|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.”
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|Offseason updates on rest of AFC East||02.18.14 at 12:51 pm ET|
While we continue to view the world through a Patriots’ prism, here’s a quick update on what’s been going on in the rest of the AFC East this offseason:
Jets – New York started the offseason with a bang, announcing Rex Ryan landed a multiyear extension. But at the same time, the Jets have some tough calls to make on some veterans, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace. Then, there’s the question as to whether or not to release quarterback Mark Sanchez — per salary cap expert Joel Corry, the Jets will gain more than $8.3 million of cap room if they let him go before his $2 million roster bonus is due on March 25. (They’ll also get some more financial flexibility if they decide to part ways with wide receiver Santonio Holmes in mid-March.) If Sanchez is indeed gone, that will likely clear the decks for Geno Smith, who was involved in an off-field dustup involving a flight attendant on a Virgin America flight. However, GM John Idzik says he anticipates a competition at quarterback this season. On the other side of the ball, while the New York defense is pretty solid as a whole, they’ll almost certainly be the market for offensive skill position players this offseason either in the draft or free agency.
Bills – As is the case at this time of year, the biggest moves for Buffalo to this point in the offseason have come on the coaching staff — following the departure of Mike Pettine, the Bills have added Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. They’ve also done some more sideline shuffling, including the addition of Rob Moore as receivers coach and Pepper Johnson as linebackers coach. Schwartz favors a 4-3 scheme, which means the Bills will have to tweak their personnel as a result, but on paper, the Buffalo defense is actually pretty well-positioned going into 2014. Led by linebacker Kiko Alonso and pass rushers Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, the Bills led the league with 57 sacks, and were second in the league with 23 picks. They could add some depth in the secondary, particularly if defensive back Jairus Byrd leaves as a free agent. Buffalo also needs some help on the offensive line, as well as some help at tight end if Scott Chandler walks in free agency. The Bills reportedly have roughly $15 million under the cap, and will likely use some of that to put more offensive skill position players around quarterback EJ Manuel, who needs to make a sizable leap going into 2014 if the Bills are able to break through in the AFC East.
Dolphins – Where to start? Miami is a bit of a mess right now, as the franchise continues to deal with the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins end up making changes on their coaching staff as a result of what’s happened, but they’ve already parted ways with GM Jeff Ireland, going with Dennis Hickey in his place. (They also fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman after Miami’s offense finished 26th in the league with an average of 19.8 points per game. They hired Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor as the new OC.) Hickey will have roughly $17 million in cap space to deal with when free agency opens, and he will almost certainly focus on an offensive line that was struggling, even before the Incognito-Martin situation blew up — quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013, most in the league. From a big picture perspective, it will be interesting to watch the moves that Hickey, coach Joe Philbin and owner Stephen Ross will make this offseason in hopes of trying to repair the Dolphins rep this offseason.
|Adam Schefter on D&C: ‘I don’t think [Richie Incognito] plays for the Dolphins again’||11.11.13 at 10:44 am ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the issue involving Dolphins linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, and how it affects the future of a number of members of the Miami organization.
Nearly two weeks ago, a lunchroom incident sparked the abrupt fleeing of Martin, Miami’s second-year left tackle. In the following days, reports indicated that the incident was not isolated and instead served as Martin’s breaking point.
“That is not typical of what an NFL locker room is like. That is excessive,” Schefter said. “Yes, there’s tough talk, yes, there’s joking and all those things like that, but I think this is a case where basically this is above and beyond what we’ve seen in a locker room, is the fact of the matter.”
At the center of myriad bullying allegations was Incognito. The Dolphins suspended him indefinitely almost immediately after a report that Incognito left a lewd message on Martin’s phone in which he used a derogatory racial term to describe Martin.
“No, I don’t think [Incognito] plays for the Dolphins again,” Schefter said, adding: “His contract’s up with the Dolphins after this year, so now the question becomes, ‘What comes out of this investigation, what comes up in those findings?’ And is there a team out there that’s willing to give him a chance to play for them next year.”
Reports that key members of the Dolphins organization enabled Incognito and encouraged physical retribution by Martin toward Incognito may have jeopardized the job security of coaches and staff members, chiefly general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin.
“People in that organization are very nervous and very fearful about what’s going down, and I think that people know that there are going to be people, ultimately, here who pay for this with their jobs, which there will be,” Schefter said.
|Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland: ‘We have to close the gap’ with the Patriots||02.21.13 at 12:01 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots have been in pretty firm control of the AFC East for the last decade or so — New England has won nine of the last 10 division titles, with the only break coming in 2008 when the Dolphins finished first.
But heading into the 2013 season, the team who has the best chance to challenge the Patriots for the division title appears to be Miami. The Dolphins surprised several people with a strong finish — including wins in two of their last three games — on the way to a 7-9 finish and second place behind New England. That, combined with the fact they are more than $40 million under the cap, gives Miami GM Jeff Ireland hope that the Dolphins can close the gap in the not-too-distant future.
“There’s a gap,” Ireland acknowledged Thursday morning at the scouting combine. “Certainly, [the Patriots have] won the division quite a bit. We have to close that gap. I think it’s a five-game gap, right now, in wins and losses. That’s what the gap is. We have to close that gap, and we plan to do our best job and put our best foot forward and getting that done this offseason. Whether we can completely close the gap … we have to get back on the field and close the gap on the field. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to talk about it right now.”
Part of the reason for the gap between the Patriots and the rest of the division is because of the quarterback — no matter the supporting cast, Tom Brady has been able to consistently give New England enough separation between the Patriots and the rest of the division. In Miami, Ireland expressed optimism that Ryan Tannehill — who just finished his rookie year — is trending in the right direction.
“As I’ve said before, Ryan has 35 or 36 games under his belt as a starting quarterback combined, from a college and pro career. You’d normally like to have 35 games under your belt as a graduating senior,” Ireland said of Tannehill, who ended his first season with 3,294 passing yards, a 58 percent completion rate, 12 touchdowns and 13 picks.
“I still think there’s a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential. I like what I see so far. I love intangible makeup. I love his athletic skill set. We have a long way to go — he knows that. But he can get a lot better. I’m confident in that.”
|Has former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll already gotten the Dolphins into trouble?||03.01.11 at 4:20 pm ET|
Interesting goings on down in Miami — Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne talked to the media about new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and sounded excited about the new direction that they plan on taking down in Miami. Daboll, a former Patriots assistant, is installing a new system with the Dolphins, one that Henne describes as “similar to what I was used to at Michigan. It’s a New England offense — New England with a little Jets in it. It’s a good offense for a quarterback.”
No shock there, as Daboll made his bones as an assistant under Bill Belichick in New England. Daboll served as the Patriots’ defensive coaching assistant from 2000 to 2001, and then was the wide receivers’ coach from 2002 until 2006. (He was one of the assistants who left with Eric Mangini, becoming the Jets’ quarterbacks coach in 2007 and 2008, and later, serving as Mangini’s offensive coordinator with the Browns in 2009 and 2010.)
However, the voluntary meetings between Henne and Daboll — get-togethers that are apparently designed to have Henne help install the offense with the other Dolphins in case of a lockout — appear to be in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, as interpreted by a recent NFL memo to each team that said players are not to meet with coaches and receive playbooks during this time in the offseason. Henne’s declaration could put Miami coach Tony Sparano in jeopardy of an NFL fine. (UPDATE: It appears that the Dolphins will not be punished, according to Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald.)
Of course, many former New England players and executives probably aren’t surprised that something like this has happened to Daboll. When Daboll was initially hired by Miami, former Patriots fullback Heath Evans took a shot at the hiring, saying, “The Dolphins probably just got worse. … When he was in New England, he was never a guy that I would have considered the brains of the operation.” And at the NFL scouting combine over the weekend, former Patriots’ GM Scott Pioli was asked by Miami reporters what his memories of Daboll were when they were together in New England.
“I remember that [Daboll] was a part of a great deal of success there,” Pioli said, simply. Whoa.
For their part, the Dolphins are backing Daboll. This past weekend at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, GM Jeff Ireland said Daboll’s track record was what sold him on Miami.
“His history with quarterbacks, his history being a defensive coach and offensive coach. Coach Sparano and myself were really impressed with the way he put a plan together for our offensive players on the football team,” Ireland said. “I wasn’t necessarily looking at what his production was with Cleveland. I know there were some things there that were different, but we’ve got different personnel and the way he presented his play with us with our personnel was very impressive.”
In addition, quarterback Chad Pennington — who played for Daboll in New York and was in Miami the last three seasons in Miami — said Daboll was a tremendous teacher.
“A lot of the coverage knowledge that I have and understanding defenses comes from Brian,” Pennington recently told the Palm Beach Post. “The year I spent with him, I just learned so much about how defenses attack offenses and all of the nuances of coverage that I didn’t understand before.”
|Jeff Ireland says Chad Henne is starting QB, leaves open possibility of Jeremy Shockey||02.24.11 at 11:01 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland took the podium Thursday morning to discuss the state of his team and the coming draft. Though Ireland repeatedly prefaced answers by saying he wouldn’t reveal his strategy, he did have some interesting things to say.
Like the Bills, the Dolphins are a team with a starting quarterback but who might benefit from an upgrade.
“Right now our starter is Chad Henne,” Ireland said, though he noted that the Dolphins “don’t have a lot of depth” at quarterback. The GM deemed quarterback “obviously a position that we’re going to look hard at.”
- Ireland expressed interest in potentially getting a tight end with some speed. He said there have not been talks with Jeremy Shockey, who was recently released by the Saints, but he left the door open.
“I’m a guy that’s going to look at every acorn that falls off a tree,” Ireland said. “[Shockey] is another one, so I’m going to do that.”
- He wouldn’t get into specifics regarding offensive linemen, but said the team “had some issues there this year and certainly have to fine-tune some stuff.”
Miami finished third in the AFC East last season with a 7-9 record.
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