NFL Nation: Brandon McGowan

Patriots back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Patriots' organization might have the NFL's most established infrastructure. Players dutifully follow Bill Belichick's scripted, proven routines. Leadership from players such as Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Logan Mankins, Matt Light (if he returns) and Vince Wilfork will help the Patriots galvanize more speedily than most clubs.

Biggest challenge: The Patriots need to manufacture a pass rush. It will be interesting to see whether Belichick pursues assistance through free agency or sticks with the youngsters on his roster. The Patriots tied for 14th in sacks last season with 36. Starting outside linebackers Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham combined for just 10 sacks and 26 quarterback hits.

Backfield in motion: The Patriots had an entertaining tandem with BenJarvus Green-Ellis pounding out the carries (1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Danny Woodhead electrifying fans as a combo runner-receiver (926 yards from scrimmage and six TDs) last season. But the rest of the backfield depth chart could be erased (see below), and the DanJarvus Green-Woodhead attack probably won't handle as much responsibility. The Patriots drafted running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley back-to-back in the second round.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Mankins' contract has expired, but the Patriots placed the franchise tag on him. Light, running backs Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor and safety Brandon McGowan are up in the air.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireAntonio Cromartie was penalized four times for a total of 43 yards in New York's loss to Baltimore.
1. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback: The Ravens picked on Cromartie rather than test a cornerback who missed training camp and all four preseason games. And the Ravens were wildly successful in their strategy. Cromartie did make a tremendously athletic play to intercept Joe Flacco near the goal line and return it 66 yards. But Cromartie was caught cheating all night. He committed four penalties for 43 yards.

2. C.J. Spiller, Bills running back: He was the most hyped-up rookie of the preseason because of highlight-reel touchdowns that made it look like the transition from Clemson to the NFL would be a snap. Not so fast. In a loss to the Dolphins in Ralph Wilson Stadium, Spiller had 11 offensive touches for 14 yards. He had one kickoff return for 11 yards.

3. Shonn Greene, Jets running back: The supposed feature back in the Jets' ground-and-pound offense had a bad opener. On the second play of the game, he had a 9 yard reception that he fumbled out of bounds. He totaled five carries for 18 yards, all by the 4:09 mark of the second quarter. He fumbled away his last attempt and didn't get another touch until the fourth quarter. Mark Sanchez tossed an easy pass to Greene in the flat. Greene dropped it.

RISING

1. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver: He's back to his old Welkerrific self. Tom Brady targeted his favorite receiver 11 times. Welker had eight receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns, half of his last year's scoring total. Fans might hold their collective breath on a hard collision here or there in the next couple weeks, but I think we can stop worrying about Welker's rebuilt knee.

2. Dolphins' balanced offense: Identifying a star from Sunday's low-octane victory over the Bills is difficult. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning won with remarkable equilibrium. They ran 36 times. They passed 34 times. Ronnie Brown rushed for 65 yards (and a touchdown). Ricky Williams ran for 62 yards. Brandon Marshall had eight catches for 53 yards. Davone Bess had six grabs for 51 yards. Quarterback Chad Henne also got tight end Anthony Fasano involved with three receptions, including a 21-yard strike to put the ball at the Buffalo 1.

3. Patrick Chung, Patriots safety: The sophomore safety had a prolific afternoon in his second NFL start. He made 16 tackles, including one for a loss. Chung stepped in and staked his claim to the position ahead of veteran James Sanders, who started the final five games, including the postseason. Brandon McGowan started 11 games at free safety but was placed on injured reserve. Chung and strong safety Brandon Meriweather could form a rollicking duo on the back end.

AFC East High Energy Player of the Week

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
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NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Tackles aren't a certified NFL stat. While they do track them on play-by-play transcripts within a given game, each coaching staff tallies up its team's tackles when it reviews game film.

[+] EnlargeChung
Tom Croke/Icon SMIPatrick Chung was all over the field in Sunday's win over Cincinnati.
New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung unofficially recorded 16 tackles, including one for a loss, in Sunday's 38-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium. That unofficially places him second in the NFL by one tackle.

He officially established himself as a player opponents must keep their heads on a swivel to find.

The Patriots drafted Chung last year with the 34th overall selection, acquired from Kansas City in the trade for quarterback Matt Cassel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel. Chung started only one game as a rookie, but was in the opening-day lineup because incumbent free safety Brandon McGowan was placed on season-ending injured reserve a week earlier.

ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said: "Chung is starting to remind me of a young Lawyer Milloy. He has a good knowledge of the game, is a hard worker, is physical and tackles very well."

New England Patriots cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
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Check here for a full list of roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Outside linebacker Derrick Burgess kept the Patriots waiting while he contemplated retirement at the start of training camp. The Patriots probably helped push him back toward a pensive mood when they dropped the two-time Pro Bowler. The Patriots have pass-rush concerns, and Burgess tied for second with five sacks last year. The development of second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham certainly played a role in New England's decision. Also notable that second-year offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger was dropped despite the Patriots' interior issues and the fact they aggressively drafted him from Penn State in the fourth round last year. The Patriots traded cornerback Ellis Hobbs for a pair of fifth-round picks and then turned those assets into the fourth-round pick they used on Ohrnberger. He dressed for only three games last year.

No-brainers: The Patriots chose to keep five running backs, which is what they did last year. Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. With safety Brandon McGowan placed on injured reserve with a chest injury, they made a nice trade with the Kansas City Chiefs and old friend Scott Pioli for safety Jarrad Page.

What's next: Bill Belichick never stops tweaking, particularly at the bottom of the roster. So this list of 53 probably will change before opening day. The Patriots, in need of support at defensive end, could bring back Jarvis Green, cut by the Denver Broncos on Saturday. Green played all eight of his NFL seasons with the Patriots and started 13 games at left end before signing with the Broncos as a free agent. Right defensive end Ty Warren is out for the year with a hip injury. The Patriots also released veteran defensive end Damione Lewis on Friday.

Undrafted players crucial to rookie classes

April, 25, 2010
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The Miami Dolphins' top two receivers last year. The Buffalo Bills' best running back. The New England Patriots' leading receiver and right guard. The New York Jets' right guard, best inside linebacker and a safety.

None of them were drafted.

[+] EnlargeWes Welker
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIWes Welker was one of seven Patriots to start at least four games last season who came into the league undrafted.
When Mr. Irrelevant was ceremoniously introduced Saturday in Radio City Music Hall and the 2010 NFL draft ended, draft rooms didn't go dark. That's when some of the best work takes place.

Scouts scan the long list of players who weren't among the 255 chosen ones and work the phones, trying to convince the best remaining prospects to sign as free agents.

Undrafted rookies are a critical element to building a team and should produce at least a couple of keepers every year.

"First, you improve your football team, but it's probably the most economical way to put players on your team," Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix said. "There are a lot of good players out there.

"As all of us in here probably remember when there were 12 rounds and then there were 17 at one time. All of those players after seven rounds are still out there."

The AFC East is loaded with great examples.

Seven undrafted players started at least four games for division-champion New England last year: receiver Wes Welker, guards Stephen Neal and Dan Connolly, defensive lineman Mike Wright, inside linebacker Gary Guyton, outside linebacker Pierre Woods and safety Brandon McGowan.

The Dolphins relied on fullback Lousaka Polite, receivers Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo, tight end Joey Haynos and outside linebacker Cameron Wake, none of whom were drafted.

Bills running back Fred Jackson wasn't drafted, but he rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. Strong safety George Wilson evolved into a reliable starter.

The Jets fielded their share of draft-day oversights, including fullback Tony Richardson, right guard Brandon Moore, inside linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard.

That's a lot of quality players who weren't good enough to see their name crawl across the bottom of ESPN's draft telecast.

Still, they were found.

"These scouts bust their tails putting the board together on the back end of the draft board," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said. "You have to trust what they see, and I am pretty involved in it as well because I have been there before and I want to know what we are signing for. It is a very important aspect of [the process]."

Imagine all those Jets scouting reports that would otherwise go to waste if not for undrafted free agents.

Perhaps no team has relied on them to fill out their 53-man roster, practice squad and training camp roster more than the Jets.

Two straight Aprils, they drafted the fewest prospects in the league -- three last year and four this time. They also drafted only four players in 2007.

"I'm banking on our scouting department that we're going to sign a couple players here in the next couple of hours that will have a good chance of making our team," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said Saturday night.

Patriots get four compensatory picks

March, 22, 2010
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL has awarded a league-high four compensatory draft choices to the New England Patriots.

The Miami Dolphins received one. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets didn't get any.

The picks were revealed Monday night at the NFL owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

Compensatory picks are awarded to clubs based on a secret formula more guarded than Colonel Sanders' recipe. We know the formula involves the number of free agents gained and lost the previous offseason and how well those players performed the ensuing season. We think the formula factors in the players' salaries, playing time and awards.

New England lost five qualifying free agents (running back LaMont Jordan, fullback Heath Evans, receiver Jabar Gaffney, linebacker Larry Izzo and long-snapper Lonie Paxton) and signed only one (safety Brandon McGowan).

The NFL compensated the Patriots with one sixth-round pick and three seventh-round picks. The selections are Nos. 205, 247, 248 and 250.

Miami lost two qualifying free agents (cornerback Andre Goodman and safety Renaldo Hill) and signed two (center Jake Grove and center Joe Berger).

The Dolphins were given a seventh-round pick, No. 252.

Ranking the AFC East secondaries

February, 18, 2010
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Revis, Meriweather & DavisIcon SMIDarrelle Revis and Brandon Meriweather are two of the AFC East's star defensive backs, and Miami cornerback Vontae Davis has the potential to be very soon.
Note: Thursday and Friday, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson is reviewing key aspects of AFC East teams. Below, he reviews and ranks the division’s secondaries from best to worst.

1. New York Jets

A lot has been written about Darrelle Revis. Like many, I put him at the top of the cornerback list. He would have been my NFL Defensive Player of the Year for 2009. But he can cover only one receiver at a time.

I contend that New York’s biggest offseason need is a starting cornerback opposite Revis. Donald Strickland, Lito Sheppard and Dwight Lowery are all best suited for third cornerback duties. Lowery is my favorite of these three, but he has physical limitations.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan obviously expects a lot out of this position and an upgrade could make an excellent defense even better. Strong safety Jim Leonhard is a personal favorite of mine. The guy has some limitations of course, but he just makes plays -- especially as a coverage player. Free safety Kerry Rhodes took some criticism during the 2009 season, but I contend that he is a well above average all-around safety. Year 2 in this defense could really yield dividends for Rhodes. Backup free safety Eric Smith could leave via free agency, but he was a liability for most of the season.

Overall, the Jets get the edge as the best secondary in the division weighted heavily on what Revis brings to the table.

2. New England Patriots

While I give the Buffalo Bills’ set of safeties the nod as the division’s best pair, I’m high on the Patriots’ Brandon Meriweather. He’s the best safety overall in the AFC East. As good as he is at strong safety, Meriweather and the Patriots would benefit from an upgrade at free safety. Brandon McGowan is a force against the run, but is too often exposed in coverage. Fellow free safety James Sanders is too ordinary in both facets.

At cornerback, veterans Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs caught way too much heat for New England’s pass defense issues. Remember, this is a defense that lacks much of a pass rush. These two are still starting caliber, particularly Bodden (an unrestricted free agent).

The younger guys are the problem. Surely they will improve, but Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite collectively did little to get excited about in 2009. If Bodden is retained, the Pats squeak ahead of the Bills as the second-best secondary in the division. Without Bodden, Buffalo has a distinct advantage.

3. Buffalo Bills

When evaluating the safeties in this division, I think you have to give that position to the Bills. In 2009, safety Jairus Byrd obviously made a ton of impact plays as a rookie and was an extremely pleasant surprise. His ability to play the ball and his coverage abilities overall are very strong, but when it comes to playing the run, let’s just say that isn’t his specialty. I am a big fan of safety Donte Whitner, too. Last season wasn’t his best campaign, but he is very talented and versatile. Fellow safeties George Wilson and Bryan Scott are not household names, but both are very solid players who deserve playing time, though Scott might leave via free agency. I still have hope for Leodis McKelvin to develop into an upper-tier cornerback. Overall, the threesome of McKelvin, Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee was underwhelming in 2009.

4. Miami Dolphins

Vontae Davis and Sean Smith get a lot of ink as the Dolphins’ starting rookie cornerbacks. Smith began the season strong, but his unusual body type and struggles flipping his hips always might hold him back. To me, he finished the season as a somewhat overrated player.

But Davis could be on the verge of stardom. Like Smith, he made some rookie mistakes, but this kid has it all physically. He will be a true No. 1 cover man -- maybe as soon as next season. Third cornerback Will Allen is serviceable, but not dynamic.

Gibril Wilson and Yeremiah Bell are both average starting caliber strong safeties. But the problem in Miami is that neither has the skill set for deep patrol. The lack of a true free safety-type hurt this pass defense and is a clear offseason need.

Final Word: AFC East

November, 13, 2009
11/13/09
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

The New England Patriots don’t need to win Sunday night, but they must beat either the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints. If the Patriots go 0-2 on the road against undefeated teams that are considered Nos. 1 and 2 in virtually every power rankings poll, Patriot Nation won't unravel. But if the Patriots want to re-establish themselves as an elite team, they should knock off either the Colts this weekend or the Saints in Week 12. Both games are in prime time, an occasion to step up.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Owens
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesAfter being held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday, Terrell Owens returned to practice Friday.
An out-of-the blue hip injury may signal the beginning of the end for Terrell Owens' career. For those who don't believe Owens' stats are an indicator -- he's on pace to have the worst season of his NFL career -- Wednesday's news that he is suffering from a strange hip injury could be the omen. The Bills were on a bye last week. He was fine at Monday's practice, then on Tuesday (a day off) he told the Bills he was hurt. Owens will turn 36 next month.

The young Miami Dolphins' secondary will be very good in the near future. Two weeks ago, the Dolphins started three rookies in their defensive backfield, including cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis and safety Chris Clemons. Smith had a sensational training camp and has held his own during the season. Davis, in for out-of-commission starter Will Allen, has shown flashes in recent weeks, including a great interception to deny Randy Moss a long bomb In Week 9. Of course, Moss later abused Davis on the game's two biggest plays, but the experience the Dolphins' secondary is getting in 2009 will be enormous for next year and beyond.

The New York Jets must make a statement. The Jets are 4-4 and have a faint playoff pulse. They've had plenty to think about during their bye week and must emerge with a convincing victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Meadowlands to get themselves in the right frame of mind for the homestretch. The Jets' remaining opponents have a .563 win percentage. They need to back up their big words immediately. Nobody cares what a non-playoff team has to say.

Patriots safety Brandon McGowan will have a bigger role Sunday night than any other defensive player. Other players might have a more explosive game in terms of stats, but McGowan's job might be the toughest. He must make sure Colts tight end Dallas Clark has a quiet night, and I like McGowan's chances. He has been an under-the-radar performer, signed as a situational defensive back and special-teamer. But he has evolved into a remarkable defender. He has shut down Pro Bowlers Tony Gonzalez (one catch, 16 yards) and Kellen Winslow (two catches, 9 yards) so far.

Midseason Report: Patriots

November, 11, 2009
11/11/09
12:19
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Power Rankings: Preseason: 2. This week: 6.

2009 Schedule/Results

Elsa/Getty Images
Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather has stepped up for a young defense.
Where they stand: The Patriots are atop the AFC East at 6-2 and have separated themselves from the division's other three teams. They have eight difficult games ahead, including dome trips this month to meet the undefeated Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. The Patriots have won three straight and notched an important victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins, who were previously unbeaten in the division. With the rest of the AFC East so muddled, if the Patriots finish their remaining schedule a game above .500, then they should lock up the division title. In fact, 4-4 the rest of the way might get it done.

Disappointments: Thankfully for Patriots fans, most frustrations from the first half of the season have been addressed in some way. The Patriots still haven't discovered a reliable No. 3 receiver, but they did part ways with Joey Galloway, whose inability to develop any semblance of chemistry with Tom Brady was exasperating. Brady seems to be getting increasingly comfortable with his reconstructed left knee. Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas, benched for a game, has responded with some strong play recently. The biggest issue lately has been red zone offense. The Patriots have been moving the ball with relative ease, but settling for too many field goals.

Surprises: People knew safety Brandon Meriweather was going to be good, but he has emerged as a force at a time when the Patriots' transitioning defense needed its youth to blossom. Free agent safety Brandon McGowan, considered a role player and special-teamer when the Patriots signed him, has been an eye-opener when it comes to run support and shutting down tight ends. On offense, two rookies have emerged. Julian Edelman, a quarterback at Kent State, was drafted in the seventh round but quickly endeared himself as a receiver. Tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a second-round pick out of Houston, has filled in remarkably well for injured left tackle Matt Light and kept reigning AFC sacks leader Joey Porter from recording a tackle Sunday.

Outlook: As long as Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are running the show, New England will be a Super Bowl contender. The Patriots are running the ball more than they did in 2007, but they remain a passing team. Brady makes it look so easy with Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Belichick masterfully reshaped the defense after losing four mainstays. Inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi and safety Rodney Harrison retired to the microphone farm. Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel and defensive end Richard Seymour were traded. But the defense stayed formidable. We'll learn if they can withstand the firepower of elite offenses when they face Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Falling

1. Chad Pennington, Dolphins: All the guy wanted to do was stay healthy for consecutive seasons, something he hadn't done since 2002-03. Sadly, Pennington didn't get his wish. Last year's Comeback Player of the Year and runner-up to Peyton Manning for league MVP probably is done for the season because of another injury to his throwing shoulder.

Pennington faces a potentially career-threatening situation. His right shoulder has been operated on twice already and likely will need to undergo the knife again. He will be 34 years old before the start of next season.

2. Terrell Owens, Bills: For the first time in 186 games, Owens failed to catch a pass in Sunday's lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints. Fans went gaga over the Bills' decision to sign Owens. They gobbled up tickets. A crazed horde famously turned out at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where one lunatic dressed up as a popcorn box to welcome Owens.

Yet through three games, Owens ranks fifth on the team with five receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown. Running back Fred Jackson has three times as many catches. Tight end Derek Schouman didn't play Sunday and is out for the season, but he has almost double Owens' total.

3. Thomas Jones, Jets: In Week 1, the numbers looked appropriate for last year's AFC rushing leader. Jones ran 20 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. But 77 of those yards were gained on two fourth-quarter plays. Extract them, and he averaged 1.7 yards per attempt.

His next outings haven't been much better. Jones carried 14 times each of the past two games, gaining 54 and 20 yards.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Fred Taylor gives New England's rushing attack a much-needed jolt.
Rising

1. Fred Taylor, Patriots: Finally, the Patriots effectively ran the ball. After a couple of weeks in which quarterback Tom Brady aired it out 100 times, the Patriots insisted upon running against the Atlanta Falcons.

Laurence Maroney, the starter in Weeks 2 and 3, left the game with a thigh injury in the second quarter. Taylor carried the load by rushing for more yards in the first half than any Patriots back had gained in each of the first two games. Taylor finished with 105 yards and a touchdown.

2. Mark Sanchez, Jets: One solid game could be happenstance. Two solid games might be coincidence. But three in a row establishes a standard. I guess Jets fans should expect the rookie to perform well every week.

In a 24-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez demonstrated some youthful exuberance that needs to be reigned in a tad, but he once again played more like a four-year pro than a 22-year-old. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Sanchez also scored on a spectacular -- albeit reckless -- 14-yard run.

3. Brandon McGowan, Patriots: When the Patriots signed him as a free agent, he appeared to be a depth player and special-teamer. McGowan not only has been starting, but he also has been a factor.

With Sunday's game tied at 10, McGowan forced Falcons back Michael Turner to cough up the ball on the Patriots' 31-yard line. It was a key play that prevented the Falcons from asserting themselves. They didn't score again. McGowan also was a significant reason why future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was limited to one catch for 16 yards.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets had to be pleased to see the New England Patriots scratch slot receiver extraordinaire Wes Welker before the game.

Another nice sight has been Patriots strong safety Brandon Meriweather, standing on the sideline with his helmet off.

Meriweather suffered an ankle injury on Leon Washington's 40-yard kickoff return late in the first quarter. Meriweather's status has been announced as questionable.

He's one of the Patriots' best defenders, maybe one of its best two in Sunday afternoon's starting lineup with linebacker Jerod Mayo already out with a knee injury.

Meriweather had a team-high eight tackles, including one for a loss, in Monday night's victory over the Buffalo Bills. He made the initial hit that stood up kick returner Leodis McKelvin on that fateful fumbled inside the final two minutes.

Brandon McGowan, a hard-hitting safety formerly of the Chicago Bears, has replaced Meriweather.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Delhomme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Josh McCown got up and threw briefly, but it looks like Jake Delhomme's going to stay in the game.

Delhomme just took a massive hit as he slid to the ground on a scramble. Linebacker Lance Briggs and safety Brandon McGowan weren't called for a penalty as they hit Delhomme, but it's likely one or both of them will be fined for the play.

Delhomme was visibly upset as he came off the field. Keep an eye on Delhomme when he gets back on the field. He's an emotional guy and a play like that may fire him up.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

There is beginning to be some reasonable concern about the short-term future, at least, of Green Bay Packers pass-rush specialist Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

Gbaja-Biamila had been sidelined with residual soreness in his right knee following offseason surgery, and his return to practice Monday did not go well. He sat out Tuesday's practice and it's not clear when he will return. The Packers have an extra day to prepare for their regular-season opener against Minnesota, which is a Monday night game, but it's not known whether that will make any difference for Gbaja-Biamila.

After Tuesday's practice, coach Mike McCarthy told Wisconsin reporters that the knee "didn't respond very well" to the previous day's work. He did not elaborate on Gbaja-Biamila's timetable. Every team takes its own approach to rehabilitation, but never is it a good sign when an injured player unexpectedly sits out the day after returning to practice.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that four of Gbaja-Biamila's 9 1/2 sacks last season came against Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie. (Of course, McKinnie might not be eligible for that game if the NFL suspends him for violating its personal conduct policy). The Journal Sentinel suggests the Packers would use Jason Hunter in Gbaja-Biamila's role as the right end in passing situations.

Gbaja-Biamila has a $6.15 million base salary this season and a $7.7 million cap number for 2008, prompting some suggestions that his roster spot could be vulnerable if he does not recover soon. But given how effective he was as recently as last season when healthy, it's hard to imagine the Packers jettisoning him any time soon.

Elsewhere around the NFC North:

  • Packers running back Ryan Grant will get about 10 snaps in Thursday's preseason finale against Tennessee, the same number as most of the rest of the team's starters. It will be Grant's first game action of the summer.
  • The Chicago Bears were busy Tuesday. In addition to terminating the contract of defensive back Ricky Manning Jr., they decided to remove Danieal Manning as the primary nickel back, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Brandon McGowan is the likely replacement, with Kevin Payne taking over at strong safety. Chicago also is awaiting a decision from veteran offensive lineman Fred Miller on its recent contract offer.
  • The Chicago Tribune projects the Bears will attempt to get rookie quarterback Caleb Hanie, a fan favorite, through waivers and put him on their practice squad.
  • The Detroit Lions' only notable cut was kicker Dave Rayner, who was let go because incumbent Jason Hanson has recovered from a hip injury.
  • Newly-signed quarterback Drew Henson is expected to play at least a quarter of the Lions' preseason finale Thursday at Buffalo.
  • Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway, two years removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, has had an exceptional summer. "I think I'm playing at a level where I haven't been before," Greenway told the Star Tribune.
Posted by EPSN.com's Kevin Seifert

 
 AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
 Aaron Rodgers silenced the doubters for at least one night.

By all accounts, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers produced a scintillating performance Friday night in Denver.

Rodgers completed 18 of 22 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown in the Packers' 27-24 victory over the Broncos, and in all Green Bay gained 217 yards and 15 first downs when he was in the game. Coming in the most critical of preseason games, the performance eased concerns about his rusty outings in the previous two games.

"I thought Aaron had a very good night," coach Mike McCarthy told reporters in Denver. "I thought he was sharp. I thought he managed the offense, the tempo, was smart with the football, was very good on third down. I thought it was important for our offense to come out and establish some tempo and have some productivity early in the game. We were able to do that and continue it for four quarters."

Rodgers threw a 35-yard pass to tight end Tory Humphrey on the Packers' first play from scrimmage and it was off to the races from there. The Packers also benefited from the return of receiver Greg Jennings, who had four catches for 42 yards.

The night wasn't a total success at the quarterback position, however. In limited time, backup Brian Brohm did not complete any of his four passes. McCarthy indicated Brohm and No. 3 quarterback Matt Flynn will get extended playing time next Thursday against Tennessee.

Elsewhere around the NFC North:

  • The Detroit Lions' key offensive players probably will see only 20-25 snaps Saturday against Cleveland. "Injuries are such a significant part in these preseason games," offensive coordinator Jim Colletto told the Detroit Free Press. "And we can't afford to get anybody hurt."
  • Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (sprained right knee) did not participate in any 11-on-11 drills during practice this week. He is not expected to play in Saturday's preseason game against Pittsburgh.
  • Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is vowing to hold some competitive practices in the wake of his team's defensive breakdown Thursday night against San Francisco. Brandon McGowan and Kevin Payne will continue to compete for the starting strong-safety job.
  • 49ers running back Frank Gore was asked how long it had been since his team's offense had felt as good as it did against the Bears: "A long time," Gore said. "A long time. A long time."

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