AFC East: Tully Banta-Cain

Patriots back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Patriots' organization might have the NFL's most established infrastructure. Players dutifully follow Bill Belichick's scripted, proven routines. Leadership from players such as Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Logan Mankins, Matt Light (if he returns) and Vince Wilfork will help the Patriots galvanize more speedily than most clubs.

Biggest challenge: The Patriots need to manufacture a pass rush. It will be interesting to see whether Belichick pursues assistance through free agency or sticks with the youngsters on his roster. The Patriots tied for 14th in sacks last season with 36. Starting outside linebackers Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham combined for just 10 sacks and 26 quarterback hits.

Backfield in motion: The Patriots had an entertaining tandem with BenJarvus Green-Ellis pounding out the carries (1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Danny Woodhead electrifying fans as a combo runner-receiver (926 yards from scrimmage and six TDs) last season. But the rest of the backfield depth chart could be erased (see below), and the DanJarvus Green-Woodhead attack probably won't handle as much responsibility. The Patriots drafted running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley back-to-back in the second round.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Mankins' contract has expired, but the Patriots placed the franchise tag on him. Light, running backs Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor and safety Brandon McGowan are up in the air.
With news that veteran outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain underwent surgery on his abdomen Friday -- and a source estimating a 4-to-5 week recovery -- this highlights the "rush end" role in the team's defense.

Banta-Cain
Banta-Cain
While Banta-Cain is listed on the roster as a 3-4 outside linebacker, I view him as more of a rush end when the team plays a four-man line or is in sub packages in passing situations. He's at his best when getting up the field and not being asked to set a hard edge in the running game.

Six-year veteran Rob Ninkovich and 2010 second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham currently project as the top 3-4 outside linebackers, playing on early downs. In 2010, they would often come off the field on third down in place of Banta-Cain.

So if the Patriots were looking to veteran free agency to fill the void and provide themselves some insurance, they don't necessarily have to lock in on a pure 3-4 'backer. A 4-3 edge rusher could also fit.

Veteran Eric Moore, a late-season signing from 2010, likely steps up to replace Banta-Cain. Marques Murrell, who played in the team's 2010 opener before being cut and brought back late in the year, is back in the mix along with 2011 sixth-round pick Markell Carter of Central Arkansas.

AFC East links: Banta-Cain has surgery

July, 24, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo News takes a look at the key areas that the Bills will need to address in free agency.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that the Bills could be dealing with another offseason hurdle when/if they arrive at St. John Fisher College for training camp.

Miami Dolphins

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald says the Dolphins face a dilemma in dealing with their large defensive tackle Paul Soliai.

Former Dolphin Jason Taylor tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that "No ships have sailed, no bridges have been burned," leaving the door open for a return to Miami.

New England Patriots

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that veteran New England Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain underwent a surgical procedure on his abdomen on Friday, a source confirmed, while estimating a four-to-five week recovery period. The source said Banta-Cain had sustained the injury last season, and in meeting with team doctors at the end of the year, it was decided that no surgery was required. But Banta-Cain tweaked the injury in recent workouts, the source said. Missing five weeks would place Banta-Cain's status for the Patriots' season opener Sept. 12 at Miami in serious jeopardy.

New York Jets

Jets receiver Santonio Holmes is John Clayton's No. 2 free agent and Braylon Edwards is his No. 7 in what should be a wild free-agent signing period.

The Wall Street Journal asks: What about the receivers?

Lockout jeopardizes big workout bonuses

March, 17, 2011
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A lot of money will go bye-bye if the NFL work stoppage eliminates offseason workouts.

That's a legitimate possibility if owners and players can't hammer out a deal well before training camps normally would begin.

ESPN's Adam Schefter has compiled a list of the NFL's richest workout bonuses and the attendance percentages required to earn them.

New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has the biggest incentive in the league at $750,000. He must attend 85 percent of the workouts to collect.

Other big AFC East bonuses:
Brady, however, is covered if there aren't any 2011 offseason workouts. His 2012 bonus will inflate to $500,000 in that case.

Making millions in the AFC East

March, 4, 2011
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Mark SanchezRichard A. Brightly/Icon SMIMark Sanchez is set to earn $14.75 million in base salary next season, the most in the AFC East.
Sports labor squabbles often are described as billionaires arguing with millionaires over money.

While that's a catchy rhyme that sums up fan frustration, the phrase is not entirely true.

Inspired by a blog entry from the minister of all things AFC South, Paul Kuharsky, I looked at NFL Players Association files to count up the number of AFC East players scheduled for $1 million base salaries in 2011.

Granted, up-front bonuses and incentives can make base salaries misleading. But base salaries are the only figures that create a common ground, player for player.

You'll see a vast majority of NFL players make much less than $1 million a year. Although many will make seven figures before they walk away from the game, careers are short and treacherous. They'll never see that kind of cash again for the rest of their lives.

That's why they're fighting for every dollar now.

Of the 226 players under contract in the AFC East, only 62 of them (27.4 percent) will make base salaries of $1 million or more.

The NFLPA hasn't acknowledged any franchise tags that have been signed. Those players are marked with an asterisk and not factored into the totals.

Buffalo Bills
Base salaries of $1 million or more: 19

Players under contract: 54

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 35.2

Miami Dolphins
Base salaries of $1 million or more: 15

Players under contract: 55

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 27.3

New England Patriots
Base salaries of $1 million or more: 14

Players under contract: 60

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 23.3

New York Jets
Base salaries of $1 million or more: 14

Players under contract: 57

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 24.6

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 31, Packers 27

December, 19, 2010
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the New England Patriots' 31-27 win against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium:

What it means: It came down to the last play, with Tully Banta-Cain sacking quarterback Matt Flynn, as Flynn struggled to get the final play off on fourth-and-1. It looked like a case of poor clock management, and an inexperienced quarterback unsure of what he wanted to do. The Patriots improve to 12-2 in a game they just survived.

They’ll be talking about Connolly’s kickoff return: When was the last time you saw an offensive lineman return a kickoff 71 yards? Never, of course, because it happened for the first time when Patriots right guard Dan Connolly rumbled 71 yards to set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez. Since the statistic was first recorded in 1994, it marked the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman. Connolly, a five-year veteran who filled in admirably for left guard Logan Mankins for the season’s first seven games and now is starting at right guard in place of injured Stephen Neal, played the ensuing offensive series before leaving the game with a concussion.

Up and down night for Patriots defense: Through three quarters, it didn’t look pretty for the Patriots' defense. The Packers held a time of possession edge of 31:26 to 13:34 at that point, and the defense looked tired, unable to come up with the critical stop on third down. The Packers were 9-for-13 on third down through three quarters. The tired defense came up with the big stops in the fourth quarter, just when it appeared it was on its last legs.

Penalties hurt the Patriots: New England entered the game ranked fourth in the NFL for fewest accepted penalties in the NFL. They had a tough night in that area with Ed Hochuli’s crew. A potential game-ending interception was nullified by an illegal hands to the face penalty on Tully Banta-Cain, which reflected the Patriots’ struggles in this area.

Should Packers have gone for it on fourth-and-1? Early in the fourth quarter, the Packers led 24-21 and had the ball on the Patriots’ 1-yard line. This came after the Packers couldn’t punch it in on first and goal from the 2. Coach Mike McCarthy elected to kick the field goal on fourth down, a decision that will probably be second-guessed in Green Bay.

Packers brought their best effort: One week after a disappointing loss to the Lions in which they lost starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a concussion, the Packers rebounded in a big way. They played an inspired game, opening with a successful onside kick. Third-year quarterback Flynn, who made his first career start, showed poise until the final play, especially after throwing a third-quarter interception that was returned 36 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Kyle Arrington.

What’s next: The Patriots visit the Buffalo Bills next Sunday. With the New York Jets winning a big road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the team’s lead in the AFC East remains two games.

Overachievers prevailing in AFC East

December, 9, 2010
12/09/10
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Fred Jackson and Tom Brady and Davone BessGetty ImagesFred Jackson, Tom Brady and Davone Bess came into the league as unheralded long shots but have made the most of their chances.
It's no mystery why we love underdogs.

Respected football minds who get paid to assemble NFL teams dismissed them out of hand, scratched them from their draft lists, cut them in training camp.

Yet these players survive. They're too driven to give up. Not all of them become stars, but that's not necessary to become a precious asset on a team.

"As a coach, you love those stories," said former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards. "They don't let you down."

Said Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey: "You have to have them. There's no way to play the game without them."

Overachievers have dominated the AFC East this year. Late-round draft picks, players who weren't drafted at all and castoffs from other teams have starred for every team, including the MVP favorite (Tom Brady), two leading rushers (BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Fred Jackson), three leading receivers (Wes Welker, Steve Johnson, Davone Bess) and three sack leaders (Cameron Wake, Mike Wright and Kyle Williams).

These thriving underdogs are a substantial reason why the AFC East has been so compelling this year.

"It's football," said Jim Jensen, the ultimate survivor with the Miami Dolphins. They drafted the Boston University quarterback in the 11th round in 1980, and he stuck around until 1992 as a receiver/wedge buster/long snapper/third-down fullback/holder/tell me where to go, Coach, and I'll hit them.

"I like to watch guys that are working hard and working for the team," Jensen said. "They're working for a goal. They're not selfish. Wes Welker is a great example. He just loves to win. He's unselfish. Davone Bess is another one who's an inspiration to watch."

There's a reason the conquering underdog is such a common theme in Hollywood.

"These guys have something to prove," said film producer Mark Ciardi. "There's enough of these stories where these guys just survive and climb over players teams have a lot of money invested in. It's just a different thing when you've got to prove people wrong. They know they've got to check way more boxes than other people to succeed."

Ciardi pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers despite being a 15th-round draft choice in 1983.

"I got no money to sign," Ciardi said. "I was the last guy on the pitching squad of 17 guys in rookie ball. I had no chance."

Four years later, Ciardi made it to the majors. He started three games and pitched another in relief. He defied the odds, which is why he finds stories about unlikely heroes so appealing.

Among his true-story films: "Invincible" (about Philadelphia Eagles walk-on Vince Papale), "Miracle" (about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team), "The Rookie" (about 35-year-old rookie pitcher Jim Morris) and "Secretariat."

All of those motion pictures portrayed an undeniable will to win, a theme that has carried Ciardi throughout his career. He sees it in such players as Brady and Patriots running back Danny Woodhead.

"What I realized was you've got to work extra hard," Ciardi said. "Nothing will be given to you, but you have an opportunity. The only way you're going to succeed is to snatch it and force them to keep you. If they don't have money invested in you, chances are you're not going to get the same kind of shot."

But having overachievers on the roster means more than a compelling storyline and increased jersey sales.

They often become team leaders and examples for other players to emulate. Underdogs help manage the salary cap because they're cheaper (at least in the beginning). They make draft mistakes much more bearable. They help a front office sell the team to future free agents.

"They're so coachable," former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick said. "Once they get into it, they realize how tenuous it is to stay in the NFL. Nothing came easy for them. You love having guys like that on your team."

Inquiring about a coach's favorite player is like asking a parent to name his favorite child. But it's easy to guess what type they admire most: the relentless survivors.

"You know what they have done to get to where they are," Gailey said. "As a competitor, you appreciate that. Everybody doesn't end up with a bunch of God-given talent. Guys have to go fight for what they want in life. When those guys get it, it's very satisfying to see it for those guys to make it."

[+] EnlargeJim Leonhard
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesJim Leonhard went from the NFL scrapheap to being a vital player on defense and special teams for the Jets.
Two players New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan identified as critical to his establishing his defense last year were inside linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard. Neither was drafted. Leonhard had been waived by the Bills, re-signed and then cast adrift in free agency because the Bills viewed him as no more than roster filler. When Leonhard suffered a season-ending shin injury last week, Jets fans got nervous because he was integral to the secondary and special teams.

The NFL-leading New England Patriots are loaded with examples of perseverance. Brady has been such a superstar in the league for so long, it's sometimes strange to think of him as an underdog. But as the 199th pick in the 2000 draft, Brady might be the game's greatest overachiever.

Wake, the Miami Dolphins outside linebacker, leads the league with 12 sacks. He wasn't drafted and went five years between his last down at Penn State and his first in the NFL. Pro Bowl safety Yeremiah Bell was a sixth-round pick who got waived as a rookie and placed on the practice squad.

Buffalo's offense features late-round picks or undrafted players at the three marquee spots. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was a seventh-round draft choice and a career backup. Jackson didn't start a game for his high school team and came up through Division III and the arena leagues before emerging in NFL Europa. Top receiver Johnson was a seventh-round draft choice.

As inspirational as these players are, they also make slackers look that much worse. Those healthy first-, second- and third-round players who can't get on the field unfortunately aren't wired to battle that way.

"A lot of these guys think it's a right that they have to play," Gailey said. Overachievers "realize it's a privilege to play this game.

"When you got a guy who knows how to fight and understands the fight, understands competition, understands working through adversity and he becomes a good player on your team, then that helps set a tone."

Billick and Edwards emphasized the impact of undrafted players and late-round successes on a roster's overall well-being. Edwards, an undrafted player who started for the Eagles from the opening day of his rookie season, said unearthing overlooked gems are "like getting a free draft pick." Billick noted that they're instrumental to managing the salary cap.

"The residual effect is you don't have to spend those resources," Billick said, "whether they be draft choices or a procurement through free agency to go fill that spot.

"You pick Tom Brady up in the sixth round. Are you kidding me? What that does for your organization ... Even the difference between that and having to draft Matt Ryan third in the draft, the resources you have to spend is just a gift from above."

Heaven-sent is how Patriots fans must view a good chunk of their division-leading team. Dolfans can't be more thrilled with Wake or Bess. The Jets will depend on undrafted starters such as right guard Brandon Moore, defensive end Mike Devito and Scott down the home stretch while certainly missing Leonhard.

And about the only pleasure Bills fans have had this season is watching their unlikely stars because they're such gripping characters.

"An underlying factor to all these stories," Ciardi said, "is the will and the heart that makes them extraordinary on the field."

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 31, Colts 28

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots held off a late Indianapolis Colts charge Sunday to win 31-28 in Gillette Stadium.

What it means: The Patriots kept up with the seemingly unbeatable New York Jets in the AFC East standings. Both are 8-2 and both will play four days later on Thanksgiving. The Jets still hold the tiebreaker because they won the first head-to-head meeting.

Brady versus Manning: Tom Brady won this battle, but not with any gaudy stats. Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, but also had three interceptions, including one to James Sanders with 31 seconds to play and the Colts in field goal range.

Running backs the difference: The Colts played without injured linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session, helping the Patriots outrush them 168-71. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Danny Woodhead had seven carries for 69 yards and a touchdown. Through three quarters, the Patriots averaged 5.2 yards per carry, while the Colts averaged 1.3 yards.

Patriots discipline: Aside from Tully Banta-Cain's silly 15-yarder late in the fourth quarter to help the Colts score a touchdown, the Patriots didn't commit any penalties.

What's next: Quick turnaround for the Patriots. They will visit the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.

Analyzing the Chris Kelsay extension

October, 8, 2010
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The Buffalo Bills have made some controversial personnel moves over the past two weeks.

They dumped quarterback Trent Edwards, their opening-day starter.

They traded Marshawn Lynch, their leading rusher, for a fourth-round draft pick.

They're perhaps the worst team in the league, but their top prospects can't get on the field.

[+] EnlargeChris Kelsay
Tim Steadman/Icon SMIChris Kelsay's contract extension takes him through the 2014 season.
They didn't feel rookie quarterback Levi Brown was worthy of their practice squad but re-signed him to the active roster.

One of the moves that really flummoxed Bills followers had nothing to do with the lineup. The Bills last week signed outside linebacker Chris Kelsay to a four-year contract extension worth about $24 million. In addition to the extension, he received an immediate $2 million bonus.

Kelsay has been a nice player for the Bills, but nothing phenomenal. He's a standup guy in the locker room. He has been a starter for seven seasons and has missed only two games since the Bills drafted him 48th overall in 2003. He has 22 sacks in 114 career games.

Readers have asked for my take on the contract, but I decided to hold off until I could gather enough information on how the deal was broken down.

With help from NFL Players Association documents and the Elias Sports Bureau, I can give you a look at Kelsay's deal with league-wide context and then ask: How would you choose to spend $5 million a year on a defensive player?

The way the math is done, Kelsay's per-year average works out to $5 million. The average consists of base salaries plus what the league calls "likely to be earned bonuses" divided by the length of the deal.

"Likely to be earned bonuses" are incentives that are easy to reach or that a player has a history of achieving. "Unlikely to be earned bonuses," such as winning the Super Bowl MVP or leading the league in kickoff return yardage (don't laugh; these types of things actually appear in some deals), are not factored into the annual average.

To determine whether Kelsay was worth the new contract, I did what a lot of agents would do when it's time to negotiate a contract for a specific client. They research for comparable players, using key criteria such as age, games played, statistics and team success.

I asked the Elias Sports Bureau to run a crosscheck of its data base to find all of the 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers who are 30 or 31 years old (Kelsay will turn 31 on Halloween) and have played at least 100 games.

The list is surprisingly small. The attached chart gives the complete rundown of 10 players who fit the description with their sack totals and average annual salary.


Of that group, Kelsay is the highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker and fourth overall, behind superstar defensive ends Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. All three have at least twice as many sacks as Kelsay.

"The thing you don't want to do is take your core guys and your leaders out of your system," Bills general manager Buddy Nix said Thursday, the first time he commented on Kelsay's extension. "We decided, obviously, that we've got four, five or six guys like that. They maybe are not great players, but good players that set the tone for what you want everybody else to be.

"Chris Kelsay is a good player. He exemplifies what we want players to do and how we want them to be. So that's the reason he's here."

Strange as it might seem, Kelsay's average per year actually went down with his new deal. The NFLPA still had him categorized as a defensive end heading into 2010 because that's the position he played his entire career before the Bills switched to a 3-4 scheme.

His average salary was $5.75 million, making him the 15th highest-paid defensive end regardless of age or experience. He was listed ahead of Robert Mathis, Shaun Ellis, Trent Cole and Chris Long, who received a gaudy contract as the second overall draft pick in 2008.

With all that in mind, I ask again why the Bills needed to sign Kelsay to an extension, and why now? Who else would have paid Kelsay this much? Did the Bills feel like they would be in danger of losing him as a free agent?

I think those are good questions.

Video: John Clayton's AFC East Huddle

September, 29, 2010
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ESPN.com's John Clayton analyzes the state of the AFC East in Week 4.

Final Word: AFC East

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:

[+] EnlargeChad Henne
Fernando Medina/US PresswireShort passes could be the key to victory for Chad Henne and the Dolphins against the Jets.
The best way for the Dolphins to put up points on the Jets won't be the run game or the long ball. When thinking about what the Dolphins' offense can do best, two images come to mind: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams pounding the ball and Chad Henne using his big arm. The best formula might be the short passing game. Since Jets head coach Rex Ryan took over and installed his defense, the Jets have allowed only 27.1 percent completions on passes longer than 15 yards, but 60.3 percent on passes 14 yards or shorter, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Henne took advantage last year in beating the Jets twice, completing 75 percent of his passes of 14 yards or shorter. He averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, gained 17 first downs and threw for a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions. On such throws against the Jets, Henne posted a 110.9 passer rating.

Nobody should be laughing about the Bills' chances to beat the Patriots. True enough, the Bills never have won in Gillette Stadium and have lost 13 straight to the Patriots regardless of venue. But let's not forget the Bills would've won in New England last year if not for a fluke play. Buffalo presents some tough matchups for New England. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't Buffalo's franchise quarterback, but he's the right choice for this game. New England's secondary has been vulnerable, and, unlike Trent Edwards, Fitzpatrick will test those unproven cornerbacks. Buffalo's chief strength is its underrated pass defense. If the Bills can get some pressure on Tom Brady, especially with sergeant at arms Kevin Faulk out of the lineup, then they'll have a chance.

Sunday night could be a huge turnover game for Mark Sanchez. Young quarterbacks are erratic. Just when you think they have it figured out -- Sanchez had the best day of his career last week against New England -- they waver. Sanchez hasn't committed a turnover this season, but Miami has an opportunistic defense that must be passed against if New York wants to win. Miami extracted four turnovers out of Brett Favre last week. Granted, Favre has been prone to those kinds of games throughout his career, but Sanchez has shown that propensity as well. Sanchez will need to be on point.

Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain is looking at Sunday's game like it's Christmas. When you look at Banta-Cain's stat line for last year, you can't help but be impressed. He led the Patriots with 10 sacks. But take a look at his game-by-game production. Seven of his sacks came on three days, leaving him with three sacks in his other 13 games. Banta-Cain amassed five of his sacks against the Bills, two in the season opener and three more in the rematch. He's off to a decent start this year with 1.5 sacks through two games.

As happy as Brady is to know Aaron Schobel won't be chasing him Sunday, the Jets have to be even more stoked Ted Ginn isn't with the Dolphins anymore. The Jets went to the playoffs last year, while the Dolphins watched on television. But the Dolphins did sweep the season series with monumental contributions from Ginn, whose last memory in South Florida will be of dropped passes and torturing the Jets. In the first game, which featured five lead changes in the fourth quarter, Ginn beat broken coverage for a 53-yard touchdown strike from Henne. In the rematch, Ginn set an NFL record by returning two kickoffs of at least 100 yards for touchdowns in a game the Jets lost by five points.

Patriots pass rush worse when it adds heat

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
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I'm not delivering any news bulletins when I write the New England Patriots need to figure out how to manufacture a pass rush this year.

They tied for 23rd in sacks last year. Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain led them with 10, good enough to tie for 11th in the league. But half of his sacks were against the Buffalo Bills and seven came in three games. The Patriots released Derrick Burgess last week.

ESPN Stats & Information, which breaks down film of every NFL play, passed along some stats that underscore New England's problem.

Over the past two seasons, the Patriots have recorded only 26 sacks with four-man pressure. That's tied for 26th.

Their effectiveness wasn't better when Bill Belichick decided to send more defenders after the quarterback.

When the Patriots rushed five or more defenders the past two years, they have surrendered 12 more touchdowns than they've forced interceptions (tied for 28th in that situation), allowed an 89.8 passer rating (25th) and permitted a touchdown pass to be thrown per an average of 14.3 pass attempts (31st).

The Patriots open their season Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals with the NFL's most inexperienced cornerback tandem. Darius Butler has five NFL starts, and Devin McCourty is a rookie.

Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens have to be excited about this matchup.

Video: Eyewitnesses talk about Brady crash

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
2:02
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ESPN's Wendi Nix reports from Gillette Stadium on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's car crash Thursday morning. The video also includes eyewitness accounts from the scene of the accident.

Tom Brady's crash should expedite contract

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
12:26
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On Wednesday, Tom Brady claimed his contract extension wasn't "even a part of my thoughts right now."

Brady
Brady
I'll bet that has changed.

Brady was involved in a Thursday morning car accident bad enough that a passenger in the other vehicle needed the Jaws of Life to be extracted from it.

Brady supposedly is OK. He took part in Thursday morning's meetings and walk-through at the New England Patriots' facility. He was expected to participate fully in the afternoon practice. Teammates said Brady appeared to be well.

"I saw him a little while ago and he looks OK," Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said. "I saw him walking in. He had a smile on his face, no abrasions. I think he's fine. That was my first reaction."

The crash, however, is a reminder how life can change in an instant.

Brady is entering the final year of his contract and will make about $6.5 million in base salary and a roster bonus. That's well below market value. And with no extension in place, there are no guarantees for the future.

What if Brady had been seriously hurt in the accident? What if he had needed the Jaws of Life?

The Patriots certainly would need to make some sort of gesture to assist the face of their franchise. But they would be under no obligation to pay him the kind of money reported earlier this week. Reports claimed Brady was on the verge of a monster deal that could pay him $18 million to $20 million a year.

I doubt that offer would remain on the table if Brady had a mangled leg.

Brady wasn't including off-the-field catastrophes when he spoke about the uncertainties of the game Wednesday.

"This is a physical game," Brady said. "I've had four surgeries in eight years. My shoulder and my knee and my groin ... and another one, too. But pretty much every other year you're having a surgery. Some are major. All surgeries are major, as far as I’m concerned now.

"You count your blessings when you come off the field. I think you have a new appreciation when you do come off the field, win or lose. You're trying to win every time out, obviously. But I think you also pinch yourself every time you walk off the field healthy and say 'Man, at least I get a chance to go out next week and play also.' "

Brady certainly is counting his blessings even more now.

But he better get that extension signed just to be safe.

Podcast: Updated preview of AFC East

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
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Bill Daughtry from ESPN 1050 in New York invited me onto his show late Thursday night to talk about the New York Jets and preview the AFC East.

We talked about the latest episode of "Hard Knocks" and the revelations of the Jets' internal depth chart, which included notes on some players who might be doomed. Other topics included the New England Patriots' vulnerability on defense and the low-profile Miami Dolphins being a dangerous opponent.

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