NFL Nation: Ashton Youboty

Jared Cook helps Titans stay alive

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
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CookDon McPeak/US PresswireJared Cook had eight catches for a franchise-record 169 receiving yards against the Jaguars.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer polls his quarterbacks on their three favorite plays out of each week’s game plan.

Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and Rusty Smith all voted this week for a deep crossing route.

It was a play the Titans ran with great success in a 23-17 Christmas Eve win over the Jaguars that kept Tennessee in contention for the sixth and final berth in the AFC playoff field.

The Titans need to finish in a three-way tie at 9-7 with the Bengals and Jets or with the Bengals and Raiders to earn the No. 6 seed.

The trio of signal-callers often votes the same way in separate, secret balloting which influences Palmer’s approach, Hasselbeck said.

“It’s mental telepathy or something,” he said. “We get along really well, we like the same plays. They think we’re cheating off of each other, but we’re not.”

Rarely does the favored play contribute so heavily to a favored result.

Hasselbeck leaned on it heavily and posted strong passing numbers despite two interceptions, with 24 completions in 40 pass attempts, for 350 yards and a touchdown.

Tight end Jared Cook is a big, fast, receiver-like threat. He disappears at times and has not been featured the way many of us expected he would be this season. In Week 15 he lost a deadly fumble in Indianapolis when the Titans were mounting a charge.

But he keyed this Titans win with eight catches for 169 yards and the 55-yard score on a mismatch with Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who was left in an unreasonably difficult spot by the coverage.

No tight end for the Titans or Oilers ever collected so much receiving yardage in one game. The previous record was 150 by Houston’s Dave Casper in 1980.

While the Jaguars have a strong front seven, they do not have particularly threatening edge pass-rushers. That helped the Titans feel comfortable lining Cook up less often next to a tackle, and more often in a two-by-two set, as if he were a receiver in a four-wide formation.

Nate Washington, also in a slot, typically drew nickelback Drew Coleman in coverage. Hasselbeck said that also helped get Cook into open space more often than usual.

Cook said the Titans talked all week about the opportunities they’d find against an injury-depleted Jaguars defense. The Jaguars are without both their starting corners, Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, and played Saturday minus starting safety Dwight Lowery. That meant Ashton Youboty and Morgan Trent started at corner and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was in the lineup at safety.

Youboty suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, and couldn't finish the game. He was replaced by David Jones, a player Jacksonville decided was not part of its future at the end of training camp.

Combine all that change with a gimpy Chris Johnson, who sprained an ankle last week, and the Titans decided to push it with the pass.

“We kind of looked at the first-15 script and saw there was a little change up from the normal,” Cook said, referring to the preordained 15 plays the Titans wanted to run out of the gate if the situations permitted for them. “We kind of got excited. So kudos to coach Palmer for kind of doing that and catching the defense off guard.”

Not to harp, but… While the Titans are over last week’s loss at previously winless Indianapolis, I can’t help wonder how things might be different for them had they taken this approach a week earlier against the Colts, who rush the passer better but also have a secondary minus three starters.

“It’s just hard to predict games,” Hasselbeck said.

It’s hard, too, to predict what happens in all the games that influence the Titans’ chances next week.

But the Texans are locked into the third seed, and have nothing to gain with a win and nothing to lose with a loss. If the Titans find their way in, their opponent isn’t in question. They’ll go right back to Houston for a wild-card game.

The Titans know they’ve blown a ton of chances that would have left them in a better spot.

“We’re alive,” guard Jake Scott said. “That’s all you can ask for right now. We’ve got to handle our business and hope for the help that we need.”

Five things to look for tonight in the Jaguars game at Atlanta tonight:

Khan! He won’t take over the team until Jan., but Shahid Khan’s been approved by the league to buy the Jaguars. He will be at the Georgia Dome to watch his new team for the first time tonight, and NFL Network cameras are sure to find him. He was absolutely beaming as he participated in a news conference after approval, and he figures to start off all smiles at kickoff. But if things go badly for Jacksonville early, the expression under the mustache might change.

The defensive backs: Jacksonville is ridiculously thin in the secondary. Cornerbacks Ashton Youboty and undrafted rookie Kevin Rutland have both had some good moments. But surely Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterback Matt Ryan see the potential to attack on the outside and win.

Points: The Jaguars hadn’t topped 20 points all season until they exploded for 41 last week in a romp against the Buccaneers. The Falcons are playing good scoring defense. In the past month they’ve given up 23, 17, 14 and 17.

The receivers: Both Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts are out with injuries. With them, Blaine Gabbert’s got a super limited number of weapons. Without them we’ll see if newcomer Taylor Price and youngsters Jarett Dillard and Chastin West can make any plays. Mike Sheppard’s been working as the receivers coach for a couple weeks now, is he able to have a positive influence on this group?

Energy: High motor defensive end Jeremy Mincey qualifies as a tone-setter for the Jaguars. With a short turnaround and a road game, the team needs to show some hop against a team that’s primed to be a playoff entry. I’ll watch Mincey to see if he can provide the sort of early spark that could serve notice the Jaguars won’t go down easily.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In his first year calling plays for the Jacksonville defense, Mel Tucker’s had a solid season for the Jaguars.

He was given a huge upgrade in personnel out of free agency, and the team’s issues in a 3-8 season have been primarily largely on offense.

[+] EnlargeMel Tucker
AP Photo/Phil Coale, FileJaguars interim coach Mel Tucker makes his debut on Monday against San Diego.
Tonight, as he debuts as the team’s interim coach in a home Monday Night Football game against San Diego, Tucker will be without his three top outside cornerbacks.

Will Middleton has joined Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox on injured reserve.

While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled this season, he could be in line to make some connections at EverBank Field, where recent addition Ashton Youboty, undrafted Kevin Rutland and retread David Jones are in line to play in Jacksonville's secondary. Jones, who struggled mightily last season, was re-signed as Middleton went to IR.

Drew Coleman plays as the nickel corner and seems to be pigeonholed there, but whether Tucker likes him outside or not, the Jaguars might have to use him more.

I’m not sure what Tucker can do in the team’s remaining five games to hold on to the job. He’s respected and he’s expected by those who put him in place to do well. But after nearly nine seasons of Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars are a team in need of fresh air, and new owner Shahid Khan is likely to want to make a splash with an outsider who revamps the way the team plays.

Tucker has been assured of an interview, and many are mentioning him as a stong candidate for the post. At this stage I’d guess it’s more likely the new coach, hopefully an offensive mind, sees a productive defense and decides to try to get Tucker to return to the coordinator post.

ESPN’s Mike Tirico will do the play-by-play of tonight’s game. He watched Saturday’s practice and was part of a production meeting with Tucker.

“He’s very detailed, very organized,” Tirico said. “I think it’s definitely an approach that would be what I’d expect from a guy who’s learned from Nick Saban and Jim Tressel, among others. The practice was a crisp, well-paced practice.”

It’s been a whirlwind week. Tucker had no hint of what was coming when he reported to work Tuesday. Since then he dismissed receivers coach Johnny Cox, shifted Mike Sheppard from quarterbacks to receivers coach and gave offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter full sway over the quarterbacks.

He’s overseen the construction and installation of a game plan. He’s dealt with Middleton’s injury.

And he’s very likely implemented some other unseen alterations to the operation.

“For that sort of fire drill for a guy who’s 39 and has never been a head coach, he’s seems pretty organized,” Tirico said.

At his first practice as the head man leading up to this game, Tucker arrived 30 minutes early. He talked of wanting to get some fresh air, but also confessed it gave him the vantage point he wanted as he began to watch everything.

The Jaguars know they’ve got new eyes on them.

What Tucker sees will be important. What Tucker shows will be more important.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Matt Leinart and the Texans rank as the biggest story in the AFC South since it became clear the Colts would be horrible.

Leinart
I’ve crossed paths with few national media members this season at games.

As Leinart steps in for the injured Matt Schaub today at EverBank Field, I’m with writers from The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo.

Andre Johnson is back in Houston’s lineup. He’s averaged 102 receiving yards in his first game back from missed time because of injuries in his career. Arian Foster is averaging 161 yards from scrimmage against AFC South teams over the last two seasons. No player comes close against division opponents. LeSean McCoy is at 137 yards against the NFC East over the same stretch.

And Houston’s defense is allowing just 186 yards to division opponents this season. That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars and their terrible offense.

The inactive lists for both teams:

Texans: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Brandon Harris, FB Lawrence Vickers, G Thomas Austin, T Andrew Gardner, TE Garrett Graham, DE Tim Bulman.

Jaguars: WR Brian Robiskie, C John Estes, DE Aaron Kampman, TE Fendi Onobun, DE Matt Roth, DT Terrance Knighton, QB Dan LeFevour.

For the Jaguars, Leger Douzable starts at left defensive end, C.J. Mosley starts at defensive tackle and Ashton Youboty starts at left cornerback.

Bills stick with defense on 34th pick

April, 29, 2011
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With some sexy players still on the board at No. 34, the Buffalo Bills went with another safe defensive pick Friday night, taking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams.

Williams
Williams
Why the Bills took him: In a division with Tom Brady and some big, play-making receivers, Bills general manager Buddy Nix wanted to upgrade coverage skills with the 6-foot defensive back. Some scouts projected Williams as a safety, but Nix said they would keep him at cornerback.

How it affects the roster: Right cornerback Drayton Florence and backup Ashton Youboty are free agents. Although Nix wouldn't rule out re-signing Florence, the odds don't look good. Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin and Reggie Corner (nickel) are back, which will put Williams in a competitive mix.

Scouts Inc. says: Inconsistent but talented and most weaknesses can be improved. High in backpedal. Can allow some separation out of breaks and recovery burst is just average. Can give receivers too much of a cushion. Too quick to open and turn on comeback routes. Not as physical in press coverage as in run support and doesn't always re-route receivers with powerful stab at the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, has fluid hips. Can open and run with receivers in press-bail coverage. Quick feet and changes directions well for size. Closes quickly when receivers catch the ball in front of him and can limit production after the catch.

Highlights from Chan Gailey at combine

February, 24, 2011
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey and Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland have completed their media responsibilities at the NFL scouting combine.

Here are some quick highlights from Gailey's gathering, with an Ireland report to follow. I'll elaborate on the more interesting issues later:
  • How Gailey would describe the roster: "I think we're on the right track. I do. I believe we have character on the team. I believe they understand. Hopefully, we're going to get better in each phase. You've just got to get them to understand how to win that close game."
  • On the No. 3 overall pick, Gailey said the general philosophy was to "take care of immediate needs and, at the same time, take care of the long-term franchise good. You have to consider all scenarios."
  • Gailey said that includes possibly trading up or trading down: "We don't turn our phone off at night."
  • He is "anxious" to see Auburn quarterback Cam Newton work out in Lucas Oil Stadium and called him "a big athlete that's in that Wildcat mode, but obviously has the ability to go to the dropback-passer mode."
  • Gailey claimed he wasn't concerned with Newton being a one-year starter at Auburn.
  • Ten years ago, the NFL dictated to colleges how quarterbacks should play. In the next decade, Gailey foresees college football dictating how the NFL uses the quarterbacks who emerge from whatever offenses are popular.
  • Gailey also declared he's "extremely confident" in incumbent starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and admitted he made a big mistake in not going with him instead of Trent Edwards last year: "Shoot, yeah! If I knew then what I knew now, I wouldn't do that. But you do what you can with the information you have, make a decision, hope you learn from it quickly and rectify the situation."
  • Gailey noted he's never been on a team where he thought he had too many good cornerbacks, there's always room for more. Drayton Florence and Ashton Youboty are about to become free agents. Gailey bluntly added former first-round pick Leodis McKelvin "left something on the table," but still has the chance to be a top-notch cornerback. I hope he'll commit to what he needs to commit to," Gailey said.
  • Reports on outside linebacker Shawne Merriman's recovery from Achilles surgery have been "all positive."
  • Last year's first-round pick, running back C.J. Spiller, needs to become better with ball security and pass blocking: "It didn't work out like anybody planned -- he planned, I planned, any fan out there planned. I still think he's going to be a very good to great player for the Buffalo Bills. I'll do better at finding ways to use him more."
  • The Bills consider their defense neither 3-4 nor 4-3, but a mixture: "If we are a hybrid, which I think we will be, it allows you to take Chris Kelsay and shift all the 3-4 over and now Kelsay or Merriman is a rush guy. We feel like we can massage that as we need to, getting the best football players on the field."
  • The Bills plan to draft defensive linemen based on talent more than positional fit and then find ways to use them.
  • New assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt, who has overseen great 4-3 defenses, will have wide-ranging roles as Gailey's top consultant on both sides of the ball.
  • Free-agent safety Bob Sanders visited the Bills while Gailey was out of town and he didn't have an update on where that stands.
  • The Bills have made an organizational decision not to comment on the NFL labor situation.

Tidying up the AFC East tenders

March, 5, 2010
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The Miami Dolphins were the lone AFC East club not to distribute a news release on the qualifying offers they tendered to their free agents.

After the free-agency signing period began at midnight, the NFL distributed the official list.

So, for the record, I give you the Dolphins' tenders.

If another team signs one of the following restricted free agents to an offer sheet and the Dolphins decline to match, then these are the draft considerations the Dolphins would receive as compensation:


Also, the Buffalo Bills listed the players they had tendered but didn't reveal the picks. Here they are, courtesy of the NFL:

Buffalo tenders an RFA quartet

March, 4, 2010
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The Buffalo Bills announced they've tendered qualifying contract offers to four free agents, but didn't reveal what levels.

Buffalo News writer Mark Gaughan reports the Bills gave Wilson a second-round tender.

AFC East: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
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Buffalo Bills

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Ryan Denney, LB Chris Draft, DB Todd Johnson, G Seth McKinney, WR Terrell Owens, WR Josh Reed, S Bryan Scott, G Kendall Simmons, LB Josh Stamer.

Potential restricted free agents: LB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, TE Derek Schouman, T Jonathan Scott, S George Wilson, CB Ashton Youboty.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Bills are in a rebuilding mode and shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to sign their free agents. In fact, they took the unusual step of publicly announcing they wouldn't offer Owens, Reed or Denney contracts. The most attractive players are Incognito and Wilson. Most of the rest were bit players and injury replacements.

Miami Dolphins

Potential unrestricted free agents: NT Jason Ferguson, CB Nate Jones, QB Chad Pennington, OLB Jason Taylor.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Ronnie Brown, TE Anthony Fasano, OLB Quentin Moses.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Dolphins have a tough decision to make on Ferguson. He'll turn 36 during the 2010 season and is coming off a serious quadriceps injury. Without him, however, the Dolphins have a massive void in their 3-4 defense at a position that's difficult to replace. Pennington, Jones and Taylor all could be gone.

New England Patriots

Potential unrestricted free agents: OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden, OLB Derrick Burgess, RB Kevin Faulk, DE Jarvis Green, P Chris Hanson, G Stephen Neal, ILB Junior Seau, TE Benjamin Watson.

Potential restricted free agents: K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins, OLB Pierre Woods.

Franchise player: NT Vince Wilfork.

What to expect: Several starters are about to go up for bids, and the Patriots can't keep them all. Expect Faulk to be re-signed without much fuss. Neal, Bodden and Banta-Cain comprise a group they'd have trouble replacing. All three could fetch offers the Patriots would rather not match. Don't count on Watson coming back.

New York Jets

Potential unrestricted free agents: LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Ryan Fowler, TE Ben Hartsock, LB Larry Izzo, FB Tony Richardson.

Potential restricted free agents: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, DT Howard Green, T Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: As a "final eight" team, the Jets have to window shop until one of their UFAs sign elsewhere. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is creative. Don't be surprised if the Jets use trades to upgrade. The key restricted free agent to monitor will be Washington, who received a second-round tender. His agent has been tweeting alarms the Pro Bowler could sign an offer sheet and dare the Jets to match.

Greetings from The Ralph

December, 20, 2009
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium are cold and gray for Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.

But at least the snow that has socked in the rest of the Northeast has stayed away.

In watching the doppler Saturday night, I found it amusing how this gargantuan white sheet was covering five states, but as it approached Buffalo, some mystical force field on the eastern rim of Lake Erie seemed to be batting it away with ease.

So no snow here, folks. Based on the flags atop the stadium and the streamers on the goal posts, the wind seems tolerable for now.

The Patriots already announced all the surprises from their inactive list Saturday night.

Particularly noteworthy about the Bills' inactive list is that receiver Terrell Owens isn't on it. Owens missed practice Thursday and Friday with an illness.

The complete rundown of scratches reads thusly:

New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Greetings from the Rogers Centre

December, 3, 2009
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TORONTO -- An hour before kickoff for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre, and the atmosphere is almost as lively as a board meeting. What a comedown from the Superdome.

The inactive lists were just distributed with no surprises. Cornerback Terrence McGee is back after missing three games following minor knee surgery, but Reggie Corner will start on the left side anyway.

New York Jets inactive list

Buffalo Bills inactive list

AFC East draft analysis

April, 26, 2009
4/26/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

As competitive as the AFC East was last year, what happened this weekend at the draft could make the difference in deciding the playoffs.

AFC East Draft Picks
• Buffalo Bills
• Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
• New York Jets
The Miami Dolphins won the division on a tiebreaker, and you better believe they sense the rest of the division closing in on them.

Eleven victories last year weren't enough to get the New England Patriots into the postseason. With quarterback Tom Brady coming back from his knee injury and with some new blood on board, the Patriots are the favorites to win the AFC East.

The New York Jets, desperate to get over the hump, made two splashy trades to acquire two potential offensive stars.

The Buffalo Bills -- stuck on 7-9 for three straight seasons -- made some head-scratching picks, ignoring tackle and loading up on defensive backs, a position that was relatively healthy.

Best move

 
  James Lang/US Presswire
  Trading up to draft Mark Sanchez was a bold move for the Jets.
The Jets have been skeptical about their quarterback situation for three years and decided to do something dramatic about it.

They parted with two substantial draft picks and three players who might not have started in 2009 to get the franchise-caliber quarterback they believe in.

For that alone, regardless of how Mark Sanchez pans out, the Jets deserve credit for pulling off the deal.

Sanchez gives the Jets the best leading-man candidate in decades. He's their earliest-drafted quarterback since they selected Joe Namath first overall in the 1965 AFL draft.

The Jets began the process of drifting away from Chad Pennington in 2007, when they drafted Kellen Clemens in the second round.

They obviously haven't been satisfied with Clemens as an option. They wanted him to seize the job last summer, but Pennington outplayed him. The Jets, eager for a solution, boldly traded for Brett Favre and cut Pennington. Favre lasted one season before arm problems forced him to retire again, putting Clemens back atop the depth chart.

In eight months, we'll have a better idea of what Sanchez can do for the Jets, but we probably won't know how great the pick was for three years.

But the Jets gave themselves their best opportunity in generations to find a star quarterback. For that alone, they've made the best move of the draft.

Riskiest move

The Buffalo Bills traded Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters a week before the draft and didn't select a tackle.

You can look at this three ways: 1) the Bills are confident veteran Langston Walker and second-year project Demetrius Bell can handle the tackle positions; 2) they might be working on a trade for someone like Levi Jones after the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Andre Smith; or 3) Buffalo's front office doesn't know what it's doing.

Buffalo went with Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin, Louisville center Eric Wood, Oregon defensive back Jairus Byrd, Oregon State guard Andy Levitre, Southern Miss tight end Shawn Nelson, Oklahoma linebacker/safety Nic Harris, Southern California cornerback Cary Harris and West Virginia cornerback Ellis Lankster.

Maybin and Wood can easily be justified as first-round choices. But the Bills are adding a variable to Wood's future by moving him to guard after he started 49 straight games as Louisville's center.

What's with all the defensive backs?

The Bills seemed to have their secondary penciled out heading into the draft: Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin or Drayton Florence at cornerback and Donte Whitner, Bryan Scott and George Wilson at safety.

McKelvin was the 11th player chosen overall last year. He is
expected to step in for Jabari Greer, a free agent who went to the New Orleans Saints. The Bills brought in Florence for help. Ashton Youboty and Reggie Corner also are on the roster.

Whitner was the eighth overall pick in 2006.

Within the next nine picks after the Bills selected Levitre, three tackles went off the board. The Minnesota Vikings took Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt. The New England Patriots drafted Houston's Sebastian Vollmer. The New York Giants chose Connecticut's Will Beatty.

Most surprising move

Patriots overlord Bill Belichick passed on a variety of striking defensive prospects when he moved totally out of the first round to gather more draft picks.

Southern California linebackers Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis and Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis were around, but the Patriots weren't interested.

None of these decisions seemed like a surprise when it happened, but if someone were to tell you before the draft that the Patriots would have at least one crack at those prospects -- in some cases, two or three cracks -- you would've bet your last penny they'd draft one. Each would look natural in Patriots' gear.

It's not like we misread the Patriots' needs either. The Patriots were going after those positions. They drafted defensive backs Patrick Chung and Darius Butler in the second round and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie in the third round.

You can't argue with Belichick's judgment when it comes to player evaluations, especially on the defensive side.

Still, to think none of those players landed in Foxborough, Mass. seems strange.

File it away

In what could go down as a classic example that Bill Parcells and his acolytes know more than everybody else, the Dolphins drafted Patrick Turner from Southern California in the third round. He was the 13th receiver off the board, and that might have been a reach.

Scouts Inc. rated him the 38th best receiver in the draft. Pro Football Weekly's draft guide ranked Turner 30th, saying he "has no upside" and that he benefited from facing single coverage because the Trojans' offense was so loaded. Lindy's Pro Football ranked him 18th.

But Turner is 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 223 pounds, and the Dolphins don't have much size at receiver. They made a boo-boo when they signed free agent Ernest Wilford to provide a big target, but he played so small he usually wore street clothes on game day.

Turner caught 49 passes for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

"I feel I bring a red-zone threat," Turner said. "I feel I bring a lot of mismatches. I feel like I'm a possession receiver.

"I feel that in the fringe area, to be a bigger guy, I feel I run pretty good routes, and I feel sure-handed, like I can contribute."

If Turner works out, he'll make Parcells look like an even bigger genius.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills placed slot cornerback Ashton Youboty on injured reserve Friday, giving them one fewer defensive back for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.

The Bills' secondary is hurting something fierce. Strong safety and captain Donte Whitner, who also had been filling in for Youboty in the slot, is out with a separated shoulder. Right cornerback Terrence McGee isn't quite 100 percent recovered from his sprained knee.

Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel and his targets, especially slot receiver Wes Welker, couldn't be happier. Welker has caught at least six passes in every game this year. The only other receiver in NFL history to have done that is Jimmy Smith for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001.

Here is what the Patriots should expect to face Sunday.

Strong safety: Bryan Scott.
The sixth-year pro has played in every game, starting two at free safety. Scott has one sack. He was the Atlanta Falcons' starter in 2004 and 2005.

The hard-hitting Whitner has 37 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles. He could be out a few weeks.

Free safety: Ko Simpson.
He temporarily lost his job to Scott because he wasn't playing up to snuff. Simpson started 15 games as a rookie in 2006, but suffered a season-ending leg injury in last year's opener. He has 30 tackles.

Slot cornerback: Reggie Corner.
The fourth-round draft choice worked at this position almost exclusively in training camp and preseason, while 11th overall selection Leodis McKelvin worked on the outside. Corner was inactive the first four games.

That Whitner filled this role when Youboty couldn't play doesn't speak well of where McKelvin is in his development. For perspective, the Patriots drafted linebacker Jerod Mayo with the 10th overall pick. Mayo has been an every-down player from the hop.

Right cornerback: McGee.
Sunday will be McGee's third game back after missing two with a sprained knee. He looked like a burnt matchstick after Miami Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn got through with him, but McGee played more press coverage in last week's loss to the New York Jets. That's a good sign. The Pro Bowl returner has 26 tackles, two interceptions and five passes defensed.

Left cornerback: Jabari Greer.
Greer is the only Bills defensive back to start every game. He has 34 tackles, two interceptions (both for touchdowns) and a team-high seven passes defensed.

The Bills drafted McKelvin and Corner and signed free-agent Will James because they didn't think they were strong enough at Greer's position, but Greer fended off all challengers in camp.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills had two weeks to get ready for the San Diego Chargers but that wasn't enough time for the Bills' secondary to get healthy.

Bills coach Dick Jauron already has ruled out starting cornerback Terrence McGee, who suffered a knee injury in Week 4. Another cornerback, Ashton Youbouty, is listed as questionable with a sore foot.

"He is very limited in team [drills] and very limited in the look-squad stuff," Jauron said of Youboty. "So we're just trying to get him through it. Again, we'll just have to see how that thing feels at game time."

That should be troubling for Bills fans. The Chargers have the No. 8 ranked passing offense and are coming off a game in which Philip Rivers targeted the New England Patriots corners for several long gains. Rivers threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. He did so without Chris Chambers, who's listed as doubtful for Sunday.

The Bills might need to lean on rookies Leodis McKelvin and Reggie Corner more than they'd like.

Asked if the Bills will need to get creative in how they line up in the secondary, Jauron simply replied "Absolutely."

Listed as questionable on the Bills' injury report are Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel (foot) and starting center Melvin Fowler (elbow). Duke Preston would start if Fowler can't go.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

A sprained left knee will keep Buffalo Bills cornerback and kick returner Terrence McGee out of Sunday's road game against the Arizona Cardinals, an NFL source with knowledge of the injury has informed ESPN.com.

The impact of McGee's injury will be lessened by Buffalo's bye in Week 6. He might be able to return to play the San Diego Chargers in Week 7, the source said.

An MRI on Monday confirmed there was no serious structural damage, but the former Pro Bowler was having difficulty moving when he arrived to the Bills facility.

"He's uncomfortable today and not getting around very well," Bills head coach Dick Jauron told reporters Monday afternoon before results of the test were known. "We'll just have to see where this one goes."

McGee was hurt in the first quarter of Sunday's victory over the St. Louis Rams when he got rolled up during a pileup.

McGee is Buffalo's best cornerback and kickoff returner. Arizona has the NFL's fifth-ranked offense and fourth-ranked passing offense. Arizona ranks 10th in points per game.

Rookie Leodis McKelvin, the 11th overall draft pick, will be the likely replacement. He saw his most significant NFL action Sunday after McGee left the game. Ashton Youboty also should see additional time in McGee's absence.

"I would say we'll make any personnel decisions later in the week, but we like both of those guys, obviously," Jauron said. "We've talked about them a lot as the year went on. We'll see what happens, but no personnel things until later in the week."

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