AFC East: Terrence Cody

Ravens at Jets inactives

September, 13, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Inactives for Monday night's opener between the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets at the Meadowlands:

Baltimore Ravens
New York Jets

Bills uninterested in name recognition

April, 23, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix clearly didn't use Q-ratings in the evaluation process.

The Bills drafted Central Florida nose tackle Torell Troup -- a prospect so far out of the pre-draft spotlight some official Web sites misspelled his name -- with the 41st pick in the draft Friday night, passing on bigger names that would have appeased the fans more.

The Bills avoided Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen for the second time when they chose Troup, whom they preferred ahead of Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody. Scouts Inc. projected Troup as a fourth-round pick and Cody as a second-rounder. The Baltimore Ravens drafted Cody with the 57th pick.

The Carolina Panthers ended Clausen's misery with the 48th selection. The Bills still could have had Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in the third round, but went with Arkansas State defensive end Alex Carrington in the 72nd slot instead.

"We got a lot of needs, guys," Nix said in explaining why they passed on certain players.

Buffalo took running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall rather than a number of highly touted prospects at need positions with the ninth pick.

"In the draft, you can only take one each pick," Nix said. "We're in a position where they should give us about three, but they won't do that.

"You say we haven't addressed the offensive line. We want to take a guy we know can come in and help us, and if he can't then we're going to go on to another guy. If you take a guy that can't play, then you've compounded the problem. Now you got two that can't play."

When it was pointed out to Nix that Clausen was considered an early first-round pick, he cracked back.

"How come they didn't take him?" Nix said. "He was there, and he was there at 42."

The Bills have an ambiguous quarterback situation with Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. Even though they didn't add another one through the first three rounds, Nix confirmed the Bills will add a fourth quarterback either Saturday or by adding a veteran through free agency or a trade.

"We got three quarterbacks that got talent that we don't know," Nix said. "All the physical stuff you see, they can play. Now they've got to prove to us whether they can or not, not what they have done. I keep saying that, and we have positions where we don't have three [players] that we can count on."

Bills pick Troup over Clausen, McCoy

April, 23, 2010
The Buffalo Bills passed on quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy and defensive tackle Terrence Cody to take Central Florida defensive tackle Torell Troup with the 41st pick of the draft.

Why the Bills took him: Troup will remain under the magnifying glass as the guy the Bills preferred to a pair of much-needed quarterbacks, but the Bills needed a nose tackle to have any shot at a successful conversion to a 3-4 defense. Scouts Inc. projected Troup as a fourth-round pick, Cody as a second-rounder.

Where Troup fits: He might be the Bills' opening-day starter because nobody else on the roster really fits the mold of a 3-4 nose tackle. Troup is about 6-foot-3 and 314 pounds. Veteran defensive lineman Kyle Williams expects to alternate between tackle and end.

Scouts Inc. says: Well, they didn't think highly enough of Troup to produce a scouting report on him. They ranked him as the 13th-best defensive tackle.

3-4 teams need to hit defense on the nose

February, 25, 2010
Getty ImagesAFC East nose tackles Jason Ferguson, Vince Wilfork and Kris Jenkins are vital to their team's 3-4 defenses.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Teams that intend to run a 3-4 defensive scheme have an elephantine problem when they're missing the keystone.

Without a nose, the face of the defense disappears.

"If you don't have a good nose guard, you don't have a 3-4 defense," two-time Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley said at the NFL scouting combine in Lucas Oil Stadium.

"You can build everything else around it. You can have a great pass-rusher. You can have a great safety like Troy Polamalu. But if you don't have a solid nose guard? You can't run a 3-4. That's the whole basis of the defense."

Nose guards, nose tackles, those mammoth ogres in the middle -- whatever you want to call them -- never have been a more valuable NFL commodity than they've been this offseason.

For proof, look no further than the AFC East, the only division where all four teams will operate out of a 3-4 design and have concerns at nose tackle.

The Buffalo Bills simply need one. They're switching from a 4-3. Miami Dolphins nose tackle Jason Ferguson is a free agent recovering from a torn quadriceps muscle. The New England Patriots placed the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork and are trying to negotiate a long-term deal. New York Jets stud Kris Jenkins is coming off a knee injury.

As more teams convert to the 3-4, the need for nose tackles increases. Fewer of them are available.

"There are only so many big guys walking on this earth," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said. "It's a big priority in any defense. When you find them, you've got to keep them."

How rare are athletic humans who weigh 350 pounds? Rob Rang, the senior analyst for, considers this year's class of nose tackles to be "pretty strong compared to past years" with only three top prospects: Tennessee's Dan Williams, Alabama's Terrence Cody and North Carolina's Cam Thomas.

"There aren't a lot of guys with that kind of size and any speck of athletic ability," Rang said.

Bills head coach Chan Gailey said his criteria in identifying a nose tackle includes "huge, big, fast, nasty." But he might have to settle for whatever he can find.

"Everybody's looking for a certain type of guy," said Gailey, who doesn't seem to have a decent candidate on his roster but owns the ninth pick in April's draft. "There's not a lot of them, to be perfectly honest. You either have to take people that you have and adapt, or you don't have to play the same type of 3-4.

"While we're all looking for that prototypical nose guy, there's a lot of good football players out there that don't fit that prototype, but at the same time can be productive players for you on the field. If you can't get it, you adjust."

To look at their stats, nothing suggests a nose tackle's significance to a defense. They don't register many sacks. They're not among their team's tackle leaders or turnover creators.

Wilfork, for instance, is considered an elite nose tackle. Last season, he had no sacks or quarterback hits and was fifth in tackles for the Patriots. He forced one fumble and didn't recover any.

But what a quality nose tackle does is absorb linemen and disrupt lanes for a defense that's susceptible to the run merely by nature of its design. Before every snap, there are large bubbles over both guard positions to run through. Nose tackles plug those holes.

"A 3-4 defense allows you to create more mismatches," said Bentley, who is covering the combine for his Web site, "You can be as exotic as you want to be. Defensive coordinators can become mad scientists. Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan are prime examples of that. Those blitz packages they can throw at you are unbelievable.

"The nose guard is a one-man show. He makes you play honest football."

No wonder three teams used the franchise tag to keep a free-agent nose tackle from hitting the open market: Wilfork, Aubrayo Franklin of the San Francisco 49ers and Ryan Pickett of the Green Bay Packers.

Unless a long-term deal can be negotiated, the franchise tag guarantees a one-year deal for the average of the five highest-paid players at his position. This year's franchise figure for defensive tackles is a shade above $7 million.

"The tag's not outrageous, price-wise," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said. "It makes good business sense not only from the standpoint of financials, but also because of the importance of the position."

By using the franchise tag to keep nose tackles from hitting unrestricted free agency, front offices essentially are price-fixing. It's not collusion, per se, but general managers realize the price tag for nose tackles would skyrocket if they went to the auction block.

Teams know a good nose tackle is worth more than $7 million a year even though they don't sell tickets or jerseys.

"They don't want to pay those guys the salaries of the most important guy on the defense," Bentley said. "It's going to be very hard to justify and a very difficult pill to swallow when you're paying your nose guard $9 million a year. People think, 'You don't pay those guys. All they do is take up space.'

"But if you don't have them, you don't have a defense."

AFC East mailbag dropped on your doormat

February, 20, 2010
With ESPN's Chris Mortensen reporting San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie has worn out his welcome and is being shopped for a running back, several readers -- including Ryan on my Facebook page, which I welcome you to sign up for -- asked about the possibility of the New York Jets trading Thomas Jones for him.

I'd be surprised if the Chargers would make that trade. They need a running back because LaDainian Tomlinson will turn 31 years old in June and has nothing left. Jones is a year older than Tomlinson, and while Jones did roll up 1,402 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, he was worn down and banged up at the end of the year.

The Chargers would be reckless to trade the 19th overall draft choice in 2006 (an All-Pro with a league-leading 10 interceptions in 2007) for an old running back who would put the Chargers' backfield in the same spot a year from now.

Josh in Pennsylvania is trying to find out what undisclosed draft compensation the Miami Dolphins received for trading offensive linemen Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe to the Kansas City Chiefs in August.

You've stumbled upon one of the great mysteries in the NFL, Josh. In fact, we've been able to find out more about negotiations between the league and the players association than we have the particulars of this trade. There have been reports the Dolphins obtained the Chiefs' sixth-round pick, but we can't seem to confirm it.

I reached out to the Dolphins this week to find out the answer and was told by a spokesman that the team's policy is to not reveal such information. I contacted the NFL, and a spokesman told me they will release the final draft order in April, but the Dolphins were free to tell me if they wished. AFC West blogger Bill Williamson approached the Chiefs and was rebuffed. senior writer John Clayton said this is the only 2009 trade particulars he doesn't have nailed down.

Paul in Lexington, Mass., takes umbrage with the notion the New England Patriots are aging, a sentiment expressed by analysts in a recent column I wrote about the Jets having a brighter future than the defending AFC East champs.

As Paul astutely points out, the Patriots have youth all over the place. More than half of the members on their roster had five or fewer seasons of NFL experience in 2009. The Patriots will have their usual bumper crop of draft picks in April. They already have four selections within the first two rounds.

Those are valid points, but the problem is the Patriots are getting older in key positions. I will buy the argument the Patriots' divisional dynasty won't die if someone can convince me they'll turn one of their many draft picks into another Tom Brady. Four-fifths of their starting offensive line was born in the 1970s. Star receiver Randy Moss turned 33 a week ago. If the Patriots re-sign Kevin Faulk, then they'll have three running backs who'll be 33 or older before training camp.

Jon in Kenmore, N.Y., wonders what the Buffalo Bills will do at nose tackle because they don't have "a single player on the roster capable of playing the most important spot" as they switch to a 3-4 defense.

Options exist through the draft and -- to a lesser degree -- free agency. How the Bills proceed will depend on how they prioritize their various needs. Will they spend their ninth overall draft choice on an offensive tackle? A quarterback? Will there be enough nose tackles available on the open market?

Let's assume nose tackle will be a main concern. And for the purpose of addressing this question, let's pretend it's their ultimate offseason prize. If they wanted to draft the best nose tackles in this year's class Insider, they probably can. Many draftniks rate Dan Williams of Tennessee the best of the lot. He still should be on the board at No. 9, but that might be a reach for Williams. The Bills also have the 41st selection and could take a shot at Alabama's Terrence Cody or North Carolina's Cam Thomas there.

Free agency appears lacking because nose tackles are such a commodity. The Patriots and San Francisco 49ers are expected to put franchise tags on Vince Wilfork and Aubrayo Franklin. The Pittsburgh Steelers could franchise Casey Hampton. Green Bay Packers nose tackle Ryan Pickett will be unrestricted, but he stated he wants to return -- and could be franchised anyway.

The Bills' best option might be Jason Ferguson if the Dolphins part ways with him. Ferguson is a free agent who will turn 36 next season and is coming off a leg injury.

Edward in Caldwell, Ind., has a solution to the Pro Bowl problem. He proposes they merge it with the Hall of Fame Game and have the all-stars play the same weekend the new Hall of Fame class is inducted.

I like how you think outside the box, Edward, but I see two hitches with your suggestion.

The first problem is that it would eliminate a game (read: revenues) from the NFL menu. You can throw any two teams together for the Hall of Fame Game and it won't make a difference, so fielding two teams of all-stars would be a wasted opportunity for the NFL to make a few bucks.

The other issue that immediately comes to mind is teams wouldn't want their best players playing outside their supervision so close to the season. When someone gets hurt in the Pro Bowl in February, he has months to rest and recover. A tweaked hamstring or a pulled groin at the start of training camp would be maddening.

Ryan in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, thinks Rex Ryan's XXXL personality is a distraction for the Jets and wants to know if I agree.

Ryan's behavior has done far more good than harm for the Jets because his players respond to it. The locker room is loyal to Ryan because of he's a charismatic leader who constantly reinforces his faith in the roster. Is he too arrogant? Is he irresponsible? Perhaps, but that loose personality helped propel the Jets to within 30 minutes of the Super Bowl.