AFC East: Vince Young

New York Jets cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: It wasn't a surprise, but the New York Jets waived Greg McElroy, their only quarterback not named Mark Sanchez who has started a game in the NFL. Granted, McElroy has only one career start, but the move is significant because it underscores the lack of experience at the position. If Sanchez (shoulder) doesn't dress for the season opener, it leaves the position to Geno Smith, Matt Simms and Graham Harrell, who have a combined total of four career pass attempts -- all by Harrell. The former Packers backup made the final cut despite having spent only three days with the Jets. McElroy was waived with an injury, so he wouldn't have been ready for Week 1 anyway. Still, this is a precarious situation to say the least.

Not much depth on offense: Aside from quarterback, the Jets are perilously thin at a few spots. They have only five receivers, one of whom (Santonio Holmes) is a question mark because of his surgically repaired foot. The group includes a rookie free agent, Ryan Spadola. They also don't have an experienced backup at tackle. Jason Smith was supposed to be that guy, but he was atrocious in the final preseason game. Vladimir Ducasse can play some tackle, but that's not his best spot. Rookie OT Oday Aboushi (fifth-round pick) isn't ready to play. They have low numbers in the backfield -- only four backs, although Mike Goodson will be eligible to return from his suspension in Week 5.

What's ahead: The Jets need help on offense. You can't go into a season with Aboushi as your No. 3 tackle, so look for them to address this over the next 24 hours. Anybody up for a Wayne Hunter reunion? The wide-receiver situation is interesting. Right now, the Jets have only three healthy and experienced receivers. They're either confident Holmes will return for the opener or they have plans to add a veteran. The quarterback situation bears watching, too. If Sanchez is sidelined a few weeks, it might behoove New York to import an experienced backup. A couple of former Marty Mornhinweg-ites are available -- Vince Young and Trent Edwards.

Jets cuts: QB Greg McElroy (injured), RB Mossis Madu (injured), WR Michael Campbell, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Ben Obomanu, WR Zach Rogers, TE Chris Pantale, C Erik Cook, OT J.B. Shugarts, OT Jason Smith, DL Junior Aumavae, DL Lanier Coleman, DL Tevita Finau, DL Antonio Garay, LB Troy Davis, LB JoJo Dickson, LB Jacquies Smith, DB Royce Adams, DB Mike Edwards, DB Rontez Miles, PK Dan Carpenter.

Placed on reserve/suspended: RB Mike Goodson.

Three things: Bills-Lions

August, 30, 2012
The Buffalo Bills travel to Detroit to play their preseason finale against the Lions Thursday night. It is Buffalo’s final chance to get a win in the preseason.

Here are three things to watch for in this game:

1. Tarvaris Jackson's Bills debut

Buffalo made headlines this week by cutting former first-round pick Vince Young and trading with the Seattle Seahawks for Jackson. Both quarterbacks have similar playing styles, but the Bills feel Jackson is an upgrade to backup starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jackson must be a quick learner in Buffalo’s offense. He will most likely run some basic plays tonight. But Jackson will need to have full command of the offense early in the regular season if Fitzpatrick gets injured.

2. No injuries

Last week’s preseason game was the "dress rehearsal," this week is all about survival. Buffalo, like many teams, just want to get out of this game healthy. The Bills have a huge season opener Sept. 9 against the division rival New York Jets. Buffalo will need all its weapons to win on the road. Bills coach Chan Gailey said his starters will be on the field for about 10 plays, just to get their feet wet. If no starters get injured Thursday night, that is more important than a victory.

3. Which rookies will step up?

Don’t expect to see much of first-round pick Stephon Gilmore and second-round pick Cordy Glenn. But beyond that, Buffalo’s rookie class should get a lot of opportunities against Detroit to show what they can do. Players like rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham and first-year linebacker Tank Carder should see playing time in this fourth preseason game.
The Buffalo Bills made a trade this week with the Seattle Seahawks to acquire quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Buffalo believes Jackson will be an upgrade over former backup Vince Young. As a result, the Bills also released Young.

We checked in with our resident scout, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., to get his thoughts on Buffalo acquiring Jackson.
"Jackson had a much better year than many realized. He played with a torn pectoral to finish the season and it showed. But he’s very tough with a big arm and great speed. But Jackson has poor accuracy and tough. He’s a real good backup for [Bills coach] Chan Gailey and an upgrade over Vince Young."

So there you have it. Williamson is on board with the Jackson signing and deemed him an upgrade over Young.

What are your thoughts?
Rarely do roster moves at quarterback have little impact. It's the most important position on the field, and the starter and backup have crucial roles in the stability of an offense.

But there is something about cutting Vince Young and trading for Tarvaris Jackson that feels like the Buffalo Bills are spinning their wheels. What is the difference between Young and Jackson? Is either player really an upgrade over the other? They are similar in playing style, age and, in my opinion, talent.

I'm not sure what the Bills see in Jackson that would persuade them to not only release Young but also give up a draft pick and restructure Jackson's contract to acquire him. It's not that Young was great this preseason. (He wasn't.) It's just the difference between the two players doesn't seem worth the additional cost.

Jackson will bring many of the same things to the table that Young did. Jackson is a mobile, veteran backup with starting experience.

Perhaps the Bills just weren't comfortable with Young behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. I'm sure Buffalo had its reasons. But on paper I don't see much of a difference between Young and Jackson. They are essentially the same player.
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC East:
  • Miami Dolphins rookie head coach Joe Philbin says he doesn't regret trading Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears this offseason.
Morning take: Philbin did not want to put up with the headache Marshall can bring while trying to establish a new program. But it's clear Philbin could have used Marshall’s talent. Miami’s current group of receivers has little playmaking ability.
Morning take: New England hasn't looked in synch offensively, but this group hasn't received much playing time, either. The Patriots will go into the regular season a little bit rusty due to lack of reps in the preseason.
  • The New York Jets suffered several injuries in Sunday night's preseason game, including to linebacker David Harris (ankle) and tight ends Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Josh Baker (knee).
Morning take: The tight-end injuries are most concerning. Keller is very important and needs to be ready for the Bills in Week 1. Baker may be out for a significant time.
  • Is quarterback Tarvaris Jackson an upgrade over Vince Young for the Buffalo Bills?
Morning take: I’m not big on either as a quarterback. But the Bills must see something in Jackson that they might not see in Young. Their quarterback cuts will be interesting.
The Buffalo Bills pulled off a somewhat surprising move Sunday by trading an undisclosed draft pick for Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. The Bills have two backups -- Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen -- competing for the No. 2 job behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. But there's a good chance now that neither will make the 53-man roster.

Young is coming off his worst performance of the preseason. He completed just 12 of 26 passes for 103 yards and two interceptions in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That might have been enough for Buffalo to work out the trade for Jackson and say bye-bye to "VY."

Jackson isn't a huge talent upgrade, if at all, but he also has starting experience. Jackson became expendable in Seattle with the quarterback additions of Matt Flynn and impressive-looking rookie Russell Wilson.

Buffalo now has five quarterbacks: Fitzpatrick, Jackson, Young, Thigpen and Brad Smith. Only three will stay in this group, and the favorites are "Fitz," Smith and the newly acquired Jackson.

Observation deck: Bills-Steelers

August, 25, 2012

The Buffalo Bills had their third and most important game of the preseason Saturday night. The Steelers won 38-7.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: The Bills finally started fast, and they did it against a good team. Buffalo took its second drive 49 yards on five plays and briefly showed the kind of offense it can be in the regular season. Fred Jackson capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams also showed by the Bills gave him a $100 million contract with a pair of sacks. It's good momentum for Williams heading into the regular season.

What I didn’t like: Preseason or not, I don't like the fact that Buffalo gave up 38 unanswered points at home. I know these games don't count, and I know it was 14-7 at halftime with the starters. But the Bills should have more depth and pride than to let it get this out of hand. The Steelers pounded the Bills after Buffalo's only touchdown. Pittsburgh forced three turnovers and had 21 points off turnovers. The Bills are winless this preseason, which might not matter. But at times, the Bills have appeared to play as though they know they can turn it on when it matters. That's a dangerous game. The Bills haven't proven they know how to win.

Inconsistent Young: Buffalo backup quarterback Vince Young did a great job in the second preseason game to establish himself as the favorite to backup starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. But Young took a step back against the Steelers. Young was 12-of-26 for 103 yards and two interceptions. He had a passer rating of 25.0 and made some mistakes a veteran with plenty of starting experience should not make. Young had a chance to finalize his backup status but didn't. He left the door open for Tyler Thigpen to try to make another push in the final week.

McGee makes his case: Buffalo cornerback Terrence McGee was concerned this summer that his knee might not be healthy enough in time to show he deserves a roster spot. But the veteran is feeling better and had a good performance against Pittsburgh, making four tackles and two for a loss. He can help Buffalo’s young corners if he stays healthy. But the Bills have to make a tough decision in the next week due to the injury risk.

What's next: The Bills play their final preseason game Thursday against the Detroit Lions. This will be just a survival game, one Buffalo hopes to escape without major injuries ahead of the regular-season opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 9 at MetLife Stadium.

AFC East Preseason Stock Watch

August, 19, 2012
Week 2 of the preseason is nearly in the books. The New England Patriots still have their game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

But here is a look at whose stock is rising and falling this preseason in the AFC East:


1. New York Jets RT Wayne Hunter: One of the biggest offseason mysteries is why the Jets didn't do enough to find a replacement for Hunter. He struggled mightily last year. Yet, New York didn't draft a top right tackle or sign one in free agency. Hunter made his 2012 preseason debut and looked much like he did in 2011, allowing two easy sacks to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Hunter also allowed a third sack to Osi Umenyiora, but it was called back on a defensive penalty. Things became so bad that Hunter was trending on Twitter at one point last night. If the Jets continue to stick with Hunter, it could be bad news for the Jets' offense and starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.

2. First-quarter defenses: We won't overrate the preseason. But the first-string defenses from the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have been a bit concerning. The Dolphins have allowed 24 first-quarter points the past two preseason games. They can't get off the field. Granted, Miami linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and defensive end Cameron Wake were out Friday, but Tampa Bay had success as well. This group says it wants to be a top-10 defense and needs to play much better. Buffalo has been healthy but the starters allowed 10 unanswered points in the first quarter; opponents have scored 17 first-quarter points in two preseason games. The Bills need to do a better job of setting the tone and can't assume they can turn it on Week 1 against the Jets.

3. Matt Moore, Dolphins quarterback: Moore was the favorite to win Miami's quarterback job when the offseason began. He was the incumbent who had the health advantage over David Garrard and experience advantage over rookie Ryan Tannehill. But once all three quarterbacks took the practice field, it was clear Moore was falling behind. Garrard got the nod in the opener and Tannehill earned a chance to start over the weekend against Carolina. Moore hasn't done well in practices or games. He was 5-for-15 for 57 yards against the Carolina Panthers. Overall, Moore is 12-of-27 for 136 yards and an interception.

[+] EnlargeVince Young
AP Photo/Genevieve RossSolid work against Minnesota boosted Vince Young's shot at landing the Bills' backup job.

1. Vince Young, Bills quarterback: Young came out as the big winner in Buffalo's 36-14 loss to Minnesota, taking a big step in his quest to win the No. 2 quarterback job by completing 8 of 14 passes for 123 yards. It also didn't hurt that his competition -- Tyler Thigpen -- threw his second interception of the preseason. Buffalo most likely will keep only one of these quarterbacks, and it appears Young has the inside track with two preseason games left.

2. LaRon Landry, Jets safety: The Jets brought in Landry this offseason to be an enforcer. He showed flashes of it Saturday night with some big plays against the Giants. Landry laid the lumber on Giants receiver Victor Cruz and also recorded his first interception of the preseason. It was a solid showing for Landry, who must stay healthy this year.

3. New England's return game: The Patriots didn't need more assistance scoring points. But they might have got it with the signing of former Florida running back and Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps. New England beat out the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and others for the speedster. The Patriots appear fine at running back, but where Demps may be able to contribute the most right away is returning kicks. Better field position for quarterback Tom Brady and Co. could mean more points.

Observation deck: Bills-Vikings

August, 18, 2012
The Buffalo Bills played their second preseason game Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota won the game, 36-14.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Buffalo's got plenty of plays from their "other" wide receivers. No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson had just one catch for seven yards. But the big question is who will step up after Johnson? Several receivers made their case against Minnesota, including third-round pick T.J. Graham. The rookie led the Bills with 69 yards, including a nice 64-yard catch where Graham showed his speed. Donald Jones also had a 31-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second quarter, and Naaman Roosevelt led Buffalo with six receptions. The receiver group showed improvement against the Vikings.

What I didn't like: I don't like the slow starts from Buffalo. This is a group that is much improved on paper and wants to compete for the playoffs. However, the early returns from the starters have not been stellar. Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder had his way with Buffalo's first-team defense. Ponder carved up the Bills and was 10-of-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota led 10-0 after the first quarter, and Buffalo's offense didn't do much until the second quarter. It's only the preseason, but Buffalo needs to begin developing a more aggressive, winning mindset. The Bills can't assume they can just turn it on against the New York Jets in Week 1.

Young moving head: Vince Young had an important and solid performance against Minnesota that most likely moved him ahead in the race to be the No. 2 quarterback. Young led all Bills quarterbacks by going 8-of-14 for 123 yards. His counterpart, Tyler Thigpen, was 8-of-15 for 56 yards and an interception. The Bills probably will keep just one of these players and make Brad Smith the third quarterback.

Sacks for DTs: The best part of Buffalo's starting defense Friday was its two tackles. Both Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus recorded sacks with the first-team. This pair will be important in getting a push up front against the run and pass. Williams and Dareus showed a glimpse of what they can do together against Minnesota.

What's next: The Bills will return to Ralph Wilson Stadium next week to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be an important, third preseason game for both teams to get ready for the regular season.
Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC East:
  • New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley missed a significant portion of practice with a right leg injury.
Morning take: The severity is unknown. But New England needs a healthy Ridley to boost the running game. Ridley and Vereen could be a good one-two punch if both stay injury-free.
Morning take: Sanchez is doing all he can to prove the doubters wrong. But he will have to perform well throughout, and there is no guarantee that will happen for all 16 games.
  • Buffalo Bills quarterback Vince Young is adjusting to life as a backup after once being a franchise quarterback.
Morning take: Young has had a star-crossed career. It began with a lot of promise but fizzled out in Tennessee. Young still believes he's starting material, but he is only fighting for a No. 2 job in Buffalo.
Morning take: I was disappointed in Miami's starting defense last week. The Dolphins will experience some growing pains learning a new 4-3 scheme. But this group needs to learn fast and become the strength of the Dolphins.
The Buffalo Bills have a lot to work on with their three quarterbacks this preseason. Buffalo wants to get starter Ryan Fitzpatrick primed for Week 1 of the regular season against the New York Jets, while figuring out its backup situation between Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen.

Buffalo worked on several things in the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, and as a result, the quarterback reps were uneven.

"[It] did not happen last week," Bills coach Chan Gailey told Buffalo reporters. "Tyler got 19 and Vince got 30. We would like to stay at 20 and 20 if we can. With [Fitzpatrick] getting 20, you like to think a game is 60-something plays. Tyler may end up with a few more this week."

The Bills need to know their backup quarterback soon. Therefore, Thigpen and Young should get an equal opportunity to impress the coaching staff over the next couple of preseason games. It starts Friday for Buffalo against the Minnesota Vikings.

The loser of this quarterback battle most likely won't make the team. Buffalo is preparing Brad Smith to be the emergency/Wildcat quarterback in its offense. The pressure is on Young and Thigpen to perform well in these upcoming preseason games.
The Buffalo Bills were in the experimental phase with their starting offense in the preseason opener. Buffalo passed the football 14 consecutive times with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick using a no-huddle offense.

It was a good time to test a new wrinkle. However, there were two casualties with this strategy: running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Neither tailback got any carries last week for Buffalo. The Bills should give Jackson and Spiller plenty of work Friday against the Minnesota Vikings. They have the potential to be one of the top one-two punches at running back in the AFC. Jackson is coming off a season-ending leg injury and needs to round back into pre-injury form. Spiller has received limited carries as a backup in his three-year career.

Backup quarterback Vince Young was Buffalo's leading rusher in a 7-6 preseason opening loss to the Washington Redskins. Third-string tailback Tashard Choice got the most carries (nine).

It's time to give Jackson and Spiller a little love this week. This is the strength of Buffalo's offense this year, and the Jackson-Spiller combo needs to be sharp for the regular season.

Observation deck: Redskins-Bills

August, 9, 2012

The new-look Buffalo Bills began their 2012 season with a 7-6 loss to the Washington Redskins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Buffalo's new-look defense got off to a great start, which is exactly what the Bills want. Buffalo forced a three-and-out against Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, then recovered a fumble on the first two series. Bills safety George Wilson's fumble recovery set up Buffalo's first points of the exhibition season, which was a field goal by Rian Lindell. Griffin eventually had some success throwing on Washington's third drive. But the Bills played well defensively throughout the game.

What I didn't like: The Bills' starting offense didn't do much. Buffalo's first team scored just three points in four drives, which was a gift from the defense after a turnover. The Bills also had a Steve Johnson touchdown catch negated with a penalty. Rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn also had a false start. Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw early and often. He was 6-of-14 for 61 yards. The Bills didn't run the ball entire first quarter, but we will get to that next.

Change of pace: The reason Buffalo didn't run the ball in the first quarter was due to an interesting wrinkle. The Bills used a no-huddle offense with the starters. It's a nice change of pace and it will be interesting to see if the Bills will stick with this in the regular season. The no-huddle can be risky if it doesn't work. But it shows two things: First, the coaches have confidence in Fitzpatrick. Second, the Bills feel their defense is improved. Still, the Bills need more balance than what the starters showed Thursday night if this no-huddle offense will be successful.

Return of Kyle: This is the first game back for Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and he played well in limited snaps. Williams missed much of 2011 with a foot and Achilles injury. But he showed some of his old form by recording a tackle and was disruptive in the first two drives.

Young debuts in Buffalo: Backup quarterback Vince Young had to wait a while. But he finally made his Buffalo debut in the third quarter after Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen both had their time on the field. Young still needs work passing. He was 5-for-12 with 50 yards, but Young did rush for 37 yards. Young is in competition with Thigpen for the No. 2 job. Thigpen was 3-for-8 with 38 yards and an interception.

Bills Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: We will see a big improvement in talent, the most coach Chan Gailey has had in his three seasons in Buffalo. It’s not even close, especially after a series of solid offseason acquisitions.

It started with the $100 million signing of former Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams. It continued with the signing of fellow defensive end Mark Anderson, the selections of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left tackle Cordy Glenn in the draft, and the extensions given to No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson and starting tailback Fred Jackson. Expectations are running high in Buffalo.

One thing that might happen: We might finally see a healthy Shawne Merriman. It’s been awhile since "Lights Out" has been 100 percent. But offseason Achilles surgery has Merriman feeling good about his chances to be healthy and productive again in 2012.

Merriman is a role player at this point of his career. But Buffalo definitely can use him in the rotation at defensive end in its new 4-3 defense. The Bills could have a formidable and deep pass rush at defensive end with Williams, Anderson, Chris Kelsay and a healthy Merriman. The Bills have enough depth this season that they might not have to rely on Merriman, but it would be a nice bonus if Merriman returns close to his old form.

One thing we won't see: We will not see a quarterback controversy. Some initially thought backup Vince Young, because of his big name, was signed to push starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, Young will be in a battle with incumbent Tyler Thigpen for the No. 2 job.

The Bills are behind Fitzpatrick, especially after paying him $59 million. But they also realize the importance of quarterback depth after Fitzpatrick struggled in the second half of last season playing with injured ribs. Young has 30 career wins and can fill in for Fitzpatrick if he is injured. But Young must get by Thigpen first, and I think that’s going to be a tougher battle than people think.

Video: AFC East quarterback competitions

July, 17, 2012

AFC East blogger James Walker talks about the quarterback competitions to watch as training camps get ready to open.