NFL Nation: George Edwards

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It's a predictable rite of coaching changes in the NFL: The new guy comes in, usually more (or less) of a disciplinarian or a player's coach than the last guy, and players talk about how the new atmosphere in the building is exactly what they needed.

With that in mind, we're not going to make any sweeping pronouncements from the second day of the Vikings' voluntary minicamp about whether the differences in Mike Zimmer's style from Leslie Frazier's will ultimately help the team win more games this season. There's a danger in trying to assign too much significance into anything that happens when players are in shorts and prohibited from hitting each other, so we'll try to err on the side of caution there.

[+] EnlargeMike Zimmer
AP Photo/Johnny VyVikings coach Mike Zimmer is showing in minicamp that he's going to be active during practices in 2014.
That said, it was clear from what players said on Wednesday -- and what Zimmer modeled in practice -- just how much of a departure Zimmer's working style will represent from Frazier's. While Frazier preferred to run practices like a CEO, floating around the field, making broad observations about his team and letting his position coaches and coordinators do much of the hands-on work, Zimmer was there in the middle of defensive backs drills with secondary coach Jerry Gray on Wednesday, firing instructions at players on when to break on certain routes.

His leadership style figures to evolve in time, as he settles into the role of being a head coach, but in his first on-field work with players Zimmer clearly was trying to establish a different tone -- to the point where defensive end Brian Robison and safety Harrison Smith said they'd never seen a head coach as involved in day-to-day work as Zimmer has been.

"We’ve always had head coaches sit in meetings, but they’ve never really talked a whole lot," Robison said. "It’s been about the defensive coordinator. Whereas Zimmer is, he’s stepping up, he’s running the meetings most of the time, going through the defensive calls. Pretty much, he’s been the defensive coordinator. It’s that type of deal. And that’s taking nothing away from [defensive coordinator George] Edwards; obviously he does a lot of stuff, too, with us. In a way, I like that. You want to see a coach, a head coach, coaching and you want to see him take it upon himself to make sure that everybody’s doing the right thing and that’s what you see at practice.

"We’re out here and he’s actually grabbing guys and he’s showing them what to do, how to use their hands, how to do their footwork. And a lot of times you don’t get that, a lot of times you have head coaches kind of sit back and let their coaches do the work. Whereas he is taking it upon himself to make sure that every single person is doing the right thing.”

The key for Zimmer, at some point, will be incorporating more work with the offense into his daily routine; he spent much of the winter working with the Vikings' defense, and said on Wednesday he's been "straying over to the defense a little bit," adding he ran a meeting with the defensive backs earlier in the day. He's got the luxury of having a veteran offensive coordinator in Norv Turner, but Zimmer has also said he wants to be the head coach, not just the defensive coach, so he'll probably start to balance his responsibilities more at some point.

What seems clear, though, is that Zimmer will be more hands-on in practice than Frazier was, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Time will tell if he needs to delegate more to his coaches, but as he talked about it on Wednesday, it was clear Zimmer hadn't lost the charge he got from his days running drills as a position coach.

"I think I’m fairly good at it, and so I’m going to try to use my abilities as best I can," he said. "I get around the offense as much as I can, but at this stage I just feel like I have to spend more time with the defense. I have to be in the meetings and run the meetings, actually, you know, coach. I have to coach. That’s what I am: I’m a coach. And so just because I’m the head coach doesn’t mean stop coaching. It means you coach everything, but you still do the best job you can to get guys better.”
MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps the sternest test of Mike Zimmer's ability to remake the Minnesota Vikings' defense will come in an 18-day stretch from Sept. 14 to Oct. 2, when the Vikings will play four consecutive games against Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, effectively staking their playoff hopes on their ability to stand up to some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

In many ways, the Vikings will have to fix two of their biggest problems from last season in the first month of the season if they're going to have any shot at relevance. They didn't win a road game last season (their victory in London was technically a "home" game), and they'll start the year against a St. Louis Rams team that went 5-3 at home last season before playing games at the Superdome and Lambeau Field in the next five weeks.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Dunlap
AP Photo/David KohlMike Zimmer's defense made things challenging for Aaron Rodgers last season.
But the Vikings' struggles against top quarterbacks, if left unchecked, will be an even more pervasive problem in the first part of the season. The Saints, Packers, Falcons and Patriots were the league's second-, sixth-, seventh- and 10th-best passing teams last season, and the Vikings come out of that stretch with an Oct. 12 game against the Detroit Lions, who threw for the third-most yards in the league. Essentially, the message of the Vikings' 2014 schedule is this: Fix your defense and fix it quickly.

Fortunately for the Vikings, Zimmer's had some success slowing down the quarterbacks the Vikings will face -- particularly Rodgers. The Packers quarterback faced the Cincinnati Bengals twice while Zimmer was their defensive coordinator, and lost both games. Last year, he hit 26 of 43 passes for 244 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the Bengals, and was sacked four times. And while he threw for 311 yards against the Bengals in 2009, he was sacked six times and fumbled twice (losing one) in a 31-24 loss.

Brady also faced the Bengals twice in that time, with unimpressive results. He went 1-1 in a pair of games against Cincinnati, completing 43 of his 73 passes for 455 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. After picking them apart in a 2010 win, he had arguably his worst game of the season against them last year, completing just 18 of his 38 passes for 197 yards and an interception in a 13-6 loss.

Brees and Ryan both fared well in their lone efforts against Zimmer's defense, each beating a 4-12 Bengals team in 2010. They were two of just four quarterbacks to surpass 290 yards against Cincinnati that season, posting 313 and 299, respectively.

Zimmer's defense employs plenty of man coverage, mixed with some zone principles, and counts more heavily on cornerbacks winning one-on-one matchups than the Vikings' old scheme did. That seems like a good fit for second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and Captain Munnerlyn should help the Vikings' defense, as well, but secondary depth is paramount to surviving matchups with teams that will put as many receivers on the field as the Vikings' early-season opponents will.

The other thing to watch is how effectively the Vikings can pressure the top quarterbacks they'll face, particularly with some of Zimmer's creative blitzes. The Bengals didn't bring extra pressure after Brady and Rodgers all that often last year -- on just 12 and 11 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- but what's worth noting is just how much they rattled those two quarterbacks. Brady had just a 2.2 QBR against the Bengals' blitzes last year, and Rodgers' QBR was only 8.0, as he was forced into checkdowns and didn't complete a pass of longer than 8 yards against the blitz. Considering how lethal those two quarterbacks have been against the blitz in their careers -- to the point where many teams don't try to send extra pressure -- Zimmer's ability to throw them off is impressive. He did it well against Matthew Stafford last season, too, holding the Lions quarterback to just 33 yards and a 5.0 QBR on 13 blitzes.

The key variable to all this, of course, is talent, and it remains to be seen if the Vikings' personnel is as effective in Zimmer's scheme as what the Bengals had last season. But the additions of Munnerlyn and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, the development of Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and the health of safety Harrison Smith should help. If Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards can coax more out of players like defensive end Everson Griffen and figure out the Vikings' linebacker situation, they'll likely receive credit for it early, because the Vikings' progress will be graded against some of the toughest opponents they'll see all season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Early in his time as the Minnesota Vikings' coach, Mike Zimmer sat the team's front office and scouting staff down in a film room, and turned on tape of the Cincinnati Bengals' defense. He pointed out the responsibilities of each player in the Bengals' scheme, outlining what he'd want those players to do when Zimmer brings that defense to the Vikings.

Quickly, general manager Rick Spielman said, the people in the room realized they'd be able to look at some players that had been incompatible with the Cover-2 schemes of the Vikings' past.

"There are guys that are good football players that we may not have been interested in, in the past, that we’ll be interested in now because of what we learned so far of listening to Zim speak," Spielman said on Friday.

So what does that mean on a practical level? Well, I'd say a couple things. First, if Zimmer is using the Bengals' defense as a template for what he wants in Minnesota, I think we can largely put the idea of a 3-4 scheme to bed. Zimmer has coached a 3-4 defense in the past, as has defensive coordinator George Edwards, but Zimmer has typically preferred a 4-3 defense, and told reporters at the Vikings' Arctic Blast event last weekend that he hired Edwards in part because he'd been working in Miami under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, the former Bengals secondary coach who had been running Zimmer's defense in Miami.

It also means, though, that the Vikings can probably take a longer look at corners who play more man coverage and linebackers who can play a bigger role in the pass rush than they've had in the past. Zimmer's defense figures to be more aggressive than Leslie Frazier's and Alan Williams' were, and the Vikings will find their personnel accordingly. To paraphrase the famous line of Zimmer's mentor, Bill Parcells, the Vikings' front office has been given a different grocery list to cook a different meal.

Spielman mentioned the Vikings might be able to take a look at smaller defensive ends that many teams view as 3-4 outside linebackers. In the past, the Vikings haven't necessarily pursued those players, but they might have more interest in them now. They could be nickel rushers, such as Everson Griffen (a similar body type) has been, or might even fit as linebackers in a 4-3 under Zimmer. Remember, former Steelers linebacker James Harrison -- one of the best pass-rushing 3-4 linebackers in the league -- shifted to the strong-side linebacker role in the Bengals' 4-3 scheme under Zimmer last season.

The Bengals' defensive ends were on the taller side, but they made effective use of shorter pass-rushers like Wallace Gilberry. That makes me think it's even more likely Griffen will be back with the Vikings next season, and it could cast a wider net for linebacker types than the Vikings have used in the past. Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, who is a free agent this March, could also make sense for the Vikings. Essentially, they're able to consider players they might have previously stamped as poor fits for their scheme.

"We were on a particular player and it was, 'This is what his skill set is. Can he fit or can he not fit in the system?'" Spielman said. "In the past, he couldn’t fit in the system but now he does fit in the system. So as we're talking and going through it learning about what we’re doing defensively, offensively, but more on a defensive of the ball (we were), I don’t want to say retrained, but we’re looking at guys differently than we may have in the past."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that the Minnesota Vikings have finally announced their coaching staff for the 2014 season, we can take a look at the list of assistants and see what trends emerge with the group new coach Mike Zimmer has put together. And as it turns out, it won't take quite as long to peruse the list as it did with predecessor Leslie Frazier's staff.

The Vikings currently have just 17 coordinators and assistants on their staff, down from the 20 they carried last season under Frazier. As ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky pointed out this morning, that makes the Vikings' staff the smallest in the division and one of the smallest in the NFL.

That's not to say a leaner staff is good or bad -- it's simply a different way of doing business -- but it does offer some insight into how Zimmer might conduct business. In Cincinnati last season, he had five position coaches under him while he was the Bengals' defensive coordinator (former Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams had six).

It could also help Zimmer that he has offensive and defensive coordinators in Norv Turner and George Edwards who have done those jobs before. Frazier, on the other hand, was working with first-time coordinators Bill Musgrave and Alan Williams, who both seemed to struggle at times in Minnesota. Turner also has 13 seasons of NFL head coaching experience on his resume.

"We already talked a little bit about things. Scheduling, how we did things," Turner said. "He’s an extremely experienced coach. He's been with some outstanding people. I’m sure he has strong opinions of how he wants to do things and if there’s something he wants to lean on me, I’ll give him my opinion."

It's always possible the Vikings could add another coach or two, but assuming the staff is set for now, here are some factoids about each group:

The 17 coordinators and assistants on Zimmer's staff have a combined 278 years of coaching experience, for an average of 16.35 years per coach. Five coaches -- Turner, Edwards, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson -- have at least been coordinators for other teams before joining Zimmer's staff.

Frazier's 2013 staff had 336 years of experience across 20 coaches, or an average of 16.8 years per coach. Three coaches -- Priefer, Davidson and assistant linebackers coach Mike Singletary -- had at least been coordinators before coming to the Vikings. A fourth, assistant linebackers coach Fred Pagac, was the Vikings' defensive coordinator in 2010-11 until Frazier demoted him to assistant linebackers coach.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In his first press conference with Twin Cities reporters Thursday afternoon, new Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards offered few specifics about the plans for the Vikings' defensive scheme.

New coach Mike Zimmer hasn't elaborated much on it, either, other than to say it will be similar to what he did as the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator.

The fact that Zimmer's main experience with the 3-4 defense came when Bill Parcells asked him to switch to that scheme in Dallas probably means that the Vikings will stick with a 4-3 base look. That's what the Bengals ran in Cincinnati, and it seems to be what Zimmer has preferred in his career.

But it is safe to say, however, that the Vikings will likely use more defensive packages than they did the last seven years under Leslie Frazier, first as defensive coordinator and then as head coach. The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl with a hybrid of 4-3 and 3-4 defensive concepts, and though it's dangerous to assume any other team is capable of copying Seattle's results with different personnel, Edwards mentioned the need for variety on defense.

"I think [Seahawks defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn, they've done an excellent job out there defensively. I've worked with Dan before, and they've done an excellent job," Edwards said. "Again, I think what they did is, you look at it, they give a lot of different looks. They have a lot of different personnel, where they subbed in and out, different sub groups and those kinds of things, and they asked guys to do specific jobs. And I think they had a lot of success at it."

Zimmer's defenses have played more man coverage than the Vikings used under Frazier, and the Seahawks' coverage concepts, which allow their corners to jam receivers and match routes within a Cover-3 scheme, are likely to become trendy all over the league after Seattle's masterful defensive performance in the Super Bowl. Edwards has coached in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, and at the very least, it seems the Vikings will have a more aggressive defense than they've had in the past. In many ways, the aptitude of modern quarterbacks almost demands it.

"I think it's critical, especially when you're talking about our division, affecting the throw of the quarterback, getting after the quarterback, being able to attack him, being able to do certain things in coverage," Edwards said. "As far as matchups and those kinds of things. I think it'll be critical for us."
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will announce all of Mike Zimmer's coaching staff once it's finished, but we're starting to get some sense of how the group will look.

We know it will not include former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave; Fox Sports reported on Tuesday that Musgrave has accepted a job as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach. That's not a big surprise, considering the Vikings had already replaced Musgrave with Norv Turner, but Tuesday's news rules out any chance of Musgrave returning to the Vikings in a smaller role.

The Vikings have defensive coordinator George Edwards reportedly in place, as well, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Master Tesfatsion, who's at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., reports he saw Turner's son Scott conducting the Vikings' meetings with quarterbacks -- which is a likely indicator the younger Turner, who was the Browns' wide receivers coach last season, will be on his father's offensive staff for a second season in a row. Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach Adam Zimmer, who worked for his father last season, is also expected to join the Vikings' staff.

How many of former coach Leslie Frazier's assistants could stay on with Zimmer? According to a NFL source, wide receivers coach George Stewart and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson both have decent chances. Stewart, who is at the Senior Bowl this week, had developed a bond with rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson dating to last year's scouting combine, and he has worked with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in the past. The Vikings blocked Davidson from interviewing for a job with the Atlanta Falcons, which would seem to indicate they would like to keep him on Zimmer's staff.

There are bound to be plenty of questions about special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who was accused by former punter Chris Kluwe of making homophobic remarks during the 2012 season. The Vikings are investigating the matter, and that investigation could help delay an announcement of the Vikings' coaching staff. Priefer is well-respected as a coach, but the Vikings might want to get the situation resolved before announcing a staff with or without Priefer on it.

The rest of the group is still waiting to see what decisions Zimmer makes, but the Musgrave move is at least an indication that the Vikings have given some coaches the chance to accept jobs elsewhere.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn't offer many details at his introductory press conference Friday about how the team will be structured, partially because he doesn't yet have a staff in place to help him make those decisions. But Zimmer did provide context about his plan for the Vikings' defense.

He expects the Vikings' defense to be similar to what he did in Cincinnati, where the Bengals ran a 4-3 base scheme that emphasized pressure from the front four and used man coverage more liberally than the Vikings did under Leslie Frazier. In six seasons with Zimmer, the Bengals blitzed on 1,027 snaps, which was the 11th-fewest in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Frazier was either the Vikings' defensive coordinator or head coach that entire time, so we can draw a fairly reliable comparison between the two. The Vikings blitzed on 1,049 snaps from 2008-13, 13th-fewest in the league.

Zimmer did coach in a 3-4 scheme in Dallas, when Bill Parcells wanted to switch from the 4-3 defense the Cowboys had run during Zimmer's first years there, and Zimmer's adaptability is one of the things for which players praise him the most. George Edwards, the Miami Dolphins linebackers coach whom Zimmer has reportedly talked to about the Vikings' defensive coordinator job, has also coached in 3-4 schemes, so it's not impossible the Vikings would entertain the idea of a switch. But the safer bet would seem to be the team sticking with a 4-3 under Zimmer.

The coach also said he plans on being "very" involved in structuring the defense, partially because it's what he's always done, and said he could wind up calling defenses on game day. He acknowledged, though, that he'll have to adjust to being a head coach and not just a coordinator.

"I do think that's one of my expertise areas," Zimmer said of calling defenses during games. "That'll be a little bit of a transition, and I'll have to work through that. I think part of that, for me, will be the preseason games -- how I feel about the things we're doing defensively and how I feel about the game management, communicating with offense. I think all those things will be a little bit of a 'Let's wait-and-see.’”

Bills fire DC George Edwards

January, 2, 2012
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The Buffalo Bills fired defensive coordinator George Edwards, head coach Chan Gailey said in his Monday news conference. Veteran coach Dave Wannstedt will take over the position.

Buffalo's defense struggled consistently throughout the season. The Bills (6-10) finished 28th against the run and 19th against the pass. They also were 30th in points allowed.

Look for the Bills to address and improve the defense via free agency and the draft this offseason.

Bills 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 Bills will need every moment they can find to prepare for the season. Their offensive skill players gathered at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's home in April. A larger contingent convened in Western New York for casual workouts in May.

Biggest challenge: Buffalo must find a defensive identity quickly. The Bills switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 with bad results last year. As it became obvious they had the NFL's worst run defense, they mixed their fronts. Head coach Chan Gailey has said that they will be a hybrid defense leaning toward a 3-4 base. Then he hired longtime 4-3 mastermind Dave Wannstedt -- not to replace defensive coordinator George Edwards, but as assistant head coach and linebackers coach.

Line in the sand: The Bills have a tenuous offensive line, although all the late-season starters are back. The line mostly has been mediocre and often riddled with injuries. Demetrius Bell has been a bargain at left tackle, but far from dominant. Right guard Eric Wood could eventually shift to center.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Inside linebacker Paul Posluszny and safety Donte Whitner have been two of the Bills' most prolific tacklers. Cornerback Drayton Florence is an overlooked free agent who could be popular on the open market. Disappointing former first-round pick John McCargo is a goner.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 24, 2011
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: schemes and themes.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills went through a defensive overhaul last year under new head coach Chan Gailey and coordinator George Edwards. They morphed from Dick Jauron's 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme to a traditional 3-4 set. The Bills drafted accordingly, but as the season wore on and they failed to stop the run -- they ranked dead last in the league in rushing yards allowed per carry and per game -- they sunk back into a 4-3 mindset and frequently added another defender to the line. They've also hired Dave Wannstedt as assistant head coach and linebackers assistant. Wannstedt is a 4-3 devotee. All of this adds up to the Bills being interested in the best available defenders they can find, regardless of whether or not they fit into a preconceived scheme.

Miami Dolphins

Rightly or wrongly, the Dolphins' offensive identity the past three seasons has been the Wildcat. Those days would appear to be over. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee (the man who introduced the Wildcat) are gone. Wildcat trigger man Ronnie Brown and speed-motion back Ricky Williams don't have contracts, and both could be on other teams. The one player the Dolphins drafted specifically to enhance the Wildcat, quarterback Pat White, was released after one season. Miami's new offensive identity has yet to be determined under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Nobody can say for sure what he'll be looking for, but the run game must be strengthened. Head coach Tony Sparano said this week the Dolphins will remain a power rushing team. Brown and/or Williams will need to be replaced, and reliable interior linemen must be found.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are the NFL's most flexible club entering the draft. They own two picks in each of the first three rounds and in three of the top 33 slots. Bill Belichick can go any direction he chooses and certainly will have his staff working the phones for trade possibilities. The Patriots have a rich history of trading back to accumulate more picks, but they might be more open to trading up this year. They have decent youth on the roster, so when you consider the possibility of adding six more players drafted no later than the third round -- plus their picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds -- you have to wonder if there will be room for them all on the 53-man roster. The glut of picks also allows the Patriots to select the best available player and not fret about specific needs with any given pick.

New York Jets

The Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game again and will draft 30th. Head coach Rex Ryan has playfully groused about the late position and the fact the Jets will have to rummage for the best player still on the board. The Jets drafted cornerback Kyle Wilson 29th last year and immediately named him the team's starting nickelback and punt returner. That didn't work out. Wilson started six games, made 19 tackles, defensed five passes and returned 15 punts. While that negative experience could entice the Jets to return to their usual ways and move up in the draft for a prospect they truly covet -- as they did with cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris and quarterback Mark Sanchez -- an inability to trade players until there's a new collective bargaining agreement might make that difficult.

Gailey calls out first-rounder Aaron Maybin

March, 22, 2011
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MaybinAP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltBills head coach Chan Gailey says 2009 first-round choice Aaron Maybin has "got to get his own fire going."
NEW ORLEANS -- Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey appeared to gather himself when talking about 2009 first-round draft choice Aaron Maybin.

Gailey sat up a little straighter in his chair, cleared his throat, narrowed his eyes and spoke a little more sharply.

He's a straight shooter. And you could almost see Gailey inserting verbal bullets into the revolver.

Gailey delivered strong words Tuesday morning at the NFL coaches' media breakfast, a traditional event during the annual owners meeting. Gailey declared it was put-up-or-shut-up time for Maybin, an alleged edge rusher who "hasn't shown it in practice or in games."

Maybin knows what's expected of him, Gailey insisted. The kid just hasn't done it.

To be clear, I asked whether the failure came down to Maybin not trying hard enough or simply not being good enough.

"I think he wants to. I think he wants to," Gailey said, leaving pauses between each sentence. "He works at it. I'm glad you [asked that]. I don't want anybody to think he doesn't work at it."

Another pause.

So that must mean he's not good enough, I deduced aloud.

Gailey didn't blink.

"I don't want anybody to think he doesn't work at it," Gailey replied with a raised-brow expression that confirmed the unspoken point had found the bull's-eye.

Gailey's frustration is obvious when it comes to Maybin. Bills fans aren't too pleased either.

Maybin, the 11th overall selection in 2009, has started one NFL game. He was selected to chase quarterbacks, yet has zero sacks. Other prospects still on the draft board when the Bills took Maybin included Brian Orakpo and Clay Matthews.

The Bills were enamored with Maybin's one good season at Penn State. He didn't become Joe Paterno's starter at left defensive end until the third game but recorded 12 sacks and 20 tackles for losses. Maybin was named an All-American and was one of three finalists for the Bednarik Award.

"We all know his speed," Gailey said. "He tried to get bigger as the season went on to handle the run better. But it's more than just getting bigger."

Maybin entered the draft with two years of eligibility left. His game hasn't translated.

Since Maybin entered the NFL, 797 players have recorded at least a half-sack. Of that group, 132 weren't drafted.

"I don't think I've lit very many fires," Gailey said. "We might provide a spark, but he's got to get his own fire going.

"He's got to understand where he is. I always talk to guys about 'This is where we are. This is where we want to be, and this is how we get there.' Individually, guys have got to do that. 'This is where I am. This is where I want to be. Now, how do I get there?'

"We tell him all the time how to get there. He's got to do it. Talking's over. You've got to go get it done."

Maybin was a healthy scratch fives times last year, watching in street clothes. The Bills credited him with four solo tackles. So he must have competed on special teams, right? No, he had zero tackles there.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix said at the NFL scouting combine last month the Bills won't cut Maybin. Nix insisted they will find a way to use him somehow, somewhere.

What Maybin might have going for him is he has considerable room to mature. He turns 23 in two weeks. His progress was stunted by missing his entire rookie training camp, eventually signing a five-year deal worth as much as $25 million. He quickly needed to absorb Dick Jauron's 4-3 defensive system and then had to switch to 3-4 outside linebacker last year under new defensive coordinator George Edwards.

"Right now all it is is potential because he hasn't shown it in practice or in games," Gailey said. "He's got to understand about pass-rush. He's got to understand about leverage and changing direction and not running past the quarterback and all those little things that go into a great pass-rusher's feel for beating an offensive tackle and getting to the passer. He's got to be a better special-teams player. He's got to be better versus the run."

That pretty much covers it.

Leading Questions: AFC East

February, 16, 2011
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With the offseason in full swing, let's take a look at one major question facing each AFC East team as it begins preparations for the 2011 season:

BUFFALO BILLS

Can the defense become a difference-maker?

That abysmal 0-8 start and a record meager enough to lock down the third overall pick in the draft suggest the Bills were an utter mess in 2010. Statistically, they were on both sides of the ball.

Yet there's an unquestionably different vibe about the Bills' offense despite ranking 28th in points, 25th in yards, 18th in rushing offense and 24th in passing offense. Bills fans debate whether Ryan Fitzpatrick is an adequate starter. Running back Fred Jackson and wide receiver Steve Johnson are fan favorites.

There's a general belief head coach Chan Gailey has his young offense trending upward.

Buffalo's defense generates no such sentiment despite similar rankings: 28th in points, 24th in yards, 32nd in run defense and a misleading third in pass defense -- because opponents didn't need to throw. Opposing quarterbacks still recorded the league's fifth-highest passer rating against the Bills.

Buffalo needs an overhaul on defense, and they appear willing to try. Gailey brought in old pal Dave Wannstedt as assistant head coach and linebackers assistant. Wannstedt's influence is uncertain at the moment, but he has better credentials than defensive coordinator George Edwards, who oversaw a switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and, in the end, mashed them together.

The Bills also re-signed outside linebacker Shawne Merriman. He's a reclamation project. But who knows? At least they're trying.

Much more must be done. The Bills have a foundation player in defensive tackle Kyle Williams, but he's surrounded by flotsam. Inside linebacker and leading tackler Paul Posluszny is a free agent. Merriman was worth the gamble because the Bills are desperate for pass-rushers with 2009 first-round pick Aaron Maybin looking like a bust and a half.

The draft won't solve all their problems, and general manager Buddy Nix is averse to patching holes with free agents. Unless the Bills strike big in the draft and Merriman turns out to be worth the risk, expect the defense to cost them more games in 2011.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Will Chad Henne be their long-term quarterback?

The Dolphins revealed a lack of faith in Henne in 2010. They benched him twice.

The first time was an out-and-out demotion. In Week 10 -- with Tom Brady performing like an MVP, Mark Sanchez well on his way to the playoffs again and Fitzpatrick giving Bills fans something to cheer about -- the desperate Dolphins replaced Henne with Chad Pennington. There's no telling how long Henne would have remained on the sideline if Pennington didn't reinjure his throwing shoulder shortly after kickoff.

The next time Tony Sparano pulled Henne was in the season finale, a blowout loss to a Patriots squad that rested some of its best players and had nothing to play for. Henne completed six of his 16 passes, threw an interception and had a 25.8 passer rating. Not the way any quarterback wants to enter the offseason.

Henne was the Dolphins' supposed quarterback of the future. They drafted him in the second round in 2008, the year they took his Michigan teammate Jake Long first overall. Henne hasn't worked out yet. He studied under Pennington for a season and then took over in 2009, when Pennington got hurt two games into the season.

In his two nearly full seasons, Henne, at best, has looked decent. Great games have been rare. He has frustrated Dolfans more often than not. Henne has a career 75.3 passer rating. He has thrown six more interceptions than touchdown passes.

There are no guarantees Henne will remain Miami's starter, although the prediction here is that he will be in 2011. A new infrastructure is in place, and whenever a young quarterback has new idea men around, there's a tendency to extend opportunities -- especially when owner Stephen Ross, a Michigan man himself, has promoted Henne as a future Dolphins legend.

The Dolphins said goodbye to offensive coordinator Dan Henning and hired Brian Daboll, formerly of the Cleveland Browns. Henne's position coach, David Lee, left to be offensive coordinator at Mississippi. Receivers coach Karl Dorrell was switched to quarterbacks.

Will new voices be enough to inspire Henne to another level? I'm skeptical. While it's easy to scapegoat Henning -- and to an extent Lee -- for the offense's struggles, it should be noted Henning and Lee were considered geniuses when Pennington ran the offense and the Wildcat became an NFL trend. I doubt Henning and Lee turned vapid when Henne became quarterback.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Will the defense remain a weakness?

Week by week, the Patriots' defense evolved into a commendable unit. In four of their last five regular-season games, they allowed 20 combined points. Two of those opponents were playoff teams.

They sent four defensive players to the Pro Bowl: nose tackle Vince Wilfork, inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Brandon Meriweather. Three of them were starters.

Not bad.

The numbers tell a different story. The Patriots ranked eighth in points allowed, but 25th in yards allowed, 11th in run defense and 30th in pass defense. The Patriots were dead last in third-down efficiency. They let opponents move the chains 47 percent of the time. They improved over the final few games, but in December they were on track to record the fifth-worst defense on third down since the NFL-AFL merger.

The Patriots gave up 34 points to the Browns, 30 points to the Bills and 24 points each to the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals.

Bill Belichick's defense can improve simply with another year of experience and the return of a couple of key contributors who missed 2010 with injuries.

The Patriots were young on defense. They started four rookies a couple of times. Their top secondary -- cornerbacks McCourty and Kyle Arrington, safeties Meriweather and Patrick Chung -- went into the season with four combined NFL seasons.

Not only will the defense improve by being another year older and wiser, but they'll also be reinforced when defensive end Ty Warren and cornerback Leigh Bodden come back.

Hip surgery wiped out Warren's season. Warren was a fixture at left end and forced the Patriots to juggle their line continually. A shoulder injury sidelined Bodden, and while McCourty emerged as a Pro Bowler, Bodden's presence over undrafted sophomore Arrington would have given the Patriots a much more formidable secondary.

New England's obvious need is a pass-rusher. With two draft choices in each of the first two rounds and the wherewithal to lure a free agent, there are plenty of reasons to expect New England's defense to upgrade in 2011.

NEW YORK JETS

Can the Jets retain their loaded receiving corps?

The Jets are in a bad spot when it comes to free agency in general, but particularly in regard to their wide receivers.

Contracts are up for Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. They accounted for 17 of the club's 39 touchdowns.

Holmes spent the first four games on suspension, but he and Edwards combined for 105 receptions, 1,591 yards and 12 touchdowns. Smith was less of a threat in the receiving game, but he lined up as an option quarterback. He threw a touchdown pass and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum declared his intentions to re-sign them all, but he added the plan was in pencil and expressed considerable doubt he would hammer out any deals before March 3, when the collective bargaining agreement is expected to expire.

Until there's a new CBA, nobody knows what free agency will look like. When will the signing period commence? How many seasons of NFL experience will determine restricted or unrestricted free agency? What will salary-cap parameters be?

That's why bringing back all three receivers will be unlikely. Once they hit the open market, the Jets will have to compete with the rest of the league for three players who will be coveted.

The Jets acquired Holmes and Edwards because they had baggage, but they have enhanced their reputations immensely. Holmes served his suspension and was on his best behavior. Edwards defied his rap as a habitual ball-dropper.

The always-respected Smith once again proved to be a versatile weapon at a time when such players are in high demand.

The Jets must keep at least two of them. They can't afford to give Sanchez less to work with. The young quarterback has many admirable traits, but he has shown little capacity to carry the offense himself. Sanchez requires a strong support staff.

The Jets might be able to get away with losing one of these receivers. Tight end Dustin Keller was sensational while Holmes was suspended. Through the first four games, Keller had 19 receptions for 234 yards and five touchdowns. Then Keller got lost in the offense and didn't score another TD.

Bills land Dave Wannstedt as assistant

January, 21, 2011
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Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey's defensive coaching staff has gotten a lot better.

FoxSports.com senior writer Alex Marvez reports Dave Wannstedt will join Gailey's staff as assistant head coach and inside linebackers assistant.

The move is an offseason victory for the Bills, an organization that struggled to attract top free agents because they haven't reached the playoffs in a decade. Wannstedt becomes the biggest name to join the Bills as an assistant coach since future Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau served on Gregg Williams' defensive staff in 2003 or since Sam Wyche was quarterbacks coach under Mike Mularkey in 2004.

It will be interesting to see how big a voice Wannstedt has on defensive game planning.

Gailey retained defensive coordinator George Edwards, who oversaw a slapdash unit that switched from Dick Jauron's 4-3 scheme to a 3-4. By the end of the season, the Bills were running multi-front schemes.

They ranked 24th in total defense, 32nd in run defense and third in pass defense (because opponents ran so much).

The Bills had an opening because Gailey fired inside linebackers coach DeMontie Cross.

Wannstedt agreed with the Bills after drawing interest from several other teams. He was available because he resigned as head coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

He was Miami Dolphins head coach from 2000 through 2004, taking them to the playoffs his first two seasons with Gailey as offensive coordinator. Wannstedt led the Chicago Bears from 1993 through 1998, reaching the postseason once.

Wannstedt gained notice as a sharp defensive mind under Jimmy Johnson with the Miami Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys. He was Cowboys defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXVII, holding the Bills to 17 points.

Landing Wannstedt would be a Buffalo coup

January, 13, 2011
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Dave Wannstedt met with the Buffalo Bills on Thursday to discuss how he might fit in with their defensive coaching staff.

Head coach Chan Gailey welcomed Wannstedt to One Bills Drive to see what job his old friend would be willing to do. Gailey previously stated his support of defensive coordinator George Edwards.

Wannstedt has been head coach of the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins and recently resigned under pressure as University of Pittsburgh head coach.

He's overqualified for the Bills' only apparent vacancy, inside linebackers assistant. But tack on the title of assistant head coach and the pay that goes along with it, and that might work.

"I think he would be a very good fit, but it remains to be seen if this is something he would like to do or not," Gailey said to BuffaloBills.com. "So he'll have to think about it and see what direction he wants to go."

Gailey was Miami's offensive coordinator for two seasons while Wannstedt was head coach.

Before Wannstedt became a head coach, he was Miami Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson, winning a Super Bowl.

"He's extremely knowledgeable," Gailey said of Wannstedt. "He's a great human being, a great team guy, and he would bring some intensity to our team because I know what burns inside of him."

The Bills probably will have to compete with other teams for Wannstedt's services.

ESPN's Adam Schefter previously reported Wannstedt also was expected to speak with the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers.

Gailey likes his D staff, not a Maybin fan

January, 3, 2011
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The Buffalo Bills fielded perhaps the NFL's worst defense.

They'll certainly undergo notable changes, but head coach Chan Gailey suggested the coaching staff won't be among them.

Gailey expressed support of defensive coordinator George Edwards and his assistants at Monday's season-ending news conference.

"I feel good about our coaching staff," Gailey said. "We're always evaluating. We'll evaluate the rest of this week about what we need to do at every position. They had a tough go of it this year, but I feel good about the people that are on that side of the ball."

The Bills transitioned from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme and then settled into multiple fronts. They ranked 24th in total defense, 32nd in run defense and (mainly because opponents didn't need to throw) third in pass defense. Quarterbacks still had a 92.6 rating against the Bills. Only four other teams allowed higher ratings.

Gailey was skeptical about the futures of safety Donte Whitner and outside linebacker Aaron Maybin, the 11th overall draft choice in 2009.

Whitner, an unrestricted free agent, has publicly bemoaned his unsuccessful contract negotiations. When reporters showed up Monday, his locker already had been cleared out.

"I didn’t realize that until I was told that a few minutes ago that that had happened," Gailey said of Whitner's empty stall. "He's a really good player. You'd love to have him on your football team, but we're in a business where that doesn't happen every time. So we'll wait and see what happens."

Gailey didn't sound bullish on Maybin's future. Maybin had trouble getting on the field in his second pro season. He played 10 games, started just one and still hasn't recorded an NFL sack.

"Right now, he's on the outside looking in," Gailey said. "That's where he is. If he improves, he'll improve his status. But if he doesn't improve his status, he won't find playing time on this football team."

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