Checking in with rest of AFC East at league meetings
|03.26.14 at 6:00 am ET|
ORLANDO — While Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and the Patriots have been making news this week at the NFL annual meetings in Central Florida, the rest of the AFC East was involved in the action as well. Here’s a look at some of the news from New England’s divisional foes over the last few days.
Jets – It wasn’t the old-school bravado we’ve come to know from coach Rex Ryan, but it was still a fairly brash statement for a team that hasn’t finished better than .500 since 2010.
“Watch out for the Jets, man,” Ryan said at Tuesday’s AFC coaches breakfast. “I’m just telling you.”
Ryan and the Jets have made a few moves to this point in the offseason, picking up wide receiver Eric Decker and swapping out Mark Sanchez for Mike Vick at quarterback. (Ryan indicated Tuesday that Geno Smith will remain the starter.) They’ve made some moves that give them some financial flexibility, which means they could be in on the race for DeSean Jackson if the receiver can be pried loose from Philly.
However, beyond an impressive front seven, the Jets still have questions at corner (Ryan has lamented the situation in the secondary), and despite the addition of Decker, still need to add offensive oomph this offseason. Look for them to target skill position players and defensive backs in the draft.
And look for Rex to stay Rex.
“My expectations have never changed: I want to win and I expect to win,” Ryan said. “I’ll say this: It’s time to deliver. It’s time to deliver for this community, for New York, for this entire area. We got to step up and deliver. I’m not running from it. Let’s put it that way — I expect a lot out of this football team.
“Nobody’s really talking about us, and that’s fine and dandy. They’re going to.”
Dolphins – After a tumultuous five-month stretch for Miami sparked by a locker room scandal involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday he has to have a new approach when it comes to coaching.
“There does have to be better communication both ways – from me to the players, the players to me. It has to be better,” said Philbin.
Philbin acknowledged that mistakes had been made over the course of the last year, and he will have to alter his coaching style as a result.
“Sometimes with coaches, you’re conflicted with, ‘Should I watch that blitz tape? Gosh, I’ve got to get that third-down film watched,'” Philbin said. “Sometimes it’s a better use of a head coach’s time to walk through the training room, walk through the locker room, walk through the hallways. It’s not that I’ve never done that stuff, but I think it’s fair to say I’m going to do that more.”
The Dolphins have made several moves this offseason, including replacing GM Jeff Ireland with Dennis Hickey. Hickey has signed several free agents, including offensive linemen Branden Albert and Shelley Smith, cornerbacks Brent Grimes (who returns to the team) and Cortland Finnegan, and defensive lineman Randy Starks (another returnee). Despite the pickups of Albert and Smith, fully expect the Dolphins to target another offensive linemen with one of their early picks in the draft.
Bills – It’s been a tough few days for Buffalo, as it was announced over the weekend that former quarterback Jim Kelly is facing another hurdle in his cancer fight. On Tuesday, it was revealed that longtime Bills owner Ralph Wilson had passed away at the age of 95.
Our friend Tim Graham of the Buffalo News has a terrific look at Wilson’s impact here, one with quotes from Kraft, who recalls Wilson as a champion for the smaller markets.
“When I came into the league there were three [AFL] founders with Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams and Ralph,” Kraft said. “This is the passing of a generation and a man who represented the smaller markets. … Ralph was always the voice of the small markets, making sure. His loyalty to the fans of Buffalo was very special.”
Against this backdrop, the affairs of football seem relatively minor, but the game continued Tuesday. It’s been a busy offseason for the Bills, who have made a number of additions on the defensive side of the football, starting with new DC Jim Schwartz. It’s a group that includes former Patriot linebacker Brandon Spikes, cornerback Corey Graham and linebacker Keith Rivers. (They also lost safety Jairius Byrd.)
But it sounds like an offensive addition is the one move that intrigues coach Doug Marrone: offensive lineman Chris Williams. On Tuesday at the coaches breakfast, Marrone was effusive in his praise of Williams, who has struggled since coming into the league as a first-round pick of the Bears in 2008.
“I’ve been part of this before,’’ Marrone said Tuesday morning. “I was fortunate that I had a player, Jeff Faine, out of Cleveland that wasn’t playing that we were able to attain in New Orleans and he came in and performed at a Pro Bowl level and became the highest-paid center in the league.
“My goal, my challenge, is to have the same type of thing happen with Chris. I’m excited about working with him. I know there are a lot of people that have a lot of question marks about him. I really don’t. I don’t at all. I’m fired up to work with him and he’s fired up.”