AFC East: Tank Williams
A sampling of comments from around the AFC East compounds Wednesday. The Miami Dolphins had the day off because they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez on being named the starter over Kellen Clemens:
"This is something I've always wanted to do and dreams are coming true now. It's a special opportunity. With that opportunity comes a ton of responsibility to this team, to this organization, to the community here." Jets coach Rex Ryan on giving Sanchez the job:
"I think I'm doing the right thing for this organization. I know I am. That's what my heart tells me." Ryan on how much his experience last year with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco played a role in his decision:
"Well it's probably a lot. My history is obviously going to affect my present. I felt Joe Flacco was ready to be the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens before a lot of people did because I saw that poise. I saw the athleticism and the big arm. I knew the kid had it." Clemens on his future:
"I think that I am a good quarterback and that I can win in this league. I think overall, I need to be more consistent. There were good days. There were good practices. But it needs to stay at that level more consistently." Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson on his wrist/thumb injury:
"You can't hold onto a football without your thumb. So you need that to be at 100 percent whenever you're trying to carry a ball, even when you're trying to make catches and being out there in the passing game like I'm supposed to be. It's something that I do need to get taken care of and hopefully I'm going to get it all put away and everything behind me by the time we open up."
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on cutting safety Tank Williams:
"Tank was a tough one. I think Tank's a very professional guy, someone I really enjoyed coaching and had a lot of respect for when he played at Tennessee and Minnesota, especially Tennessee. He was a tough competitor, a tough guy for us to handle, and he came in and did everything he could. He had, unfortunately, a knee injury last year. ... I just wish things could have turned out better because of the work, desire and devotion that he put into his job and the leadership that he gave us on a lot of different levels." Bills coach Dick Jauron on the value of practicing in the rain:
"The footing and how you compete -- how you backpedal, how you turn and plant dry, cutting -- you have to work on those things because it's not easy. I thought it was really a good day for us."
New England Patriots
- Boston Globe reporter Christopher L. Gasper writes Laurence Maroney's mission this year is to run hard and stay healthy.
- Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald marks the time since Randy Moss last spoke to the media, which just so happened to be the AFC East blog in May.
- Shalise Manza Young takes a look at whether safety Tank Williams can rebound from another knee injury to be a contributor.
- Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter Jennifer Toland gives an update on Wes Welker's status.
- Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan calls out defensive end Aaron Maybin for being one of only three unsigned first-round draft picks.
- Niagara Gazette sports editor Tim Schmitt writes Buffalo's special teams, its hallmark the past few years, have been ordinary.
- Bryan Sullivan of the Canandaigua Daily Messenger takes a look at the Bills linebacking corps, which returns intact from last year.
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist examines how difficult will be for upstarts to displace veterans on the 53-man roster.
- Palm Beach Post reporter Carlos Frias talks with defensive lineman Paul Soliai about maturing as an NFL player.
- Miami Herald reporter Jeff Darlington notes the precarious roster situation for receiver-turned-tight end Ernest Wilford.
New York Jets
- Bergen Record writer J.P. Pelzman digests the debut of Rex Ryan's defense in the preseason opener.
- Safety Kerry Rhodes won't be making the defensive calls anymore, but he intends to make the plays, writes Newark Star-Ledger reporter Dave Hutchinson.
- After getting a load of training camp at SUNY Cortland, Pelzman insists the Jets need to return home to New Jersey and stay there.
- Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press gives us a glimpse at the yin-and-yang relationship between inside linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris.
Posted by ESPN.com staff
Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com looks at five players not named Terrell Owens who might become playmakers on offense.
The Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde catches up with former Dolphins running back Cecil Collins who has three years left in his prison sentence for burglary.
The Palm Beach Post's Edgar Thompson gives us 10 questions to ponder while waiting for the NFL season to begin.
Also from Thompson: Jason Taylor sees big things for CFL-turned-NFL linebacker Cameron Wake.
New England Patriots
Tank Williams was hit really hard by the death of former Titans teammate Steve McNair, reports the Globe's Christopher L. Gasper.
The Globe's Mike Reiss takes a look at the quarterbacks on the Patriots' roster.
The Patriots signed second-round pick Darius Butler over the weekend, according to a post on agent Drew Rosenhaus' Twitter page.
New York Jets
CSNPhilly.com's Ray Didinger wonders if we should be making Mark Sanchez-Joe Namath comparisons. Didinger: "If you are flashing back to images of Broadway Joe Namath, you're not alone. Jets fans are starting to make those comparisons, which may be good for jersey sales but may not be so good for the rookie quarterback."
New England Patriots
- Providence Journal reporter Shalise Manza Young catches up with safety-turned-linebacker Tank Williams.
- Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe gets the latest from rehabbing defensive end Ty Warren.
- Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan writes "The big question isn't whether Owens shows up in April, but whether he shows up big in September."
- Sporting News columnist Clifton Brown writes the Bills have bigger issues than T.O.
- Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reporter Sal Maiorana provides the highlights from Owens' news conference.
- Toronto Globe and Mail writer Jeff Blair thinks T.O. will be bad for Buffalo.
- Allen Wilson of the Buffalo News reports running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to appeal his three-game suspension.
- Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero claims the Dolphins' biggest draft priority should be pass-rushers.
New York Jets
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
As organized as Bill Belichick is, the New England Patriots probably didn't wait for the Scott Pioli situation to shake out in Kansas City before getting started on free agency.
The Patriots are expected to franchise unrestricted quarterback Matt Cassel as an insurance policy for Tom Brady's blown-out left knee. Cassel would receive a one-year qualifying offer worth almost $15 million -- the average of the top five salaries at his position.
Even if the Patriots and Cassel hammer out a deal on their own terms, his salary will gobble up a huge portion of the roughly $18 million to $20 million cap space they currently have. The actual salary cap number for 2009 hasn't been released.
Unrestricted (free to negotiate with any team beginning Feb. 27)
- QB Matt Cassel
- LB Rosevelt Colvin
- WR Jabar Gaffney
- P Chris Hanson
- S Rodney Harrison
- G/C Russ Hochstein
- LB Larry Izzo
- RB LaMont Jordan
- CB Deltha O'Neal
- LS Lonie Paxton
- S James Sanders
- CB Lewis Sanders
- LB Junior Seau
- DL Kenny Smith
- OL Barry Stokes
- S Tank Williams
- DL Mike Wright
Restricted (Patriots have right to match offer from other team)
Exclusive rights (cannot negotiate with other teams if tendered qualifying offer)
New York Jets fans evidently are realists. They have zero faith their team can pull off a trade for Brett Favre based on what turned up in my mailbag this week.
Nary a Favre question.
So allow me to present your Favre-free AFC East mailbag ...
Justin in Los Angeles writes: Based on what you see at Jets camp is there a guy there that can be a good option, aside from Chad? There are whispers of the 3rd sting guy showing life ... obviously no Favre ... what do you think?
Tim Graham: I'm just getting to Jets camp, but from what I've heard, Brett Ratliff was having a solid camp until a couple days ago, when he started throwing interceptions. But Ratliff is trying to beat out fifth-round pick Erik Ainge for the third slot. That's the extent of that.
Jehrid in Buffalo writes: With the Bills revamping their defense, do you think the offense will be good enough for a playoff birth this year?
Tim Graham: The most popular question in this week's mailbag dealt with the Bills' chances for the playoffs. So thanks to everyone for sending in their questions. I apologize I didn't answer each one. That would get a tad redundant.
So my answer to Jehrid is that Buffalo's offense absolutely is sufficient. I'm predicting a playoff berth for the Bills this year. Unless there's a distressful injury, the offense should be effective enough. RB Marshawn Lynch is a horse. Another sophomore, QB Trent Edwards, is the unquestioned starter. WR Lee Evans is an overlooked stud. New offensive coordinator Turk Schonert plans to open up the playcalling with more downfield plays, but he'll need to get his TEs more involved.
Tom in Buffalo writes: With the Jason Peters situation looking very grim, what does the Bills' offensive line look like at the tackle spot? Also, how much does this hurt the offense as long as Peters comes back before the end of camp?
Tim Graham: This is the X-factor for the Bills' hopes. LT Jason Peters is a veteran and an elite performer at his position. He can afford to miss all of camp if he's staying in shape. Langston Walker will hold down Peters' position for now.
Chris in Spencer, Mass., writes: I would love to see Chad Jackson step it up this year, do you think he will? Also, From what I've heard, Jerod Mayo is beasting it up in training camp. How long do you think it will take for him to crack the starting lineup?
Tim Graham: WR Chad Jackson has the ability, but there's so much talent ahead of him, the opportunities will be scarce. I was in Foxborough for a few days and wouldn't describe ILB Jerod Mayo as "beasting it up." He still has a lot to learn for that position, but he does possess all the physical tools.
Alan in West Palm Beach, Fla., writes: Who do you think is the Dolphins top pick for QB? I really want them to stick with either Henne or Beck and move on from picking up tired old men who are a few years away from being eligible for Medicare.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
New England Patriots
- LB Tedy Bruschi explains to Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti why Brett Favre should stay retired. "When you say you're going to hang it up, that's got to be your (final) decision," Bruschi said.
- Providence Journal reporter Shalise Manza Young checks in on the Tank Williams experiment. Is he a LB? He claims he's not sure.
- He wasn't exactly Steve Tasker for the Bills, but the Patriots saw enough out of WR Sam Aiken to sign him up for their special teams.
- K Stephen Gostkowski said his lack of long field-goal attempts last year was because the offense was so good it rarely left him too far away.
- Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reporter Sal Maiorana writes WR Lee Evans was staunchly behind J.P. Losman in last year's QB controversy, but Trent Edwards has won him over. Good thing because Edwards will be the one throwing him the ball.
- Losman missed Tuesday night's sloppy practice under the lights with a swollen passing thumb.
- The Bills pray DT John McCargo can overcome his faulty foot to make an impact. "We are hoping like hell that he can take that next step and play like we hoped," D-line coach Bill Kollar told the Buffalo News.
- Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote writes about RB Ricky Williams' self-reclamation project. Not many outside South Florida have addressed what, at the moment, seems a tired tale, but Williams' return will become the team's biggest storyline of '08.
- The Miami Herald headline says WR Derek Hagan is "getting rave reviews." But if he were really standing out, then they probably wouldn't be going after Terry Glenn.
- Carlos Frias of the Palm Beach Post catches up with young ILB Channing Crowder, who has the unenviable task of replacing the beloved Zach Thomas.
New York Jets
- At a time when most everybody else has been wishy-washy about the Jets' quarterback situation, Chad Pennington is refreshingly blunt. New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden is convinced Pennington should be the starter.
- Newsday beat reporter Eric Boland writes CB/KR Justin Miller is happy to be on his feet after missing much of last year's camp with a bum hammy and blowing out his right knee in Week 2.
- J.P. Pelzman of the Bergen Daily Record takes a look at G Alan Faneca's role in anchoring the Jets offensive line.
- Another big-ticket free agent, OLB Calvin Pace, is trying to overcome perceptions in Arizona he was a bust.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The evening session was much more exciting than the morning walkthrough, especially if you enjoy passing drills.
But before we get into a few observations, safety Rodney Harrison came off the PUP list and practiced for the first time in camp. The Patriots were in full pads. He saw a lot of reps but looked a little winded.
- After spending three days at Miami Dolphins camp, the disparity in talent was blatant. The Patriots are so skilled, the drills were like watching demonstrations.
- This was my first look at backup QB Matt Cassel, and he was sharp. Camp observers has been impressive the whole time.
Cassel and Matt Gutierrez were the passers in a fun one-on-one drill, pitting the LBs against the RBs and TEs. They would line up about three yards apart. The receiver would run at the LB, make a move and try to get open. The offense dominated the LBs and completed every pass for more than half the drill.
The best throw and catch of the day was Cassel to Sam Aiken in the back of the end zone. CB Lewis Sanders had blanket coverage, but Cassel threaded the ball and Aiken made an acrobatic catch for a touchdown.
QB Tom Brady threw two interceptions (one was tipped). I smell a controversy.
- Second-year safety Brandon Meriweather looks like he's on the ball. He didn't bite on a gadget play (sorry, but club policy prevents me from telling you what the trick was) and broke up a long pass to Jabar Gaffney.
- Former safety Tank Williams continued to see reps as a first-team ILB. Listed at 6-foot-2, 223 pounds, he looks too big to be a DB (big upper body) and too small to be an LB (thin legs). Guard Logan Mankins pancaked him.
- The Patriots didn't shrug off mistakes because it was training camp. A few profanities were audible. NFL officials were on the scene -- they're in each camp for three days to advise on new rules -- and players got in each others' faces whenever a flag was thrown. Brady yelled at one of the officials for not calling defensive delay of game for batting the ball after a whistle in a two-minute drill.
With one second left on the clock and the ball on the 10-yard line in the two-minute drill, Brady found WR Randy Moss in the back of the end zone. Moss seemed to have the ball firmly, but rookie CB Terrence Wheatley made a fantastic play and knocked it out of Moss' hands for an incompletion.