NFL Nation: Erik Ainge

What a day to be an NFL fan

March, 30, 2011
There really isn't an AFC East angle to what I'm about to write.

I just felt like venting or commiserating with disenfranchised fans who have every right to be disgusted with the NFL these days.

As of the time of this posting, the lead news stories in the upper right corner of's NFL page deal with:
And that's in addition to three articles on the work stoppage.

I want to go back to bed.

On the radar: Backup QBs

July, 1, 2010
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

All four AFC East clubs have uncertainties at backup quarterback. Three of them might head into training camp not knowing who theirs will be.

[+] EnlargeChad Pennington
AP Photo/J Pat CarterChad Pennington gives the Dolphins a veteran backup should Chad Henne struggle.
Let's take a look at each team's situation.

Buffalo Bills: Head coach Chan Gailey said he knows how his depth chart will look when camp opens at the end of the month, but the competition will remain wide open among Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. That makes the second- and third-string quarterbacks mysteries, too. The backup probably won't be too far removed from his shot to get on the field. If the Bills don't want to expose fourth quarterback Levi Brown to waivers so they can put him on their practice squad, one of the others could get cut.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have two issues at backup QB. They will have a difficult decision to make unless they keep four quarterbacks or switch Pat White to another position. White, the 44th overall pick last year, hasn't developed. The presence of Tyler Thigpen, a former Kansas City Chiefs starter, probably will force a move. Respected veteran Chad Pennington is considered the third-stringer while he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. But if something goes wrong with starter Chad Henne, it's hard to imagine coach Tony Sparano opting for Thigpen or White ahead of Pennington.

New England Patriots: Undrafted sophomore Brian Hoyer is back as Tom Brady's primary backup, but coach Bill Belichick has been restless with his QB reserves in recent years. Belichick dumped third-round pick Kevin O'Connell last summer, a year after drafting him. Even if Hoyer's role is safe, Patriots fans can't be too confident with the idea of him taking over in the event Brady gets hurt.

New York Jets: What a muddled mess this is. Few expect Kellen Clemens to remain with the club. The Jets have been interested in signing veteran free agent Mark Brunell and recently kicked the tires on the Michelin Man, JaMarcus Russell. The Jets kept four quarterbacks last year because they snagged O'Connell off waivers from the Patriots and weren't ready to part with Erik Ainge. I doubt they waste the roster spot again this year.

Jets show interest in JaMarcus Russell

June, 29, 2010
I wonder if it would be too late for JaMarcus Russell to get in on that weight-loss contest with Rex Ryan, Kris Jenkins and Damien Woody.'s Rich Cimini reports the New York Jets have taken a cursory look at signing Russell as a backup quarterback. The Oakland Raiders made Russell the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, but cut him last month.

He was as bloated as his contract, reportedly puffing up to around 300 pounds. The Raiders will have paid him $39 million for 25 starts and seven wins.

Cimini also notes the Jets remain interested in signing veteran Mark Brunell to be Mark Sanchez's backup, but they must wait until late July because of the "Final Eight" plan for the uncapped season. The Jets could sign Russell immediately because he was cut by another team.

Primary backup Kellen Clemens almost certainly will be cut at some point, and the Jets don't have much invested in their other backup quarterbacks. Neither Erik Ainge nor Kevin O'Connell have asserted themselves as anything special.

It would be fascinating if the Jets cleaned house and took a flier on Russell as their third quarterback.

Ryan has a source with intimate knowledge of Russell. Ryan's twin brother, Rob Ryan, was the Raiders' defensive coordinator for Russell's first two NFL seasons.

When I was at the Jets' minicamp a couple weeks ago, I asked Rex Ryan how he and his brother discuss players. Rob Ryan now is the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator and advised Rex to sign former Browns safety Brodney Pool.

"We'll always be honest about a guy," Rex Ryan said. "It will always be like that. I'd much rather have a player that I feel good about go play for my brother than play for someone else. I think he feels the same way.

"If he cares about a player, he'd rather him come here and play for me than go somewhere else because he knows we'll take care of those guys. We're twins. He cares about his players and I care about ours. We always want those guys to be successful even when they leave you."

Jets at Colts inactives

January, 24, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- No surprises among the New York Jets' list of inactives for the AFC Championship Game.

The biggest name is Indianapolis Colts right cornerback Jerraud Powers, who was downgraded to doubtful Saturday night.

New York Jets

Indianapolis Colts

Jets-Chargers inactives

January, 17, 2010
SAN DIEGO -- No surprises on the inactive list for Sunday's playoff game in Qualcomm Stadium.

New York Jets

San Diego Chargers

Salutations from Cincinnati

January, 9, 2010
CINCINNATI -- It's warmer here in Paul Brown Stadium than it was six days ago in the Meadowlands.

Still, my blood turned to slush on my walk from the parking garage to the press box.

A handful of players are milling about on the field to get ready for the 4:30 p.m. kickoff, but not as many as you'd usually see about 90 minutes before kickoff. The game forecast is for a wind chill of 14 degrees, but only a 10 percent chance of snow.

The field appears to be in decent shape. Snow encrusts the bottom rim of the stadium floor where it meets the stands. But the playing surface appears to be free of ice.

Referee Bill Leavy's crew has drawn the assignment.

A quick look at the 2009 officiating ledger shows Leavy's crew has called 188 penalties, fifth-fewest among the NFL's 17 crews. Nothing unusual jumps out about the types of calls from Leavy and his men. Offensive holding (36) and offsides (31) led the way, as you would expect. They called defensive pass interference 10 times.

Here are the inactives for the game:

New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals-Jets inactives

January, 3, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Cincinnati Bengals are going to rest at least one key starter Sunday night against the New York Jets.

The Bengals have scratched running back Cedric Benson and named rookie Bernard Scott the starter. The Bengals also have Larry Johnson. Benson rushed for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns this year and is a candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Cincinnati Bengals
New York Jets

Greetings from the Rogers Centre

December, 3, 2009
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

Greetings from Gillette Stadium

November, 22, 2009
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- What a dreary Sunday afternoon in Gillette Stadium. Skies are gray. It's about 47 degrees. A few New York Jets and New England Patriots are walking around the turf with their hands stuffed into their mufflers.

Action should be plenty heated when the rivals kick off at 4:15 p.m. The Patriots want to avenge that Week 2 loss at the Meadowlands and are coming off a foul-tasting defeat to the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets need a victory to salvage their drain-circling season.

The Patriots have some interesting inactives. Left tackle Matt Light remains out, but right guard Stephen Neal will join him because of the head injury he suffered in Indy. Running back Sammy Morris will be held out again after speculation he would play.

Most notably scratched for the Jets is outside linebacker Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft. Gholston has been benched for two straight games.

All of Sunday's inactives are below:

New York Jets

New England Patriots

Posted by's Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets have caught a break before their grudge match with the New England Patriots at the Meadowlands.

Wes Welker, the NFL's leading receiver over the past two seasons, will not play for the Patriots because of a knee injury. Welker hasn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2004, when he played one game for the San Diego Chargers and 14 for the Miami Dolphins.

Welker's absence opens the door for rookie receiver Julian Edelman to step up on the big stage. Edelman, a converted quarterback drafted in the seventh-round out of Kent State, will make his NFL debut. He became a fan favorite in the preseason for looking like a Welker knockoff -- a gritty slot receiver and punt returner.

Also of note on the inactive list is the Jets' designation of Kevin O'Connell as their third quarterback ahead of Erik Ainge. The Patriots waived O'Connell at the end of training camp. The Detroit Lions picked him up and traded him to the Jets, who had said he would be the fourth quarterback.

Here are all of the inactives:

New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC East: Backup QB breakdown

September, 1, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills:
If Trent Edwards is unavailable, their situation is standard operating procedure. The only track record Edwards has established is that he gets hurt every year. Shoulder, foot, wrist, concussion, groin ... They've all caused Edwards to miss games either at Stanford or for the Bills. To back him up, the Bills signed free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick, a clear No. 2 with game experience. Fitzpatrick has 15 NFL starts, including a dozen last year for the Cincinnati Bengals. Fitzpatrick looked deficient early in training camp, but he perked up in preseason games, completing 39 of 54 passes for 381 yards and one touchdown with an interception. Gibran Hamdan should be the third-string quarterback again this year.

Miami Dolphins:
If Chad Pennington is unavailable, their situation is uneasy. Before Pennington arrived a week into camp last year, rookie Chad Henne was pushing to be the starter straight out of Michigan. He was holding his own against Josh McCown and John Beck and had the front office excited. Enthusiasm has been muted somewhat this year. Henne still is considered the club's future quarterback, but he has struggled in practices and exhibitions. He has completed 19 of 35 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Speedy rookie Pat White, a second-round pick out of West Virginia, has looked mostly uncomfortable in an NFL setting. He was drafted in part because of his Wildcat skills, but his arm has been unimpressive.

New England Patriots:
If Tom Brady is unavailable, their situation is tenuous for now. Two days ago, the Patriots waived Kevin O'Connell, the player many expected to be their primary backup. It was a curious move. The Patriots spent a third-round draft pick on O'Connell last year. He entered his rookie season as the third quarterback, but handled the No. 2 duties for Matt Cassel after Brady went down with a knee injury on opening day. In training camp, the Patriots cut Matt Gutierrez and signed free agent Andrew Walter, formerly of the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots are said to be on the lookout for another veteran, but the depth chart for now features Brady, Walter and undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer.

New York Jets:
If Mark Sanchez is unavailable, their situation is more manageable than most. The Jets are the only AFC East club with a backup quarterback who lost an open competition for the No. 1 job. The Jets should be at least a little comfortable knowing their insurance policy at least had a shot -- OK, maybe not a great shot -- to win the gig. Kellen Clemens has been undistinguished in the opportunities he has been given since the Jets drafted him in the second round out of Oregon in 2006. He started eight games in his second season. He completed 52 percent of his passes, threw five touchdowns and 10 interceptions and finished with a 60.9 passer rating. One of the real surprises since camp opened has been the play of sophomore Erik Ainge. He will be the third quarterback, but showed signs of life after a worthless rookie season that included a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In the preseason, Ainge is 18-of-32 for 275 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Posted by's Tim Graham

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Posted by's Tim Graham

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

  • Boston Globe reporter Mike Reiss catches up with one of Bill Belichick's sounding boards to find out what the Patriots might do with all those draft picks.
  • Providence Journal writer Shalise Manza Young rates the 10 best draft picks on Belichick's watch.
  •'s Christopher Price rates the best late-round picks in franchise history.
Posted by's Tim Graham

The New York Jets can have Jay Cutler if they want him badly enough.

The disgruntled Pro Bowl quarterback officially is on the market.

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen on Tuesday released a statement to announce they're ready to trade Cutler and end the ongoing saga. The Jets were one of 10 teams that reportedly had contacted the Broncos prior to last week's NFL owners' meeting in Dana Point, Calif.

The Jets certainly could use Cutler. New head coach Rex Ryan has overseen an overhaul of the defense with several major moves. Their offensive line remains intact. They have two Pro Bowl running backs.

But quarterback is a significant question for the Jets.

Brett Favre retired, leaving Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge -- eight combined NFL starts among them -- to battle for the job.

Ryan has insisted he would be fine with those three quarterbacks competing in training camp.

Cutler, however, would provide an undeniable upgrade and might be the missing piece to get the Jets into the playoffs.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum certainly wouldn't be afraid to pull the trigger. He has shown no fear in swinging a big deal.

But what do the Jets have to offer? They hold only six draft picks, with their top three slotted at No. 17, No. 52 and No. 76.

The Jets don't have a veteran quarterback to trade if the Broncos aren't comfortable with Chris Simms taking over for Cutler.

It's difficult to imagine the Broncos would be too infatuated with Clemens (erratic when given the chance to start in 2007), Ratliff (undrafted in 2007) or Ainge (last year's fifth-round draft choice, who already has served a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs).

Perhaps the Jets would need help from a third team to get Cutler in a green uniform. Old friend Eric Mangini, now head coach of the Cleveland Browns, has an extra quarterback. (See AFC North blogger James Walker's post.)

If the Jets are hungry for Cutler, they might need to get creative.

Posted by's Tim Graham

Team needs: Quarterback, receiver, cornerback

Dream scenario: The Jets went into the offseason with numerous positional needs to address, and they got around to all but two of them through free agency. The leftovers are biggies: quarterback and receiver.

  Jody Gomez/US Presswire
  The Jets could use help at QB, but will one of the top three prospects, such as former Trojan Mark Sanchez, be available at No. 17?

Brett Favre retired, leaving a three-way competition among Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge. They have a combined eight NFL starts. Many observers considered receiver an area the Jets needed to improve even before veteran Laveranues Coles negotiated his way off the team.

The Jets hold only six draft picks, the fewest among AFC East teams. Unless they make a trade, their first crack is at No. 17, and they'll have to wait until No. 52 to go again.

If the Jets want to take a quarterback, most draft evaluators insist they'll need to get one of the top three: Georgia's Matthew Stafford, Southern California's Mark Sanchez or Kansas State's Josh Freeman.

There's a significant drop-off after that trio, and there are no guarantees any will be there at No. 17. The Jets might have to swing a deal to elbow ahead in the draft order. Next up is West Virginia's Pat White, who likely will be drafted as a receiver. Nate Davis of Ball State is considered the fourth-best passer, and he still might be available in the third or fourth round.

If the Jets want to go receiver, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin will be long gone at No. 17. If the Jets can come away with Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey or North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks, they will be filling a significant need.

Florida's Percy Harvin also could be available, but what makes him so valuable is his versatility. The Jets might have trouble getting Harvin and Leon Washington on the field at the same time.

Plan B: Another possibility is cornerback. Although the Jets have bolstered their secondary with Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland, the Jets could snag another for the future. Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins could slip to them, but probably not. Illinois' Vontae Davis might be a reach at No. 17.

If Louisiana State defensive end Tyson Jackson somehow slides, the Jets should be thrilled. Jackson projects as a stellar 3-4 run-stopper.

Scouts Inc. take: "As the offseason has shown, they're a very defensive-minded, decision-making group right now. But their offensive needs are glaring. They need to find a passing game. They need to find at least one receiver, preferably a No. 1-type guy because Jerricho Cotchery is not a No. 1, but if Sanchez is there, you've got to pounce on him. If he starts to fall, maybe you even make a package to move up and grab him." -- Matt Williamson

Who has final say: General manager Mike Tannenbaum and rookie head coach Rex Ryan will work in concert.

Now On the Clock: San Diego Chargers, March 31.

Previous On the Clock: Chicago Bears. The team-by-team series.




Sunday, 2/2