NFL Nation: Trevor Pryce

AFC West draft primer

April, 20, 2012
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With the NFL draft starting in six days, there are many interesting storylines involving the AFC West. Let’s take a look:

Will the Chiefs make a big move up? The Kansas City Chiefs could become the story of the division with a move up for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There has been recent buzz that the Chiefs may be one of the teams interested in moving up for Tannehill. If he is available at No. 7 (Miami may take Tannehill at No. 8), I could see the Chiefs jumping in the mix. Jacksonville, which has the No. 7 pick, probably would be willing to part with the pick or the Chiefs could take a risk and hope he falls to No. 11. Tannehill is the only attainable quarterback who could immediately press Matt Cassel.

Will a second-day quarterback be on the way? I think a Friday storyline could be the addition of a second-tier quarterback in the division. If the Chiefs don’t take Tannehill, they could take a quarterback in the second or third round, and Denver could take one on the second day as well. The quarterbacks available on the second day probably will be Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Arizona’s Nick Foles. Kansas City could look at any of the four and Denver is probably in the mix for all but Weeden. He will soon turn 29, and with Peyton Manning in Denver, I don’t think the Broncos will take an older quarterback.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Eric BakkeWill AFC West teams draft differently now that Peyton Manning is in the division?
Will there be a Manning factor? The Chiefs and Chargers could both opt to use their first-round picks on defensive players. With Manning entering the division, focusing on defense may be the right call in Kansas City and San Diego.

Will there be a changing of the guard? Stanford’s David DeCastro is considered one of the best guard prospects in the past several years and he is considered a sure thing. Both the Chiefs and Chargers are considered teams that could land DeCastro.

Will the Raiders make a move up? The Raiders don’t pick until No. 95, the final pick of the third round. Oakland could move up to get a better prospect, but I wouldn’t think Oakland would move too far up the draft. Sooner or later, the team must stop mortgaging future picks, and I think new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie gets that. I’d expect him to suck it up and deal with what he has this year for the most part.

Will the Chiefs add a running back? There was early talk Kansas City could make a play for Alabama’s Trent Richardson, which could require a move up to No. 5. That may not be a likely scenario. However, the Chiefs could still take a running back in the early rounds. Jamaal Charles is coming off a torn ACL and Peyton Hillis signed a one-year deal. The Chiefs have been visiting with running backs, so I could see them taking one at some point.

Will the Chargers and Broncos take a running back early? There have been projections that both Denver and San Diego could take a running back as early as the second round. I’d think Denver is the more likely of the two teams to take a running back early. Boise State’s Doug Martin, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Miami’s Lamar Miller and Oregon’s LaMichael James are all possibilities.

Will A.J. Smith make a splash? The Chargers probably will have to make the playoffs for San Diego general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner to keep their jobs. The Chargers have been aggressive in free agency and they have always been aggressive in the draft. I could see the Chargers taking a chance and moving up for the right impact player.

Will Denver take a defensive tackle? The Broncos haven’t taken a defensive tackle since 1997 when they took Trevor Pryce. It is the team’s greatest need. However, if players such as LSU’s Michael Brockers and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox are gone by No. 25, Denver may opt for another position or trade down rather than reach for another defensive tackle prospect.

Will the Raiders be a draft factor? The Raiders only have five picks, but I think they can still get a couple of developmental players. It may be too much to ask for the Raiders to find instant impact players, but I think McKenzie will salvage this class.

Will the Chargers reach for their top need? The Chargers badly need an impact pass-rusher, but it isn’t a deep class. By the time the No. 18 picks rolls around, the top pass-rushing prospects -- South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw -- all may be gone. The next level of players include Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, USC’s Nick Perry and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. Many scouts think taking those players at No. 18 may be too high. So, the Chargers could be on the move down if that scenario develops.

Will the Chiefs be swayed by Poe’s beauty? Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe is a high-risk, high-reward player. He has all the measurables and he has big potential. But he has unimpressive game tape against second-level competition. Many teams are leery of taking him. The Chiefs could use him, but with a recent history of taking under-achieving defensive linemen, can Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli take the risk?

Another Georgia Tech receiver in Denver? If the Broncos bypass a defensive tackle at No. 25, they could look to give Manning another weapon. A name to keep an eye on is Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. The Broncos have been scouting him and they wouldn’t mind adding another former Georgia Tech receiver. Denver took Demaryius Thomas out of the school with the No. 22 pick in 2010.

Will Golden Domers head to the beach? Two players Smith likes a lot are Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith. Floyd could require a trade up and Smith could be a candidate via a trade down. Don’t be surprised if one of the two ends up a Charger.

Is Josh Chapman AFC West bound? One of the underrated players on a strong Alabama defense is versatile defensive tackle Josh Chapman, a fit for both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. He has visited both the Raiders and the Chiefs and could be a target of any team in the division in the third round.

AFC West combine primer

February, 23, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Let’s take a look at what AFC West each team may be seeking during the NFL combine, which starts Thursday:

Will the Raiders still love speed? It became a combine ritual. The Raiders would draft the fastest, or one of the fastest players, at the combine. It happened several times in recent years: Stanford Routt, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and DeMarcus Van Dyke. No team in the NFL valued speed more than Al Davis’ Raiders. Davis died in October. Will the Raiders be married to speed now that Reggie McKenzie is the general manager? I’m sure the Raiders will stick to Davis’ values somewhat, but I think it will no longer be automatic to connect the fastest combine runners to the Raiders.

Will the Chargers get their pass-rusher? The Chargers took defensive end Corey Liuget at No. 18 last year and bypassed several pass-rushers in a deep class. This year’s class is not nearly as deep, but the Chargers still need a pass-rusher. Once again, San Diego has the No. 18 pick.

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMISafety Mark Barron is one of several Alabama defenders that AFC West teams may take a look at.
Will the Alabama defense roll into the AFC West? Alabama won the BCS championship last season on the strength of a dominant defense. There are several key Alabama defenders who will go early in the draft, starting with linebackers Courtney Upshaw, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. I could see all three players drawing interest in the AFC West. I think San Diego would jump on Upshaw if he somehow fell to No. 18, and it could take Barron if it doesn’t address safety in free agency. If Kirkpatrick drops, Denver could take him at No. 25.

Will the Broncos look at quarterbacks? Yes, I believe they will, but it remains to be seen whether Denver makes a play for a quarterback in the early rounds. Denver looked at all the top quarterbacks last year, and I think John Elway and his group will do the same this year. In his last mock draft, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. has Denver taking Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill at No. 25. I’m not sure Denver -- which has committed to Tim Tebow going to training camp as the No. 1 quarterback -- will take a quarterback that high, but there will be interest in the position.

Is Trent Richardson on the Chiefs’ radar? The Alabama star running back won’t compete at the combine because of a minor knee surgery. However, he will be able to run at his pro day next month. Still, perhaps the Chiefs will meet with Richardson. He has been connected to Kansas City in several mock drafts. I’d be surprised if Kansas City ended up with him because of other needs and because the Chiefs have running back Jamaal Charles coming back from a torn ACL. But it is an intriguing scenario.

Chiefs, Chargers looking at the O-line: Both Kansas City and San Diego could use their top pick on an offensive lineman. There are several players who could help their standing with a strong combine. I think Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin will be closely watched by both teams. San Diego could also look at Wisconsin’s Peter Konz if it doesn’t want to re-sign free agent Nick Hardwick.

Watch out for Luke Kuechly: The Boston College inside linebacker has a chance to be a hot name in the top half of the first round if he has a big combine. He was productive in college and his game translates well to the NFL. Kansas City will surely be interested in him and could have competition if Kuechly lights it up in Indy.

Broncos will be watching running backs: The Broncos probably will add a running back early in the draft or in free agency. Denver could use its top pick on the position. It will be closely watching Miami’s Lamar Miller, Washington’s Chris Polk, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boise State’s Doug Martin, among other tailbacks, this week

Is this the time for a tight end in San Diego? I expect the Chargers to look at tight ends this week. This isn’t considered a great class, but the Chargers need to consider getting younger at the position. Antonio Gates will turn 32 in June and has been dealing with injuries the past few years. The Chargers probably would have to commit a second-round pick for the top tight ends, which include Stanford’s Coby Fleener, Clemson’s Dwayne Allen (though, they could both be late first-round choices) and Georgia’s Orson Charles.

Nick Foles needs to show Denver some accuracy: There was talk that the Arizona quarterback could be on Denver’s radar last season. But he had some trouble with interceptions, which may have cooled the team on him. If he can show better accuracy at the combine. Foles could be a mid-round target of the Broncos again.

The Raiders need to pay big attention: The Raiders currently have the smallest draft class in the NFL this season. They have just a fifth- and a sixth-round pick. They will, though, probably get two or three compensatory picks next month. The earliest will be at the end of the third round. But don’t think for a moment that the combine won’t matter to Oakland. The Raiders will have to dig deep and find great value in the mid-to-late rounds to get some something positive from this class. Closely scouting the combine will be essential.

Is Brandon Weeden too old? The Oklahoma State quarterback is one of the more interesting players in the draft. He has skills that translate to the NFL, and some people think he could be a future starter. But Weeden turns 29 in October. There really isn’t much time to groom him. Is it worth spending a premium pick on a player who could be over the hill in five years? I think both Denver and Kansas City could look at him, but they would have to be comfortable with his age.

Will the coin flip the Chiefs’ way? The Chiefs will have a coin flip with Seattle to determine the No. 11 and No. 12 picks in the draft. It is set to take place Friday. If the Chiefs lose and get the No. 12 pick, it will not be the end of the world, but there’s no denying there is more value in having the No. 11 pick.

Will Mercilus impress the Chargers? One player to keep an eye on for the Chargers is Illinois pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus. He came on strong in 2011, but there are consistency questions. If he answers all the right questions on and off the field this week, I could see his being a target at No. 18.

Will Chiefs look at suspect character players? Kansas City has a reputation for taking players with sterling off-field reputations. However, last year, genearl manager Scott Pioli took Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin in the first round and Georgia pass-rusher Justin Houston in the third round. Both had character questions. Baldwin ended up missing a chunk of his rookie season because of a reported training camp fight with veteran Thomas Jones. It hurt his development. However, Houston was outstanding as a rookie. Let’s see whether Pioli takes more risks this year.

Will Broncos add players to aid Tebow? If Denver takes a running back early, adds to the offensive line and beefs up the defense, that means it is doing what it can to build around Tebow. The best way Denver can win with Tebow is with a good running game and strong defense.

Will the Broncos finally draft a defensive tackle in the first round? Denver could take a defensive tackle at No. 25. Among the players it may consider are Penn State’s Devon Still, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy. Denver hasn’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since Trevor Pryce in 1997.

Will Arizona State linebacker impress the Chiefs or Chargers? Arizona State’s middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict was considered a top-10 pick before the season. But after his production fell off and he had some character issues, Burfict is no longer considered a sure first rounder. I think he could help both the Chiefs and Chargers. His progress this week will be watched by these two teams.

Putting a bow on Day 1

April, 29, 2011
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Wrapping up the first night of the NFL draft.

Denver's No. 2 pick, Von Miller, was the only rookie on the 10-player plaintiff list that used the NFL to start the lockout. Thursday night, Miller gave NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a hearty hug after he was drafted. Miller said he has nothing personal against Goodell.

Denver coach John Fox said Miller was No. 1 on the team’s draft board.

The Broncos’ second- and third-round picks will be introduced to the media Saturday. They will wear No. 11 jerseys to symbolize the year they were picked. No one wore that number in Denver last year after injured receiver Kenny McKinley committed suicide early in the season. The team talked to McKinley’s family about it and the family is on board with the idea.

Denver has not drafted a defensive tackle since 1997 when it took Trevor Pryce at No. 28.

Check out Jeffri Chadida’s pre-draft column on Miller. He’s a high-character kid.

Fox said the team did not receive any calls to move down from No. 2. The No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded since 2000. Fox did say he expects to get many calls about the No. 36 pick.

Fox said he is thrilled to get the veteran players back in the building Friday.

Fox said defensive end Jason Hunter’s stab wounds should not affect his ability to play in 2011. He was reportedly stabbed in the shoulder Wednesday.

San Diego No. 1 pick, Corey Luiget, will play defensive end in the 3-4 defense.

Rex Ryan revisits Vernon Gholston failure

April, 8, 2011
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When Rex Ryan took over as New York Jets head coach, his general attitude toward pass-rusher Vernon Gholston was bullish.

Ryan thought if he couldn't develop Gholston, then nobody could.

After three NFL seasons and two under Ryan, the Jets released Gholston in March. The sixth overall draft choice in 2008 never got it. He started five games, was a healthy scratch three times and recorded zero sacks.

[+] EnlargeVernon Gholston
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireVernon Gholston was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
At the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans a couple weeks ago, I had a chance to speak to Ryan for the first time since the Jets cut Gholston.

Ryan was little defensive about not being able to mold Gholston into an effective player.

Ryan claimed circumstances got in the way. Gholston went from 4-3 defensive end at Ohio State to 3-4 outside linebacker with the Jets under previous head coach Eric Mangini to 3-4 defensive end last year under Ryan.

The Jets also added Trevor Pryce during the season, an acquisition Ryan said hurt Gholston's snap count.

"I think Vernon improved," Ryan said. "Last year, I thought he gained strides. Unfortunately, I never knew this when we picked up Trevor and he played well for us, but that took a little away from Vernon. We had Shaun Ellis, so it was kind of hard to get [Gholston] more reps.

"But the guy is an excellent teammate. He did what was asked and he got better."

Even so, the Jets dumped him. Ryan spent a lot of time talking up Gholston to reporters and expressing optimism he would become a productive defender. Given that, I asked Ryan if he failed when it came to Gholston.

"Well, then I failed as far as the numbers go," Ryan said. "But I thought he got better, though. We'll see what happens to him. He's not done playing.

"I think I've had a long list of guys I've developed in my coaching career. Some guys develop faster than others. But I'll put how I coach up against anybody in this league when it comes to defense and technique."

Gholston will go down as one of the biggest draft busts in Jets history and a rare miss in recent years. The pick hurts even more because pass rushing is one of the Jets' biggest weaknesses.

Mangini was head coach and had influence when the Jets drafted Gholston. He's gone now, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum and vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales remain in place.

"I think Vernon still has the chance to have a productive NFL career," Tannenbaum said in New Orleans. "Obviously, he didn't play to the level of the sixth pick in the draft, but he's a great kid. His career is far from over.

"We'll have to look at our scouting process and have to see what we can learn from that experience."

Jets emotional vein simply tapped out

January, 24, 2011
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Mark SanchezAP Photo/Matt SlocumJets quarterback Mark Sanchez played well but New York was doomed by a slow start.
PITTSBURGH -- A week earlier, the New York Jets carried on as though they'd won the Super Bowl.

They went into Gillette Stadium and did the unfathomable. They made Tom Brady look average and destroyed the mighty New England Patriots a month after losing to them 45-3 on the same grounds.

The Jets jumped into the stands to cavort with their fans, the Patriots' faithful having filed through the exits long before. The Jets ran around with their arms outstretched like airplanes. Braylon Edwards did a roundhouse backflip. Patriots receiver Deion Branch called them "classless."

You half expected to hear somebody in green and white exclaim "I'm going to Disney World!" to signal the end of the season. Of course, the Super Bowl used to be followed with a carefree exhibition where players revel in their success and go through the motions.

Fittingly, the Jets followed up their personal Super Bowl with a performance worthy of the Pro Bowl -- not in terms of star power, but with a lack of purpose.

For the first 30 minutes of Sunday night's AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, the Jets played like they were still hung over from their victory in Foxborough, Mass.

The Jets were flatter than old champagne through the first half and watched passively as the Steelers scored the first 24 points. The Jets finally snapped to attention at the intermission and dominated the Steelers for much of the second half.

But the Jets couldn't overcome their horrible two quarters and lost 24-19. For the second season under Rex Ryan, they were eliminated one step short of the Super Bowl.

But the Jets sure didn't play like they'd been there before -- not in the first half anyway.

"No determination, no focus in every single phase," Jets safety James Ihedigbo muttered.

"It just wasn't us. It wasn't New York Jet football."

Perhaps it's one of those unexplained sports phenomena. The Jets certainly knew the importance of Sunday's game. One more victory and they were headed to the Super Bowl.

But they didn't answer the call. Instead, there was a dial tone.

"We knew what was on the line," Jets linebacker David Harris said. "I don't know what to say."

To a man, the Jets were unable to explain their inability to compete in the first half.

Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall left cleat marks all over the defense. Their poor tackling was unforgivable. Mendenhall had 95 yards and a touchdown before halftime. The Steelers dictated time of possession, keeping the ball for 21 minutes, 4 seconds.

Last week, Jets linebacker Bart Scott ridiculed the Patriots' defense for not being able to stop a nosebleed. Against the Steelers, the Jets couldn't patch a paper cut with a roll of duct tape.

The Jets' offense, meanwhile, gained 1 rushing yard by halftime. LaDainian Tomlinson had two carries for 1 yard. Shonn Greene had two carries for 4 yards.

"We didn't step on the field, playing the way we want to play," Harris said. "They jumped on us, had us on our heels."

The Jets played like they were emotionally spent, which is how they prepared for the game, too.

Unlike the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Jets displayed almost none of their distinctive spunk. They went from targeting Peyton Manning and Brady and Wes Welker to a deferential tone for the Steelers. Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce said it was an "honor and a privilege to play against" Ben Roethlisberger.

There was no edge throughout the week at the Jets' training facility in Florham Park, N.J.

The Jets insisted they'd be ready.

They clearly were not.

Fevered emotions are nearly impossible to maintain week after week, especially against a succession of nasty opponents on the road. That's a reason why it's such a feat when a wild-card team reaches the Super Bowl.

"It's three games to get to the Super Bowl," Scott countered. "It was just one more game."

[+] EnlargeNew York Jets head coach Rex Ryan
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRex Ryan and the Jets fell one game short of the Super Bowl for the second straight season.
Scott delivered one of the great postgame interviews after eliminating the Patriots. He was a combination of thrilled and angry. In reference to the Steelers, he barked "Can't wait!"

But the Jets sure seemed to wait 30 minutes before they got their heads into the game.

Intensity is difficult to tap again and again until the vein collapses. Sometimes it gets demanding to find more villains to despise. You can't ask Dennis Byrd to deliver the same pregame speech and have it make an impact.

The Jets did pull themselves together at halftime and cobbled together an admirable effort through the third and fourth quarters.

Mark Sanchez played another solid road playoff game and outperformed Roethlisberger as a passer. Sanchez completed 20 of his 33 throws for 233 yards and two touchdowns for a 102.2 passer rating. Roethlisberger was 10-of-19 for 133 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 35.5 rating.

Sanchez, a revitalized ground game and a suddenly conscious defense gave the Jets a chance. They got within a touchdown with 3:06 to play, when Sanchez connected with Jerricho Cotchery.

But the Jets frittered away a better opportunity nearly five minutes earlier. The Jets had first and goal on the 2-yard line but couldn't score. A 17-play drive ended on the 1-yard line after two incomplete passes and a pair of stuffed runs. The passes were curious plays called by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, especially with Green trucking defenders.

A touchdown there and the Jets would have had more wiggle room.

"We had opportunities to make a comeback in the second half," Jets tight end Dustin Keller said. "Obviously, everybody's going to look at the first half and say 'If it wasn't for this and that,' but we still had an opportunity to win this game in the second half."

The Jets deserve credit for gathering themselves and not getting totally blown out. They did outscore the Steelers 16-0 in the second half.

But those first 30, flat minutes doomed them.

"It would be nice to take that first half back and come out better than we did and what we showed," Jets safety Brodney Pool said. "It just shows you can't come out flat at the beginning of a game like we did an expect to win."

Rex Ryan masterful in molding Jets roster

January, 20, 2011
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Baltimore Ravens thought they could pull a fast one for a Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens needed to add a safety and signed free-agent Ken Hamlin. To make room, they cut veteran defensive lineman Trevor Pryce with the intention of bringing him back after the game.

Rex Ryan and Santonio Holmes
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesOne of coach Rex Ryan's best moves was getting receiver Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round pick last offseason.
They didn't expect Rex Ryan would swoop in.

Ryan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, immediately identified Pryce as a player who could help the New York Jets and signed him within a day.

"He knows exactly what he wants," Pryce said Wednesday at his locker stall in the Jets' facility.

"He has in his mind what a football team's supposed to be and what kinds of parts and pieces you need for a football team and the personalities and what a guy can do."

Snagging Pryce was the kind of sudden move that illustrates Ryan's analytical conviction and the Jets' willingness to pull the trigger on a deal that can improve their roster.

Since Rex Ryan has taken over as Jets head coach, they have undergone substantial roster turnover and reached the AFC Championship Game both years. They will play the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field for a ticket to the Super Bowl.

When the Jets lost to the Colts in AFC title game last year, it was a great sign for a team on the make. One would expect a reluctance to tinker with a good thing.

But by June, Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum had turned over 25 percent of their roster. Only eight teams, most of them rebuilding organizations, had gotten rid of more players.

"If I thought there was any flaw about somebody else, maybe from a character standpoint as far as what kind of leader they were as a teammate and all that type of stuff, we just moved on," Ryan said. "Not saying they can't play in the NFL; they just couldn't play for us.

"I wanted guys that are great teammates, that care about each other, that are committed to winning and committing to building each other up. And that's what we have. We have a whole team of those right now."

Only 23 players on the Jets' active roster were here when Ryan arrived in 2009.

The Jets intrepidly have pulled several high-profile moves to accumulate players they want. They traded up to draft quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2009 and acquired receiver Braylon Edwards a few games into the season.

Over the past offseason, they made highly favorable trades for receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie. They signed castoff veterans such as running back LaDainian Tomlinson, outside linebacker Jason Taylor and safety Brodney Pool.

"We don't make moves just to stay the same or make moves just to be selling newspapers or something," Ryan said. "The moves that we made went to better our football team.

"Our only purpose of making the moves we made in the offseason was to better our chances of winning a Super Bowl, and I think now you see some of those moves really paying off for us."

Pryce explained Ryan has an affinity for "people that have beat up on him. If you've beaten him before, he wants you. If you can't beat them, put them on your team."

Holmes certainly falls in that category. The Jets got him from the Steelers for a measly fifth-round pick.

"I just wanted him," Ryan said. "I never cared about the compensation. Let Tannenbaum figure that out. I just knew that anybody that beat me that bad, that I'd just as soon have him on our team. Three games in a row when I was in Baltimore, he beat us."

Holmes came cheaply because he'd gotten into trouble so frequently and the Steelers, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger making ghastly headlines at the time, were tired of dealing with character issues. The NFL was on the verge of suspending Holmes the first four games of the season for substance abuse.

Holmes has been an asset for the Jets. He had 52 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns and has been on his best behavior.

A reporter asked Pryce why the Jets have been able to make the Holmes acquisition work so well when the Steelers felt compelled to give up on the former Super Bowl MVP.

"We all have issues," Pryce said. "If you figure that we all have issues, then his issues are just another issue. If all of us are covered in mud, he doesn't stick out."

Ryan's ability to quickly and astutely recognize a commodity and then integrate him into the locker room is masterful and a critical reason the Jets have gotten within one step of the Super Bowl two years in a row.

Pryce predicted Ryan won't be satisfied with success when it comes to assembling his roster for 2011 either.

"There's probably 12 or 15 guys you know he'd love to have around the league," Pryce said. "When they get released, which they will, they'll all be here one way or another."

Jets wisely tone down rhetoric for Steelers

January, 18, 2011
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For two weeks, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan declared war on the opponent.

He proclaimed the wild-card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts was personal. He announced this past Sunday's trilogy with the New England Patriots was personal. He challenged Bill Belichick, took shots at Tom Brady, accused the Patriots of rubbing it in the previous time they played.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicThe Jets paid Ben Roethlisberger plenty of compliments when talking about the Pittsburgh quarterback on Monday.
But when it came to talk about facing the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC title Sunday night, the Jets' psychological warfare was rooted in killing them with kindness.

Rather than throw grenades, the Jets are tossing bouquets.

They respect Mike Tomlin. They won't call Ben Roethlisberger any names. They praised Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.

Have the Jets gone soft after matching last season's feat of back-to-back road victories over division champions to reach the AFC Championship Game?

Hardly. There's a difference when it comes to prepping for their next game: The Jets aren't necessarily the underdogs.

The Jets don't need to invent reasons to hate an opponent. They defeated the Steelers in Week 15. The Jets held on to win 22-17, with the Steelers reaching their 10-yard line in the closing seconds and failing to score with two cracks at the end zone.

The Jets are wise to let any Steelers doubt from that game fester on its own rather than getting the Steelers unnecessarily irritated.

Plenty of ammunition is available if the Jets were inclined. Ryan and a few of his players, namely venomous linebacker Bart Scott, have long histories against the Steelers from their days with the Baltimore Ravens. Roethlisberger had a controversial offseason -- if the Jets wanted to go there.

Unlike the Colts or Patriots games, the Jets don't have conversations to avoid. Their recent trash talk helped divert the spotlight from last year's AFC Championship loss in Indianapolis and that Week 13 beatdown at New England.

Reporters didn't spend much time hammering Mark Sanchez and his teammates about his three interceptions and 27.8 passer rating the last time he was in Gillette Stadium.

But there's no harm in revisiting the Jets' last trip to Pittsburgh. The Jets will gladly chat about that all week. Sanchez was efficient. They rushed for 106 yards, 44 over the Steelers' league-leading average. The Jets' defense was great. They scored a special-teams touchdown.

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie inflamed last week's pregame festivities when he called Brady an "ass----." Ryan added his own criticisms of Brady, accusing the MVP favorite of taunting.

Cromartie and Ryan expressed nothing but admiration for Roethlisberger on Monday.

"He's tough, everything you look for, a competitor," Ryan said. "He's anybody's kind of quarterback. Anybody would love to have that."

Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce said it's an "honor and a privilege to play against [Roethlisberger], it really is."

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was asked if he had a message he wanted to send to Roethlisberger.

"We'll see you on Sunday," Revis replied. "Ya'll guys know me. I don't get into that, 'You're an a-hole' and all that stuff. I don't do that. I respect guys, and I know he's a great quarterback, and I can't wait to play against him."

DBs made up a quarter of Jets roster

January, 17, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum pointed out in Peter King's always enlightening "Monday Morning Quarterback" column that of their 45 active players Sunday, 11 of them were defensive backs.

Subtract three specialists and more than a quarter of Rex Ryan's roster was specifically dedicated to disrupting the New England Patriots' passing game. MVP favorite Tom Brady struggled to find a rhythm in a stunning 28-21 home loss.

Early in the game, you could sense how much the Patriots were playing left-handed, a term coaches use to describe being forced to do what they're not comfortable with.

The Patriots passed with their run personnel (blocking tight end Alge Crumpler had five targets, bruising back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had three) and ran with their passing personnel (Danny Woodhead had more carries than Green-Ellis and equal targets in the first half).

Crumpler had six catches all season. Green-Ellis had 12.

Green Ellis averaged 14.3 carries per game in the regular season compared to 6.9 attempts for Woodhead.

At halftime, Brady had a 50.9 passer rating. Wes Welker had one reception. Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez each had zero.

The Jets sacked Brady five times, with coverage a major reason why. ESPN Stats & Information charted every play from Sunday's upset. All five of Brady's sacks and his rare interception (linebacker David Harris caught it) came against four or fewer pass-rushers.

Brady improved his stat line on his final drive, completing five of seven attempts for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Jets' prevent defense. Before that, he was averaging 3.2 yards less per attempt than he did in the regular-season and had a 78.8 passer rating.

The box score showed the Jets' throng of defensive backs combined for 33 defensive tackles (five more on special teams), two tackles for losses and a sack.

"It was an unbelievable game plan," Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce said in Michael Silver's column on Yahoo! Sports. "It was out of sight. We did some stuff I've never seen a football team do. We flooded coverages, had man schemes that looked like zone and zone that looked like man.

"Our first reaction was, 'How are we gonna do this? How is this gonna work?' I mean, 14 years in the NFL, and I'd never seen anything like it. Rex came up with some Madden [expletive], like it was a video game. He said 'Hey, let's try this.' And it worked! They couldn’t figure it out."

Quick Take: Jets at Steelers

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
8:46
PM ET
Three things to know about next Sunday's New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Championship Game:

1. The road to the Super Bowl now goes through Pittsburgh. The Steelers caught a break Sunday night with the Jets' upset win against the New England Patriots. Pittsburgh, the AFC's No. 2 seed, will play host to the conference title game for the second time in three years. The Steelers said Saturday night that they were confident regardless of the opponent. But playing at home in the postseason is always a preference, and the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady have had Pittsburgh's number in recent years.

2. Don't forget the Jets beat Pittsburgh too. While the Steelers avoided a trip to New England, the team with the best record in the regular season, they will face a Jets team that went into Heinz Field on Dec. 19 and handed Pittsburgh a 22-17 defeat. New York outplayed Pittsburgh in Week 15, particularly on special teams. The Steelers also were without Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, who missed the game with a calf/Achilles injury.

3. There are tons of AFC North connections in this game. This will be a big week for Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, whom Pittsburgh traded this offseason to New York. Holmes will make his second trip to Pittsburgh this season, but this time a ticket to Super Bowl XLV is at stake. Jets coach Rex Ryan, linebacker Bart Scott and defensive lineman Trevor Pryce are among those who joined New York from the Baltimore Ravens' organization. Receiver Braylon Edwards was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, and the Browns traded their No. 5 overall pick to the Jets in 2009 to allow New York to draft quarterback Mark Sanchez. Jets safety Brodney Pool also played five seasons in Cleveland.

Jets at Steelers inactives

December, 19, 2010
12/19/10
3:14
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The lineup scratches from Sunday's high-profile matchup between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field:

New York Jets
Pittsburgh Steelers

Rapid Reaction: Jets 26, Bengals 10

November, 25, 2010
11/25/10
11:54
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Thoughts from the Jets 26-10 victory over the Bengals:

What it means: This will be remembered as The Brad Smith Game. Smith scored two huge touchdowns -- rushing and a kickoff return -- the signature moments in an otherwise sloppy game by the New York Jets. They didn't need a last-minute miracle to beat the lowly Cincinnati Bengals but they still have a lot of areas to clean up as they head into the toughest part of their schedule – i.e. the New England Patriots.

[+] EnlargeNew York Jets' Brad Banks
Aristide Economopoulos/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIREBrad Smith celebrates after returning a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Smith also had a 53-yard score against the Bengals.
Shoeless Brad: Smith enhanced his reputation as a Bengals killer, scoring two long touchdowns -- a 53-yard run on an end-around and a 89-yard return on a kickoff. On the kickoff, he ran the last 50 yards or so with one shoe. The Bengals will have nightmares of Smith, who ran for 92 yards and a touchdown in last season's final game.

Not bad for "average": The anticipated Darrelle Revis-Terrell Owens showdown didn't produce any fireworks, mostly because Bengals QB Carson Palmer stayed away from Revis Island. Revis was in man-to-man coverage on Owens almost every down, and he limited the Big Mouth receiver to three catches for 17 yards. Owens, who famously called Revis "just an average corner" earlier in the week, was targeted only six times while covered by Revis. Bottom line: Revis made T.O. eat his words.

Amped D: After a few days of intense, high-decibel defensive meetings, with the coaches yelling, the Jets' beleaguered defense responded in a big way. They recorded two interceptions and three sacks, including one by Trevor Pryce in the end zone for a safety. They used more blitzes than in recent games (and they worked), perhaps an indication that Rex Ryan got more involved in the play calling.

'Tone Time: Receiver Santonio Holmes scored for the third straight week, burning newly signed cornerback Jonathan Wade on 13-yard slant in the third quarter. The coverage was terrible and Wade had no safety help. Brilliant move by the Bengals. The Jets should've been hitting that all night, but you know, sometimes it takes them a while to figure things out.

Lucky break: Holmes' touchdown was made possible because Bengals coach Marvin Lewis failed to challenge the Jets' recovery on a muffed punt. It was ruled on the field that the bouncing punt hit Andre Caldwell, but replays showed that it didn't. Where was the red flag? Lewis seemed to have problems getting the flag out of his pocket.

Off day for Sanchise: This wasn't one of Mark Sanchez's smartest games. He threw a horrible interception in the third quarter, forcing a pass while being chased out of the pocket. A few minutes later, he nearly took an intentional-grounding penalty, foolishly flipping a pass to no one while being sacked at the 1-foot line. He also missed several open receivers, including a wide-open Braylon Edwards on what should've been a long touchdown.

Non-starters: Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to take a hard look at how he scripts his plays to start games. They've gone seven straight games without a first-quarter touchdown. Schottenheimer tends to be too preoccupied with trying to outsmart the opponent instead of attacking their obvious weaknesses. The Bengals secondary was decimated by injuries, yet the Jets completed only five passes to wide receivers in the first half.

Pick 'em: The Jets snapped their streak of five straight games without an interception, with safety Jim Leonhard and cornerback Antonio Cromartie producing first-half picks. Before everybody praises the defense, let's be real: They were two horrible throws by Palmer. The latter was a throw to Owens into triple coverage.

Depleted Cincy D: Talk about an injury bug. The Bengals played without five defensive starters: defensive tackle Tank Johnson, defensive end Frostee Rucker, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, safety Roy Williams and safety Chris Crockett. Things were so bad in the secondary that Wade, whom they signed off the street Monday, started at cornerback.

Undisciplined Jets: They were penalized eight times, including six in the first half. This sounds like a broken record, by Ryan's crackdown is having no effect. The biggest penalty was unnecessary roughness on nickel back Drew Coleman, a questionable call that gave the Bengals a first-and-goal from the 5 instead of third down from the 11. The Bengals capitalized, scoring on a 5-yard pass to Jordan Shipley. Later, the Jets dodged a bullet after a fourth-down roughing-the-passer penalty on safety James Ihedigbo. It put the Bengals in field-goal range, but Aaron Pettrey missed from 27 yards.

What's ahead: Get ready for Armageddon, AFC East style. The Jets will make their highly anticipated trip to Foxborough, where they will face the New England Patriots (9-2) for sole possession of first place. The Jets won the Week 2 meeting 28-14, but the Patriots -- post-Randy Moss -- are humming on offense. They've scored 115 points in their last three games.


What it means: This will be remembered as The Brad Smith Game. Smith scored two huge touchdowns -- rushing and a kickoff return -- the signature moments in an otherwise sloppy game by the New York Jets. They didn't need a last-minute miracle to beat the lowly Cincinnati Bengals but they still have a lot of areas to clean up as they head into the toughest part of their schedule – i.e. the New England Patriots.

Shoeless Brad: Smith enhanced his reputation as a Bengals killer, scoring two long touchdowns -- a 53-yard run on an end-around and a 89-yard return on a kickoff. On the kickoff, he ran the last 50 yards or so with one shoe. The Bengals will have nightmares of Smith, who ran for 92 yards and a touchdown in last season's final game.

Not bad for "average": The anticipated Darrelle Revis-Terrell Owens showdown didn't produce any fireworks, mostly because Bengals QB Carson Palmer stayed away from Revis Island. Revis was in man-to-man coverage on Owens almost every down, and he limited the Big Mouth receiver to three catches for 17 yards. Owens, who famously called Revis "just an average corner" earlier in the week, was targeted only six times while covered by Revis. Bottom line: Revis made T.O. eat his words.

Amped D: After a few days of intense, high-decibel defensive meetings, with the coaches yelling, the Jets' beleaguered defense responded in a big way. They recorded two interceptions and three sacks, including one by Trevor Pryce in the end zone for a safety. They used more blitzes than in recent games (and they worked), perhaps an indication that Rex Ryan got more involved in the play calling.

'Tone Time: WR Santonio Holmes scored for the third straight week, burning newly signed CB Jonathan Wade on 13-yard slant in the third quarter. The coverage was terrible and Wade had no safety help. Brilliant move by the Bengals. The Jets should've been hitting that all night, but you know, sometimes it takes them a while to figure things out.

Lucky break: Holmes' touchdown was made possible because Bengals coach Marvin Lewis failed to challenge the Jets' recovery on a muffed punt. It was ruled on the field that the bouncing punt hit Andre Caldwell, but replays showed that it didn't. Where was the red flag? Lewis seemed to have problems getting the flag out of his pocket.

Off day for Sanchise: This wasn't one of Mark Sanchez's smartest games. He threw a horrible interception in the third quarter, forcing a pass while being chased out of the pocket. A few minutes later, he nearly took an intentional-grounding penalty, foolishly flipping a pass to no one while being sacked at the 1-foot line. He also missed several open receivers, including a wide-open Braylon Edwards on what should've been a long touchdown.

Non-starters: Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to take a hard look at how he scripts his plays to start games. They've gone seven straight games without a first-quarter touchdown. Schottenheimer tends to be too preoccupied with trying to outsmart the opponent instead of attacking their obvious weaknesses. The Bengals secondary was decimated by injuries, yet the Jets completed only five passes to wide receivers in the first half.

Pick 'em: The Jets snapped their streak of five straight games without an interception, with S Jim Leonhard and CB Antonio Cromartie producing first-half picks. Before everybody praises the defense, let's be real: They were two horrible throws by Palmer. The latter was a throw to Owens into triple coverage.

Depleted Cincy D: Talk about an injury bug. The Bengals played without five defensive starters: DT Tank Johnson, DE Frostee Rucker, CB Johnathan Joseph, S Roy Williams and S Chris Crockett. Things were so bad in the secondary that Wade, whom they signed off the street Monday, started at cornerback.

Undisciplined Jets: They were penalized eight times, including six in the first half. This sounds like a broken record, by Ryan's crackdown is having no effect. The biggest penalty was unnecessary roughness on nickel back Drew Coleman, a questionable call that gave the Bengals a first-and-goal from the 5 instead of third down from the 11. The Bengals capitalized, scoring on a 5-yard pass to Jordan Shipley. Later, the Jets dodged a bullet after a fourth-down roughing-the-passer penalty on S James Ihedigbo. It put the Bengals in field-goal range, but Aaron Pettrey missed from 27 yards.

What's ahead: Get ready for Armageddon, AFC East style. The Jets will make their highly anticipated trip to Foxborough, where they will face the New England Patriots (9-2) for sole possession of first place. The Jets won the Week 2 meeting 28-14, but the Patriots -- post-Randy Moss -- are humming on offense. They've scored 115 points in their last three games.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 38, Bills 14

October, 3, 2010
10/03/10
4:05
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The New York Jets remained atop the division with a 38-14 laugher over the Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.


What it means: The Jets flexed their AFC East muscle by completing a sweep of their first tour through division rivals. The Jets won only two games in the division last year. The Bills still are searching for their first victory.

Hero: LaDainian Tomlinson didn't play the fourth quarter after rushing 19 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He was dominant.

Sidekick: Shonn Greene more than doubled his rushing total for the season. He had 22 carries for 117 yards. He went into the game with 106 rushing yards.

Quarterbacks: Mark Sanchez still hasn't thrown an interception. He was 14 of 24 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick had an economical stat line. He was 11 of 25 for 122 yards and two TDs without an interception.

No joke: Bills coach Chan Gailey lauded his backfield before the season. None of his running backs had more rushing yards than Fitzpatrick. He scrambled for a team-high 74 yards, tying Gary Marangi's 34-year-old franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Fitzpatrick tripled the output of the Bills' best running back. Fred Jackson had 22 yards.

Trending: Dustin Keller scored two touchdowns for the second straight week. He has at least one touchdown catch in three straight games and six of his past seven games, including the playoffs.

Injuries of note: Defensive end Shaun Ellis suffered a knee injury on the opening drive of the second half. Vernon Gholston took his place, but the signing of surprise free agent defensive end Trevor Pryce last week will help if Ellis is out for a while.

What's next: The Bills will welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars and former quarterback Trent Edwards on Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Jets will host the Minnesota Vikings and former quarterback Brett Favre on Monday night at the Meadowlands.

Ravens RB Ray Rice expects to play

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
12:23
PM ET
Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl tailback Ray Rice told reporters Thursday that he expects to play this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rice bruised his knee late in last week's win over the Cleveland Browns.

This is in line with what most of the Steelers said in the locker room this week. Rice, who is one of the few tailbacks to have success against Pittsburgh's defense, was described by the Steelers as a "gamer" and "tough player." Pittsburgh was preparing this week for Rice to play, and it turns out that will be the case.

In other Ravens news, defensive end Trevor Pryce was signed by the New York Jets. Baltimore planned to re-sign Pryce, who was cut by the Ravens this week and scooped up by former Baltimore defensive coordinator and Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

Rex Ryan reunites with Trevor Pryce

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
11:56
AM ET
Rex Ryan reportedly has snatched up another of his former Baltimore Ravens stars.

ESPN's Adam Schefter, citing an unnamed league source, reports the New York Jets on Thursday agreed to contract terms with four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trevor Pryce. The Ravens terminated Pryce's contract so they could add safety Ken Hamlin to the roster.

Pryce, 35, has faded, but he has a reputation for being a strong leader, something that couldn't hurt in the Jets locker room. He ranks third among active players with 90 sacks and had a team high 6.5 last year. But he didn't start for the Ravens this season and has one tackle.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday they intended to re-sign Pryce, a move that would allow them to save money on a reduced contract.

"You've got roster issues that you deal with," Harbaugh said. "It's not something we wanted to do. Trevor is a big part of what we're doing here, and we anticipate getting him back. It's just what we had to do for now."

Pryce took a $2.5 million pay cut during the offseason to remain with the Ravens. He was replaced in the starting lineup last year by Dwan Edwards, now with the Buffalo Bills.

The Jets will play the Bills on Sunday afternoon in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

On the radar: Terrell Suggs

May, 27, 2010
5/27/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

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

[+] EnlargeTerrell Suggs
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesTerrell Suggs had a career-low 4.5 sacks last season.
Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens openly admits 2009 was a down year. But it also led to a bold proclamation for this upcoming season.

"Rest assured, it will never happen again," Suggs recently told reporters.

The hybrid linebacker/defensive end and three-time Pro Bowler is motivated to have a bounce-back season for the Ravens, who should be strong contenders in the AFC.

A variety of factors contributed to Suggs' subpar numbers last season.

At times Suggs was banged up with a knee injury, missing three games. He lacked his usual explosiveness and didn't look to be in the best of shape. There were points when teammates Jarret Johnson and Trevor Pryce, not Suggs, were Baltimore's best pass-rushers. Pryce (6.5 sacks) and Johnson (6.0 sacks) led the team, while Suggs recorded a career-low 4.5 sacks.

The sudden inconsistency from Suggs is baffling. He was one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL for the six years before last season.

"His pass rush, I just tend to think it was an anomaly," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "There wasn't somebody on the other side who took a lot of the pressure off ... But I don't worry about Suggs. If it happens another year in a row, then maybe I will say he's a declining pass-rusher.

"But I tend to side that he's going to come back to form in a hurry."

The Ravens are banking on Williamson's projection. Baltimore gave Suggs, 27, a six-year, $63 million contract last year, believing he is still in his prime.

Baltimore as a team was ranked a disappointing No. 18 in sacks last season. If the Ravens are going to have a resurgent pass rush in 2010, Suggs will be vital.

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