AFC East: Torell Troup

Quick-hit thoughts on Pats and NFL

September, 1, 2013
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Quick-hit thoughts on the NFL and the New England Patriots:

1. The Patriots kept just two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster, marking the fourth time in the past five years they have done so. How does that compare to the other teams in the NFL? By my count, here is the breakdown for 2013 after Saturday’s cut-downs:

Four quarterbacks: three teams
Three quarterbacks: 15 teams
Two quarterbacks: 14 teams

The next step that will be interesting to monitor is how many of the 14 teams with just two quarterbacks add a third to their practice squad.

2. With all seven draft choices making the Patriots’ initial roster, plus five undrafted players, that initially gives the club 12 of its 51 spots filled by rookies. Add in six draft picks from last year still on the roster, plus 2012 undrafted running back Brandon Bolden, and that’s 19 players within their first two years in the NFL (35 percent of a 53-man roster). The Patriots have a solid veteran core, and trend older at some positions (defensive tackle, for example), but all in all, this is a very young team.

3. Let’s play the armchair-general-manager game for the Patriots when it comes to their defensive tackle need and see if we can hit the bull's-eye. Here were a few players at the position we could envision being of interest to the Patriots on the waiver wire:

Marvin Austin (Giants): The second-round pick out of North Carolina in 2011 hasn’t panned out, as his rookie season was wiped out by a torn pectoral muscle and he didn't break through last year. He is 6-foot-2 and 312 pounds. As ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano noted, the Giants are pretty deep at defensive tackle, so part of Austin’s release was a numbers game.

[+] EnlargeMarvin Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesMarvin Austin, a second-round pick in 2011 who never found a groove with the Giants, could help New England at defensive tackle.
Kheeston Randall (Dolphins): The 6-foot-5, 309-pounder who played collegiately at Texas appeared in 12 games for Miami last season. He was a 2012 seventh-round pick and has some physical traits (e.g. long arms) that might have some appeal to New England.

Adam Replogle (Falcons): The undrafted rookie is 6-3 and 310 pounds, and started the final 47 games of his collegiate career at Indiana, where he was known for his work ethic and reliability. Patriots defensive line coach Patrick Graham had worked him out before the draft.

Torell Troup (Bills): He has battled injuries in the past but has some physical traits (6-3, 327) that could be appealing as a bigger-bodied backup to Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. Bill Belichick got to know him well on his annual pre-draft scouting trip in 2010. Troup, who played at Central Florida, was picked by the Bills in the second round that year. He has some partially guaranteed money in his contract, so it might be smarter, if interested, for the Patriots to see if he clears waivers and then bring him in.

4. While the Patriots are extremely thin at defensive tackle, which they figure to address with one of their open roster spots, it led us to check in on former New England tackles Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick in Jacksonville. Both made the Jaguars’ initial 53-man roster and are backups to Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, who were signed as unrestricted free agents this offseason. Deaderick missed the first two games of the preseason with a groin injury, but is now healthy. Looking back, it’s only natural to wonder if the Patriots have any regret in parting ways with Love and Deaderick, as they created a void without having the reinforcements in place. In fairness, they were counting on Armond Armstead to play an integral role, but he later landed on the reserve/non-football illness list (he’s out at least the first six weeks of the season) after undergoing surgery for an infection.

4b. One more check-in: Patriots 2009 second-round draft choice Ron Brace didn’t make the initial 53-man roster with the Redskins. Given the depth questions at defensive tackle, would the Patriots consider bringing him back? Our guess: They probably look elsewhere.

5. Given the makeup of their initial roster -- with six receivers, five running backs, one fullback and three tight ends (one of whom, Rob Gronkowski, won’t be ready for the season opener) -- the Patriots figure to trend more toward three-receiver and two-back sets than multiple-tight-end packages early in the season. So while this is a team that has a reputation as a two-tight-end offense, which goes back to 2011 with the dynamic duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the early part of this season is likely to have a different look. For the Sept. 8 opener at Buffalo, the three-receiver grouping might turn out to be the best matchup anyway, as the Bills are hurting at cornerback and it could hit their stress points from a depth perspective.

6. With Elvis Dumervil now in Baltimore, and Von Miller facing a six-game suspension to open the year, what’s left for the Broncos at defensive end? The free-agent signing of veteran Shaun Phillips looks more significant now, as Denver will count on him to help fill the void along with Derek Wolfe (2012 second-round pick out of Cincinnati) and Malik Jackson (2012 fifth-round pick out of Tennessee). One lingering question is if the Broncos will be able to generate enough pass rush. As for Phillips, he jumped to the Broncos after spending the first nine years of his career with the Chargers, putting him in almost the same position as linebacker Daryl Smith, who signed with the Ravens after spending the first nine years of his career with the Jaguars. Both are stepping into important roles -- Phillips helping fill the Miller void and Smith part of the puzzle to account for Ray Lewis’ absence -- which is a neat storyline for the Denver/Baltimore NFL season opener.

7. When it comes to the Patriots’ rookie receivers, I think the pace of their progression goes in the reverse order of how they arrived: Undrafted Kenbrell Thompkins is furthest along, followed by speedy fourth-round pick Josh Boyce (Texas Christian) and then second-rounder Aaron Dobson (Marshall). The thought occurred to me as Thompkins was given the veteran treatment in the second half of Thursday's preseason finale, watching from the sideline as Boyce and Dobson were still on the field playing.

8. With news that the Bills signed center Eric Wood to a long-term contract extension, it served as a reminder that he was a player I believe the Patriots had targeted as one of their ideal choices in the 2009 draft. That was the year the team traded down twice -- from 23 (Michael Oher) to 26 (Clay Matthews) to 34, where they selected safety Patrick Chung. Had Wood been on the board at 34, I think he would have received strong consideration. Had they stuck at 26, maybe they would have taken him there. Not that the Patriots are currently hurting at center, as Ryan Wendell has developed into a solid starter, but there was a lot of smoke around the Patriots and Wood that year.

9. The Raiders did what I thought the Patriots might by keeping two punters on their initial 53-man roster, as they view both Chris Kluwe and Marquette King as assets. The thinking, it appears, is that maybe the Raiders could trade one of them for a draft pick, although it's hard to imagine that unfolding. As for New England, rookie Ryan Allen was so impressive that the Patriots didn’t think he would clear waivers so they could bring him back on the practice squad (I thought that maybe by waiting a week or two, it would have a better chance of happening). So instead of keeping two, they just kept Allen and said goodbye to Zoltan Mesko, who should be punting somewhere in the NFL this season. He didn’t lose the job as much as Allen won it.

10. Patriots players return to the practice field today and tomorrow. They were off Saturday, as owner Robert Kraft hosted his annual before-the-season party for players and their families on Cape Cod. The Patriots will also practice Monday, before a day off Tuesday.
The AFC East blog put former Buffalo Bills second-round pick Torell Troup on the “Bust Watch” this summer. This was a list of highly-drafted players who needed to show something in 2012 to avoid the infamous bust label.

Well, Troup officially graduated to bust status Thursday after the Bills put the defensive lineman on injured reserve with a back injury. Troup, who was drafted in 2010 one spot ahead of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, had plenty of chances the past three seasons. But the Bills cannot count on Troup.

Troup missed on a golden opportunity this year. He could have been a backup off the bench behind starting defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. There wouldn’t be much pressure on Troup besides giving Dareus or Williams and occasional breather. It was a perfect role waiting for Troup if he could get healthy.

Instead, Troup lived up to his often-injured label and it’s time for the Bills to move on.

Here are the AFC East blog's other "Bust Watch" players to keep an eye on this year:
What does the drafting of Marcell Dareus do for the Bills' defense? The answer in short is: a ton.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
AP Photo/David DupreyMarcell Dareus' versatility will be a welcome addition to Buffalo's defensive line this season.
Interior defensive linemen often struggle as rookies. And Dareus might struggle as well. But by watching him at Alabama, he appears as NFL-ready as any lineman I have seen in some time. A lot of times, young defensive tackles can be lazy and take plays off. Dareus' work ethic and hustle are not problems. In fact, they are strengths.

The Bills' run defense was abysmal in 2010. Their pass rush wasn’t as poor, but it wasn’t a whole lot better either. Dareus should help in both departments. One of the great things about this player is his versatility -- and I fully expect Buffalo to take full advantage of those unique qualities. To me, he is a perfect fit as a 4-3 defensive tackle, either as a 1-technique where he holds the point of attack or as a 3-technique where he is asked to penetrate and beat slower blockers with his extreme quickness.

But the Bills use a base 3-4 scheme, which is what Dareus played in college, excelling at end. Although the Bills look to be predominantly an odd front, expect many variable looks. Adding Nick Barnett on the second level will help make that possible, as he is adept in both schemes, but Dareus is a far more important factor in that equation.

If you don’t know it already, Kyle Williams is a great player. He excels at everything asked of him. Of course, Williams is already proven, but I could see Dareus being very similar to Williams in all manners on the field. At least the Bills hope so. These two are the foundation of the defense. They will probably be the interior pass-rushers on throwing downs. They can line up next to each other at defensive tackle in a four-man front. Personally, it is in that alignment that I think these two could best use their immense skills, but the Bills are not overly equipped with edge rushers to flank them.

One could handle the nose and the other could play end in Buffalo's 3-4, allowing the Bills to use a very athletic three-man front by inserting Alex Carrington, Dwan Edwards, Lionel Dotson or Spencer Johnson as the third lineman. Or Williams and Dareus could both play end in the 3-4 with Torell Troup, a much more traditional nose tackle, hunkering down over center.

With all these defensive linemen mentioned, Buffalo looks to now have a strong rotation up front and a lot more alignment options available to it. Without Dareus (and of course Williams), this just wouldn’t be possible.

Although I still think it is short on pass-rushers off the edge (that will be next year’s offseason project), the Bills' defense should be much more difficult to prepare for in 2011.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.

Bills bolster D-line with Marcell Dareus

April, 28, 2011
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills could have taken a couple of philosophical approaches when it came to building their organization's future: quarterback at No. 3 or their best defensive player on the board and try to get a quarterback with the 34th selection. They drafted Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.

Why the Bills took him: The Bills ranked dead last against the run last year, allowing 169.6 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Dareus, at 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds, is considered the best defensive lineman in the draft and highly versatile, able to play nose tackle or 5-technique defensive end in the 3-4 or line up as a defensive tackle in a 4-3.

How it affects the roster: Dareus should start immediately in the Bills' 3-4 hybrid defense and allow them to effectively mix in four-man fronts to keep offenses on their toes. Dareus would play alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Bills also are high on sophomore defensive tackle Torell Troup. The Bills released defensive end Marcus Stroud before the lockout.

Scouts Inc. says: Does an excellent job of finding the football. Elite awareness. Consistently does a great job of finding the football. Does an excellent job of disengaging from blocks; uses quick hands and feet to get out of trouble. He pursues hard, has great speed for his size, and will make some plays from behind.

AFC East labor impact

March, 11, 2011
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NFC labor impact: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at how a continued labor impasse and extended NFL freeze on transactions would affect the division:

Buffalo Bills: The Bills are a young team that built momentum toward the end of last season. They went 4-4 in the second half. Over a six-game stretch in October and November, they went 2-4, and each loss was by three points to an eventual playoff team. Three of those losses were in overtime.

A prolonged work stoppage would stunt Buffalo's development. Coach Chan Gailey is entering his second year but his first offseason with Ryan Fitzpatrick as starting quarterback. The Bills also could draft a quarterback next month but they wouldn't be able to sign him or work with him until there's a new collective bargaining agreement.

Inexperienced players with one or two years dot the roster: running back C.J. Spiller, guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, nose tackle Torell Troup, outside linebackers Aaron Maybin and Arthur Moats and safety Jairus Byrd. They would benefit from as much prep time as they can get.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins' offense will have serious difficulty taking shape if there's a long work stoppage. Incumbent quarterback Chad Henne wouldn't be on the securest footing if we were heading into a normal offseason. The Dolphins were frustrated enough to remove him as their starter twice last year. Now he's working with a new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, and new quarterbacks coach, Karl Dorrell, who never has been a quarterbacks coach before.

Henne got a head start on his offseason by meeting with Daboll and Dorrell to try to absorb as much of the playbook as he could. Henne intends to communicate Daboll's philosophies to his teammates with informal workouts in South Florida.

That's where the Dolphins can have an advantage if they remain diligent. A large percentage of their players maintain homes in South Florida, making it easy for them to assemble for group sessions.

All of Henne's work could be rendered moot if the Dolphins want to acquire another quarterback, but then they'll have another problem. Until there's a new CBA, teams cannot sign free agents or make player trades. That means the Dolphins are in limbo if they want to make a play for an intriguing group of candidates that includes Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb and Vince Young.

New England Patriots: If any team can withstand a protracted work stoppage, it's the reigning AFC East champions. The Patriots have a solid roster filled with veterans, particularly on offense. Their coaching staff remained mostly intact. They're flush with draft picks.

The biggest impact probably would be felt on defense, where the Patriots sometimes started four rookies: end Brandon Deaderick, outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Devin McCourty.

Although a couple of veteran defenders returning from injuries (defensive end Ty Warren and cornerback Leigh Bodden) should help stabilize them, the Patriots will have difficulty coaching up their youngsters and improving their terrible third-down defense in a compacted offseason.

Another issue could be the way the Patriots flip through interchangeable parts. The Patriots are adept at discovering undrafted free agents and reclaiming other teams' castoffs, while constantly overturning the bottom of their roster. With no CBA, those roster moves cannot happen.

New York Jets: Free agency will be the Jets' biggest issue if a work stoppage drags out. They have the most free agents in the AFC East and declined to re-sign any of them, aside from placing the franchise tag on inside linebacker David Harris. The Jets didn't want to make any decisions until they knew what the next CBA looked like. That created several questions up and down the roster.

Receiver is the biggest question mark. Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are without contracts, and quarterback Mark Sanchez needs a strong supporting cast. On defense, safety is a concern with Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo about to be free agents, too.

No CBA means the Jets won't be able to sign incoming free agents either. Polls have shown players around the league would love to play for Rex Ryan more than any other coach. But the Jets can't use that to their advantage until there's a new deal.

You can't argue with Mel Kiper; Or can you?

March, 10, 2011
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ESPN draft monger Mel Kiper has released his first post-combine mock draft.

Along with his projections for the AFC East's five first-round picks, I've added my opinions.

No. 3 Buffalo Bills

Kiper's pick: Marcell Dareus, Alabama defensive tackle

My thoughts: Kiper has the Carolina Panthers taking Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the Bills passing on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. No one can argue the Bills need better D-line play, and Dareus is highly versatile. He could play five-technique defensive end. But a couple things Bills general manager Buddy Nix said at the combine stick out to me. Nix was asked specifically about having two defensive tackles in Pro Bowler Kyle Williams and Torell Troup and flatly replied, "I don't think that's an area of need. I don't." Nix added that Troup, last year's second-round draft pick, would rate "probably first or second" on this year's draft board at nose tackle. But maybe the Bills are comfortable Dareus can play the end and go with him here.

No. 15 Miami Dolphins

Kiper's pick: Mark Ingram, Alabama running back

My thoughts: Ingram to the Dolphins in this spot is the most common projection among all the mocks out there because it makes so much sense. In all three of Kiper's mocks, he has stuck with Ingram at No. 15. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams aren't under contract. Ingram is considered the best running back in this year's draft, and analysts believe he'll be available when the Dolphins hand their card to the commissioner. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner is explosive. The biggest knock is that he ran his combine 40-yard dash in a disappointing 4.62 seconds. But he came in at 4.55 seconds at his pro day.

No. 17 New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders)

Kiper's pick: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue outside linebacker

My thoughts: Kiper has slotted a different player in this spot for each of his mocks. He originally pegged Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, who's now projected 11th to the Houston Texans. Then Kiper had California defensive end Cameron Jordan ticketed to New England here. But the Ouija board is spelling Kerrigan this time. Coach Bill Belichick certainly could use a nasty pass-rusher. The Patriots were close to average with their 36 sacks, but their outside linebackers combined for only 13.5 sacks. Four individual outside linebackers had that many elsewhere in the league.

No. 28 New England Patriots

Kiper's pick: Leonard Hankerson, Miami receiver

My thoughts: I don't see receiver as a first-round need for the Patriots. Kiper acknowledges the Patriots make for tricky speculation because they own two picks in each of the first three rounds and aren't bashful about trading. But he has liked an offensive skill player at No. 28 all along -- just not the same prospect. His first mock named Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure. The second mock had Maryland receiver Torrey Smith. But Hankerson's stock is rising, as evidenced by his debut on Kiper's radar. Hankerson is thin at 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds, but he has a knack for making difficult catches look easy.

No. 30 New York Jets

Kiper's pick: Rahim Moore, UCLA safety

My thoughts: Kiper leaves the 30th slot unchanged from his last mock. Coach Rex Ryan must get a safety. Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo all are without contracts. Jim Leonhard is rehabbing from a broken shin. Kiper admits the Jets need defensive linemen in a bad way, but justifies his prediction by noting this year's D-line class is deep. Moore is considered by many to be the best safety amid a pedestrian group. In other words, if the Jets don't get a safety here, then they might regret not plucking the best one off the board. Moore is ball hawk who intercepted 10 passes two seasons ago. He had only one interception last year, but his tackle total soared in more of a strong safety role.

AFC East links: Gostkowski on the mend

February, 16, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

Bills defensive tackle Torell Troup goes the family route when training in the offseason.

Should the Bills make a move for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb, who might now be available for a cheaper price after Philadelphia put the franchise tag on Michael Vick?

Miami Dolphins

With a lockout looming, players are looking to alternative sites for their offseason training.

New England Patriots

Matt Light says he doesn't expect a new labor deal to be completed before the current agreement expires early next month.

Stephen Gostkowski is continuing to rehab from the torn quadriceps he suffered last season.

New York Jets

Rich Cimini explains why the Jets decided to put the franchise tag on linebacker David Harris.

In case you missed it, Trevor Pryce shares his thoughts on coach Rex Ryan's Super Bowl guarantee.

Breaking down Buffalo's Kyle Williams

February, 15, 2011
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Scouts Inc. analyzes Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams, whom head coach Chan Gailey has said defies categorization.

[+] EnlargeKyle Williams.
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireBuffalo's Kyle Williams is among the most versatile defensive linemen in the NFL.
Is Williams a nose tackle? A 3-4 end? A defensive tackle? Where might he best utilized, and if the Bills could draft a complementary player, what kind of rookie should they seek?

Williams is the NFL’s most underrated defensive player. In fact, he should have been a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but because of his supporting cast and the horrendous state of the Bills, few recognized Williams’ outstanding accomplishments in 2010.

But what is the best way to utilize Williams? I don’t say this about many defensive linemen, but I do feel that Williams would be very effective at either nose tackle or end in a 3-4 scheme. He also excels as a one technique lined up on a shoulder of the center, or as a three technique lined up on the outside shoulder of a guard in the 4-3 scheme. So, in reality, he is just a very good football player who demonstrates exceptional leverage, power, quickness and tenacity that would help any defense a great deal. But no matter what scheme is used as the base, I would move Williams around quite a bit. The Baltimore Ravens do the same with Haloti Ngata to find the best matchups for their best player.

But if we are talking about the ideal situation, I think adding a true nose tackle type (think the New England Patriots' Vince Wilfork) would be most beneficial for Williams and the Bills’ run defense as a whole. Buffalo’s run defense is among the worst in the league. But the Bills did draft Torell Troup with the thought of him developing into that wide-bodied nose tackle to eat up blockers. But Troup was less-than-impressive as a rookie.

Marcus Stroud was also a massive disappointment, and it might be time to cut ties with him. But Alex Carrington, Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson all have varied skill sets and could contribute in either scheme, but would be best as ends in an odd front. All three played reasonably well in 2010, with Carrington still having a lot of upside after playing his college ball at Arkansas State.

If Troupe greatly improves, which could be far-fetched thinking, the thing that would help Williams and everyone else mentioned above the most would be a lethal edge pass-rusher. That player could be either in the form of a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. In a passing league, that cannot be overlooked. Williams can only do so much by himself.

Again, I would remain very multiple with Williams’ responsibilities. Obviously I am extremely high on Williams -- but in a way; because of his body type, he isn’t the prototype for any one specific defensive line technique or position. That isn’t a knock on what Williams can do for a defense at all, but it does go to show that he is a very unique player. It is time everyone took notice.

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

Salutations from Orchard Park

August, 28, 2010
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- If the Buffalo Bills' starters have a decent performance here Saturday night, they'll produce the AFC East's best showing in a third preseason game.

The third preseason game is the most realistic. Starters play into the second half. The New York Jets and New England Patriots stuck with their starting offenses into the fourth quarter.

But none of the AFC East teams have looked good in their third exhibitions. The Jets' offense sputtered against the Washington Redskins. The Patriots' defense struggled to stop rookie St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. The Miami Dolphins had problems on both sides of the ball versus the Atlanta Falcons.

That leaves the Bills, who will host the Cincinnati Bengals in Ralph Wilson Stadium, where it couldn't be a more gorgeous day. It's 77 degrees with nary a cloud to be seen.

What to look for:

Scouts Inc.: Impact of smaller nose tackles

August, 24, 2010
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The Dolphins and Bills are opting for smaller, faster nose tackles. What impact does that have on their 3-4 defenses?

Troup
Williams
Starks
While this is a true statement, I think it has occurred more by default than by design. In a perfect world, Miami would have Jason Ferguson holding the point in the middle of its defense and Buffalo would have the much larger Torell Troup as its starting nose tackle. Troup, the Bills’ second-round pick in the April draft, could very well take over the position from Kyle Williams. That is the long-term plan. Williams is vastly undersized to handle this position and his game doesn’t translate well to getting pounded by double-teams from the excellent offensive lines Buffalo faces in the AFC East. As for Ferguson, he has retired, leaving Randy Starks, who excelled at defensive end last season, as the Dolphins' nose tackle.

However, there is more than one way to run a 3-4 defense and you don’t necessarily need a massive plugger like Vince Wilfork or Kris Jenkins on the nose to be successful. Many teams use a three-man front, but utilize 4-3 principles with an attacking style. The Cowboys’ Jay Ratliff is the best example of such a disruptive upfield nose tackle.

Neither Starks nor Williams is in Ratliff’s class though. Starks is the superior player of the two, but he doesn’t have Ratliff’s quickness or explosion. Starks could do an above-average job in this capacity, but Miami also has another massive nose tackle on the roster, Paul Soliai, who fits the more traditional space-eating mold. Soliai can play the run, but offers nothing as a pass-rusher. Of course, Starks was put in this position as a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. He is best suited for end, where he was exceptional in 2009.

As for Williams, he too has some upfield ability and could use his leverage and quickness to get penetration off the snap. He certainly is not a bad player. But I just can’t envision him holding up play after play with his physical dimensions. He might be effective in spurts, but Troup will need to contribute heavily to make Buffalo’s transition to a 3-4 successful. That is asking a lot from a rookie nose tackle -- adjusting to that position in terms of strength, stamina and reading blocking schemes is not easy on a rookie.

Never forget, the AFC East is probably the most physical division in the league. Being powerful -- like Wilfork or Jenkins -- on the nose is a must to keep up with the divisional rivals. With Starks, Miami might be able to hold its own, but I think Buffalo is in a lot of trouble.

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

AFC East wire: Fins forage for DE depth

July, 29, 2010
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Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Days to go: AFC East's unsigned rookies

July, 26, 2010
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An updated look at the AFC East's unsigned draft picks and when each team will hold its first full training camp workout:

Buffalo Bills open Thursday
Miami Dolphins open Friday
  • Defensive lineman Jared Odrick (first round, 28th overall)
  • Outside linebacker Koa Misi (second round)
New England Patriots open Thursday
New York Jets open Aug. 2

Any holdouts in AFC East's future?

July, 20, 2010
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In less than two weeks, every NFL training camp will have blown its first air horn.

Many NFL executives are returning from their traditional July vacations and have commenced to hammering out deals with the remaining unsigned draft picks to get them in the fold before workouts begin. Some of them might not be under contract in time.

With that in mind, here's a snapshot of the AFC East's lingering draftees:

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

World Cup whistles shrill compared to NFL

June, 22, 2010
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Buffalo Bills offensive lineman and soccer fanatic Kirk Chambers will share his World Cup thoughts with the AFC East blog throughout the tournament.

Six times last year, Kirk Chambers knew precisely why an official threw a flag on him.

Four false starts, one holding and one illegal use of the hands -- on No. 73, offense.

There's accountability on the most minor infractions in the NFL. Whenever a flag hits the ground, the guilty player and the penalty are announced to the world.

The World Cup doesn't insist on such formalities, not even when a winning goal is disallowed. Referee Koman Coulibaly didn't have to answer to anyone when he waved off a dramatic U.S. goal in a draw with Slovenia.

We still don't know why Coulibaly disallowed the goal or which player he found at fault. FIFA doesn't require Coulibaly to declare any information.

The call could prevent the U.S. from reaching the knockout round. A victory over Algeria on Wednesday morning would allow the U.S. to advance, but a victory over Slovenia would have given the Americans the option to qualify with a tie in their pool finale.

"The U.S. got robbed of a goal," Chambers said. "But I understand how the game goes. I wasn't going to throw the nearest object at my television. Everyone accepts that as part of the game."

Last week, Chambers gave his thoughts on why flopping discourages many Americans from embracing soccer. Mysterious officiating can be another deterrent.

Chambers views soccer officiating as a subjective process, comparing it to how a parent might deal with small children. Rather than viewing each call in black-and-white terms, there's a sense of keeping the calls even on both sides.

"When I watch a football game, the refs are very objective," Chambers said. "It's either a holding call or it's not. There are some judgment calls, but for the most part it's either a penalty or it's not.

"In soccer, it's almost as if the ref is officiating an argument between little siblings. 'I'll side with this sibling on this one, but I'll pay back the other one later on.' As a parent, you might use subjective judgment to keep the playing field as fair as possible, and you don't have to explain it."

Chambers explained why video reviews can't work in soccer.

"Game flow plays such a big part in making soccer the sport it is," he said. "You can't have instant replay because you don't want to steal from the flow. To stop play of the game to review a play seems absurd."

Chambers won't be able to watch Wednesday's game against Algeria because the Bills are opening their minicamp. He will DVR the game and hopes nobody tells him who won before he can get home to watch.

I don't like his chances. There has been plenty of World Cup banter among Bills teammates, especially with rookie nose tackle Torrell Troup, a soccer fanatic who had been backing France. Troup apparently couldn't handle the repeated heartbreak that goes along with being a U.S. fan.

Chambers predicted a 1-nil U.S. victory.

"Algeria sure possessed the ball very well against England," Chambers said. "It's going to be a good challenge for the U.S. to make runs to the goal, but I have to believe they're going to win this one."

Clayton: Bills have NFL's worst offseason

May, 19, 2010
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Two weeks ago, ESPN.com's John Clayton appraised the NFL's best offseasons. AFC East clubs took the first three slots.

Clayton rated the New England Patriots first, followed by the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

The Buffalo Bills didn't make that list, but here they are, atop Clayton's followup analysis. He claims the Bills had the league's worst offseason.

Writes Clayton:
1. Buffalo Bills: No team had a greener offensive line last season than the Bills. ... All the Bills did to help the line was sign 33-year-old tackle Cornell Green.

The Bills averaged a horrible 16.1 points a game on offense and did nothing to upgrade a quarterback corps filled by Trent Edward sand Ryan Fitzpatrick. The receiving corps lost 82 catches by not re-signing Terrell Owens and Josh Reed. The only replacement was fourth-round choice Marcus Easley, leaving Lee Evans with little around him.

Owner Ralph Wilson was willing to pay a high salary for his new coach, and ended up with nice guy Chan Gailey, hardly a headliner. To make things even more challenging, the Bills switched to a 3-4 defense even though they didn't have a legitimate 3-4 outside linebacker or a nose tackle. They drafted nose tackle Torell Troup in the second round and hope that Broncos castoff Andra Davis and seldom-used Aaron Maybin can handle the tough outside linebacking jobs.

Making matters worse, the Bills' three division rivals -- the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins -- had three of the best five offseasons. With those odds against them, the Bills won't need luck to be in position to draft either Jake Locker or Andrew Luck next year.

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