time at receiver but had a quiet night on the stat sheet (no catches). That could be bad news for Stallworth in his hopes for a roster spot.

Defense -- up and down night. Outside of a 19-yard Doug Martin run, the Patriots played solid run defense. That was one of the positive aspects of the defensive performance, as it’s live work they can’t often get in practice. The secondary had some early struggles, but with rookie safeties Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner seeing significant playing time, there weren’t major issues on the back end outside of the first drive. Some valuable experience gained there.

Demps -- up and down debut. Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps didn't play until midway through the third quarter and had an up-and-down debut, with two kickoff returns that didn’t produce big results and a penalty for simulating the snap count. But his explosiveness was on display late in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard run that showcased his blazing speed. He’s one of those players: When the ball is in his hands, you don’t want to miss it. Exciting.

Reminder -- it’s just the preseason. It wasn’t an inspiring performance from the Patriots, but as we’ve seen before, beware of reading too much into preseason results. The Buccaneers took it to the Patriots, just as the Lions did last year in the third preseason game. The Patriots’ 2011 season turned out to be pretty successful.

AFC East links: Bills, Jets sign top picks

May, 18, 2012
Buffalo Bills

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in April's draft, is in the fold, the Buffalo News reported, after signing a four-year contract. Second-rounder Cordy Glenn and third-rounder T.J. Graham are now the only members of Buffalo's draft class yet to come to terms.'s Adam Schein sizes up quarterback Vince Young, who could be getting his last shot in the NFL with the Bills. Schein: "There was a point where Young seemingly ruled the world. Today he is competing with Tyler Thigpen for the right to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo. What a sad, strange and wasted trip."

Miami Dolphins

Sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham, a wide receiver from Michigan State, became the first draftee to sign with the Dolphins, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly compares the Dolphins' outgoing players with those brought in to replace them.

New England Patriots

Alfonzo Dennard, the Nebraska cornerback who fell to the Patriots in the seventh round of the draft after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, has agreed to a four-year contract, a league source tells Mike Reiss.

The team also signed Jeremy Ebert, a seventh-round wide receiver out of Northwestern. has a Q&A with fullback Spencer Larsen.

New York Jets

Quinton Coples, the North Carolina defensive star whom the Jets selected 16th overall, has signed with the team, the Jets' official site reports. The deal, sources told the New York Daily News, is for four years, with a team option for a fifth year; the contract is expected to be a little shy of the $9.3 million ($5.2 million guaranteed) 15th pick Bruce Irvin got from Seattle.

Safety Antonio Allen, a seventh-round pick from South Carolina, also signed with the team.

Defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis won't likely be deported to his native Jamaica but might have to serve additional jail time, Manish Mehta reports.

Former Jets punter Steve Weatherford lit into quarterback Mark Sanchez over a perceived lack of development during an podcast: "As the years go on, I think you're expected to mature, skill-wise, and also mature as a leader, and to be honest with you, as much as I like the guy, I just haven't seen that."
Here are the most interesting stories Friday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: I'm not ready to go that far, but the Bills have done a good job this offseason. They signed some good players (Mario Williams, Mark Anderson) and also get good players back from injury (Fred Jackson, Kyle Williams). But let's see what other additions Buffalo makes in the draft and free agency.
Morning take: I don't think Ryan will have a problem handling the immense hype that comes with Tebow. It's more of an issue with the Jets' locker room, which couldn't stay together last year.
  • What is up with Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long's contract extension?
Morning take: You can't re-sign Long coming off a season-ending biceps injury. The Dolphins are doing the right thing by letting the year play out to make sure he's healthy and productive.
Morning take: Larsen adds versatility to the backfield, which is needed. The Patriots rarely use a fullback, but Larsen can fill that need and run the football a little.