Tuesday, November 10, 2009
How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
1. Dolphins' Wildcat offense: Through six games, the Wildcat looked like it might stay a step ahead of defenses desperate to stop it. Ronnie Brown was averaging 7.2 yards per Wildcat play. Ricky Williams was averaging 6.2 yards per play.
Since then, the Wildcat has been smothered. The Dolphins have gained 40 yards on 31 tries. In each of their past two games, against the New York Jets and New England Patriots, the Dolphins averaged less than a yard per attempt.
2. Patriots' red zone offense: Tom Brady went into the weekend ranked 14th in red-zone passer rating. Then the Patriots converted only one of their four trips inside the Miami Dolphins' 20-yard line.
Brady and Randy Moss did connect on a two-point conversion, which was a positive sign. They'll need to build off that because field goals probably won't beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.
3. Joey Porter, Dolphins outside linebacker: Last year's AFC sacks leader roared before Sunday's game but was muffled on the Gillette Stadium field. He finished with zero tackles, zero assists, zero passes defensed, zero forced fumbles and zero postgame comments.
Porter's season has been mostly unmemorable so far. He has 2.5 sacks, but only 10 solo tackles (12 total), one pass defensed and one forced fumble in seven games. Fourteen Dolphins have more tackles than Porter does.
1. Laurence Maroney, Patriots running back: With Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris still sidelined, Maroney turned in another strong effort in Sunday's victory over the Dolphins. He ran 20 times for 82 yards and a touchdown, giving him one in three straight games. Maroney has rushed for 248 yards in that span.
"Laurence has run the ball pretty well all year," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "I think when he's had space he's been able to make yards, and when he hasn't, he's run hard and gotten what's there, and he's taken care of the ball pretty well. When he's had opportunities, he's made good yardage."
2. Tully Banta-Cain, Patriots outside linebacker: Banta-Cain's reunion with the Patriots has been rewarding so far. He was a bit player during his first stint, starting five games in the three seasons after they drafted him in the seventh round in '07. He spent a couple of years with the San Francisco 49ers but came back to a team ready to give him a bigger role.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss noted Banta-Cain was one of only three Patriots to play every defensive snap Sunday. Banta-Cain was credited with nine tackles, one for a loss, and a game-high three quarterback hits. His three sacks this year rank second on the team, and his seven quarterback hits are tops.
3. Jets' playoff pulse: The Jets aren't racing toward the postseason at 4-4, but a Dolphins victory on Sunday would've been a vicious blow and completely neutralized that 3-0 start that had the Jets flying high. The Dolphins also would've been .500, but they would have been ahead because they hold the first tiebreaker. They've already swept the Jets.
But the Patriots fended off the Dolphins, leaving the Jets alone in second place -- for now. The Jets have a difficult schedule ahead, including a rematch with the Patriots, whom they defeated in Week 2.