AFC East: Todd Bowles

Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East:
  • The Miami Herald reports Dolphins assistant coach Todd Bowles most likely will not return.
Morning take: Bowles did a good job in Miami, but I understand a new staff wanting to change direction. Bowles represents the old regime and the old way of doing things. This is a new era.
  • The New York Daily News reports the Jets are interested in another Dolphins coach. New York got permission to interview Dolphins offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
Morning take: DeGuglielmo also is expected to exit Miami. But why is New York looking to fix its offense with so many of Miami's former coaches?
  • Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayandadejo tweets that the two best teams -- Baltimore and the San Francisco 49ers -- are sitting at home.
Morning take: This sounds like sour grapes to me. All four teams played a pair of classic conference title games. But you don't get second chances in the playoffs. The Ravens came up just short.
Morning take: This is an interesting question, because the Bills throw the football a lot. But their best talent is at running back with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Balance is needed, even with a spread offense.

Poll: Dolphins' next head coach

January, 19, 2012
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The Miami Dolphins have narrowed their coaching search to three candidates: Joe Philbin, Mike McCoy and Todd Bowles. Time is running short and we want our AFC East community to help owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland decide.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on who should be Miami’s next head coach.

Should Philbin get the nod? He orchestrated one of the top offenses in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers. Philbin helped Green Bay finish 15-1 before its disappointing playoff loss to the New York Giants. Philbin also is dealing with the tragic loss of his son.

What about McCoy? The Denver Broncos offensive coordinator has created a lot of buzz for the job he did with quarterback Tim Tebow. McCoy changed the entire offense during the season to fit Tebow’s strengths, and it led to an AFC West title and a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can he get Miami to the playoffs?

Finally, should the Dolphins stick with a familiar face in Bowles? He was 2-1 as Miami’s interim coach. Players continued to compete under Bowles and he could be a good bridge after the firing of locker-room favorite Tony Sparano.

You can share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Morning take: Tomlinson on Rex Ryan

January, 19, 2012
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Tomlinson said it put pressure on his team, and I agree. It looks more and more like the pending free agent won't be back in New York.
Morning take: It's going to be either Joe Philbin, Mike McCoy or Todd Bowles. Each candidate has strengths and question marks. We will have more on the search coming up next (hint, hint).
Morning take: Easley suffered from a heart condition that kept him out last season. But Buffalo needs more depth from its receivers, so Easley will get another chance.
Morning take: It's ironic because Law is exactly the type of player the Patriots are missing this postseason. A physical, shutdown corner on this year's team would give the defense a lot more flexibility.
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: With time running out, this is most likely Miami's final list. Which coach of this group would Dolphins fans prefer?
Morning take: It’s an interesting thought, consider Deion Branch is on his last legs and Chad Ochocinco isn’t a good fit. But I still think New England would be better off drafting defenders with its two first-round picks.
Morning take: This is part of the plan to keep the Bills in western New York. The stadium lease runs out in 2013, so Buffalo is on the clock.
Morning take: There are plenty of skeptics based on what we saw from Miami’s offense under Sparano the past few years. The biggest question is whether Sparano will be able to develop quarterback Mark Sanchez in his fourth season.

Thoughts on Mike Nolan leaving Miami

January, 17, 2012
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Former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has agreed to the same post with the Atlanta Falcons.

Here are some quick thoughts on the departure:
  • I think this is a big loss for the Dolphins. Nolan may have been the best coach on Miami's staff this past season. Miami's defense was very tough against the run and came on strong late in the year. Nolan's success was one of the biggest reasons the Dolphins were competitive in the second half of the season.
  • Nolan's replacement is hard to predict, mostly because the Dolphins haven't found their head coach. If the next Dolphins coach retains people on staff, Todd Bowles would be a great candidate. Bowles did a solid job with Miami by going 2-1 on an interim basis. But the new coach could gut the entire staff and start from scratch.
  • Overall, the Dolphins are definitely losing in their once-promising coaching search. Not only did they lose out on the best possible candidate -- Jeff Fisher -- but now the Dolphins loss arguably the best coach on their old staff. It also doesn’t help that the Indianapolis Colts, who hold the No. 1 overall pick, just joined the competition. Miami's goal was the hit a home run in this search. It appears that won't be the case.

New candidates emerge for Dolphins

January, 16, 2012
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It's been a rough week for the Miami Dolphins. Head coach Jeff Fisher recently spurned Miami for the St. Louis Rams, but this weekend's playoff games provided good news.

Losses by the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints help the Dolphins speed up their coaching search this week. Miami already is interviewing Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday.

Miami previously interviewed Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and might want to speak to him again. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would prefer an offensive coach who can put an exciting product on the field. The same goes for Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who might draw some interest. Both Philbin and Carmichael had two of the NFL's most explosive offenses this season.

McCoy is generating a lot of buzz in NFL circles after doing the best with what he had in Denver. He used quarterback Tim Tebow in a read-option offense, won the AFC West and advanced to the divisional round.

It seems likely that Ross will hire from the NFL assistant ranks. Other than Fisher, Miami interviewed Philbin, Chicago Bears special teams coach Dave Toub, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles.
Here are the most interesting stories Sunday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Barring some Tim Tebow magic, the Patriots can expect the Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. Pittsburgh is a tough first draw for New England, which has the No. 1 seed.
Morning take: Philbin joins Jeff Fisher, Dave Toub and interim coach Todd Bowles on Miami's list so far. The Dolphins are hoping Fisher chooses Miami next week over St. Louis. If Fisher goes to the Rams, Miami's pool is wide open.
Morning take: I would be surprised if Schottenheimer gets a head-coaching job this year after a poor performance in New York. But an interesting name listed as a potential replacement is former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, who is familiar with the AFC East.
Morning take: Cortez did solid work with Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It's not the norm for someone to leave the NFL for the CFL, but at least it's for a head-coaching position.

Dolphins regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
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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: 24
Preseason Power Ranking: 24

[+] EnlargeMatt Moore
AP Photo/Gregory BullMiami had a surprising 6-6 record with Matt Moore starting at QB.
Biggest surprise: Who knew career backup Matt Moore would be the best quarterback on Miami's roster and the second-best quarterback in the AFC East (courtesy of the "Sanchez-Fitz-Moore Watch")? He proved it by taking over for the injured Chad Henne and leading the Dolphins to a respectable finish. Moore started 12 games and threw for 2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had an 87.1 passer rating and was 6-6 as a starter. Moore made his best case to be Miami's starter in 2012, but expect the team to see if it can find an upgrade via the draft or free agency in the offseason.

Biggest disappointment: Henne, a former second-round pick, is officially a bust. Dolphins fans were ahead of the curve and knew it before the team did. Miami supporters were already down on Henne and booed him last summer. The Dolphins were willing to give Henne one more shot, and he started 0-4 and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Henne says he wants to stay, but that's unlikely. He's an unrestricted free agent and wants a chance to start. That won't happen in Miami next season.

Biggest need: It starts at the top for Miami. The Dolphins need a head coach to establish the future direction of the team. Former coach Tony Sparano was fired during the season and replaced by interim coach Todd Bowles. The Dolphins interviewed Bowles, who went 2-1, for the job. But the team most likely will hire from the outside. The Dolphins interviewed Jeff Fisher this week. That's the best-case scenario. But Miami might have trouble landing a big-name coach to work under general manager Jeff Ireland, who will call the shots in Miami.

Team MVP: This is a tough call. Miami's solid finish was truly a team effort. But if we have to name one player, starting tailback Reggie Bush was the most consistent. Bush finished strong and had his first 1,000-yard season. He finished with 1,086 yards and six touchdowns. What was even more impressive is he stayed healthy enough to start 15 games. Durability has always been one of Bush's biggest questions because of his lack of size. But he proved in 2011 that he can be a feature back.

Free-agent watch: The Dolphins are pretty solid with contracts. One of the few big questions involves starting defensive tackle Paul Soliai. He is an underrated defensive tackle, but not by Miami. The Dolphins thought enough of Soliai to give him a one-year franchise tag. He doesn’t put up big numbers but helped anchor Miami’s fifth-ranked run defense. Now, the team has to decide whether to work out a long-term extension, use another tag or let Soliai walk.
Here are seven notes and observations from Week 17:

  • Many Jets players in the locker room admitted chemistry and team unity were an issue this season. The Jets have a combustible mix of personalities, and that only heightens playing in New York, where pressure is at its highest. The Jets were close to imploding during their first three-game losing streak in early October. But head coach Rex Ryan was able to keep the team together. But as the offense continued to struggle and the Jets lost big games down the stretch, it became more difficult to keep the team together, and it showed on the field. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie hinted at a divide between the Jets' defense and offense, and receiver Santonio Holmes' benching in a loss to the Miami Dolphins highlighted more issues within the offense.
  • [+] EnlargeBrian Schottenheimer
    Howard Smith/US PresswireThe Jets' struggles on offense might cost coordinator Brian Schottenheimer his job.
  • It’s difficult to get a read publicly on what the Jets will do with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this offseason. But I think a move should be made. The Jets were ranked 25th, and the offense needs a new voice. There is too much unrest and players losing confidence in the system. Someone has to take the fall for the Jets (8-8) finishing .500. There were several reasons, but Schottenheimer's game plans and play-calling were among the biggest issues.
  • The New England Patriots' defense has played great football the past two weeks in the second half. That's a start. New England has allowed just seven points in the third and fourth quarters against the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. If New England can channel that energy into four full quarters, the team will be dangerous in the playoffs. Much of it will depend on the matchup. The Pittsburgh Steelers pose the biggest threat in the divisional round. But the Steelers would be without starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and with a gimpy quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle).
  • A quiet but important key to New England’s playoff run will be rookie running back Stevan Ridley. He has the hot hand and is probably the team's most complete running back. Ridley rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries in Sunday's win against Buffalo. Someone needs to give the Patriots balance in the running game, especially with the quality defenses in the AFC playoff bracket.
  • Receiver Steve Johnson's decision to cost the Bills another 15 yards with a celebration penalty shows he’s not learning from his mistakes. That has to be concerning for the Bills, who have to decide whether to give Johnson a multi-million dollar extension this offseason. Johnson reportedly is seeking $7-$8 million per year. He's not going to get that in Buffalo, and probably increased his chances of leaving after getting benched in his final game of the season. Johnson is a good teammate and a good player. But some of his antics are perplexing.
  • Miami Dolphins interim head coach Todd Bowles deserves kudos for excelling in a tough situation. Bowles finished his interim stint 2-1. He nearly went undefeated, but suffered a close loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Bowles is a candidate for the job and will get an interview. But Miami wants to make a splash and is expected to chase a bigger name. Based on the team's strong finish, the new head coach might want to consider retaining Bowles and the rest of the defensive coaching staff.
  • Miami would be wise to pursue Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency. Miami will hold the No. 8 or No. 9 overall pick, which most likely isn't good enough to draft Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Flynn came off the bench in Week 17 and threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. He made himself a lot of money with that performance. Miami quarterback Matt Moore played well in spurts, but isn't the long-term solution. The Dolphins need a quarterback who get them to the next level.

Wrap-up: Dolphins 30, Bills 23

December, 18, 2011
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Here are some thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 30-23 victory over the Buffalo Bills :

What it means: Miami (5-9) continues its strong second-half push and improves to 5-2 in the past seven games. It also marked the first victory under interim coach Todd Bowles, who kept the Dolphins focused and motivated this week after the firing of Tony Sparano. For Buffalo (5-9), it was the team's seventh straight loss. The Bills have major questions to answer on both sides of the ball.

What I liked: Miami tailback Reggie Bush continues to make a push for his first 1,000-yard season. He recorded a season-high 203 rushing yards, including a 76-yard touchdown to seal the game. He now needs 77 yards in the final two games for the milestone. Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore returned from last week’s head and neck injury and played very efficiently. He threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns -- one to receiver Brandon Marshall and the other to tight end Anthony Fasano.

What I didn’t like: Defensively, the Bills don't do anything well. They can't stop the run or rush the passer and need to spend a lot of resources in the draft and free agency to improve on that side of the football. Offensively, it also looks like the Bills may have jumped the gun on signing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a $59 million extension. Fitzpatrick lost his seventh straight game as a starting quarterback and was inaccurate in the first three quarters. He threw for 316 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Fitzpatrick padded his stats late in the fourth quarter after Miami took a sizable lead. Fitzpatrick will be the starter for the foreseeable future, and it's looking dicey if he can lift the Bills to contender status.

What's next: The Dolphins will travel for the second consecutive week to play the New England Patriots. New England won the first meeting between these two teams, 38-24, in Week 1. The Bills have another tough game upcoming next week. Buffalo will host Tim Tebow and the surging Denver Broncos, who were 7-1 in their past eight games entering Sunday.

Final Word: AFC East

December, 16, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:

[+] EnlargeTom Moore
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireTom Moore has had a big hand in the Jets' offensive improvements over the past three games.
Jets' offense turning the corner: One of the biggest reasons the New York Jets are on a three-game winning streak is because the offense is playing its best football of the season. New York has averaged 33 points a game over the past three weeks. The running game has been strong and quarterback Mark Sanchez is making fewer mistakes in the passing game. Offensive consultant Tom Moore is getting a lot of credit in New York. He has been more hands-on with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenhiemer, and the results are showing. The Jets were 5-for-5 in the red zone last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Clinching the AFC East: Although the division was sealed weeks ago, the New England Patriots can officially clinch the AFC East two ways Sunday. New England (10-3) can simply beat the Denver Broncos (8-5) to secure the division and a home playoff game. Also, the Patriots can clinch with a loss and a Jets (8-5) loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. New England also is chasing home-field advantage in the AFC. The Patriots are in a four-way battle with the Baltimore Ravens (10-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) and Houston Texans (10-3) and need to continue winning.

Three-game season: The Todd Bowles era begins with the Miami Dolphins traveling to face the Buffalo Bills. Bowles, Miami's defensive backs coach, is taking over on an interim basis for former head coach Tony Sparano. Bowles needs to keep Miami's momentum going. The Dolphins are playing much better football in the second half of the season. Miami is 4-2 in its past six games and averaging nearly 10 points per game more (24.8 to 15.3) than in its first seven, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Dolphins’ defense also has allowed 10 fewer points per game (13.3 to 23.7) in that span.

Bush for 1,000: Dolphins tailback Reggie Bush set a new career high with 770 rushing yards. He is 230 yards short of his first 1,000-yard season. Bush has three 100-yard games this season and needs to average 76.7 rushing yards in his final three to reach the milestone, which is possible. "If I do rush over 1,000 yards that means we did it as an offense," Bush said this week. "It's not just about me. It’s about all 11 guys out there who helped make that happen so that’s pretty much it."

Turnover effect: The Bills’ defense is struggling to force turnovers. Buffalo has forced only five turnovers during a six-game losing streak. Before that, the Bills’ defense thrived on creating turnovers. Buffalo led the NFL with 18 takeaways after Week 8. That helped the Bills get off to a fast start. Since then, Buffalo has struggled through injuries and needs to do a lot more in the offseason to add playmakers and depth.

Morning take: Mark Sanchez in Pro Bowl?

December, 15, 2011
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Sanchez has career highs in touchdowns (21) and passer rating (83.1), but he is not a Pro Bowl quarterback. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are locks. The third quarterback is debatable.
Morning take: I don’t buy that at all. New England has the worst-rated defense. The proof is in the numbers and on film. Brady is just protecting his teammates and saying the right thing.
  • Will Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson stay or go?
Morning take: I think it all comes down to the price tag. The Bills have a good idea what Johnson's value is to the team. If it doesn't match up to what Johnson's reps think his value is, he will walk or get the one-year franchise tag.
Morning take: Bowles has a three-game audition for the job, and it starts in Buffalo. You never know how a team will respond to a coaching change. But the Dolphins have fought hard through adversity all year.

Notes from Dolphins practice

December, 14, 2011
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (4-9) held their first day of practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills (5-8).

Here are several notes from practice:
  • The big injury news this week concerns starting quarterback Matt Moore, who suffered a head and neck injury against the Philadelphia Eagles. Moore did not practice or speak with the media Wednesday. His status won't be known until the end of the week. But if he's suffering from concussion-like symptoms, there's a strong chance he will not return for Sunday's game.
  • I thought it was interesting how interim head coach Todd Bowles handled his backups. Bowles split reps between No. 2 quarterback J.P. Losman and No. 3 quarterback Pat Devlin in practice. Those are the only two healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Losman is expected to start if Moore can't play. But splitting the reps is a curious decision, especially since Losman is new to the team and needs the work.
  • Miami left tackle Jake Long (back), linebacker Koa Misi (shoulder) and Moore were the three players who sat out of practice. Safety Yeremiah Bell (foot), guard Vernon Carey (ankle) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ribs) were limited. For the Bills, tight end Scott Chandler (ankle) and kicker Dave Rayner (groin) did not practice. Buffalo cornerback Aaron Williams (calf) was limited.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Wednesday marked the first day of the Todd Bowles era with the Miami Dolphins.

Most likely the era will be a short one. But that won't stop Bowles, who replaces Tony Sparano as interim head coach, from trying to get the most out of Miami (4-9) in its final three games.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross confirmed this week that Bowles will be a candidate for the job in 2012. Bowles is a long shot. But this is a showcase for Bowles to prove he's head-coaching material, even if that's not his primary focus.

"Believe me, this is not about me," Bowles said. "I'm not trying to be Don Shula. I'm trying to win football games, and we have guys in place here to win football games. I just have to make sure I manage the game smartly."

Bowles is soft-spoken but poised. Players like tailback Reggie Bush said he barely heard a word from Bowles all season until he addressed the team on Wednesday.

Bowles' message was to keep playing hard because everyone is being evaluated. Bowles also is good friends with Sparano and wants the team to win these final three games for Miami's former head coach.

"He's not here, and I think it would mean a lot to him," Bush said of Sparano. "And knowing him and not even having to talk to him, I know he would want to same thing."

Bowles' coaching ability will have a lot to do with that. He will make his debut Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (5-8), who have lost six games games in a row.

It's not an ideal situation for Bowles. There will be a lot of speculation and rumors circulating around Miami's future in the coming weeks. But Bowles' job will be to keep the team focused and motivated.

"Well, I don't think you can get a head job from a 14-2 team, so the circumstances are different," Bowles said. "Me and Sparano are extremely tight. Moving forward, we have a very tough team. We've been in every game as far as that's concerned. I want to make sure we finish that way.

"There's no playoffs to look forward to, but we're in a three-game season."

AFC East Stock Watch

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
Geoff Burke/US PresswireRob Gronkowski set a single-season record for touchdown receptions by a tight end after grabbing his 15th against Washington.
1. Miami Dolphins' offensive line: There is a reason one starting quarterback (Chad Henne) is on injured reserve and the other (Matt Moore) could miss this week's game with concussion-like symptoms. Miami's offensive line is solid at run blocking but horrible sometimes at pass protection. The Dolphins allowed nine sacks in Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Miami lost Moore in the game and finished with backup quarterback J.P. Losman. If Moore can't return, Losman would start against his former team, the Buffalo Bills, on Sunday.

2. New England Patriots' pass defense: The Patriots gave up 293 passing yards against Washington. There have been weeks when New England has allowed more yards, but considering the competition, this was one of the worst performances I've seen from the Patriots' secondary this season. Washington quarterback Rex Grossman looked like Joe Montana at times. Redskins receivers were running free all game. It's a combination of poor coverage and poor discipline -- a season-long issue. I'm not sure New England can fix this before the playoffs.

3. Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: Buffalo's franchise quarterback is in a tough spot. His team is playing poorly, and Fitzpatrick has a lot of pressure because of his $59 million contract extension. The Bills have lost six in a row, and Fitzpatrick has been very streaky. He threw for 176 yards and two interceptions in a 37-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Critics are questioning whether Fitzpatrick is the long-term solution. He can silence them with a string of good games to end the season.

RISING

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end: I don't know whether Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL. But Gronkowski has been playing the best football of any tight end the past few weeks. "Gronk" recorded six receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns against Washington. He set a new scoring record for tight ends with 15 touchdowns this year. The scary part is that he's only 22 and in his second season.

2. Shonn Greene, New York Jets running back: Greene has made a habit of saving his best for last. New York's bruising running back is again playing his best football late in the season and has four rushing touchdowns the last two weeks. Greene recorded a season-high 129 rushing yards and a touchdown in New York's 37-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He also led the Jets with 58 receiving yards. It's no coincidence New York (8-5) has won three in a row and has become one of the hottest teams in the AFC.

3. Todd Bowles, Miami Dolphins interim coach: Bowles has a golden opportunity. He was promoted to interim head coach after the firing of Tony Sparano this week. Bowles is a long shot to be Miami's head coach in 2012, but these final three games are a showcase for him. Unlike many interim coaches, Bowles takes over a Miami team that is playing good football lately. The Dolphins are 4-2 in their last six games.

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