AFC East: Vonta Leach

The Miami Dolphins lack a true fullback on their roster. Would Miami have any interest in former three-time Pro Bowler Vonta Leach?

Leach
There are reasons to believe the Dolphins could kick the tires on Leach for a second straight year. The Baltimore Ravens cut Leach Thursday in an effort to save salary.

Leach was in a similar situation last year when the Ravens cut him to save cap room. Leach was immediately invited to Miami to visit during the team’s minicamp. He watched practice and talked to former general manager Jeff Ireland, but Leach never signed with the Dolphins. Instead, he returned to Baltimore.

The Dolphins moved on without a fullback in 2013 in their West Coast offense. Miami tried to convert tight end Michael Egnew to fullback and had mixed results. The Dolphins were 26th in rushing and struggled to consistently gain yards on the ground. Miami also set a new franchise record with 58 quarterback sacks allowed.

Miami most likely learned its lesson that a true fullback is needed. However, Leach might be the most expensive option. The Dolphins certainly have the cap room to spend, but they might want to also explore cheaper fullback options in free agency and the draft.

Links: Leach not out of picture in Miami

July, 19, 2013
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NFL.com's Adam Schein identifies the AFC East players who need to achieve -- and overachieve -- for each to team reach its potential.

Buffalo Bills

Appearing on The John Murphy Show Thursday night, former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly says his recovery from surgery to remove a cancerous tumor continues, although not quite as quickly as he would like.

Who can lead the Bills' defense from the middle linebacker position, Chris Brown of the team's official website wonders.

Brown also writes there are other candidates for the team's most important player, beyond defensive end Mario Williams.

Training camp begins in 10 days for the Bills, and the Buffalo News has a list of all the practices.

Miami Dolphins

While the Dolphins plan to enter training camp without offering free agent Vonta Leach a contract, the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reports Leach is not completely out of the picture in Miami.

With Mike Dee leaving the Dolphins as their CEO, Salguero takes a closer look at one possible in-house candidate.

Two days before training camp starts, the Dolphins added first-year wide receiver Kenny Stafford to their 90-man roster.

Running back Lamar Miller continues to heap praise upon his workout partner, 49ers' Frank Gore. "Just learning from the guy who went to the University of Miami and is from the same neighborhood I'm from, pretty much it just takes my overall game to the next level," Miller told Erica A. Hernandez of the Sun-Sentinel.

New Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe chats with The Finsiders about what he'll bring to the defense as he joins the team following a Super Bowl run with the Ravens.

Cornerback Brent Grimes, a former Falcon, tells the team's official website that he's not sweating the Dolphins' home opener against Atlanta.

The Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly ranks the Dolphins' top 10 position battles.

New England Patriots

Stevan Ridley makes the cut as a running back who CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan would like to see crack the 300-carry mark this season and get the Patriots' offense back to the pre-2007 season style.

Steve Beauharnais could add value down the road for the Patriots' linebacking corps, writes ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks asks -- and answers -- this question: How many Tom Brady passes will hit the ground without Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and a rehabbing Rob Gronkowski around this preseason?

"There's little doubting that (Chandler) Jones has many of the requisite skills to be an invaluable edge player for the Patriots, though the development of both his body and technique will play a part in his long-term outlook," writes Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com.

The Patriots' website finishes up its Position Battle series with a look at a pair of tight ends: Daniel Fells, a veteran in his second year with the Pats, and Zach Sudfeld, an undrafted free agent.

New York Jets

It's no coincidence that Chris Ivory was acquired by Jets general manager John Idzik, a former Seattle Seahawks executive, in an April trade. Ivory falls in at No. 13 on NFL.com's top 40 players most likely to Make the Leap in 2013. Also, CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan says Ivory could be the "sleeper of Fantasy drafts."

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com writes chemistry and two new starters on the offensive line could be an issue for the Jets early on.

The Jets withdrew their application for a helipad at their Florham Park training facility amid neighbors' opposition to the project, writes Justin Zaremba of NJ.com.

Links: Traits that shaped Doug Marrone

July, 15, 2013
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Buffalo Bills

Buffalo had three players in the Pro Bowl last season. The team's website asks, who will get the nod this year?

Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News profiles new Bills coach Doug Marrone. Self-confidence, drive and a willingness to question authority are traits that have helped shape Marrone’s football career, Gaughan writes.

The Bills and star safety Jairus Byrd have no contract talks scheduled for Monday, the deadline for franchised players to sign long-term deals, a source close to the talks told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Miami Dolphins

Running back Lamar Miller is impressing his peers this summer during workouts in North Miami Beach, writes Marc Sessler of NFL.com. "He's the fastest running back I've ever seen," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.

The team's website previews the Dolphins' running backs.

A Dolphins spokesman said the team isn't commenting on center Mike Pouncey sporting a "Free Hernandez" hat, an apparent reference for his former University of Florida teammate, Aaron Hernandez, who is facing a murger charge.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald addresses a possible deal for fullback Vonta Leach.

New England Patriots

The team's website continues its countdown of 13 questions for 2013. The latest topic -- the quarterback position, specifically as it relates to Tim Tebow.

The Patriots have taken some risks on players thought to have questions in character. That's hurting the team now, Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe writes.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com updates the New England roster.

SI.com's Peter King includes a section on the lessons he takes away from Hernandez's murder charge.

New York Jets

If the Jets struggle in 2013 and coach Rex Ryan is let go, he shouldn't worry about future employment, Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News writes. The TV networks should be pushing for Ryan's services.

Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.'s goal for 2013: 100 catches for the Jets.

Remember Strat-O-Matic baseball? Ben Shpigel of the New York Times writes that Rex Ryan was a big fan back in the day.

In an exclusive interview with the New York Post, fifth-round pick Oday Aboushi — a Brooklyn native who is believed to be the first Palestinian-American ever drafted by an NFL team — adamantly denied charges leveled by a conservative website last week that Aboushi is anti-Semitic and uses social media to endorse what they consider Palestinian terrorist groups.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: This won’t be the first or last time we see a pro athlete partying. But Sanchez has to be smarter than this. Some are already calling this the “Butt Fumble Part II.”
  • NFL rookies can learn a lot from the case of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Morning take: There are plenty of cautionary tales, but this is the most recent. Hernandez had a really good situation in New England but now faces major legal issues that may potentially ruin his career.
Morning take: Training camp is important for a team like the Bills. They are in transition with a new offense, a new defense and a new quarterback. All these moving parts must be in sync by their Week 1 game against New England.
  • The Miami Dolphins continue to have dialogue with free-agent fullback Vonta Leach.
Morning take: Miami has been pegged as the favorite. The Dolphins have been very aggressive in free agency, and it's rare to be able to add a Pro Bowl player this late in the offseason.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC East:
  • New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith says he's not sure if he will attend the Mark Sanchez-led “Jets West” camp.
Morning take: This camp has been organized the past few years for Sanchez to get a better rapport with his receivers and tight ends. It would seem a little odd for Smith to take time and reps away from Sanchez at his own event.
Morning take: This is terrific news for Kelly, who received a scare with cancer of the jaw. Hopefully, Kelly can move on without further complications.
  • New England Patriots linebacker and leader Jerod Mayo says the team has to ignore the noise.
Morning take: New England’s offseason problems are of its own doing. Aaron Hernandez has legal issues, Rob Gronkowski cannot stay healthy and the Patriots brought tons of attention by signing popular quarterback Tim Tebow.
Morning take: This would be another big addition for the Dolphins, who have had a strong offseason. Leach would be a major upgrade over Miami’s current fullbacks: Charles Clay and Jorvorskie Lane.
It’s no surprise the free-spending Miami Dolphins have been aggressive in their pursuit of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach after his release from the Baltimore Ravens. The Dolphins were among the first teams to call, and they set up a visit immediately with Leach on Wednesday.

Leach
But the Dolphins aren’t the only team interested in Leach’s services. In the past 48 hours, the Houston Texans, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs reportedly have reached out to Leach's representatives. This means Miami could end up in a bidding war for Leach’s services.

Interest from multiple teams obviously favors Leach. It is doubtful Miami can get Leach on a one-year, team-friendly contract. Leach is a good player who can probably call his shot and get a sizable, multiyear offer from Miami or another team in the upcoming days or weeks. Miami must decide how much its willing to spend to land arguably the best fullback in the NFL. It is evident Miami's coaching staff hasn't been too impressed this spring with current fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Charles Clay.

The Dolphins have already spent more than $200 million in free-agent contracts this offseason, which includes $117 million in guaranteed money. Are they willing to outbid several other teams to land Leach?
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins continued Day 2 of their three-day minicamp on Wednesday. The AFC East blog was live in attendance to take in all the action.

Here is a recap of big happenings in Dolphins’ camp.
  • Although unusual, most of the buzz in minicamp Wednesday surrounded the fullback position. Former Baltimore Ravens fullback and Pro Bowler Vonta Leach was in town to meet with Miami’s brass. Miami head coach Joe Philbin spent some time with Leach in Green Bay early in Leach's career. Philbin told a funny story about Leach’s first day. “I remember on his first day I had to point him to the practice field and give him a ride to the practice field – and that’s a true story,” Philbin said. “He was lost. He was totally lost.” Philbin added that the Dolphins are always looking for ways to improve the team.
  • Meanwhile, one of Miami’s fullbacks had an awful day at practice. Fullback/tight end Charles Clay had three drops and another borderline drop in team drills. Clay and Jorvorskie Lane are both in the spotlight now that Miami is looking to upgrade at fullback. The Dolphins also claimed former Chicago Bears fullback Evan Rodriguez off waivers, although he didn’t do much Wednesday in his first practice.
  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t have one of his better days. The offense sputtered in team drills and Tannehill threw two interceptions -- one to cornerback Brent Grimes and the other to cornerback De’Andre Presley. One of Tannehill’s issues from last year is reducing turnovers. He had more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) in 2012.
  • Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino stopped by to watch practice. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and general manager Jeff Ireland also were in attendance.
  • Miami No. 3 receiver Brandon Gibson had another very good day. He made several terrific catches and is making good progress in the slot. Gibson is a smooth route runner and provides a sizable target inside. Gibson looks much more comfortable than he did three weeks ago.
  • It was an up and down day for Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis. The fifth-round pick made three field goals from 43, 47 and 50 yards, but he also missed two kicks from 43 and 46 yards. Sturgis is in a tight competition with veteran incumbent Dan Carpenter. It will be up to the rookie to do extra if he wants to take the roster spot Carpenter has held for several years.
  • Finally, Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive tackle Randy Starks received reps for the first time in team drills. Starks, who held out of organized team activities in a contract dispute, played mostly on the second team. But Starks also rotated some with Jared Odrick at defensive tackle with the starters. Miami could have a strong three-man rotation at defensive tackle this year with Starks, Odrick and Paul Soliaia. Second-year player Olivier Vernon is playing a lot at defensive end, and it appears he will compete with No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan in training camp for the starting position.
When a big-name free agent is available this offseason, there is a good chance the Miami Dolphins have interest.

Leach
The free-spending Dolphins, who have already handed out contracts worth more than $200 million this year, will host Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach on Wednesday, according to the Baltimore Sun. Leach was released Tuesday by the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens after the sides could not agree on a restructured contract.

Miami entered free agency with plenty of room under the salary cap and has signed big-name free agents such as receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Brent Grimes, tight end Dustin Keller and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, a former teammate of Leach. The Dolphins have been extremely aggressive in an effort to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and close the gap with the New England Patriots in the AFC East.

Leach, a three-time Pro Bowler, would definitely be an upgrade over what Miami currently has a fullback. Jorvorskie Lane is still young -- 2013 will be his second NFL season -- and has battled weight issues in the past.

The Dolphins also claimed former Chicago Bears fullback Evan Rodriguez off waivers -- a clear sign Miami is looking to improve the position.

Three things: Jets at Texans

August, 15, 2011
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Three things to watch for when the New York Jets face the Houston Texans in the preseason opener for both teams (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

1. The Jets’ passing game: The Texans were historically poor defending the pass last season, but they are attempting an overhaul in that department with Wade Phillips implementing his attacking 3-4 scheme in 2011. Houston certainly looks improved on paper, but there will surely be growing pains as the Texans attempt to integrate new faces into a new scheme, and then translate it all to the field very quickly. Can Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his group of pass-catchers take advantage of the miscues likely to present themselves?

2. Decipher the Blitz: Given the changes in Houston, I’m interested to see how well Sanchez reads the Texans’ blitz package prior to the snap, and how well he adjusts to what he sees. Even though Houston’s 3-4 is in its infancy, Phillips will still bring pressure from all over. Making the proper calls to pick up extra rushers will be crucial. Specifically, accounting for Mario Williams, who will be playing his first game at outside linebacker, should be the top priority in terms of keeping Sanchez protected.

3. Strength vs. Strength: The Texans’ offensive line is rarely mentioned as one of the best in the NFL, but Houston is superb up front. There is not one particular lineman who stands out, but it is a cohesive unit that is especially strong in the running game. With the exception of fullback Vonta Leach, who is now in Baltimore, Houston’s run blocking returns intact from last season. The Jets led by Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito and their exceptional inside linebackers, are a very difficult team to run on. It will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out.

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