NFL Nation: Replacements AFC

Posted by's Tim Graham

A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

Buffalo Bills

Who's out: Jason Peters, left tackle (Philadelphia Eagles)

Who's in: Langston Walker, left tackle

Outlook: The Bills couldn't cope with the prospect of another prolonged Peters holdout, so they traded away the headache -- even though he's one of the best in the business -- for some draft picks.

The Replacements
Tuesday: AFC North | West
Wednesday: AFC South | East
Thursday: NFC South | East
Friday: NFC North | NFC West

The Bills opted not to draft any tackles or sign any through free agency. Instead, they are slopping Walker from the right side and shifting right guard Brad Butler to right tackle.

Walker will be a drop-off from Peters. Scouts are skeptical the 6-foot-8 Walker will be mobile enough to handle some of the best pass-rushers in the game. The Bills will face several who finished among the top 10 in sacks last year.

Miami Dolphins


Who's out: Samson Satele, center (Oakland Raiders)

Who's in: Jake Grove, center

Outlook: The Dolphins' biggest problem on the offensive line last year was their center. They didn't think Satele, who has been a starter since he stepped foot in the league, was physical enough against top 3-4 nose tackles.

The Dolphins have to deal with the Patriots' Vince Wilfork and the Jets' Kris Jenkins twice a year. Marcus Stroud is no slouch in Buffalo's 4-3 setup.

Miami targeted Grove in free agency because he grades highly in run blocking and plays with a mean streak. Dolphins defenders say they notice a much more aggressive tone in the trenches since Grove arrived. He has been injury prone, but if he stays healthy he'll improve the run game.

New England Patriots


Who's out: Mike Vrabel, outside linebacker (Kansas City Chiefs)

Who's in: Pierre Woods, outside linebacker

Outlook: The most noticeable void on New England's depth chart is the one left by Vrabel's trade to Kansas City. His numbers regressed from his Pro Bowl season in 2007, but he still was a player opponents worried about.

The Patriots still could bring in another veteran before the season begins, but for now it looks like Woods will be the replacement. Woods seems to have Bill Belichick's trust, starting three games last year when Adalius Thomas went down.

Woods, an undrafted fourth-year pro, is decent against the run but hasn't demonstrated pass-rushing skills in a game yet. Barring any developments before training camp, it looks like the job is his to lose.

New York Jets


Who's out: Ty Law, right cornerback (free agent)

Who's in: Lito Sheppard, right cornerback

Outlook: The Jets plucked Law off the street in November when they decided rookie Dwight Lowery wasn't good enough to man the position opposite lockdown left cornerback Darrelle Revis. They didn't re-sign Law after the 2008 season and acquired Sheppard from the Eagles.

Sheppard is a playmaker because he attacks the ball. If he comes up with it, look out; he can go the distance. His coverage skills, however, are suspect. He couldn't retain his starting job in Philly, but the belief is that with Revis on the other side, the Jets can roll help to Sheppard's side.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

Houston Texans

Who's out: Anthony Weaver, defensive end, released

Who's in: Antonio Smith, defensive end, signed as free agent from Arizona

Outlook: Fortifying the line and upgrading opposite Mario Williams were huge priorities for the Texans, and Smith was their prize acquisition.

Not necessarily rated as a great pass-rusher, he's a hard worker who will defend the run well, does good work with his hands, brings leadership and good experience and can shift inside to tackle on rush downs if it will help get the team its best four on the field.

He's a much better player than Weaver, who had 28 tackles, a pick and no sacks in 2008 despite starting all 16 games.

Indianapolis Colts

Who's out: Marvin Harrison, wide receiver, released

Who's in: Anthony Gonzalez, wide receiver, third year

Outlook: A lot of people have stereotyped Gonzalez as a slot receiver since the Colts drafted him in the first round in 2007. But he's shown he can be effective lining up anywhere and is the crafty and dependable sort of route runner who can thrive with Peyton Manning.

Gonzalez is on a lot of lists for potential breakout players, because even though Harrison wasn't himself in his final season, he caught 60 passes for 636 yards and five touchdowns. A good share of that production will go to Gonzalez, who had similar numbers himself. The battle for the third receiver slot Gonzalez is graduating from could be the most interesting of Colts camp with Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Roy Hall slugging it out.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Who's out: Matt Jones, wide receiver, released

Who's in: Torry Holt, wide receiver, signed as a free agent after release from St. Louis

Outlook: Holt's lost a bit since his days as a centerpiece in "The Greatest Show on Turf." But the Jaguars have had a terrible run as they searched for a lead wideout, most recently with Reggie Williams, Jones and Jerry Porter. They are all gone now.

Holt's a steady, productive, durable guy who should be able to get open and gain some yards after the catch while leading the way for a young group that includes three draft picks.

Tennessee Titans

Who's out: Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle, free agent signed with Washington

Who's in: Jason Jones, defensive tackle, 2008 second-rounder; Jovan Haye, defensive tackle, free agent signed from Tampa Bay

Outlook: Haynesworth was a beast on the interior, and the Titans will miss the automatic double-teams he drew and the way he could crush the pocket.

But they drafted Jones and his giant wingspan knowing this was possibly on the horizon and signed Haye after Haynesworth left. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn has effectively replaced key cogs before.

The biggest difference will be that the Titans will go back to being a smaller group on the interior, which it was before the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Haynesworth joined the team as a first-rounder in 2002. Now just two players contending for roles in the tackle rotation top 300 pounds and no one is taller than Jones at 6-5.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

Denver Broncos

Who's out: Jay Cutler, quarterback, traded to Chicago.


Who's in: Kyle Orton, quarterback, acquired from Chicago.

Outlook: It would be impossible for Broncos fans to expect Orton to have the same impact that Cutler had. Orton simply isn't as talented as Cutler.

But in new Denver coach Josh McDaniels' system, the team is confident Orton, who was named Denver's starting quarterback over Chris Simms on Saturday, can manage games and help win games.

The Replacements
Tuesday: AFC North | West
Wednesday: AFC South | East
Thursday: NFC South | East
Friday: NFC North | NFC West

Orton was a decent player in Chicago. Cutler was becoming a great player in Denver before he butted heads with McDaniels. Orton probably never will make the highlight-film plays that Cutler does and he never will amass the passing yardage Cutler does. But McDaniels believes Orton will work well in the system. Denver wants the run to set up the pass and Orton has the best receiving weapons of his career. He may not be fancy and he won't make people forget about Cutler's arm, but Orton has a chance to succeed in Denver because of the system that helped Matt Cassel enjoy fast success in New England last year.

Kansas City Chiefs


Who's out: Tony Gonzalez, tight end, traded to Atlanta.

Who's in: Brad Cottam, tight end.

Outlook: Cottam will have some competition, including journeymen Sean Ryan and Tony Curtis. But the team likes Cottam, who was a third-round pick last year. The thing is, Cottam is more of a blocking tight end and will not remind anyone of Gonzalez, who is the greatest receiving tight end of all time.

But Cottam will get dirty and help in the running game. New Kansas City coach Todd Haley used the tight end sparingly as the offensive coordinator in Arizona. So, Cottam won't have that much pressure on him to make an impact in the receiving game.

Oakland Raiders


Who's out: Kwame Harris, left tackle, cut.

Who's in: Mario Henderson, left t

Outlook: Khalif Barnes was signed as a free agent to replace Harris, who flopped in one season in Oakland. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Henderson is beating out Barnes heading to training camp.

Oakland coach Tom Cable likes Henderson, a third-year player. Still, Barnes was brought in to start. So, Henderson will have to earn the job. This has long been a problem position for Oakland. Perhaps it will be the young Henderson who offers stability.

San Diego Chargers


Who's out: Mike Goff, guard, signed with Kansas City as a free agent.

Who's in: Louis Vasquez, guard.

Outlook: Vasquez will battle with veteran Kynan Forney, who was originally expected to replace Goff, whom the team did not pursue in free agency.

However, Vasquez, a third-round pick, has been outstanding in the spring. If Vasquez has a strong training camp and preseason, expect him to win the job. The Chargers are looking for a long-term answer at the position and they believe it could be Vasquez.

Posted by's James Walker

A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

Baltimore Ravens

Who's out: Jason Brown, center, St. Louis Rams

Who's in: Matt Birk, center

Outlook: Although losing linebacker Bart Scott also was important, the center position could be even more vital because the Ravens play in the AFC North against quality defensive tackles such as Shaun Rogers, Casey Hampton and Domata Peko.

Baltimore is a physical, run-oriented team, and Brown was the top center in the division last year. Brown was very important in the team's three-headed rushing attack. The Ravens will use the same system in 2009 behind Birk, who is a six-time Pro Bowler. But he also is 32 and has some injury concerns.

Cincinnati Bengals

Who's out: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks

Who's in: Laveranues Coles, wide receiver

Outlook: The Bengals lost a veteran receiver and got a solid veteran replacement in Coles.

Similar to Houshmandzadeh, Coles should have a lot of opportunities to make plays with No. 1 receiver Chad Ochocinco garnering most of the attention. Although Coles probably won't catch 90 or 100 balls like "Housh" did with the Bengals, 60 or 70 receptions would be a good year for Coles.

Quarterback Carson Palmer has worked hard to develop chemistry with his newest receiver this offseason in hopes that it pays off down the road.

Cleveland Browns

Who's out: Kellen Winslow Jr., tight end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who's in: Robert Royal, tight end

Outlook: Really, you could pick a number of replacements with the Browns because of the significant turnover of this year's roster. But their biggest trade this offseason involved shipping former Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to Tampa Bay.

Cleveland signed former Buffalo Bills tight end Robert Royal, whom coach Eric Mangini was familiar with as the former coach of the New York Jets in the AFC East. Royal is more of a 30-catch tight end than an 80-catch tight end. But Cleveland expects to be a run-heavy team in 2009 so high production from that position isn't a necessity.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Who's out: Larry Foote, inside linebacker, Detroit Lions

Who's in: Lawrence Timmons, inside linebacker

Outlook: Despite his inexperience, Timmons' athleticism and versatility should give Pittsburgh's linebacking group an upgrade, which is a scary thought.

Foote was solid but is primarily a run-stuffer. Timmons is just as physical, but can also blitz the passer and is fast enough to drop deep in coverage and cover tight ends.

Expect defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to come up with interesting ways to use Timmons this season. Pittsburgh's coaching staff has high hopes for Timmons as a full-time starter.




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