AFC East: Tim Rattay

Time also gets crunched for Dolphins

November, 15, 2010
Teams usually get six days between games to take inventory of their roster and get healthy.

The Miami Dolphins get three days to recover from Sunday's carnage and significantly less time to come up with a game plan for Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bears in Sun Life Stadium.

Expect several roster moves in the coming hours for a team that lost its top two quarterbacks, star left tackle and maybe its sacks leader.

General manager Jeff Ireland will be combing the streets for free agents. It's hard enough to find somebody to contribute on the fly, but to get them up to snuff on a playbook within 72 hours is practically impossible.

JaMarcus Russell, Patrick Ramsey and Chris Simms all have been reported as quarterbacks of interest for Miami. The United Football League season ends in a couple weeks. That would make former NFL starters such as Daunte Culpepper, Jeff Garcia, Brooks Bollinger, Tim Rattay and Josh McCown available. Former starter Cleo Lemon is almost done with his Canadian Football League season.

Starting quarterback Chad Pennington suffered a shoulder injury. Previous starter Chad Henne went down with a knee injury. Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long reportedly dislocated a shoulder. Outside linebacker Cameron Wake hurt a hip.

The Dolphins have been scrappy in staying above .500 and in the AFC playoff race. But their 29-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans might have been their Waterloo because of the injuries.

The Dolphins won the game but still failed to gain any ground on the New York Jets or New England Patriots, who won on the road to remain two games ahead of the Dolphins.

Now Miami must scramble to field a team and identify somebody on its roster who won't get Tyler Thigpen destroyed. Vernon Carey played left tackle in 2007, but hasn't seen time there since Long was drafted first overall in 2008.

Check back for updates on the Dolphins' roster.

Your AFC East mail returned

September, 13, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

Matt in Maine writes: Give me one reason as a Pats fan that I don't give this season up and use this time to build up good karma with my wife and do family things on Sunday afternoons this fall?

Tim Graham: I'll give you three: Bill Belichick, the defensive line and Randy Moss.

Matt in Fresno, Calif., writes: Does ESPN tell you to only talk about New York vs. Boston? Is that the only thing they allow you writers to talk about? I mean seriously ... Even if there is no rivalry, you gotta try to make one up Jets and Patriots? Give me a break.

Tim Graham: Yes, we're making it all up. You caught us. All those reasons I gave why Jets-Patriots is a huge rivalry were fictional. I actually thought about naming my lead character Santa Claus instead of Bill Parcells, but then I thought that might be a little too over the top.

Chris in Fort Lauderdale writes: Pats-Jets is just another ESPN-forced rivalry. The true rivalry in the AFC East is Jets-Dolphins.

Tim Graham: I guess that's why about a third of the upper deck consisted of empty orange seats on Sunday, when the Jets visited the Dolphins ... on opening day ... with the Dolphins unveiling their new team and head coach ... with Brett Favre making his Jets debut ... with Chad Pennington playing against his former team.

Harlan in Boston writes: I'm a Pats fan, a huge one and I am realistic about the Patriots not being the team they are without Tom Brady. What I don't understand is why people are so high on the Jets taking over the AFC East. If any team has a chance I see Buffalo, a team with a solid defense, an All Pro-caliber RB and a promising QB. Your thoughts?

Tim Graham: I agree with you. I've gone on record as calling the Bills the new team to beat in the AFC East. They also have Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters coming back from his holdout.

Brian in Phoenix writes: Do you think the Bills will win at least 10 games to make it to the playoffs?

Tm Graham: I like their chances if they stay healthy. I'm not going to get into picking wins and losses down the schedule, but they have the Dolphins twice, the Raiders, Rams, 49ers and Chiefs. That's favorable for the Bills.

Garrett from Parts Unknown writes: I enjoy most of your work, but when I looked over your preseason All-AFC East defense lineup I just ended up puzzled. You stated that you were doing a 3-4 defense, which is intelligent, but then you selected Aaron Schobel at RDE. A 250-pound DE cannot hang in the 3-4. 270 pounds doesn't even cut it. Is this an isolated oversight? Or should the readers be prepared for more nonsense?

Tim Graham: Garrett, are you the guy who complains that the Shoeless Joe Jackson character in "Field of Dreams" incorrectly bats right-handed, yet overlooks the concept of ghosts living in a cornfield?

The preseason All-AFC East team isn't real. It would have been, but I couldn't find another team for it to play this weekend.

Mr. Anonymous from Waukesha, Wisc., writes: When a player makes a team's practice squad, is he under contract? If so, what is his salary?

Tim Graham: Practice squad players are under contract, but they can be signed to another team's 53-man roster. Their minimum salary is $5,200 a week. If they stay there the whole season that adds up to $88,400. But they can make more than that.

(Read full post)

Scouts Inc.: Patriots' emergency list is key

September, 8, 2008

Posted by Scout's Inc.'s Keith Kidd

When an injury occurs in the NFL, the wheels start spinning immediately -- diagnoses are made, lists are checked and phone calls are placed either during the game or immediately after. And when your quarterback goes down for the rest of the season, like Tom Brady did on Sunday, there is an even bigger sense of urgency.

Once Brady was diagnosed by the team's doctors and the staff understood the extent of his injury, the process began. If a player is deemed to be out for an extended period, the team starts looking for someone to fill the 53-man roster. The first place they look is to their own practice squad, and in this case the Patriots will find QB Matt Gutierrez. However, the Patriots will probably not add him because they already have enough inexperienced quarterbacks on their roster.

The next place a team will look to fill their roster is its emergency list. Every team has an emergency list of five to seven players per position who could fill a roster spot vacated by injury, players that team scouts have determined are the best available without jobs in the NFL. This list provides each player's position, test score, height, weight, speed, age, agent's name and phone number, player's phone number, minimum salary for that player and a small comment area. These lists are finalized every Friday throughout the regular season in case an injury occurs during that week's game.

The Patriots probably placed calls during the game to players' agents to find out their status and willingness to sign, and the ideal situation is to bring in players on Monday or Tuesday for a workout and physical. If all that checks out, then the team will sign that player. Right now, New England is looking for the quarterback who can contribute the quickest, and once they identify that player offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels begins a process to determine what the newly-signed quarterback is comfortable with and help the player understand the team's terminology. Regardless, whichever veteran quarterback the Patriots decide to sign, he will be a help for the inexperienced quarterbacks on the roster, including QB Matt Cassel.

We know some of the players the Patriots are looking at, and here's a look how the top six on their emergency list might look:

1. Chris Simms -- He has had success as a starter in the NFL. Simms has good arm strength and good presence in the pocket. He was derailed in Tampa Bay by an unfortunate spleen injury, but he could help the Patriots win if needed. However, he will take time to learn their system and has not been a cold-weather quarterback at any point in his career.

2. Tim Rattay -- He is a journeyman quarterback who could finish a game if necessary. He can process quickly, get rid of the ball fast and it shouldn't be hard for him to learn the system. He is at his best in a controlled, short-to-intermediate passing attack.

3. Vinny Testaverde -- The 45-year-old quarterback is very familiar with the Patriots' system and was signed late last year after Cassel's poor play in the regular season. His age might be a limiting factor, though.

4. Daunte Culpepper -- Even though he is retired, he could probably be convinced to apply for reinstatement. Culpepper has been in three different systems -- Minnesota, Oakland and Miami -- and he has been productive as a starter. Plus, he already has a very good relationship with WR Randy Moss from their time in Minnesota.

5. Craig Nall -- He is a journeyman backup quarterback who doesn't have much starting experience. But he is also familiar with the AFC East.

New England head coach Bill Belichick is a tremendous evaluator of talent and knows how to assess a player's strengths and weaknesses. He has surely studied all of the players above in preparation for games against their former teams. You can be sure that there will be a good reason for the Patriots passing on any player on their emergency list.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for