NFL Nation: David Nelson

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets wrapped up minicamp -- and the offseason -- with a 90-minute practice Thursday in a light rain. A few takeaways:

Smith
1. Quarterback hiccups: One day after his coaches lavished praise upon him for a terrific offseason, Geno Smith ended on a down note, throwing two interceptions in team drills. One was an ill-advised throw, a pass into double coverage. He was looking for Eric Decker, who was covered by CB Dee Milliner, and it was picked off by rookie S Calvin Pryor. Later, Smith (2-for-6 in team drills) was intercepted by Milliner on a deep ball that went off the hands of Decker. It's important to keep this in perspective. Two turnovers on the final day of minicamp doesn't change anything. As Marty Mornhinweg indicated Wednesday, it's Smith's job to lose. Michael Vick was 2-for-7, with a couple of overthrows.

2. Young ball hawks: Turnovers are always a good news-bad news story in practice. The good news is that the secondary, which produced very few big plays last season, came up big. In addition to Pryor and Milliner, rookie CB Dexter McDougle made a big play, intercepting Vick in a 7-on-7 drill. (Vick seemed upset; there might have been a miscommunication with WR Jeremy Kerley). Afterward, Rex Ryan praised McDougle as one of the standouts in minicamp. This will be the youngest secondary of the Ryan era. The upside is the improved team speed on the back end; the downside is the lack of experience, which will inevitably lead to mental errors.

3. Another Hill to climb: WR Stephen Hill, who could be fighting for his roster spot, finished with a terrific practice. This was a positive offseason for Hill, who needed a jolt after a second straight disappointing season. He worked with the starting base offense, with David Nelson replacing him in some three-receiver packages. Nelson, too, looked sharp, hauling in two completions from Smith. Unlike past years, the Jets actually have some depth at receiver. It'll be interesting to see which players separate from the pack in training camp.

4. Dawan is da man: Veteran S Dawan Landry became the forgotten man in recent weeks, especially with Pryor and Antonio Allen working exclusively with the first team. After practice, Ryan tossed a bouquet to Landry, mentioning him as one of the standouts in minicamp. Ryan also revealed that Landry won an "Iron Jet" award for his exploits in the conditioning program, noting that he reported to the offseason program in superior condition. Funny how that works; they draft a safety in the first round and the aging incumbent shows up looking better than ever.

5. Attendance report: LB David Harris (hamstring tightness) and TE Jeff Cumberland (undisclosed) sat out. As expected, RB Chris Ivory (ankle) didn't participate. With Chris Johnson (knee) also out, Bilal Powell and Alex Green had busy days.

6. Have a nice summer: The offseason program is over. The team won't be together again until training camp. Reporting day is July 23 in Cortland, New York.
Saturday's drops notwithstanding, Rex Ryan likes the look of his 2014 receiving corps. The New York Jets spent money ($15 million guaranteed for Eric Decker) and draft picks (three) to improve the weakest position on the team.

"From top to bottom," Ryan said, "it’s a much better group of receivers than we had probably at any point last year."

[+] EnlargeShaq Evans
Bill Kostroun/AP PhotoPerhaps rookie Shaq Evans could develop into the Jets' No. 1 receiver role this season.
Let's examine that statement.

The high point last year, if you could call it that, was the start of the season, when the Jets' top three wideouts were Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley. (Incredibly, the trio played only one game together -- the opener.) You could argue they ended the season in better shape, with the surprising David Nelson replacing the injured Hill. Either way, the narrative is the same: It was a deficient receiving corps that lacked speed, depth and a true No. 1, because even when Holmes was healthy, he wasn't really healthy. Clearly, he was a diminished player because of his surgically repaired foot from 2012.

You know what? For the sake of comparison, let's drop the "at-any-point" qualifier and look at the group as a whole. The top receivers last year, in my opinion, were Holmes, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Clyde Gates, Greg Salas and Josh Cribbs, who really didn't play much receiver. The latter three are marginal NFL players.

The top receivers this year, as of now, are Decker, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Jacoby Ford, Gates, Shaq Evans, Jalen Saunders and Quincy Enunwa. This time, the latter three are rookies with varying degrees of upside. Based on what I saw from rookie camp, and from talking to talent evaluators around the league, Evans has the best chance to make an immediate contribution among the rookies. His skill set is more complete than the others.

"We’ll see what kind of receivers we have," Ryan said, "but you could put out an unbelievable (4x100) relay team."

To me, Decker is an upgrade over Holmes, although there are many who question whether Decker is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Beyond Decker, the top four could be the same as last year, with Kerley, Nelson and Hill filling out the top spots. The Jets still lack a home-run hitter, a need they failed to address in the offseason. Someone has to develop into that guy and crack the top four. Maybe it can be Hill -- if he's healthy and consistent. Maybe it can be Ford -- if he's healthy and can recapture the promise he showed as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders in 2010. Maybe it can be one of the rookies.

So, yes, I'd agree with Ryan's statement that it's a better overall unit than last season, but I wonder whether it's as good as it needs to be.
So the New York Jets' wide-receiver situation has improved over the past 24 hours, with the addition of Eric Decker. Now you have Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill and David Nelson as your top four guys. You have basketball size with Nelson (6-foot-5), Hill (6-4) and Decker (6-3). The Jets could add another veteran in free agency, perhaps James Jones (6-1).

Does this preclude them from drafting a receiver in the first round? Not at all. They absolutely could select a "speed" player to complement all the big bodies. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. certainly could see them going in that direction. He believes they still need a No. 1 receiver because he doesn't see Decker thriving in that role.

"I think Decker is a good No. 2 receiver," Kiper said Thursday in a media conference call. "If you’re asking more than that, maybe you’re expecting too much. He was in the perfect scenario certainly in Denver with Peyton [Manning] last year, when you think about what he was able to do numbers-wise. When he was at Minnesota, I had a second-, third-round grade on him when he came out. I liked him coming out of Minnesota as a 2, not a 1.

"If you get a guy like Marqise Lee or you get a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. (at No. 18), or if you get a guy like Brandin Cooks at that point, you’re still getting a guy who could be very viable with Decker," Kiper continued. "They still could take a wide receiver. If they didn’t, you have to look at a versatile linebacker, you certainly could look at a tight end if [Eric] Ebron slid down there. There’s going to be an attractive receiver still there. What they have to decide is, is Decker enough or do they want to get an Odell Beckham Jr. or a Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee because all three of those players -- at least two of those -- I think still could be there when the Jets pick."

We still have two months to debate it.

Emotions simmer after bad loss to Jets

December, 22, 2013
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It took 15 games, six consecutive losses and one real bad performance in a 24-13 loss to the Jets, but Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski broke his flatline postgame approach.

For the first time all season, Chudzinski showed some emotion -- and anger. It was nothing over the top, but it was there.

He called the effort unacceptable, said it was tough to swallow.

[+] EnlargeRob Chudzinski
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports"I'm the head coach of this team," Rob Chudzinski said. "So ultimately this is on me."
Of losing six in a row, nine of 10 and playing so poorly at this point of the season, he said: “You can’t imagine how I feel about that.”

During the week leading up to the game, the coach had talked about seeing things that made him believe in the long-term plan. After the game he admitted there weren’t a lot of good things to see against the Jets.

Then he said the team’s results and play falls on him.

“I bear all the responsibility,” Chudzinski said. “I’m the head coach of this team. So ultimately this is on me, and I’m committed to get it right.”

With all due respect to his professional approach, it’s on a lot more than the coach. While the present regime can blame the previous one because it doesn’t like the players it inherited, this team has regressed as the season has gone on. The team has left salary-cap space unspent even though several positions could be upgraded while at the same time making a great effort to build for 2014 and beyond.

The constant tension between a front office building for the future and a coaching staff wanting to win now was never more apparent than during the past few days, as the coach and offensive coordinator Norv Turner tried to explain where the team is headed and why decisions are made.

The Browns added two receivers in the offseason, Davone Bess via trade and David Nelson via free agency. Bess is done for the season due to personal issues after a very disappointing season.

Nelson spent much of preseason with the Browns while recovering from knee surgery. He played fairly well in the preseason finale, then was cut.

Sunday he caught two touchdowns against the Browns -- the first two of his season and the first two-touchdown game of his career. In the same game, Greg Little and Josh Gordon dropped two touchdown catches, and Jason Campbell was throwing passes to Brian Tyms, Josh Cooper and MarQueis Gray -- a college quarterback playing tight end.

There are a lot of reasons to explain the Browns' 4-11 record, beginning with team starting three different quarterbacks and having no real running game.

The defensive meltdowns -- they had no hits or sacks of Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith -- are harder to explain, other than the defense is simply not what it was touted to be.

But NFL players have 16 opportunities to play hard and play well. On this particular Sunday the Browns did neither.

What was left was for Chudzinski to respond this way when asked what he’d say to the fans: “Hang in there. We’ll get it right.”

Which is tough for fans to hear when the team has won 27 games over the past six seasons (with one left).

Chudzinski just happens to be the guy who speaks after games. But the team’s owner, CEO and GM have not had a lot to say.

Losing to the Patriots and Bears, two teams competing for the playoffs, is one thing.

Losing with a half-hearted, sloppy and uninspired effort against a team that’s playing for nothing but pride is quite another.

If Jacksonville was rock bottom for the Browns, this effort had them looking for rocks to hide under.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Stephen Hill became a starter the moment he was picked in the second round of the 2012 draft. Those days could be over.

Hill, who has gone two straight games without a catch, is in jeopardy of losing his job, according to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

"Yeah, that will be a consideration," Ryan said Monday.

In other words, it will be a surprise if Hill keeps his job.

Hill has been a non-factor in six consecutive games. For the season, he has only 23 receptions despite the fact that he has played a team-high 517 snaps at wide receiver. The lowpoint occurred Sunday against the Buffalo Bills: Hill had no catches despite seven targets.

Ryan, who rarely criticizes players in public, delivered an unusually blunt evaluation of Hill.

"It certainly hasn't been what we thought it would be and where we hoped it would be," he said. "I know the want-to is there, it's just that the production hasn't been there for whatever reason."

Ryan noted that opponents might be paying more attention to Hill, but that seemed like a bit of a stretch. The fact is, Hill is a one-dimensional receiver -- a vertical threat -- whose importance has been minimized because of the overall struggles of the passing game.

"It's frustrating to him, to all of us," said Ryan, who wasn't keen on the idea of trading up for Hill and picking him in the second round. "We've been expecting bigger things from Stephen and, quite honestly, it just hasn't happened."

The Jets took a chance on Hill because of his size and speed, but he was a raw receiver coming out of Georgia Tech, where he was used mostly as a blocker in a triple-option offense.

Hill likely would be replaced by David Nelson, who has 17 catches in only six games since being signed as a free agent.

Did Jets pick bad time for field trip?

November, 17, 2013
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ORCHARD PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets collectively scoffed at the notion that Saturday's team trip to a Dave & Busters in suburban Buffalo fueled the Buffalo Bills with added incentive.

"I don't know why that's added motivation," Rex Ryan said after the 37-14 loss Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. "We do different things when we're on the road. We did different things in Atlanta, did different things wherever, so I don't know how that would give added motivation. Your players go out in groups or whatever. We went out as a team."

After dropping three of their first four on the road, Ryan decided to shake up the travel routine. Instead of afternoon offensive and defensive meetings at the team hotel, they traveled by bus to a nearby Dave & Busters. They returned to the hotel in time for the evening team meeting. Team trips happen a lot in training camp; it's unusual during the regular season.

"The fact is, we haven't been doing well on the road and you have to try different things to figure it out," tackle Austin Howard said. "I applaud Rex for trying to do something different, trying to figure out why we haven't been doing as well on the road as we have at home."

Guard Willie Colon said, "Rex wants us to stay together and we're trying to build team camaraderie. Rex wants to break the monotony of us being on the road and he wants guys to get to know each other. It was a team-bonding moment, that's all it was."

But the Jets were sensitive about the trip and didn't want it to become public, perhaps fearing it would create the perception they were taking the Bills lightly. It was first reported by the New York Post. On Saturday night, a team spokesman refused to confirm or deny the trip.

The Bills could've perceived it as a slight. Coach Doug Marrone said he was aware of it, but claimed he never mentioned it to his team until after the game. Several players said they had heard about it before the game. Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham said they do similar things on the road.

"We go out before games when we travel," Graham said. "Anytime you can travel to a new city and do something different, (it's OK). There's a time for work and there's a time for play. If you have time off, you get to free your mind. No disrespect on that one."

Graham said his initial thought was "it was kind of lighthearted and they kind of took it easy (Saturday) night, but it's not disrespectful. They tried to free up their minds and get away from the game."

The Jets (5-5) have other problems, mainly a lack of consistency. They became the first team in history to alternate wins and losses through its first 10 games.

"We're running out of time," Colon said. "However we want the season to end, we have to turn it around now."

Wide receiver David Nelson attributed the up and down nature to "a lack of maturity. We have to grow up, especially on the road. It seems like whenever we're on the road, our intensity drops off."

The Jets are 1-4 on the road, including losses by 25, 40 and 23 points. The bad news is, they still have three away games, starting Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- David Nelson predicted two weeks ago his $7,875 fine for unnecessary roughness on Adam Jones would be rescinded -- and he was right.

Nelson
The New York Jets wide receiver revealed Monday that he won his appeal.

This was vindication for Nelson, who was accused of dirty play by Jones after the Cincinnati Bengals' 49-9 rout of the Jets. Jones, known for his volatile behavior off the field, said Nelson was guilty of three cheap shots that warranted fines by the league. In fact, Nelson was flagged only once.

Jones was livid after he was decked by Nelson on a running play; the cornerback felt it was a cheap shot because it occurred away from the play. Jones told Nelson, "I'm going to find out where you live and come get you." Despite the penalty flag, the league office deemed it a legal block.

Nelson has a new focus -- the Buffalo Bills, whom the Jets face Sunday. He spent three seasons with the Bills, catching a career-high 61 passes in 2011, but they cut ties with him last spring by declining to make him a qualifying offer. Nelson found out on Twitter, which didn't sit well. He said he harbors no bitterness toward the Bills, but ...

"I could do the typical cliche and say it's just another game, but that's not the case," he said, adding, "I, like a lot of other players in that situation, took it personally. I'm out to prove this week they made a mistake."

Nelson said he will be "on the edge and excited all week," looking forward to the return trip to Buffalo.

"It will be a lot of fun, but at the same time, the front office made a decision not to re-sign me and that's a whole other animal," he said. "They made a decision and you always want to go back and show your ex-girlfriend and your ex-team what they're missing out on. It's that mentality. I'm not bitter towards them, but you still want to go back and show your talent and show what you can do."

Nelson has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets. In five games, he has 16 receptions for 199 yards.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson, accused of dirty play last Sunday by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, said Thursday he was fined by the NFL for an unnecessary-roughness penalty on Jones in the third quarter of the Jets' 49-9 loss.

Nelson wouldn't disclose the amount of the fine, but he said he will appeal it.

Jones said after the game that Nelson committed three cheap shots after the whistle and deserved to be fined for each one. Jones started jawing with Nelson in the second quarter and, at one point, Jones told him, "I'm going to find out where you live and come and get you."

On Monday, Nelson defended himself to reporters, saying he used only one cut-block on Jones. Cut blocks are legal, but Jones wasn't happy because it occurred away from the ball. On the unnecessary-roughness penalty, Nelson lowered a shoulder into Jones as they ran side-by-side toward a running play. Jones went flying, got up immediately and had to be separated by a teammate from going after Nelson. Jones started jawing with the Jets' sideline, including coach Rex Ryan.

Nelson is confident he can win his appeal because he believes his block on Jones was legal, occurred before the whistle and took place close enough to the play.

Practice Report: Signs of progress

October, 31, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Five New York Jets players did not practice Wednesday, but four of them were doing at least some work Thursday, during the portion of practice open to the media.

Wide receivers Stephen Hill (foot) and Jeremy Kerley (illness), and guard Willie Colon (calf) were in uniform and back on the field. Wideout Santonio Holmes (hamstring) was on the field, too, participating in wide-receiver drills for the second consecutive day.

Tight end Jeff Cumberland (concussion) was not practicing, making it even more likely he will not play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Hill, unlike Holmes, did not participate in wide-receiver drills. He was riding an exercise bike on the side. The same goes for wideout David Nelson, who did not appear on Wednesday's official injury report, but had a hamstring issue last week.

We'll have more information for you later this afternoon, after interviews and the release of the official injury report.

Angry Pacman exchanges words with Rex

October, 27, 2013
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CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam (Pacman) Jones, upset with what he perceived as dirty play by receiver David Nelson, got into a back-and-forth with the New York Jets' sideline late in the game. Jones exchanged a few words with coach Rex Ryan.

"He told me to shut the hell up," Jones told Bengals.com after his team's 49-9 rout Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Jones
Asked how he responded to Ryan, Jones said he pointed to the scoreboard.

"(Nelson) was playing dirty," Jones said. "He cut me like four times after the play. Thank God I took my medicine today, I guess, and I didn't go off. Hopefully he'll get fined. At least three fines. There were three real cheap shots after the play."

Nelson was flagged for a personal foul. Jones got the last laugh, intercepting a Geno Smith pass and returning it 60 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 49-9 lead early in the fourth quarter. It was Smith's last pass of the game.

Nelson ended up having his most productive day as a Jet -- a team-high eight catches for 80 yards.

Mo's pick: Despite an awful game by the pass defense, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson made a couple of big plays. He recorded his seventh sack, which leads the team, and made his first career interception. It came on a weird, volleyball-type play. Wilkerson tipped a pass to defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who tipped it back to him. It could've been a turning point in the game, but the Jets only managed to convert it into a field goal.

Injury report: Tight end Jeff Cumberland left the game with what was announced as a head injury. Safety Antonio Allen suffered an undisclosed injury that will require tests Monday morning. Guard Willie Colon, who got up slowly after a play late in the game, was seen in the locker room wearing a heavy wrap around his ribs.

Simms debuts: First-year uarterback Matt Simms made his NFL debut, replacing Smith early in the fourth quarter. His most memorable play, if not the smartest, was trying to hurdle two defenders to reach the first-down marker. He's lucky he wasn't injured.

"I'm probably going to get a few messages from my father telling me to be a little smarter," said Simms, son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms. "I wanted to show everyone that I’m going to sacrifice and play hard. I’m going to play to the last play, no matter what the score is."

Disappearing pass rush: The big, nasty Jets' pass-rush, which entered the game with 24 sacks, was a non-factor. They had only one quarterback hit, and that was Wilkerson's sack in the second quarter. That has to be alarming, considering the Bengals lost left tackle Andrew Whitworth in the second half.

Leaky secondary: Here's an unofficial breakdown of completions allowed by the Jets' defensive backs:

Cornerback Dee Milliner -- Targeted five times, four completions for 108 yards and one TD.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie -- Targeted five times, two completions for 106 yards. Also a 34-yard pass-interference penalty.

Cornerback Darrin Walls -- Targeted three times, one completion for six yards and one TD.

Cornerback Kyle Wilson -- Targeted twice, one completion for nine yards.

Safety Antonio Allen -- Targeted three times, two completions for 22 yards.

Safety Dawan Landry -- Targeted twice, one completions for 14 yards and a TD.

Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett -- Targeted twice, two completions for 15 yards and a TD.

Winslow, Nelson active for Jets

October, 7, 2013
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ATLANTA -- Tight end Kellen Winslow, who listed as questionable after missing significant practice time due to a chronic knee condition, is active for the New York Jets Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

Recently signed wide receiver David Nelson, who did not arrive until last week, also is active. Without Santonio Holmes (hamstring), the Jets' receiving corps is Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Nelson and Michael Campbell, who was promoted last Saturday from the practice squad. Gates, too, was questionable with a knee injury.

Rookie wide receiver Ryan Spadola, who was cut last Saturday amid a flurry of roster moves, cleared waivers at 4 p.m. ET Monday, according to a league source. He's a free agent and could wind up returning to the Jets.

Aside from Holmes, the Jets' inactives are QB Brady Quinn, CB Dee Milliner, G Will Campbell, OT Oday Aboushi, OT Ben Ijalana and TE Zach Sudfeld.

For the Falcons, the news is that CB Asante Samuel is active after missing time with a thigh injury. The Falcons' inactives are RB Steven Jackson, LB Akeem Dent, LT Sam Baker, S Kemal Ishmael, S Zeke Motta, G Harland Gunn and TE Chase Coffman.
Most significant move. One of the major storylines this summer was the kicking battle between Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay. Who won? Nobody. The Cleveland Browns will continue their search for a kicker after cutting both on their roster, which makes not re-signing Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson even more questionable. Graham was 3-of-3 on field goals this preseason, even making a 50-yarder, but sat out the preseason finale with a stiff back. The Browns could take a look at Dan Carpenter or Billy Cundiff. "We gauged the preseason games and weren’t completely satisfied," coach Rob Chudzinski said after the cuts were announced.

The Browns only have four wide receivers because Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two games. Cleveland chose Josh Cooper, a former teammate of Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State, over David Nelson. It wasn't a surprising decision because Nelson was rarely on the field. He was coming back from an ACL injury suffered last season. The Browns also kept all three quarterbacks: Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer.

Going the undrafted route. Nearly 10 percent of the Browns' roster right now is made up of undrafted rookies. Five survived the final cutdown: safety Josh Aubrey; offensive linemen Caylin Hauptmann and Martin Wallace; and linebackers Paul Hazel and Eric Martin. Aubrey beat out sixth-round pick Jamoris Slaughter, who was cut, for one of the final spots on the roster. One reason why the Browns kept so many undrafted rookies is because they only had five draft picks this year. Slaughter was the only draft pick to get waived. Hauptmann and Wallace are two of 12 offensive linemen to make the team. The Browns have 25 players who have two years of experience or less.

What's next. The top priority, of course, is signing a kicker. The Browns are light at cornerback with only four (Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Leon McFadden). That could be one area of focus when looking at the waiver wire. The Browns also may want to upgrade at backup running back. They lost Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty to injuries this month, which leaves Brandon Jackson as the No. 2 running back.

Here are the moves the Browns made to get down to the league limit of 53 players:

Contract terminated: K Shayne Graham.

Waived: TE Dan Gronkowski, OL Aaron Adams, DB Akeem Auguste, K Brandon Bogotay, LB Justin Cole, RB Jamaine Cook, DL Hall Davis, WR Tori Gurley, LB James-Michael Johnson, WR David Nelson, WR Naaman Roosevelt, DL Brian Sanford, DB Jamoris Slaughter, LB Justin Staples, OL Braxston Cave, WR Mike Edwards, DB Abdul Kanneh, RB Miguel Maysonet, DB Kent Richardson and P/K Colton Schmidt.

Observation deck: Browns-Bears

August, 30, 2013
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CHICAGO -- Cleveland Browns wide receiver David Nelson had a vision for what his first game back would be on Thursday.

Nelson, who hadn’t played in a game since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the 2012 season opener, held two assumptions about his return. First, he thought he would get really emotional prior to Thursday’s preseason game with the Chicago Bears because of how much he had gone through to return to the field. Second, he expected his performance would again meet his high standards.

Neither went according to plan.

Nelson did make his season debut and caught a team-high four passes for 54 yards, but he wasn’t overcome with emotion and he wasn’t pleased with how he played.

“[The game wasn’t as emotional] as I thought it would be,” said Nelson, who had 61 receptions for 658 yards and five touchdowns for Buffalo in 2011. “There was a time before the national anthem and before the game started I got emotional. Once we stepped on the field, it was just playing football again.

“It was a special moment [being back]. It really was. Obviously, today wasn’t the way I wanted. I think I’m my harshest critic. I just didn’t play the way I wanted to. It wasn’t because of the knee. I wasn’t out there slipping because of the knee. It just didn’t go the way I wanted to.”

Nelson first got involved in the Browns’ offense in the second quarter. He missed his first opportunity at a catch when he wasn’t looking as Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer threw him the ball. But five plays later, Hoyer went back to Nelson, and Nelson hauled in a 4-yard reception.

Nelson was targeted 10 times, and his longest reception was for 21 yards. He reported no pain in his knee, but he did suffer leg cramps late in the game.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski understood Nelson wasn’t satisfied with his day, but he believed it was a positive starting point.

“I thought it was great he got back out there,” Chudzinski said. “You know what? I know there’s a few plays he’d like to have back. Playing in a NFL game, you get tired, and he was tired by the end. Those guys got a lot of reps. We had limited guys to begin with. It was really good to see him. He made a couple plays. Those are the kind of experiences you can build on.”

In other notes from the Browns' 18-16 victory:
  • Quarterback Jason Campbell, who was expected to start, missed the game due to flu-like symptoms. Hoyer played the entire game and was 24-of-35 passing for 307 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
  • Kicker Shayne Graham did not play after his back tightened up in warm-ups. Punter Spencer Lanning was thrown into the emergency-kicker role. Lanning, who was a placekicker/punter in college, missed a 41-yard field goal on his first attempt but connected from 32 yards and 40 yards on his following two attempts. The latter proved to be the game winner in the Browns’ 18-16 victory. He also punted twice for a 52-yard average.
  • Wide receiver Josh Gordon played in his final game before serving a two-game suspension for a positive codeine test. Gordon had catches of 45 and 32 yards Thursday. “Josh can come to the facility over the course of the next two weeks,” Chudzinski said. “He can be at meetings, and he can work out in the weight room and run and that type of thing. He can get treatment. So he can be around. He can’t be out at practice. He can’t do any of those type of things with the team.”
Here are some afternoon notes from training camps in the AFC North ...

RAVENS: Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie made his training camp debut Friday, participating in the second full-team practice, according to the team's official website. This comes one day after being held out by coach John Harbaugh for being "too heavy."

BENGALS: Wide receiver A.J. Green insisted he won't play more cautious in training camp after bruising his left knee on the first practice, and coach Marvin Lewis seems fine with it. "He made one catch this spring that was the most incredible catch I've ever seen," Lewis said, via the team's official website. "He stretched out for the ball, put his left hand down, rolled, came up on his feet and he was parallel to the ground about a foot above the ground. He's kind of put together that way."

STEELERS: Defensive end Brett Keisel made another attention-grabbing entrance to training camp, driving a dump truck to St. Vincent College. This time, Keisel came with a message. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Keisel explained that training camp would be a construction site as the Steelers work to get back into the playoffs after last year's 8-8 season.

BROWNS: Defensive tackle Phil Taylor missed Friday's practice with a calf strain, according to The Plain Dealer. Wide receiver David Nelson is practicing for the first time since his ACL surgery last year. Nelson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 last season with the Buffalo Bills and didn't practice in any offseason workouts after signing with the Browns in free agency. He is expected to compete for Cleveland's No. 4 wide receiver spot.
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A look at whether each AFC East team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been losers in free agency mostly due to inactivity. Buffalo made just one signing: linebacker Manny Lawson. With a new head coach and new schemes on offense and defense, the Bills need a lot more than one linebacker to be competitive next season. Most importantly, they need to find a quarterback after cutting former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo also lost starting guard Andy Levitre, linebacker Nick Barnett, veteran safety George Wilson and receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson. The team has yet to fill those holes. Interestingly, the Bills were major players in free agency a year ago. They signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract and made several other signings. However, Buffalo finished 6-10 in 2012 and decided to take a much quieter approach in 2013.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are big winners in free agency. They landed the best wide receiver on the market (Mike Wallace) and the top linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe). Miami also signed a pass-catching tight end (Dustin Keller) and an additional, athletic linebacker (Philip Wheeler). Miami’s roster looks much stronger and more dynamic than it did heading into the 2012 season, when the team went 7-9. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said it was his goal to close the gap with the New England Patriots. Ireland deserves a lot of credit for a solid game plan and executing it well. The Dolphins still have holes to fill at cornerback, left tackle and at pass-rusher. But Miami still has cap room to spend and 11 total draft picks next month. The Dolphins are not finished adding talent.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have had mixed results in free agency. But overall I would just barely put them in the winners' category. I do not like what they've done on offense, where they lost two starting receivers: Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. The pair accounted for 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. That's a lot of lost production that Danny Amendola and Donald Jones -- New England's two free-agent signings at receiver – will not be able to match. The Patriots also haven't re-signed starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who remains a free agent. New England must patch these two holes offensively. On the other hand, I like what New England has done defensively. The Patriots solidified their secondary by signing former Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and re-signing No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib. They also re-signed backup corners Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole and added exciting kick returner Leon Washington on special teams.

New York Jets: The Jets are huge losers so far in free agency. They lost talented players much faster than they can replace them. Former New York starters Shonn Greene, Keller, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Sione Pouha, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace were either recently released or signed with other teams. The Jets are hamstrung by a tight salary cap. Therefore, first-year Jets general manager John Idzik has been forced to bargain shop. New York made several low-cost signings, such as tailback Mike Goodson and guard Willie Colon. But overall, the Jets have more holes than they can fill in one offseason.

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