NFL Nation: Gerard Warren

INDIANAPOLIS -- How many thought the player known as "Big Money" would ever make the Big Show?

It's taken 11 seasons and four teams but Browns first-round bust Gerard Warren did the unthinkable by reaching the Super Bowl. Warren isn't a major contributor for the New England Patriots. He's a backup defensive lineman who recorded 16 tackles and one sack this season.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Michael Ivins/US PresswireAfter 11 seasons and four teams, Gerard Warren is finally in a Super Bowl.
Still, I would have guaranteed that Warren would have been out of football for five years by now. He failed miserably like Courtney Brown, Tim Couch and William Green -- all of whom never lasted more than a couple of years in the NFL after parting ways with the Browns. So, you don't have to respect his work ethic while he was in Cleveland, but you have to acknowledge his staying power in the league.

Brown was the third overall pick in the 2001 draft, a classic example of the Butch Davis regime that overrated talent and undervalued character. Of the top seven picks in that draft, Warren is the only one never to reach a Pro Bowl. The three picks after him: Justin Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Richard Seymour.

Couch and Courtney Brown will always be considered bigger busts than Warren because they were taken first overall, but Brown ranks first in the team's Hall of Shame.

Remember when Warren was arrested in Pittsburgh in November 2001 for illegal possession of a firearm, former team president Carmen Policy said police thought he was “the nicest guy they ever arrested.”

Remember Warren's threat against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when he said, “Kill the head and the body’s dead."

At Super Bowl's media day, Warren said he will always remember the "highs and lows" of his four seasons with the Browns.

"It was very emotional," he said. "I put a lot of my heart, blood and sweat in the city of Cleveland. I have a special place I hold the city of Cleveland in my heart. I had to part ways and look where the journey got me."

That journey started in 2005 when with the Browns traded Brown to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round pick. In the 2007 preseason, he was traded by the Broncos to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional fifth-round pick.

The Raiders released him in March 2010, and Warren later signed with the Patriots on the final day of the 2010 draft. In talking to Warren on media day, you definitely got the sense that he felt lucky and was soaking in the experience.

"This is the reason why I came to the NFL," Warren said. "This is the reason."
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC East team:

Buffalo Bills

1. Add new blood: For the most part, most of the Bills’ free-agents-to-be would not be big losses. Buffalo should have plenty of money to spend once free agency does finally open. Obviously, this has been a losing franchise for some time now, and transforming the roster and changing the culture of the organization should be a very good thing. The Bills did take a fine step in the right direction in the 2011 draft, taking several prospects from big-college programs with winning histories.

2. Keep Paul Posluszny: Although inside linebackers generally are not difficult to find, Posluszny is the type of guy Buffalo needs to keep within the organization. He is productive, tough and able to lead the defense on every down. Last season wasn’t his best, but Posluszny was fantastic in 2009, and I fully expect him to get back to that form, especially playing behind what should be a vastly improved young interior defensive line.

3. Eliminate needs: I list the Bills’ three greatest needs as left tackle, outside linebacker and tight end. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if Buffalo could knock out one or two of these needs in free agency, it would go a very long way in its rebuilding process. Jared Gaither or Doug Free could potentially fill Buffalo’s left tackle position for years to come, while Matt Light could hold down the fort and provide leadership until Chris Hairston or a future draft pick is ready. An outside linebacker such as Manny Lawson, Matt Roth or Mathias Kiwanuka could also be money very well spent to pose an edge presence opposite Arthur Moats, whom I featured in my Soon to be Stars series. Zach Miller is really the only free-agent tight end who would qualify.

Top free agents: Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Drayton Florence

Miami Dolphins

1. Add running back help: Miami used the 62nd overall pick in 2011 to select Daniel Thomas, a big, bruising runner with a lot of ability. But of course, Thomas is going to be a rookie this season, and fully counting on him to carry the load and learn the pass protections would be foolish. Miami needs a backup plan. Bringing back Ronnie Brown, or more likely, Ricky Williams, wouldn’t be a terrible situation. But just adding Brown or Williams wouldn’t be enough. Snatching up Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams would obviously be a huge addition and would push Thomas to backup status. Even bringing in a reliable back like Joseph Addai or Jason Snelling might do the trick as Thomas develops. Another option is to add a specialty player like Darren Sproles.

2. Find competition for Chad Henne: Personally, I am not ready to write off Henne. I believe in the approach that Miami has taken this offseason. The Dolphins have surrounded him with pieces to make his life much easier. But still, adding a veteran signal-caller seems like a must at this point. Suitable options include Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb or even Vince Young, who is soon to be released by Tennessee. If quarterback remains a problem after this year, then Miami needs to sell the farm to draft its next franchise quarterback. But in the meantime, this would be my approach.

3. Make a splash on D: To me, the Dolphins’ three biggest needs are quarterback, running back and then free safety. Even if Miami didn’t add a defender of any sort in free agency, I would rank its 2011 defense among the best in the NFL. I am that high on this group. But what if the Dolphins could land a real talent at free safety? Imagine the possibilities. This is a deep free-agent class of safeties. I would love to see the Dolphins sign someone like Michael Huff or especially Eric Weddle. Even adding a solid player with upside like Brodney Pool would be helpful here.

Top free agents: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Tony McDaniel, Richie Incognito, Tyler Thigpen

New England Patriots

1. Lock up Logan Mankins: Because the Patriots designated Mankins their franchise player, I didn’t include him among their top free agents. But New England does have to get him locked up. Mankins might just be the best guard in all of football. With Matt Light potentially leaving town, the Patriots cannot afford additional unrest along their offensive line. Mankins would be the ideal player to line up next to Nate Solder to help the rookie’s transition to the NFL.

2. Find a pass-rusher: I see outside linebacker as New England’s greatest need, followed distantly by wide receiver and defensive end. Although I expect Jermaine Cunningham to develop quickly into a solid starter, adding one more edge player who can be disruptive on throwing downs is something that still needs to be addressed after the team curiously ignored it in the draft. The name I like best for the Patriots here is Mathias Kiwanuka, if his health checks out. He is smart, versatile and has some experience at linebacker. Two other players who fit the bill are Matt Roth and Manny Lawson.

3. Acquire a deep threat: I am not as sold as most that New England must add a wide receiver who can stretch the field. But this is a tremendous organization, and the Pats just don’t have many needs, so picking up such a luxury player could be the difference between a Super Bowl championship or another early exit in the postseason. My favorite fit for the Patriots is Braylon Edwards. Edwards is immensely talented, and if submersed in this environment with Tom Brady throwing him the ball, he could quickly rank among the top wideouts in all of football.

Top free agents: Matt Light, Gerard Warren

New York Jets

1. Make critical decisions on their own players: The Jets have a lot of free agents, and they are one of the teams in the league with the least amount of money to spend as it stands today. New York has come very close to its goal the past couple of seasons, but this free-agency period is absolutely critical to staying among the best teams in the NFL.

2. Address wide receiver: Considering who is up for free agency, wide receiver has to be the biggest worry for the Jets right now. I greatly respect Braylon Edwards’ abilities, but Santonio Holmes is just the better player right now. In fact, I see Holmes as a top-10 wide receiver. He is incredible in the clutch. Mark Sanchez needs quality options to throw to at this point of his young career. If the Jets brought back Holmes, increased TE Dustin Keller's role and also found a bargain at wide receiver late in free agency (maybe Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco), then I think they would be OK.

3. Don’t forget about the trenches: The Jets are a physical team that is strong on both lines of scrimmage. Two of their starting offensive line spots are uncertain at this point. And although they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kendrick Ellis, rookie defensive linemen rarely make a major impact -- especially in a 3-4. Shaun Ellis is probably going to be playing elsewhere, and New York doesn’t have a high-end outside linebacker. So there are concerns up front. The Jets will have to sign some cheaper veteran options -- probably to one-year contracts -- to shore things up.

Top free agents: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Shaun Ellis, Antonio Cromartie, Brodney Pool, Brad Smith

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.

Were big AFC East offseason needs filled?

August, 31, 2010
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On the day the New Orleans Saints held their Super Bowl parade, long before the free-agency period opened and the draft took place, Scouts Inc. analyst Gary Horton examined the top three needs of every NFL team heading into the offseason.

Now that we've gone through offseason workouts, minicamps, training camps and three preseason games, let's take a look at each AFC East need and determine whether it was addressed.

Buffalo Bills

1. Outside linebacker: At the time of Horton's analysis, he didn't know Aaron Schobel would retire. Schobel would have been Buffalo's best pass-rusher in its new 3-4 defense. The Bills signed free agent Reggie Torbor and are hoping a group that also includes Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis and Aaron Maybin will suffice. Need addressed? No.

2. Left tackle: The Bills chose to stick with Demetrius Bell. The Bills still haven't drafted a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002. Of the two they did draft, fifth-rounder Ed Wang is hurt and seventh-rounder Kyle Calloway already has been released. The Bills did sign Oakland Raiders free agent Cornell Green to play right tackle. Need addressed? No.

3. Quarterback: The Bills did next to nothing at quarterback, drafting long-term project Levi Brown in the seventh round and letting Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm shoot it out. Edwards won a not-so-open competition. Need addressed? No.

[+] EnlargeMarshall
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireThe acquisition of Brandon Marshall filled a huge void in the Dolphins' passing game.
Miami Dolphins

1. Wide receiver: Did the Dolphins address this need? Hmmm ... Let's see ... Oh, wait. That's right. They traded for Brandon Marshall, who has recorded triple-digit receptions in three straight seasons. Marshall was one of the most enormous transactions of the offseason. Need addressed? Yes.

2. Free safety: The Dolphins drafted Reshad Jones in the fifth round, but sophomore Chris Clemons has held down the position admirably. It won't be tough to outplay last year's starter, Gibril Wilson. Need addressed? Yes.

3. Nose tackle: The situation actually got worse and worse after Horton formed his analysis. Jason Ferguson was suspended eight games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The Dolphins re-signed Ferguson, but then he retired. The Dolphins didn't draft a nose tackle, choosing to convert defensive end Randy Starks instead. Starks is undersized for a traditional 3-4 nose tackle, but Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has claimed Starks' speed has upgraded the position. Need addressed? Yes.

New England Patriots

1. Outside linebacker: Horton wrote "This defense must generate pass-rush pressure from its outside linebackers, but the Pats are devoid of playmakers and have virtually no depth at this position." They've gotten shallower with the release of Adalius Thomas, who started their playoff game. Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess are back and penciled in as the starters. The Patriots drafted pass-rusher Jermaine Cunningham 53rd overall, but he has been too hurt to get on the practice field. Need addressed? No.

2. Wide receiver: Wes Welker was looking at a potentially long rehab at the time Horton wrote his offseason preview. Randy Moss' age also was a concern. But Welker's recovery has been quick. Moss has looked phenomenal. Emerging youngsters Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate and third-round draft pick Taylor Price should be more than enough. Need addressed? Yes.

3. Defensive end: Little did Horton know how badly the Patriots would need help here. Left end Ty Warren is done for the year because of a hip injury. Right end Jarvis Green split for the Denver Broncos. The Patriots signed free agent Gerard Warren and have moved last year's super reserve, Mike Wright, into the starting lineup. Need addressed? No.

New York Jets

1. Defensive end: Horton's concern was with the age of incumbents Shaun Ellis and Marques Douglas. Ellis is back. Douglas was a free agent who departed for the Dolphins. The Jets didn't draft any defensive linemen and didn't sign any notable free agents there. They did move Vernon Gholston from outside linebacker to defensive end. Need addressed? No.

2. Safety: Compared to the Jets' banner acquisitions, Brodney Pool was a blip. The Cleveland Browns gave up on him because of recurring concussions, but the Jets' medical staff found his problem was related to migraine headaches. He's a multifaceted safety with a nose for the ball, interception four passes in 10 games last year. Need addressed? Yes.

3. Wide receiver: The Jets practically stole Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a fifth-round draft choice. Holmes was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII and was coming off a 1,248-yard season. But character issues, underscored by a four-game suspension to start the season, made him a bargain. Need addressed? Yes.

Bruschi: Patriots have problems along lines

August, 18, 2010
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ESPN analyst and former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi senses trouble with his old team.

In a video for ESPNBoston.com, Bruschi says the Patriots "are slowly losing their grip on their AFC East crown" because of injuries and the prolonged absence of unsigned Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins.

"Training camp started off on the wrong foot with the holdout of Logan Mankins," Bruschi says. "The Nick Kaczur at left guard experiment ended badly with a severely injured back. Now losing Ty Warren to a season-ending hip injury will have a ripple effect along that entire defense.

"The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are among the most physical teams in the NFL. The Patriots' front-line depth is a huge question mark. They're down to their third-string left guard. Steve Neal is at right guard, and he has a history of injuries. Along the defensive line you now have Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren, who have very limited experience in this 3-4 defense.

"You want an answer to some of those questions? Pay Mankins."

To underscore Bruschi's take, ESPNBoston.com reporter Mike Reiss provided a look at the projected depth chart along both lines of scrimmage.

video

Big Question: Top AFC East move?

July, 6, 2010
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What was the top offseason move in the AFC East?

We've hit a rare dead period in the NFL, when all the teams have sent their players home to enjoy the summer for a few weeks. Offseason programs are complete. Training camps will begin at the end of the month.

[+] EnlargeMarshall
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireBrandon Marshall's trade to Miami was one of the biggest offseason moves in the AFC East.
Perfect time to review all of the offseason moves. With activity slowed to a crawl, we can safely evaluate the ones that should have the most impact on the upcoming season.

I've taken five decisions from each AFC East club and ranked them based on how important they'll prove to be in 2010.

But this list merely is to provide a reminder of what has happened the past few months. I'd like to see your list in the comments section below. Nominate your favorite move, give me your top five or rank them all.

NOTE: I was remiss in leaving out one of the bigger moves, but thanks to some friendly reminders in the comments section, I have corrected the list by inserting the Dolphins' switch at defensive coordinator at No. 4.

1. Dolphins trade two second-round draft picks for receiver Brandon Marshall.

2. Jets trade a third-round pick for cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

3. Patriots use franchise tag to ensure nose tackle Vince Wilfork's return.

4. Dolphins fire defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and hire Mike Nolan.

5. Dolphins sign inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.

6. Bills name Buddy Nix general manager and hire head coach Chan Gailey.

7. Jets trade a fifth-round pick for receiver Santonio Holmes.

8. Bills switch to 3-4 defense.

9. Jets pass on re-signing kicker Jay Feely and sign pass-rusher Jason Taylor.

10. Bills draft Clemson running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall.

11. Patriots clean house at tight end, sign Alge Crumpler, draft Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

12. Dolphins move Randy Starks from defensive end to nose tackle.

13. Patriots sign defensive end Gerard Warren.

14. Jets sign safety Brodney Pool, trade Kerry Rhodes.

15. Patriots release outside linebacker Adalius Thomas.

16. Dolphins release outside linebacker Joey Porter.

17. Bills sign defensive end Dwan Edwards.

18. Jets replace running back Thomas Jones with LaDainian Tomlinson.

19. Bills sign inside linebacker Andra Davis.

20. Patriots sign receiver Torry Holt.

AFC West draft odds and ends

April, 24, 2010
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Assuming new quarterback Jason Campbell will start in Oakland, it will mean the team will have a new opening day starting quarterback for the sixth time in seven years. Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will be Campbell’s eighth coordinator in 10 years dating back to his college days.

Oakland coach Tom Cable is not ready to make Jason Campbell the starting quarterback yet. He does expect JaMarcus Russell to be at the team’s minicamp next week.

The Broncos are bringing in former Miami linebacker Akin Ayodele for a physical Sunday and will sign him barring any issues. He will provide depth at inside linebacker. Denver did not draft a front-seven defender. Coach Josh McDaniels said Denver has moved Mario Haggan from outside to inside linebacker.

McDaniels said the team will not add any veteran receivers. The team drafted receivers Demaryius Thomas in the first round and Eric Decker in the third round.

The only team in the division I see making a run at guard Alan Faneca is Oakland, but I’d say that is a long shot at best.

Defensive tackle Gerard Warren, cut by Oakland this offseason, has signed with New England.

Denver sent a fifth-round pick next year to Tampa Bay for two seventh-round picks this year.

Draft Watch: AFC West

March, 17, 2010
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NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest needs revisited.

Denver: The Broncos have added three potential starting defensive linemen and a backup quarterback (at least for the time being) in Brady Quinn. Those two positions are probably out of the question for Denver in the early rounds. The Broncos do have plenty of needs, though. The Broncos will be looking for an inside linebacker after the release of starter Andra Davis. Alabama’s Rolando McClain has to be considered a possibility at No. 11. Denver is also looking for help on the offensive line at guard and at center. The Broncos will surely take a young interior offensive linemen early. With Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall’s future in flux, Denver has to be on the hunt for a receiver. This is a position the Broncos could address early.

Kansas City: The Chiefs have been aggressive in free agency. But because the Chiefs have to improve in many areas, there is plenty to target in the draft. Kansas City has been targeting several veteran offensive linemen, but I think it will try to draft an offensive lineman in the first round or with one of its two second-round picks. The Chiefs still have a big need at safety. If he is available, Tennessee’s Eric Berry has to be a real possibility with the No. 5 pick. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City looked at a linebacker in the first three rounds, either. Even though veteran receiver Chris Chambers has re-signed, look for the Chiefs to try to get younger at the position, perhaps in the second round. The team’s need for a running back was filled with veteran Thomas Jones in free agency.

Oakland: The Raiders have been shedding veterans much more than they have been bringing in players so far in free agency. The need wish list still starts at tackle. The Raiders have long had a dearth there. There probably will be several solid choices at tackle with the No. 8 overall pick. Oakland has to consider this a priority position. The Raiders could also use a young quarterback in the early-to-middle rounds. With running back Justin Fargas cut, the Raiders also could use another running back, but it won’t be a high-round priority. With veteran Gerard Warren cut, Oakland will need a defensive tackle, probably in the early rounds. Linebacker is also an area Oakland may try to address early.

San Diego: The Chargers have as many draft needs as they’ve had in several years. The Chargers have seen several veterans leave through free agency, trade or release. The team has a lot of depth, but reinforcements are needed at several areas. The two main areas of need remain running back and nose tackle. San Diego will address these areas early. It just depends how early. The Chargers could potentially take two running backs early. It is a deep running back class, so San Diego will have options. San Diego really needs a nose tackle now that veteran Jamal Williams has been released and signed by Denver. Because nose tackles are more difficult to find than running backs, the Chargers may address this area first. San Diego could use help at tight end in the middle rounds and perhaps even a third-string quarterback. Linebacker and cornerback could also be addressed in the late rounds.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Richard Seymour has gradually made the adjustment to playing in Oakland.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

It has been nearly seven weeks since Richard Seymour's world turned upside down. Although he’s clearly still adjusting to his trade from New England to Oakland, Seymour insists he’s happy with the Raiders.

Of course, I asked Seymour at the right time. I had caught up to him after Oakland’s surprise 13-9 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.

Seymour was a major reason Oakland won. He had two sacks as Oakland blitzed extensively for the first time this season. It was his best game as a Raider since Week 1, when he played on raw emotion and had two sacks less than 48 hours after arriving in Oakland.

When Seymour plays well, the entire Oakland defense plays well. It’s clear why the Raiders felt compelled to give up their first-round pick in 2011 to get him.

The Raiders want Seymour, 30, to finish his career in Oakland. He is a free agent after this season. Perhaps his mindset was altered by the sweet aroma of victory, but Seymour seemed willing to accommodate the Raiders.

Asked if he could see himself re-signing with Oakland, Seymour said: “Oh, yeah, I like it here a lot. I can see that happening.”

The Raiders and Seymour will likely commence contract talks shortly after the season. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, Oakland could use the franchise tag on Seymour. With the Raiders owing New England a first-rounder, expect them to do everything they can to ensure Seymour remains a Raider in 2010. He made it sound as if it won’t be difficult.

“I want to be part of something special here,” Seymour said. “Days like this make you realize this thing can turn around here. I want to be here for the turnaround.”

Seymour believes the turnaround is coming sooner than later. He made headlines and raised eyebrows around the league this week when he predicted on a radio show that the Raiders will make the playoffs this season. He is clearly trying to parlay the excitement of the week and motivate his new teammates and fans.

Seymour got used to winning in New England, so the win over Philadelphia was a familiar and welcome feeling after three straight losses. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, and over the past six years he was a part of 53 more victories than Oakland.

Seymour thinks he can be part of the winning formula in Oakland.

“This can happen more often,” Seymour said. “We can win here. That’s why I’m here.”

Seymour insists he bought into playing with the Raiders even though it took him six days to report after the trade. Although he says he is happy in the Silver and Black, he admitted he is not thrilled with the way his New England tenure ended.

The trade completely blindsided him. He didn’t learn about the deal until it happened, the Sunday before the start of the season. Seymour was preparing for a Monday night opener against the Bills. He never dreamed he’d be preparing to play San Diego the same night as a Raider.

He found out about the trade from New England coach Bill Belichick in a short phone call.

I asked Seymour if he thought the way his departure from New England went down would cause free agents in the future to think twice about heading to New England. Seymour nodded but offered no verbal answer. He did say this: “You’d be surprised how many phone calls I received about the way they handled it.”

It still bothers Seymour that he wasn’t called into the Patriots’ offices after the trade.

“If the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn’t have handled it the way they did,” Seymour said. “I would have called the guy in. But that’s just me.”

Oakland defensive tackle Gerard Warren said Seymour’s arrival was a major step in the right direction because Seymour oozes “winning tradition.” Seymour has brought both professionalism and a nasty demeanor to Oakland, Warren said. The latter was on display in Week 3 against Denver, when Seymour (who long had a reputation for being a physical, mean player) pulled the hair of Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. He was fined $7,500.

“Seymour gives us a toughness,” Warren said. “He’s just a ballplayer. He’s a champion. Richard is the type of guy I want on my side no matter what I’m doing. Whether it’s playing football, fishing or chopping wood, I want Richard Seymour on my side.”

Seymour has no plans to go anywhere. Even though the Raiders and the Patriots were playing at the same time on Sunday afternoon, Seymour knew one major difference. The Raiders were playing in comfortable California weather. The Patriots were playing in a New England snowstorm.

“You saw what was happening there,” Seymour said. “This is nice. This is where I want to be.”
 
  Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
 The Oakland Raiders were clearly motivated against Philadelphia.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

OAKLAND -- Antonio Pierce’s harsh comments about the Oakland Raiders ended up doing both the Raiders and his New York Giants a favor.

Pierce’s words woke the Raiders up, who reacted by punishing the Giants’ NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a 13-9 upset win Sunday. Somebody should ship a game ball to Pierce.
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After a four-week funk, the Raiders finally played with the passion they showed in a narrow Week 1 home loss to San Diego. In the three games prior to its stunning win over bumbling and unprepared Philadelphia, Oakland was 0-3 and was outscored 96-16. The embarrassment reached a climax last week when the Giants beat Oakland 44-7. Pierce said playing Oakland was like playing a “scrimmage” and he expressed shock at how listless the Raiders were.

“I’m not going to lie, it was noticed by us,” Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison said. “We talked about it. We don’t want people saying that stuff about us. We all agreed that we were not playing with confidence and it was time to wake up. Those comments really got us going. ... What happened to New York today. They gave up 48 points [in a 48-27 loss at New Orleans]. This is a week-to-week business … But Antonio did us a favor by saying those things.”

Oakland defensive tackle Gerard Warren had this to say: “I hope we can get to the Super Bowl and face the Giants again … [Pierce] has no effect on this locker room.”

Actually, he did, and it was positive.

Oakland rookie Louis Murphy said the players took Pierce’s comments to heart.

“We had enough,” Murphy said. “We wanted to end this nonsense.”

Murphy played a major role in ending the nonsense. The play of the game was an 86-yard touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to tight end Zach Miller on a 10-yard pass. Murphy, a fourth-round pick from Florida, threw two nasty blocks for Miller, who rambled into the end zone to give the Raiders a 7-3 lead. It was Oakland’s biggest play of the day and the only touchdown of the game.

When asked if that play could be the turning point of Oakland’s season, Murphy said, "I think it is."

It takes only one win to change the morale of a locker room. And for now, all is well in Oakland, whether Pierce thinks so or not.

Warren said Oakland, thanks to its win Sunday, can now focus on the good and bury the past month.

“Spaceships don’t have rearview mirrors,” Warren said. “You can only look up.”

Here are some other key developments from Oakland’s win:

Here comes the blitz: The Raiders finally unleashed the blitz Sunday. Oakland had blitzed only 20 times going into Sunday’s game.

Oakland pressured Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb relentlessly. The Raiders had six sacks, their highest total since 2005. Philadelphia had major trouble with the blitz after left tackle Jason Peters left in the first quarter with a knee injury.

“We came after them hard,” Warren said. “We wanted it.”

Eagles coach Andy Reid admitted that his team didn’t expect Oakland to blitz much and that the Eagles were unable to adjust.

Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said the Raiders worked on blitzing in practice often during the week. He said he hopes the team continues to use it more in the future. The Raiders play host to the New York Jets on Sunday. Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has been shaky in recent games, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Oakland tried to harass him.

Stopping the pass: Perhaps it was Oakland’s blitzing, but the Eagles were out of sorts all game. The team could do little right on offense and Reid tried to solve the problems in the air. Forty-six of Philadelphia’s 60 offensive plays were passes. McNabb completed 22 passes for 269 yards.

The Eagles ran the ball twice in the fourth quarter.

“We thought they would run some more, but they just kept throwing,” Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “We just adjusted and played it pretty well.”

Oakland’s effort in the pass-defense game was admirable considering Asomugha missed most of the game with an eye injury. He said he the injury is not expected to be long-lasting.

Just enough offense: Oakland won this game on defense and because the Eagles floundered all game. But the offense did show some improvement.

Oakland had 325 yards of offense. It was the first time since Week 1 that the Raiders broke the 200-yard mark in total offense. Russell wasn’t great and he missed several open receivers. But he didn’t kill the Raiders.

He completed 17 of 28 passes. The Raiders continued to play it safe with Russell, but he looked comfortable. A key for Russell is finding Miller, his favorite target. Russell threw to Miller 11 times. Miller ended up with six catches for 139 yards.

Miller is Russell’s way out of the abyss. If Russell can rely on Miller, cut down his mistakes and throw accurately, he has a chance to salvage his season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Thoughts and observations from the 49ers' exhibition game Saturday night against the Raiders:

  • How to evaluate Alex Smith. Yes, he was a bit high with the throw that bounced off Josh Morgan for an interception, but Morgan also short-armed the ball as if to protect himself from a looming collision with Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson. Some of Smith's passes appeared difficult to catch, though, and this was one of them. When plays break down, Shaun Hill is more effective at moving and finding a receiver, even though Smith is more athletic.
  • Morgan still made an impact. The second-year receiver caught only one pass for 7 yards, but did you see him sealing Raiders linebacker Jon Alston to help spring Glen Coffee for 16 yards on the 49ers' second possession? Bet the 49ers' coaches saw it.
  • Coffee does more than run the ball. He picked up blitzing Raiders linebacker Ricky Brown early in the game. Brown recovered and eventually hit Smith, but Coffee's willingness and ability to pick up the blitz makes it easier for coaches to trust him in game situations. I think the 49ers could win with Coffee.
  • The 49ers love to run block. Tight end Vernon Davis and left tackle Joe Staley form a powerful combination. Davis can often block defensive ends one-on-one. Case in point: the last play of the first quarter. It was second-and-10 from the San Francisco 16. Coffee was alone in the backfield. The 49ers had three wide receivers on the field. Davis drove defensive end Trevor Scott across the formation. Staley did the same with defensive tackle Gerard Warren, finishing the 330-pounder with a violent blow that twisted Warren's upper body. Coffee shot through behind Davis and Staley for an 18-yard gain.
  • They really love to run block. Davis and Staley sealed the left edge on Coffee's 35-yard run midway through the second quarter. Left guard Tony Wragge and center Eric Heitmann pulled left and delivered decisive blocks. It's refreshing to watch the 49ers play to their strengths.
  • Pass rush, anyone? The 49ers are not winning one-on-one pass rush battles on the outside. They rushed four and got no pressure on the Raiders' third-and-21 touchdown pass. Manny Lawson rushed against the left tackle, got nowhere, then peeled off into coverage when tight end Zach Miller released from the other side.
  • Jimmy Raye found a rhythm. The successful run call on third-and-7 was a nice touch. Play calling becomes easier when the run game is working.
  • Adam Snyder could have been hurt worse. The 49ers' right tackle was about to get up after making a block when Coffee was tackled hard on the back of Snyder's right leg. Snyder was kneeling and had his back to Coffee. His right foot was turned outward and pressed into the grass. Snyder walked off the field, but he was obviously hurting. The 49ers hope to know more about the injury Monday.
Those are among the things I saw during the first half. About to watch the second half.
 
  AP Photo/Phil Coale
  Atiyyah Ellison (99) hopes he's found a home with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

In Atiyyah Ellison's media guide entry, his year-by-year bio has just a two-word edge on this lengthy transaction history:

TRANSACTIONS: Originally a third round (89th pick overall) draft choice by Carolina in 2005 NFL Draft ... Waived by Carolina on 9/3/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the practice squad on 9/5/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on 9/14/05 ... Waived by Carolina on 9/24/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the practice squad on 9/27/05 ... Signed by Carolina to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on 10/31/05 ... Waived by Carolina on 9/2/06 ... Signed by Houston on 9/3/06 ... Waived by Houston on 9/7/06 ... Signed by Baltimore to the practice squad on 9/12/06 ... Signed by Baltimore to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on 12/4/06 ... Waived by Baltimore on 9/1/07 ... Signed by Baltimore to the practice squad on 9/2/07 ... Signed by San Francisco off the Baltimore practice squad on 9/5/07 ... Waived by San Francisco 8/30/08 ... Signed to San Francisco practice squad 8/31/08 ... Signed by Jacksonville off San Francisco practice squad on 12/10/08.

He shakes his head and grins when he talks about the 18 moves -- "I've been everywhere," he said -- but remains surprisingly upbeat and optimistic that No. 18 will be the big winner, that he's finally found a home with the Jaguars.

"Being a third-round pick and then getting cut and put on the practice squad, people see that and think, 'Something's got to be wrong with him' or 'Something is up with him' or 'He was drafted too high,' I honestly couldn't tell you one specific thing," Ellison said.

"Every place I've been, nobody's flat out told me, 'You're not good enough for this' or 'You're not good enough for that.' It's just I've got to put everything together and just make a run for it."

 
  Joe Robbins/Getty Images
  Tony Brown's skill set brought him to Tennessee.

Ellison is hardly alone. The league features plenty of defensive tackles who've bounced around, tantalizing teams with combinations of height and weight, speed and strength, then not fitting the style of play those clubs seek.

And so they wander, as Ellison and two former teammates in Carolina, Tony Brown and Jovan Haye, have done.

"Really it happens in all positions, but D tackle is kind of a fickle position as far as what exactly you are asking them to do," Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil said. "The body might look the same, but the mind and the feet react differently.

"The biggest thing is that some guys are built to go down the line and take up space and some guys are built to go upfield, be more aggressive and rush. That's two completely and totally different skills sets you are talking about."

ESPN.com's NFC West maven Mike Sando keeps track of starting lineups, and on his list of projected starting defensive tackles he found 21 drafted by one team but playing for another.

They cover a wide range. Baltimore's Kelly Gregg was a sixth-rounder in Cincinnati in 1999, but wasn't an impact guy there or in Philadelphia. Now he's a mainstay in Baltimore. Aubrayo Franklin started only one game in four seasons with the Ravens after they drafted him in the fifth round in 2003, but he is a two-year starter with the 49ers and finished last season on the upswing.

Brown wasn't drafted, but went from Carolina to Miami to San Francisco to a year out of the league to Carolina again to Tennessee.

(Read full post)


 
 US Presswire
 Oakland's JaMarcus Russell, right, struggled in Sunday's 34-3 loss to New Orleans while Drew Brees continues to have a stellar season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Cable witnessed the passing game he envisions for his Oakland Raiders. Only problem? It was the New Orleans Saints' passing game getting the new Raiders coach so excited.

After world-class Raiders-killer Drew Brees systemically chewed up his defense, Cable said that's what he wants to see from his young quarterback and his offense.

"We have to use them as a model," Cable said.

I don't know if a coach with "interim" at the start of his title has that kind of time.

The difference between Brees and Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was startling Sunday in the Saints' 34-3 breeze. Brees was in total command and played effortlessly. Cable said his defense never "bothered" Brees.

Brees completed his first 16 passes and finished 26-of-30 for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Brees is now 7-2 lifetime against Oakland after years of beating them with the San Diego Chargers.

"That's unreal," Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall said of Brees' numbers. "We didn't make one play on defense."

While Brees was putting on a clinic, Russell continued to struggle to find his way in his first full season as the Raiders' starting quarterback. In his homecoming, Russell -- who is from Mobile, Ala. -- completed 13 of 35 passes for 159 yards with one interception. However, New Orleans dropped six other potential interceptions.

Russell, whom Oakland took with the No. 1 overall draft pick out of LSU in 2007, showed he has a long way to go before proving he can be a winning NFL quarterback. But there's no doubt the Raiders, who are now 1-4, will give him a chance to show he is ready to be a game-changing player.

A theme for the rest of Oakland's season will be to make Russell a solid NFL passer. Former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin had Russell on a short leash. The combination of Russell's youth, suspect pass protection and an even more suspect receiving corps made Kiffin take baby steps with Russell.

Time and again, Kiffin said the Raiders were a better running team than a passing team. Yet under the guidance of Cable, Oakland's offensive line coach, and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the plan is for Russell to throw more and longer. He has a cannon arm, but it has been muted by the game plan.

It was clear Sunday that the plan is under way.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

 
 Luc Leclerc/US Presswire
 Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell gave the Bills a 24-23 win over the Oakland Raiders with a field goal as time expired Sunday.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A sacrilegious cheer resounded at Ralph Wilson Stadium sometime in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo Bills fans actually were rooting for the Miami Dolphins. The update flashed: Dolphins 35, Patriots 13.

"A couple guys started chanting that Miami's winning," Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "Towards the end of the fourth quarter we were on the sideline, and I glance up and it's way out of hand. It was obvious Miami was going to win that game."

What also was patently obvious to the Bills was that, on the field in front of them, they were in trouble. The Oakland Raiders were beating them by nine points with 6:23 to play.

But the Bills scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, the final three coming on a 38-yard Rian Lindell field goal as time expired to win 24-23.

"Somebody tapped me and had me look up at the scoreboard," Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. "I really wasn't paying attention, but now that we won, that's definitely nice having those guys lose a game."

What does that mean?

"It means right now we're at the top of the AFC East," Kelsay replied. "So it's kind of ours to lose. But it doesn't [mean anything]. We've got to continue to work hard and take one game at a time and just keep rolling and trust each other."

The Bills are 3-0 for the first time since 1992. The Patriots are 2-1 and out of sole possession of first place for the first time in 50 weeks, dating back to Week 4 of 2005.

"A little different," Kelsay remarked of being able to say the Bills are in first place. "I've never been able to say that before. That's a new thing, but it feels good."

Bills quarterback Trent Edwards orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback for the second straight week. They marched down the field late against the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-16.

Sunday's final play gave the Bills their first lead.

"We hate to put everybody on the edge of their seats, but we just try to make good television out there," Bills tackle Langston Walker said. "We left a lot of things on the field. We were stepping on our own feet. But in the end we pulled it out. The team pulled it out. The game is four quarters for a reason, and we played down to that last little bit."

The Raiders scored what in seasons past would have been a terminal touchdown with 6:23 left in the game.

"That was a painful thing to watch," Bills coach Dick Jauron said.

On a critical third-and-10 play, Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell hit Johnnie Lee Higgins on a quick slant. Bills middle linebacker Paul Posluszny gambled and Higgins broke for an 84-yard romp for a nine-point lead.

"If you fall asleep for one second, those guys can beat you deep," Bills safety Donte Whitner had warned earlier in the week. "That would have sunk us. We believe in everything that we do around here. We always feel we have something in our playbook and that guys are going to go out there and get the job done. In past years we probably would have folded."

But the significance of Sunday's victory wasn't a mere comeback. It was that the Bills played a lousy game for three quarters. Although Marshawn Lynch ran for two touchdowns before Higgins dashed away, the Bills made repeated mistakes, committed three turnovers, missed a field goal.

Their possessions began in bad places mostly because of bad choices. Their first four series of the second half started on their own 22, 1, 12 and 4.

"We didn't play well, and everybody stayed positive," Bills receiver Lee Evans said. Edwards "stayed positive, stayed a leader in the huddle. We just kept plugging away."

They escaped with a victory. Edwards, who had been harassed all day, took advantage of a short-handed Raiders defense.

Raiders strong safety Gibril Wilson was ejected with 7:59 left, leaving the job to rookie Tyvon Branch. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren was out with a neck injury. Defensive end Derrick Burgess missed plays because of a shoulder problem.

On the final two drives, Edwards was 14 of 19 for 183 yards. His 14-yard touchdown toss to Roscoe Parrish pulled them within two points with 4:03 to go.

"Hopefully we get more respect in this division and we will deserve it," Mitchell said. "We've won the first quarter of the season, if you break it up into four games each. That's a nice feeling.

"I know people here aren't really used to that feeling for the last couple years. It's nice to start building that confidence and have everybody believe that we can do it."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Perhaps he's in denial.

Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin took a business-as-usual approach after the Buffalo Bills scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Raiders, 24-23, with a field goal at the gun.

Al Davis could not have been pleased.

Reports out of Oakland had been portending Kiffin's ouster since their abominable loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

Kiffin was asked if he thought he would have a team to coach this week.

"I wasn't thinking that," Kiffin replied. "I don't even think about that because what is that going to do? I'm going to watch the film on the way home, like I always do of the game, and see how we can get better. I can't control the other stuff."

He then was asked if he knew any new information about his status.

"No, I don't," Kiffin said.

The Raiders led by nine points with 6:23 to play, but were done in by discipline and fatigue.

Gibril Wilson was ejected with 7:59 left, leaving the job to rookie Tyvon Branch. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren was out with a neck injury. Derrick Burgess missed plays because of a shoulder problem.

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