NFL Nation: AFC East

Jerod Mayo undergoes knee surgery

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo underwent surgery to repair his torn patellar tendon on Thursday morning, according to Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.

Mayo, who injured his knee while making a tackle on Buffalo Bills running back Anthony Dixon in the second quarter of the Patriots' 37-22 win on Sunday, was carted off the field. Mayo appeared to be making a routine tackle, but the combination of the awkward position of his knee and the force of Dixon’s strong run caused Mayo’s knee to bend abnormally, leading to the tear.


A torn patella tendon is considered to be a more serious injury than an ACL tear. The recovery period for Mayo is expected to be about six months.

This is the second torn patellar tendon injury of the past weekend as New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered the same injury on Sunday night.

Mayo has not been placed on injured reserve, though that move seems imminent as six months would put Mayo out until at least April.

With this injury and surgery, Mayo will now have suffered season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Mayo tore his pectoral muscle last season in Week 6 and missed the remainder of the season.

The question now is whether Mayo will be able to return his high level of play in 2015.

AFC East

The Film Don't Lie: Bills

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
A weekly look at what the Buffalo Bills must fix:

Early in his postgame news conference following Sunday's 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions, Bills coach Doug Marrone didn't mince his words about one area where his offense needed improvement.

"Our first downs were very, very poor," he said.

When the Bills return home to face the New England Patriots this weekend, they'll have to do better on first downs, specifically in the running game.

The Bills' 0.44 yards per carry on first down was the NFL's second-worst single-game performance this season, behind only the Oakland Raiders' minus-0.29 average in Week 1.

Of the Bills' nine first-down rushes in the game, six went to C.J. Spiller. One play gained 2 yards, four plays gained 1 yard and the other was a loss of 2 yards. Add in a failed end-around to Marquise Goodwin that lost 8 yards, and the Bills' rushing average on first downs was abysmal.

The story with Spiller is the same as it's been, and what I highlighted after Week 3. He isn't a player who is built to break tackles in a confined area, so he's better off being used in space.

On Monday, Marrone acknowledged that the Bills were trying to open up more opportunities for Spiller to break tackles in a less enclosed area.

"[The Lions have] a very difficult defense. They were the top defense in the league. It’s very difficult. You’ve got to hit in 100 miles per hour and go and break tackles," he said. "There’s not going to be a lot of free areas and getting him in space and things like that. We tried to do that with a couple of the screens and swinging the ball out to him.

"It’s just a matter of doing a better job all-around."

I'll agree with Marrone on that last part. However, a more specific solution would be to turn more to Fred Jackson on first down. The Bills already lean on Jackson in the passing game on later downs, but he's been their most consistent offensive player and would be a more reliable option on first down.

The Film Don’t Lie: Jets

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the New York Jets must fix:

The Jets are into the "Missiles of October" portion of their schedule, as they face Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in an 11-day span. Unfortunately for the Jets, they're hitting this stretch with a defense that doesn't scare quarterbacks.

Oh sure, the Jets' defensive front will gets its share of sacks, but when it comes to making game-changing plays -- forcing turnovers -- its useless. Rex Ryan's defense has produced zero interceptions in four games. The only other team with an oh-fer is the New Orleans Saints, whose defense is headed by Ryan's twin brother, Rob. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

It's pretty amazing when you think about it: Opposing quarterbacks have dropped back to pass a total of 150 times against the Jets, and not one of those throws has ended up in the wrong hands. On Sunday, they travel to the San Diego Chargers and will face the hottest quarterback in the league. Rivers has a league-best 114.5 passer rating and has completed 70 percent of his attempts.

How does Ryan fix the takeaway issue? It's tough because they're undermanned at cornerback. The anticipated return of former first-round pick Dee Milliner should help -- maybe. Ryan is a man-to-man coach, but maybe he can change it up by playing more zone. Maybe he can play more two-high-safety looks instead of the usual one. He has to do something, because the Jets' bad start could turn ugly over the next 11 days.

Joe Philbin fine with QB criticism

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is aware that many people -- including his own quarterback -- disagreed with his decision to not publicly endorse Ryan Tannehill this week. The Dolphins are starting Tannehill in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Yet, Philbin is dodging the topic publicly, which caused an unnecessary distraction for an already struggling team.

Plenty of people in South Florida, including former Dolphins greats Jason Taylor and Bob Griese, have voiced their displeasure with the way Philbin is handling his quarterbacks. In fact, it gets more and more difficult to find support for Philbin on this issue with each passing day.

Still, Philbin isn't concerned with critics and remains steadfast that he did the right thing.

"I think that's totally fair. I think everybody is entitled to their opinion," Philbin said of the backlash. "They certainly can feel free to express it, and just like you said, at the end of the day, I have to go to sleep and put my head on the pillow and do what I think is the right thing. I have no issues with any of that."

In other words, Philbin is not budging. He has turned down multiple opportunities to publicly support Tannehill. There is a good chance Philbin will continue to handle Tannehill this way, especially if the third-year quarterback continues to struggle in games.

Tannehill said he received clarity on the situation from Philbin behind the scenes. But it is curious that Philbin couldn't back Tannehill in front of the media.

How Philbin handles Tannehill going forward -- including Sunday's game in London against Oakland -- certainly is worth monitoring.

Sammy Watkins on 'nagging' rib injury

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- On the field, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins showed few ill-effects of a preseason rib injury during Sunday's 29-10 win over the Miami Dolphins.

 On the sidelines during that game, however, Watkins was visited several times by team medical staff and at one point was hunched over near the bench area after returning from play.

Watkins was listed as a full participant during practice this week and says his condition is improving.

"I'm feeling pretty good. Just day by day, it gets better," he said. "I just have to keep working and keep getting stronger."

After catching three passes in the season opener, Watkins had eight receptions for 117 yards last Sunday. Watkins missed only three snaps (of 57 total) in Week 1 and nine snaps (of 59 total) in Week 2.

The third overall pick didn't offer a time frame on when he may be back to full strength.

"I don't know how long. It's just a nagging injury," he said. "It's something that you can play with. Hopefully it stops. Whenever it stops, I'll be fine. But right now I just have to play through it."

Ryan Tannehill preps for nemesis Bills

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill owns career wins over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts and even Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

But, surprisingly, the one team Tannehill has struggled most against throughout his NFL career is the Buffalo Bills. Tannehill is 1-3 against Buffalo, completing just 48 percent of his passes in those four games and averaging only 136.7 yards per contest.

Tannehill’s most recent outing against Buffalo was arguably his worst game. He was 10-of-27 passing for 82 yards in a 19-0 loss to the Bills in Week 16.

Tannehill will get to meet his personal nemesis when the Dolphins (1-0) travel to face the Bills (1-0) on Sunday. Tannehill knows he wasn’t his best in Week 1 against the Patriots but still put together a winning performance. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“We left a lot of plays out there. I left a lot of plays out there, personally,” Tannehill admitted. “Location of throws, missing throws, [I] had a couple of dropped passes. Details like that where we left a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns out on the field. ... But you can’t leave that many plays on the field consistently and expect to win week-in and week-out. Definitely, we want to clean those details up this week.”

Tannehill will have to play better this week. Buffalo has found a way to batter Tannehill and force Miami's offense to be one-dimensional in the past. That was especially the case during last season's season sweep when the Bills' defense registered nine quarterback sacks on Tannehill in two games.

Those two contests helped convince Miami to do a major makeover of its offensive line via free agency and the draft. The Dolphins signed veteran left tackle Branden Albert to a $47 million contract, drafted rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round and added center Samson Satele and veteran guards Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith in free agency.

Miami had five new starting offensive linemen in Week 1, and the unit thrived against New England. The Dolphins had impressive balance with 191 rushing yards and 169 passing yards, which caught the attention of Bills head coach Doug Marrone.

“As far as just a unit, in general, they’re working extremely well together and I think that’s the most impressive thing,” Marrone said in a conference call with the Miami media. “They’re knocking people off the ball.”

Both teams enter this game with momentum. That sets up this interesting matchup of surprise undefeated teams where the winner will be 2-0 and in first place in the AFC East.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, 63 percent of teams that start 2-0 since 1990 have gone on to make the playoffs. Whoever wins Sunday will be well-positioned to end a lengthy postseason drought. The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and the Bills have the NFL’s longest playoff drought dating back to the 1999 season.

“Very important just because we need to get this lead. We don’t need to be playing catch up,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “We’ve been there before. We need to see how it feels to play as the division leaders the whole time. We can do that. We have the team to do it. We just have to continue to put in the work every single week, every single day."

Bills' Sammy Watkins (ribs) probable

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins is listed as probable on the team's injury report for their regular-season opener Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

Watkins, who injured his ribs twice in the preseason, practiced fully this week. If he plays Sunday, Watkins could take some plays off.

 "Just about any other rib injury. Just the soreness of it. Nothing else can happen with the ribs," Watkins said Monday. "You just have to go out there and be strong and finish the game. If I need to take a breather, take two or three plays off from being hit, that's what I'm going to do."

Meanwhile, starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore is questionable after being limited in practice earlier this week.

Here is the Bills' full Friday injury report:

TE Lee Smith (toe)
S Jonathan Meeks (neck)

RB Anthony Dixon (hamstring)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)

LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (ribs)
LB Randell Johnson (ankle)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills made a change to their special teams depth chart this week, replacing Marquise Goodwin with C.J. Spiller as their primary kick returner.

 Here's the question: Was the move more about Goodwin, who served in that role last year, or Spiller?

With a smaller sample size, Spiller had the edge in production this preseason. Goodwin fielded five kickoffs, two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and three against the Detroit Lions, averaging 19.2 yards per return. Spiller, meanwhile, had one return for 42 yards.

There are also questions about Goodwin's durability. He's suffered several injuries since being drafted in the third round last season, something that Goodwin has attributed to his size and speed.

Still, coach Doug Marrone wants to limit Goodwin's chances of being hit.

"He’s had a lot of bumps and bruises, and we have really three guys [who] are pretty good and can probably start anywhere," Marrone said Thursday. "If we can take a lick off, we’ll take a lick off until Marquise gets better, and then we’ll make decision."

If Goodwin has a chance of injury on kickoffs, the coaching staff doesn't share the same concerns about Spiller, one of its more valuable offensive playmakers.

"What’s the risk? I look at it as how many guys have been injured returning the football compared to how many guys have been injured with the ball being handed off to them," Marrone said Wednesday. "I don’t look at it as a risk as maybe some people would, but I can understand how maybe some people could see that because of the distance and the way some people are running down the field, I understand that."

Patriots vs. Dolphins preview

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
Tom Brady, and Ryan Tannehill USA TODAY SportsTom Brady and Ryan Tannehill will square off in a Week 1 AFC East matchup.
The New England Patriots have been the dominant team in the AFC East for more than a decade. With future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick leading the way, New England has won 10 the past 11 division titles.

The only other team to win the AFC East in that span was the Miami Dolphins in 2008. This year's Dolphins team is trying to accomplish that same feat with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and coach Joe Philbin entering an important third season together.

Only one of these teams can set the tone for the division when Miami hosts New England on Sunday in Week 1 at Sun Life Stadium. Dolphins reporter James Walker and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss break down the matchup:

James Walker: Mike, welcome back to the regular season. It should be another fun year in the AFC East. I want to start with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee), who is returning in Week 1. This is a huge issue for the Dolphins, whose linebackers were exposed last year trying to defend the pass. Gronkowski did not get any game action this preseason; how much of an impact can he have in this game?

Mike Reiss: Great to be back, James. Gronkowski acknowledged that he won't play every snap, but assuming he does suit up, I would expect a workload of about 20-30 snaps, depending on how many total plays the offense ultimately runs. The first place to look is the red zone: The Patriots were close to a 70 percent efficiency rate with Gronk last year and dipped to about a 40 percent efficiency rate without him. So when the space gets tight on the field, that's when Gronkowski is often at his best. Meanwhile, one thing I think Patriots followers will be interested to hear about is how Miami's new offensive approach might present some challenges for the Patriots' defense.

Walker: The Dolphins will have a much different look offensively compared to what the Patriots faced last season. First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has brought a smart, no-nonsense approach, which is what the Dolphins needed. The route combinations, motions and increased tempo all make sense for Miami's personnel. I think Belichick did a smart thing to hold joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles this summer because Lazor, who was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach, has brought many of the same concepts to Miami. Expect Miami's offense to try to push the pace against New England's defense in the sweltering South Florida heat.

What do you expect from the healthy return of Vince Wilfork and the addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis?

Reiss: Wilfork's return has exceeded my expectations. When he suffered a torn Achilles last Sept. 29 and missed the rest of the season, I thought it could be a career-ender for a player at that size (6-foot-2, 325 pounds). It's a credit to him that he not only dropped weight but also returned to his previous high level of play; I think his work in the preseason was better than what we saw from him early last season. As for Revis, I don't think it's a stretch to say that his presence has a chance to transform a defense that ranked 26th in the NFL last season on third down. Expect tight man coverage and physical play at the line of scrimmage.

When I look at Miami's defense, it all starts on the line, and I see an advantage for them in this game against a Patriots offensive line in transition. What should we be looking out for defensively from the Dolphins?

Walker: Miami's defensive line could be its deepest and most talented in years -- and it's had good units in recent seasons. One of Miami's biggest strengths is that it can pressure with four rushers. Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and tackles Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell are tough to handle. I think the blitz packages have looked better as a result. The Dolphins know they're in trouble if they allow Brady to sit in the pocket and pick them apart. Their best chance to beat New England is to keep bodies on and around Brady.

Finally, Mike, the Dolphins are hoping for 90-degree weather, which has been consistent in Miami throughout the summer. Are you buying that the weather could hamper the Patriots?

Reiss: There is no simulating the heat, but I will say, the Patriots got some nice hot, humid days this week to work. They also had joint practices with Washington in Richmond, Virginia, in early August, and that was steamy. One of those days, after a three-hour afternoon practice in full pads, Belichick had the players running sprints. Conditioning was a big focus for Belichick in camp, I'm sure in part with this game in mind. In the end, I don't think weather will decide this game. Performance will. And I'll be watching the line of scrimmage closely to see if the Patriots can handle that Miami defensive front.

Bills vs. Bears preview

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
Brandon Marshall and Sammy WatkinsUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall and Sammy Watkins will need big games for their teams to emerge victorious.
The Chicago Bears destroyed the Buffalo Bills 40-7 the last time these teams faced off at Soldier Field, but this season features two vastly different clubs when they meet Sunday in the regular-season opener.

Interestingly, the Bills struggled throughout the preseason due to shoddy play at quarterback. Chicago's revamped defense didn't inspire much confidence throughout the preseason, either. So something has to give here. Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Bills reporter Mike Rodak delve deeper into this matchup:

Wright: It looks like the Bills have a few injuries that could affect this game. Can you give us a rundown of the situation?

Rodak: The main injury is to Sammy Watkins. The success of the Bills this season could hinge on Watkins -- after all, the team spent two first-round draft picks on him -- so naturally there is a lot of attention on his ribs. He first injured them in the third preseason game. After sitting out the fourth game, he returned for the fifth game but quickly re-injured the area on a similar hit. As far as we know, they're not broken, but coach Doug Marrone has stressed that rib injuries can change over time; one day they're feeling good, the next they're not. I'd lean toward Watkins playing Sunday but he admitted Monday that he may need to take some plays off as a pain-tolerance measure. Otherwise, the Bills are fairly healthy. Tight end Lee Smith (toe) is the only other injury at this point. He's the Bills' blocking tight end in their running game.

With Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery, and Brandon Marshall, you could argue the Bears' passing game is underrated. How would you rank their aerial attack among other NFL teams and how has the offense evolved with the change from Lovie Smith to Marc Trestman?

Wright: Statistically, the Bears finished 2013 ranked fifth in the NFL in passing offense and I'd say they're definitely still a top-5 team in that area, given the experience gained under Trestman in his first year. Marshall and Jeffery finished with a combined 2,716 yards receiving, which ranked as second most among any NFL duo in 2013. Marshall and Jeffery want to be No. 1 in 2014, and there's a good chance of that happening. If you go back to last year, Marshall underwent arthroscopic hip surgery in the offseason, and instead of training in the lead-up to camp, he was rehabbing. That led to missed time at camp and Marshall getting off to a slow start. He didn't hit his stride until about halfway through the season. I think that's why Marshall often says that 2014 will be his Michael Jackson "Thriller" year. So I'm expecting another big season from Marshall.

In terms of how the offense has evolved, it's definitely been a complete 180 from what this team did with Smith in charge. Because of Smith's defensive background, the Bears leaned heavily to that side of the ball during his tenure. It's been the opposite with Trestman. What's more, Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer have installed a system in Chicago that Cutler believes in very strongly. That's important because in the past, Cutler didn't believe in what the team was doing offensively. Now that Cutler has completely bought in, you're starting to see him live up to all the potential. You should see another jump in Cutler's game this season now that he's totally comfortable in Trestman's system.

Buffalo's offense struggled in the preseason. Why, and is it cause for concern heading into this game in Chicago?

Rodak: Most of the blame for the struggles has been pinned on the quarterbacks, and rightfully so. EJ Manuel played in all five preseason games and didn't prove that he has progressed from where he ended last season. Manuel and the first-team offense didn't score a touchdown until their 19th drive, early in the third quarter of the fourth preseason game when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled their starting defense. Accuracy can be a problem for Manuel at times, but he completed at least 63 percent of his passes in the second, third, and fourth preseason games, so that's not the issue. Nor are interceptions -- he had only two of them in the preseason. Instead, I point to Manuel's reluctance to push the ball downfield. His yards-per-attempt numbers are typically low and many of his completions come on dump-offs and check-downs. If the Bears take away the intermediate and deep part of the field, Manuel won't challenge them. He'll target his tight ends and running backs, which is what opposing defenses will want.

There are some familiar Bears -- Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings -- but also several newcomers on Mel Tucker's defense. How have the additions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, as well as the turnover at safety, affected the unit?

Wright: I wish I could tell you, but the truth is we don’t really know just yet as the defense operated with vanilla game plans throughout the preseason, and we never saw a full starting lineup on the field. Allen played in only one preseason game, and free safety Chris Conte didn’t even make his debut until preseason game No. 3. So I don’t think we know the true potential of this unit, or whether it will be able to turn things around after performing historically bad in 2013. What I have noticed is the Bears are scrappier up front with the additions of Allen, Houston and Willie Young to go with draft picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. We saw lots of fights in the offseason and in training camp. Even first-round pick Kyle Fuller shows that he’s got some toughness in him. At the start of the offseason, the Bears said they wanted to make the defense a much tougher unit than it was in 2013, and from what I’ve seen so far, they’ve accomplished that. But going into the opener, we still don’t even know who the starting safeties are, even though sources have told me Conte -- if he’s cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the preseason -- and Ryan Mundy will be the starters on the back end.

Eighteen out of the 64 voters picked Watkins as NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year when we did our predictions. We didn’t see much production from him in the preseason. Is he the real deal?

Rodak: I think so. His lack of production traces back to his lack of playing time. He played only a few drives in the Hall of Fame game and second preseason game, and then was injured in the third game. Watkins has all the ability in the world. He'll make defenders miss after the catch, he'll beat them deep, and he'll snag errant passes over the middle. There are two questions with him right now: (1) Can he stay healthy? We've now seen two rib injuries in three weeks, with the second "deeper" than the first, according to Watkins. If he suffers a third, will it be worse? He took hard hits from Ryan Shazier and Ashlee Palmer that led to the injuries, but they weren't bone-crushing blows. They're the sort of hits he'll need to withstand in the NFL. (2) Does he have the right quarterback? Put Watkins on most other NFL teams, especially one with a top-flight quarterback, and he'd be the favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Having Manuel throwing passes isn't an ideal situation for the fourth overall pick.

How are fans in Chicago approaching this opener? The Bills and Bears have met only twice in the past decade, Chicago winning both times. Did fans breathe a sigh of relief when they saw Buffalo first on the schedule?

Wright: That’s funny, but I think Bears fans know from recent experience to not ever underestimate an opponent. The fan base knows the Bills are going to be a better team than we’ve seen in the past. I’d say the fans are definitely optimistic about the 2014 season, and in the five years I’ve covered this team, this is about the most excited I’ve seen the fan base about this team. Expectations are definitely soaring, but the optimism is tempered somewhat by the unknown regarding Chicago’s defense.
Should EJ Manuel be a team's captain? Does he need to be one? Are captains even significant?

The Buffalo Bills' announcement Monday of six captains -- none of which were Manuel -- became a hot-button issue as the second-year quarterback feels some late-summer heat.

One argument is that Manuel, as the quarterback, should be a captain. The rebuttal, from some, is that he is too inexperienced to be a captain.

I'm not buying that.

Think of it this way: If Manuel had gone 10-0 as a starter last season and was named a captain this week, would anyone be saying he was too green for the gig? No way.

He'd be praised for his leadership abilities at the ripe age of 24. His hypothetical success last season, even with such a small sample size, would be used as justification for the distinction. On Monday, we would've heard effusive praise from coach Doug Marrone and Manuel's teammates in the locker room about their newest captain.

Instead, Manuel went 4-6 as a starter last season and the questions about his standing as the franchise quarterback continue into this fall.

As a result, Marrone and players had to tip-toe around the subject of Manuel's captaincy Monday.

"If you look at it, it’s mostly veteran guys that have been around," Marrone said of his six captains, which included two newcomers to the team. "I think that [quarterback] position has leadership qualities in it just by the position itself."

"He's a great leader. He breaks down the offense and things like that all the time. Gives us knowledge," running back Fred Jackson said. "It's just one of those things, when we have a lot of veteran leadership on the team. In time, he'll definitely be named a captain at some point."

I think the issues of Manuel's captaincy and his standing as the starting quarterback are linked.

Manuel hasn't earned the 'C' on his chest. It's not something that should be forced. The six players who were elected should be the six players best suited to lead the team.

Likewise, Manuel hasn't earned the long-term title of franchise quarterback. That honor should go to the best player suited for that job. Manuel hasn't proved it yet.

Right now, Manuel has more time to prove he's the solution at quarterback. If he does, then he'll have earned the 'C' on his chest in the process. If he doesn't prove himself, then the Bills should look elsewhere.

At that point, whether or not Manuel is a captain won't matter.

Bills close book on Alan Branch

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In less than eight months, veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch had quite the fall.

 Signed to a three-year extension last December that included a $3.1 million signing bonus, Branch's status with the team gradually slipped through the spring and summer. The combination of not showing up to voluntary OTAs, reporting to training camp out of shape, and not making a stronger push for a role in the preseason may have doomed his fate even before he was arrested for drunk driving last weekend.

"A lot of things factor into decision, don’t get me wrong, but that main factor was performance. Not even close," coach Doug Marrone said Monday. "Of all the players, we wished him well. Hopefully it changes for him, but at the end of the day, the decisions for players not to be here are based on them not being able to help us win. And there are a lot of different reasons for that."

The Bills don't lose much on the field with Branch, as his chances of making the 53-man roster seemed to have dwindled over recent weeks. However, in making the decision to cut Branch, Bills management had to swallow their pride after giving $3.1 million to a player who will won't play a down for the team this season.

"The one thing we don’t want to do is just to hold on to people just to make ourselves look right,” general manager Doug Whaley told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe on Monday. “That’s a lesson we’ve learned. Hey, let’s cut bait and move on."

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
Examining the Miami Dolphins' roster:


It remains to be seen if Miami keeps three quarterbacks. But the addition of Quinn, a former first-round pick, makes this an interesting decision.


Williams returned from injury and showed toughness. Health permitting, he could steal a roster spot the next few weeks from veteran tailback Daniel Thomas.


All these receivers have a chance to be productive. Should the Dolphins consider a trade here to help another position?


The third tight end spot remains in the air. Brackett, Arthur Lynch and Michael Egnew are all close.


The Dolphins still haven't decided on their starting five, particularly at right guard.


Fede and Johnson have both made their presence felt and should make the 53-man roster.


I still don't have a ton of confidence in this group. This could be a weakness on the team.


The Dolphins must stay healthy here. But they also have some safeties with position flexibility.


It's Wilson's time to shine in the starting lineup with Reshad Jones' four-game suspension looming.


Sturgis' groin injury is making things interesting. Free-agent pickup John Potter kicked well against Tampa Bay.
One of the lowest points last season for the New York Jets was their 49-9 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals, a start-to-finish beat down that dropped them to 4-4. They return to Cincinnati on Saturday night, and at least one player is looking for payback.

 "We owe them one," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson told the Jets' website. "We owe them one big time." He also said, "That was pretty much the only team that dog-walked this defense like that."

Whoa, big fella, it's only the preseason. If the Jets win, they won't be flaunting the revenge card. If anyone does, they will look silly. It's only the second preseason game, a time for evaluating players and building chemistry. Few will remember the result by the end of the summer.

Rex Ryan downplayed the redemption angle, but he admitted he'd like to play well. Call it pride.

"You know, did we get our tails kicked last time we were up there? We absolutely did," he said. "I think the competitor in you -- from a coach, from a player -- you don’t like that. The fact that we have a lot of guys, however many guys are playing, it’s a little different feel. Obviously, preseason guys are trying to win jobs. It’s not just about the team or whatever. I mean, I don’t know if it is more motivation, but you certainly want to account for yourself better than we did the last time."

There's an interesting back story to Jets-Bengals: Ryan confirmed there were serious discussions before training camp about holding joint practices in Cincinnati during the run-up to the game. Joint practices are becoming popular around the league. The concern, of course, is that practicing for a few days against another team will lead to fights.

Ryan doesn't think it would've been an issue, saying the mutual respect between him and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis would've set an upbeat tone on the practice field. Then again, if the Jets have a chip on their shoulder because of last season's blowout, as Richardson's quote suggests, the temperature would've been higher than usual. From what I hear, some of the Jets' veteran leaders lobbied Ryan to pass on the invitation, citing that very reason.

Ryan didn't rule out a joint practice in the future.

"As long as it’s not just Fight Night," he said. "I remember my dad went down in some epic Eagles versus Falcons [practices]. In between all of the fights, they snapped the ball a few times. Those are things you don’t want. "
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Referee John Parry and members of his crew are in town to work with the Patriots, and he's received a message from coach Bill Belichick.

This is what Belichick told Parry: "Throw flags -- put the flag on the ground, so when we put the film on, we can see exactly what the action was. [Then] when the flag is on the ground, communicate with the player -- what did he do wrong? How does he potentially eliminate that action? Communicate with the coaching staff to make sure they know."

 This is a big part of the next two days for the Patriots, and it involves teaching and becoming familiar with some of the NFL's rule changes and points of emphasis.

"You'll see flags on the ground," Parry promised.

Two soundbites from Parry's briefing with media members:

On a point of emphasis about illegal contact. "It's not an easy call to make. The rule hasn't changed. We've been through this before. Points of emphasis are made annually from the competition committee ... and this is the second time in 14 years that defensive holding and illegal contact have been a point of emphasis. It's an offensive game and we want receivers to be able to run a free route. We do not want receivers to initiate contact with defenders to eliminate their opportunity to defend that route. ... But I think what you'll see, last week in the New England game there was maybe 23 penalties. I think we'll see 23, 24, 20 for Weeks 2, 3, 4 [in the preseason]. And the message will be sent that this is a point of emphasis and the players will adapt, the coaches will adapt and the officials will adapt, get on the same page, and Week 1, I don't think you'll see a big difference in the football game."

Working towards consistency between crews. "New York is getting aggressive with new technology. Now referees, every week, we will get every call that was made or not made by a referee. So at least if I'm calling two or three holds, and I can view other holds that were incorrect or 'am I on the borderline?' so we can gap the human side of this. Every game is different. Every player is different. Every coach is different on any given day. We are trying to bridge that gap. We now have coaches [who] are coming to our clinics and teaching us what the teaching technique is to a player. ... We're trying any and all avenues to bridge the gap on consistency. It's a big point for our game."



Thursday, 10/16
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