Week three of the NFL preseason is usually our best chance to learn things about teams before the regular season starts, as it’s the week when starters play the most before taking it easy in week four. So after the third and most important week of preseason play, here are some things we can take away looking ahead to the regular season:
The Bears offense is showing promise – Yes, it happened against the lowly Raiders, but for a unit that needed to make a lot of adjustments under new head coach Marc Trestman, Chicago’s offense looked quite cohesive and in sync Friday night in Oakland, scoring 27 points in the first half with the starters in the game. Jay Cutler looked sharp and confident, despite being hurt by a few dropped passes; Matt Forte ran freely, gaining 76 yards on just six carries; and Alshon Jeffery was impressive with seven catches for 77 yards. It was one preseason game against a bad team, but it showcased what the Bears could be capable of doing offensively this season with Trestman pulling the strings and Cutler playing well.
The Jets need to start Mark Sanchez – Well, at least if he’s healthy enough to play, Sanchez needs to be the starter when the regular season begins. The Jets gave Geno Smith a fair shot to audition against the Giants Saturday night, and despite showing some promise, he threw three interceptions and gave away two points by stepping out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Smith will be ready to be a starting quarterback at some point, and he may even be ready later this season, but he’s not there yet. If the Jets want to have a chance to win games early in the season, especially against a brutal schedule, they need to hope that Sanchez is healthy enough to play, because starting Smith would be like throwing him to the wolves.
The Bills are in deep trouble at quarterback – What’s worse than starting a rookie quarterback who’s missing the final two games of the preseason, while having Kevin Kolb as the backup? Having both Kolb and the rookie injured and being forced to call Matt Leinart to come try out two weeks before the start of the regular season. Buffalo’s quarterback situation went from bad to a complete nightmare when Kolb suffered a concussion on Saturday against the Washington Redskins. The Bills are hopeful that E.J. Manuel will be healthy enough to play when the regular season gets underway, but he also earned the job based on his performance the first two weeks of the preseason, and had to sit out the all-important third preseason game, so how he’ll perform is still a bit of a mystery. But more importantly, if both Manuel and Kolb are unavailable for week 1, the Bills will be left with undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel and whomever they pull off the street, which could be worse than any worst-case scenario new head coach Doug Marrone may have been planning for.
Pump the brakes on the Cleveland Browns – After a couple nice wins early in the preseason, the Browns looked more like the Browns we’re accustomed to in week 3 of the exhibition season. Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden completed fewer than 50% of his passes, as Cleveland’s starters failed to score against the Colt’s defensive starters, and even the Colt’s second string defense held Cleveland’s starting offense to a mere three points on a 50-yard field goal. In the closest thing to a regular season game we’ll see this preseason, the Browns were disappointing against a playoff team from last year, killing any momentum they may have gained from wins the previous two weeks.
Peyton Manning will be fine – This was the first extended action Manning got this preseason, and he looked ready for the regular season to begin. It’s possible that Manning will be even better than he was last season, as he’s even further removed from his neck surgeries. He threw the ball with more zip than last season and he had Denver’s offense moving seamlessly in its hurry-up mode, which allowed him to throw 34 passes in the first half alone. Throwing for 234 yards in one half of football is awfully impressive, even in the preseason against a defense that wasn’t tipping its hand at all, as Manning showed why the Broncos are serious Super Bowl contenders this year.
We’re still a couple weeks away from the start of the regular season, but we’ve made it to the most exciting week of the preseason, as week 3 is usually the week when the starters play the most, giving us the best indication of what to expect during the regular season. With that in mind, here are several NFL games to watch during week 3 of the preseason:
Seattle at Green Bay, Friday – With starters expected to play a lot this weekend, this game could be quite telling, with both teams expected to be contenders in the NFC. Even more interesting will be watching the matchup of Green Bay’s offense against Seattle’s defense. The first half of this game could be an interesting preview of what to expect atop the NFC this season.
Buffalo at Washington, Saturday – Both teams have some quarterback issues to work through. E.J. Manuel all but locked up the Bills’ starting job after two preseason games, but his status for the start of the regular season is in jeopardy after minor knee surgery. Buffalo has to try to get Kevin Kolb ready just in case Manuel is ready to go, although undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel could push Kolb for the spot behind Manuel on the depth chart. Meanwhile, the Redskins have gotten real thin at quarterback, with Robert Griffin III still uncertain for the regular seasons and Kirk Cousins spraining his ankle. If Cousins doesn’t play on Saturday, it’ll be interesting to see how Rex Grossman and Pat White do playing alongside the starters.
Cleveland at Indianapolis, Saturday – The Browns are off to a 2-0 start this preseason, and with the Colts giving their starters extended time this week, it’s an opportunity for Cleveland to show that their fast start is no fluke. It’ll also be pertinent to watch how Brandon Weeden plays after being named the starter, and whether he’s complacent, or if he’ll continue to look sharp.
Jets at Giants, Saturday – The two New York teams facing off is always going to be interesting to watch. This game has the added benefit of watching the Jets’ quarterback competition play out. Mark Sanchez had his good and bad moments last week, and this week should be Geno Smith’s last chance to get an extended look and make his case for being the starter. If Smith struggles, it could give the job to Sanchez by default, but if Smith plays well, things could get even more interesting.
St. Louis at Denver, Saturday – The Broncos might as well get used to playing without Von Miller since they’ll be without him for the first six games of the season. This is the time for Denver to figure out who their top pass rushers will be, especially since they may also be without Derek Wolfe for an extended period of time. For the Rams, we’re still waiting for their revamped offense to show something after adding all that speed during the offseason, and this game should be a good indicator of what they’re capable of doing.
New Orleans at Houston, Sunday – If you want offensive fireworks, even in the preseason, this is the game to watch. The Texans offense has really clicked this preseason, showing an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position and at the skill positions. As for the Saints, their offense was good last year and could be even better this season with Sean Payton back on the sidelines. With the starters getting extended playing time this week, there could be a lot of points on the scoreboard by the time this game is over.
There are two weeks of the NFL preseason in the books, and while we can’t judge too much from these past two weeks, there are a few teams that have stood out, for both good and bad. It’s tough to tell if anything we’ve seen the past two weeks will translate into the regular season, but at least for the time being, here are several teams that have stood out thus far in the preseason:
Cleveland Browns – It is just the meaningless preseason, but Cleveland fans have to be excited about the 2-0 start. Second year quarterback Brandon Weeden has looked sharp in the first two games, completing 72% of his passes and leading the Browns to points on five of the six drives he has played. Weeden playing well is an encouraging sign, and the Cleveland defense has also looked promising, which has given one of the saddest fan bases in football a glimmer of hope.
Buffalo Bills – The Bills have shown off a little more of their playbook this preseason than most teams, as they try to get up to speed with a new coaching staff, but there’s no denying the results have been there. Although he will miss the rest of the preseason, rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel has been impressive and avoided making big mistakes, which should make him the starter when he’s healthy. Buffalo knows they have a running back they can lean on in C.J. Spiller, and they’ve showed off an interesting group of young and talented wide receivers as well. With new coaches and young players the Bills’ offense has scored a lot of points and drawn a lot of attention early on in the preseason.
Seattle Seahawks – Seattle has had no trouble winning their first two pre-season games, and they’ve looked impressive doing so. They’ve put a lot of points on the scoreboard, regardless of whether starter Russell Wilson or backup Tarvaris Jackson was running the show. Also notable about Seattle is that their fan base was in mid-season form during their game against the Broncos over the weekend; they’re preparing for what could be a big season, and the Seahawks are already off to a fast start.
New England Patriots – There was a lot going on with the Patriots away from the field this offseason, but they’ve put it together on the field during the preseason. Tom Brady has looked as sharp as ever, and despite having a lot of question marks at the offensive skill positions heading into the season, they’ve gotten quality performances the past two weeks from a few of their younger players, which makes us think it’ll be the same ole Patriots on the field when the regular season begins.
St. Louis Rams – The Rams have stood out this preseason because they haven’t stood out. They added a lot of speed to their offense during the offseason, but we haven’t seen a whole lot of explosiveness from that unit over the first two games, which has been noticeable after they took Tavon Austin early in the draft and later added Stedman Bailey. There’s still time to turn that around before the season starts, and we’ll be watching to see if that happens.
Houston Texans – Houston has been a forgotten team in the AFC with all the attention heading into the season around Denver, New England, and Cincinnati, but the Texans have been as impressive as any team the past two weeks. All three quarterbacks that have played have been impressive, showing off an incredible amount of depth at that position, as well as an impressive group of receivers and tight ends, even without a lot of contributions from Andre Johnson. Houston isn’t the most intriguing team in the AFC heading into the season, but already they look the part of a team that will be a contender once again.
After two preseason games, it’s obvious that rookie E.J. Manuel should be the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills when the regular season begins. But after the news Saturday that Manuel will have minor knee surgery, his status for the season opener could be in jeopardy, which could not only force the Bills to start Kevin Kolb to begin the season, but it could have a lasting impact on Manuel’s ability to play, even after he’s declared healthy and ready to return to the field.
It was difficult to know what to expect from Manuel heading into the preseason and whether or not he’d be ready to start as a rookie, despite being a first round draft pick. But he quickly made it obvious that he’s the best quarterback on Buffalo’s roster. With Kolb on the shelf with his embarrassing knee injury, Manuel played the entire first half of Buffalo’s first preseason game, putting in a performance that was solid but unspectacular. He did even better in the Bills’ second preseason game, leading the offense on an 80-yard touchdown drive on the first series he played. After Manuel completed 10 of 12 passes against the Minnesota Vikings, and more importantly, avoided turning the ball over for the second straight game, the quarterback competition in Buffalo should have been all but over.
But with the news that Manuel will have surgery and miss the rest of the preseason, there’s no guarantee he will be ready to start the regular season opener. Head coach Doug Marrone has said the procedure is minor, so there is every chance for Manuel to be healthy enough to play the regular season opener, but whether he’ll be ready to play after being away from the field at such an important time of year, especially for a rookie, is a different story. If Manuel is going to start the regular season as the Bills’ quarterback, he’s going to need as many reps as possible, especially in the kind of fast-paced offense the Bills are planning to run, which requires the quarterback to have complete command over the offense. At this point, the question for the Bills may not be whether Kolb will be able to use the final two pre-season games to pass Manuel in the quarterback competition, but whether or not Manuel will still be ready to start week 1 of the regular season after his absence.
The silver lining to Manuel’s injury, and it’s as thin as a silver lining can be, is that the Bills have two preseason games left to get Kolb ready to face the New England Patriots the first week of the regular season just in case Manuel isn’t ready. If his inability to stay on his two feet when walking on a rubber mat didn’t do so, then his play against the Vikings Friday night proved that Kolb is far from ready to lead a team to victory in a regular season game. The Bills may also want to adjust their offensive game plan if they’re forced to start Kolb against the Patriots, as running a hurry-up offense and trying to run as many offensive plays as possible may not be advantageous for them with Kolb at quarterback.
Although it’s apparently just a minor surgery, Manuel’s absence for the remainder of the preseason is a major setback in what has otherwise been a successful and promising preseason for the Bills. He may be an unproven rookie, but Manuel should be one of the most important players on Buffalo’s roster this season, especially if the alternative is Kolb, and they need to hope that he’s healthy and prepared to play by the time the regular season starts.
With training camp under way, every NFL team is in the process of figuring out who they will be in 2013. Here are three burning questions facing 3 AFC teams that will more than likely define their success this season:
1. Will CJ Spiller survive and thrive in his transition to full-time RB?
Outside of Minneapolis, CJ Spiller is the most dynamic running back in football. He tied Adrian Peterson’s league-high 6.0 YPC in 2012, clocked a blistering 4.28 40-yard-dash coming out of Clemson, and has proven himself to be as elusive as any other ballcarrier in football. Spiller simply can’t be touched in the open field, and in 2012 he demonstrated what he can do with any significant volume.
He also has a total of 388 career carries to his name, and will be the focal point of incoming Head Coach Doug Marrone’s up-tempo offense. Bills’ beat writer Chris Brown suggested that Spiller could receive up to 30 carries per game, with the potential for a 2000-yard season—figures that have the ominous sound of overworking.
While it would be foolish to assume Spiller won’t have a spectacular season, the 5’11, 200-pound speedster doesn’t exactly look like workhorse material. Agile runners like Spiller rarely see success as big-carry backs, and it remains to be seen if Spiller can survive a 16-game grind of high-volume workloads. To top it off, Buffalo has the luxury of choosing between Kevin Kolb and rookie EJ Manual as its field general. Add in a receiving corps led by slot-man Stevie Johnson and a couple rookies, and Spiller may be facing an uphill battle. The three-year pro may have the season of a lifetime, but it wouldn’t shock anyone if he struggles to maintain his health and explosive-playmaking ability into December.
2. Will the Ravens’ offense overcome the offseason carnage?
The defending Super Bowl champs have been losing starters all offseason, and while their defense is expected to withstand the losses of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, the other side of the ball faces serious questions. Baltimore sent Anquan Boldin to the same 49ers they edged out in February’s championship, as well as an equally crushing blow this week with news of Dennis Pitta’s season-ending hip injury. Per SI’s Peter King, “Boldin and Pitta averaged nine catches and 136 receiving yards per game” in the playoffs—numbers the Ravens will struggle to replace with their remaining pass-catchers.
King observed Flacco “looking disconsolate” as he aimlessly meandered around the Ravens’ complex, marking the first recorded use of “disconsolate” to describe the recipient of a $120-million contract.
Torrey Smith is far-and-away Baltimore’s number one receiver, but has yet to prove himself as more than a deep threat and Champ Bailey abuser. Next-man-up Jacoby Jones is a true return man and followed his two-touchdown Super Bowl performance with a failed conditioning test to open up the offseason.
Even GM Ozzie Newsome acknowledged that “we don't know yet what our identity is going to be on offense,” a sign that training camp is especially important to the champs. The Ravens have potential contributors in Tandon Doss and the speedy Deonte Thompson, but one or more players will need to step up on Sundays for Baltimore to be a legitimate contender for the Lombardi Trophy.
3. Will Tom Brady make it work with a new surrounding cast?
We all know the narrative that played out in North Attleboro, MA, but Aaron Hernandez’s incarceration on murder charges is just one of several bad developments in New England since their season ended at home against the Ravens. From Rob Gronkowski’s back surgery to the departure of Wes Welker, the Patriots suddenly find themselves with a lack of proven skill-players.
Running back Shane Vereen has been tossed around as a potential replacement for Hernandez’s production, and aside from the questionable nature of that proposition, the Patriots may be in trouble. 2013-signee Danny Amendola has been highly lauded since his arrival in Foxboro, but has missed a disturbing 36% of games in his four-year career. New England sports 6 rookie receivers on their training-camp roster, putting more pressure on Tom Brady than years past.
While Brady has seen success with the likes of Reche Caldwell and Troy Brown as his lead receiver, those were the days before the Patriots shifted to a high-octane aerial assault. Stevan Ridley and the New England backfield will likely see an increased role with the lack of established pass-catchers, but will the Patriots make a successful adjustment?
The answer remains to be seen, and this outcome will directly impact the power rankings atop the AFC.
We’re still a little ways away from preseason preparations kicking into high gear in the NFL, but it never hurts to take a sneak peak at what to expect during training camp. This year, like most years, there are at least a handful of teams with some uncertainty as to who their starting quarterback is going to be when the season starts. In preparation for some preseason quarterback battles, let’s countdown the five most intriguing quarterback situations that we’ll be able to watch play out between now and the start of the season.
5. Cleveland – The job will probably end up going to Brandon Weeden, and considering the Browns used a first round pick on him a year ago, they’d probably like it to go to Weeden, and at least give him another year. However, Jason Campbell could make things interesting during training camp, especially if Weeden struggles. Despite his problems as the backup in Chicago last season, Campbell has had plenty of good seasons in the league, so it’s not farfetched to think that Campbell could outperform Weeden in training camp, which could make things interesting this fall since the organization has a lot more invested in Weeden.
4. Oakland – Matt Flynn is expected to be the starter in Oakland, but that may not be set in stone just yet. Aside from a couple good games surrounded by Green Bay’s wealth of skill players, Flynn hasn’t done much to just be handed a starting job in the NFL, so he’s going to need some competition in training camp. Terrelle Pryor probably isn’t ready to challenge for a starting spot, but rookie Tyler Wilson might be. Although Wilson would be better off having a year or two to develop, he could pose a serious problem for Flynn. Wilson is a strong leader, which the Raiders will be impressed with, and he’s tough as nails, which will be important, as Oakland’s quarterback figures to take a lot of hits this season. If Flynn doesn’t establish himself as the starter early in the preseason, he could have a fight on his hands with Wilson, which could get quite interesting.
3. Buffalo – Things in Buffalo became simplified when they released Tarvaris Jackson, which means it’ll either be Kevin Kolb or rookie E.J. Manuel. Manuel is a player who can benefit from having time to develop before he becomes the starter, but Kolb doesn’t have a great track record as a starter, so the Bills may be better of going with Manuel right away. If there’s one thing new head coach Doug Marrone loves, it’s competition, so he’s going to let things play out during the preseason and start who he thinks gives Buffalo the best chance to win. That means neither Kolb nor Manuel should be considered the favorite heading into training camp, and whoever performs better during the preseason is going to be the starter when the regular season begins, which should make Buffalo’s quarterback situation interesting to watch play out.
2. New York Jets – If Tim Tebow were still around the Jets would undoubtedly top this list, but even without him there’s a good chance they’ll be able to create a messy and intriguing situation at the quarterback position. Without an x-factor like Tebow in the picture, the Jets have a good old-fashioned duel between incumbent Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith. Smith is a fresh face, which should get the fan base behind him, but his ceiling as a quarterback may not be anything better than what Sanchez has shown during the last four years. The Jets have been great at making bad decisions and doing things to embarrass the organization over the last few years, and this quarterback situation is another opportunity to do just that. Ultimately, there may not be a right or wrong answer between Sanchez and Smith, but no matter which one gets the start on opening day, it’ll be fascinating to watch the Jets handle the competition between the two between now and then.
1. Philadelphia – The Eagles claim the top spot on this list for the most intriguing quarter situation in the NFL because they have three candidates that will factor into the competition during training camp. Michael Vick seems like the obvious choice to run Chip Kelly’s offense because of his running ability, but he’ll also have to make good decisions, take care of the football, and use his arm, all of which could be a problem for him. Matt Barkley doesn’t have great arm strength or playmaking ability with his legs, but he can make good decisions and get the ball out quickly, so he could end up being a factor in the competition if he can adapt quickly to the speed of the NFL. Nick Foles doesn’t seem like a good fit for Kelly’s system, but the Eagles elected to keep him around when they could have traded him for an extra draft pick or two, so Kelly must see something in him that he likes. With so much mystery surrounding Kelly and what his offense will look like, and the fact that they have three different quarterbacks with three drastically different skill sets, this will be the quarterback situation that will be the most intriguing to watch between now and the start of the regular season.
Honorable Mention: Jacksonville – The Jaguars situation at quarterback is more pathetic than intriguing. They didn’t take a quarterback in the draft, so they’re either making the wise choice of waiting for next year’s quarterback class, or making the delusional decision of actually believing Blaine Gabbert can be a starter in the NFL. Jacksonville did sign two undrafted free agents in Jordan Rodgers and Matt Scott, but they’re not going to bench a former first round pick for Chad Henne, Mike Kafka, or an undrafted free agent until Gabbert falls flat on his face, and by the time that happens it’ll be October and the Jaguars will still be winless, so nobody will be all that interested in what’s going on in Jacksonville.
So you really like football. The hard hitting is fun. Drinking on Sunday's with friends is great. Drafting your fantasy team and managing your roster gives you bragging rights. What do you do during the off-season? Sure, you follow the draft and free agency, but OTA's are nonsense (please attach story on OTA's), and there isn't even a preseason game for months. Ahhh, Las Vegas has the answer. Start studying up, NFL over/under's have been released.
The LVH Superbook is one of the biggest and most respected in the industry. They have provided a win total for every team in the league and handicappers have an opportunity to wager on whether a team will win more or less games than the total. Without further ado, our five favorite investments.
Oakland Under 5.5 – The Raiders went 4-12 last season and what reason do we have to believe that they will be two games better this year? Matt Flynn is a huge question at quarterback who may be an improvement on Carson Palmer, and just as easily might not. Even if Flynn plays well, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford and Nick Kasa aren't exactly elite targets. Home games against the Jaguars, San Diego, Tennessee and Kansas City seem like the best chances for wins. On the road Oakland could win in Kansas City, San Diego, or against the Jets. The other 11 games seem like unlikely spots to triumph. What are the odds they go 6-1 in the seven winnable games?
Baltimore Over 8.5 – The Ravens have won nine games or more in five straight seasons. Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Dannell Ellerbe, and Paul Kruger are all gone. A lot of their money went to Joe Flacco. Doubting Ozzie Newsome has proven to be a mistake over the years. Chris Canty, Marcus Spears and Elvis Dumervil could prove to be good additions, and having Bryant McKinnie in the fold at left tackle from the start of the season should benefit Baltimore. If they go 3-1 against the AFC East, beat Cleveland twice and split with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, they need two wins among a six game group against Denver, Houston, Green Bay, Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit to hit nine victories.
New Orleans Over 9 – If it could go wrong last year it did for the Saints. While Sean Payton doesn't play defense, having their head coach around will make a major difference. Not having an NFL investigation taking place all season, and Drew Brees being under contract during the off-season will have a positive effect too. Two years ago New Orleans went 13-3. While their schedule is difficult, they have more talent than division rivals Tampa Bay and Carolina, and there are wins to be had against the AFC East.
Buffalo Under 6.5 – A rookie coach and rookie quarterback that play in a division with the Patriots and free spending Dolphins seem unlikely to do better than 3-3 in the division with 2-4 more likely. They take on the NFC South with four teams that are more talented than they are though beating Carolina at home is possible. Games against Jacksonville, Cleveland and Kansas City are potential victories but with two of them on the road they'll struggle to go 2-1 in the threesome. They won six games last year and have dramatically altered their roster. What leads us to believe this roster that needs to develop chemistry is any better than the previous one?
New York Jets Under 6.5 – Much like the Bills, New York has a talent deficit against division foes Miami and New England. Their quarterback situation is different than last year when Tim Tebow was in the fold, but doesn't feel any more settled. If things start slowly, Rex Ryan will either by fired or discussion of his job status will discussed endlessly. Besides home games against Oakland and Cleveland and Buffalo it is hard to find a game they'll be favored win.
With the draft finished and all of free agency’s biggest and best names off the market, each team’s roster is, more or less, set. Until, of course, training camp. When training camp and the pre season rolls around there are always a series of cuts to every roster; most expected, others not so much. Predicting the obvious cuts won’t be much fun, what with them being obvious and all, and often requires absurd amounts of research as they aren’t generally what I’d consider “household” names. For a look at some of the less likely - yet, still all too possible - names that could be hitting free agency in August, division by division, take a gander down yonder.
Buffalo Bills, WR/QB Brad Smith: If you’re still trying to figure out what exactly Brad Smith brings to the table on this Bills team, you’re not alone. He’s not a good receiver, the Bills don’t run enough of the wildcat to even make him deserving of being distinguished as a quarterback on this club and he’s no Devin Hester in the return game. By cutting ties with Smith the Bills could save nearly $3M against this season’s salary cap and get more snaps for their younger receivers. Smith isn’t a bad guy to have on the roster all things considered, but not for a cap hit of $3.75M.
Miami Dolphins, DE Jared Odrick: As crazy as this sounds, Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins could, at some point in 2013, find a way to save money rather than spend it. One such cost effective move would be cutting ties with Odrick, the defensive end who’s become all too expendable with the addition of Dion Jordan via the draft. The one thing that could save Odrick is the way his contract is structured. The benefit of saving a bit of money or having a solid rotation and depth at end will have to be weighed out carefully by Dolphins brass before coming to a decision on this one.
New England Patriots, CB Kyle Arrington: Calling 2012 a disastrous season for Arrington is somewhat of an understatement. On a defensive unit that struggled so mightily as a whole, Arrington somehow found a way to outperform his teammates in that regard. Then again, he did just sign his new contract and the Patriots are always in need of help in the secondary. It’s just absurd how much Arrington is being overpaid however and that alone should make his being cut worth consideration.
New York Jets, LB Calvin Pace: I know you had to be expecting Mark Sanchez’s name to make the cut, but the retirement of David Garrard and the massive cap hit they would incur to cut ties with him make it very unlikely to happen. That leaves me with Calvin Pace as the obvious cut, for the sole reason that he, much like Sanchez, just isn’t very good. There’s also little long term cap harm to take on by cutting ties with Pace and they can save 500,000 on this year’s cap. Seems like peanuts, but with cap rollover and all, it could prove valuable down the line.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
While NFL rookies are experiencing mini-camp for the first time and getting their first taste of life in the NFL, we’re still pouring over the results of the draft. This week we’ll be ranking teams based on how they drafted compared to the other teams in their division. First up is the AFC East, whose teams made quite a splash during the draft, not that we’d expected anything less. Here’s how the teams of the AFC East stack up against one another:
1. Miami – The Dolphins made a splash by trading up to get Dion Jordan, who may end up being the best pass rusher in this draft, and was certainly the safest pick among the pass rushers taken in the first round. Miami also drafted a pair of cornerbacks that both have the potential to be starters for them in Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. Jordan, Taylor, and Davis will help Miami’s pass defense immensely after the Dolphins ranked 27th in the league in pass defense last season.
The Dolphin’s offense also got considerable help from offensive lineman Dallas Thomas and running back Mike Gillislee. Tight end Dion Sims is a perfect fit for the NFL and will give Miami a great new weapon in the passing game. There’s something to like about every pick the Dolphins made, including place kicker Caleb Sturgis, who was one of the most accurate kickers in college football over the past few seasons, and that gives Miami the best draft in the division and one of the best in the NFL.
2. New York Jets – The Jets are a distant second in this division, as they failed to add any offensive skill position players in the draft, a dire need they have no matter who ends up being their quarterback this year. That being said, the Jets used their two first round picks to replace Darrelle Revis with Dee Milliner and bolster their defensive line with Sheldon Williams.
New York was also able to get a quarterback with a first round grade in the second round in Geno Smith, which essentially gives them three first round picks. The Jets also addressed a need by drafting three offensive linemen, which may have been one too many, but third round pick Brian Winters should start right away and has the versatility to play multiple positions, making him a great pick. But despite adding a handful of good players, not drafting any offensive playmakers was a huge failure for the Jets, keeping them far behind the Dolphins on this list.
3. Buffalo – The Bills ended up with some good pieces, as Doug Marrone hopes to start a reclamation project in Buffalo, but the team went about things the wrong way. E.J. Manuel might have been the quarterback they wanted, but they picked him far too early, as he still would have been available in the second round, and possibly even later than that, although trading down in he first round was a smart move.
Buffalo did pick up a pair of wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, but their defense was a much bigger need coming into the draft. They needed to add impact defensive players in the early round, but linebacker Kiko Alonso was the only defensive player they drafted in the first three rounds. Using their late-round picks on a place kicker and a receiving tight end instead of adding depth to their defense were also questionable picks, and kept them from having a better draft.
4. New England – The Patriots traded away their first round pick and didn’t use the picks they did have wisely, as they came away without an impact player. The first pick they made was second round linebacker Jamie Collins, who will help their pass rush considerably, but he’s not an every down player. The wide receivers they took, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, will provide solid depth, but neither are the game breakers the Patriots are looking for, especially after losing Wes Welker.
Bill Belichick clearly likes defensive backs from Rutgers, taking both Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon in the third round, but both were a stretch to take in the third round, especially Harmon. Not only were the Patriots absent from the first round, but they also didn’t have any picks in the fifth of sixth rounds, losing out on a chance to get younger and add some depth to their roster. Overall, there’s little to like about what New England did in this draft, and that puts them far below the questionable drafts the Jets and Bills had, which says a lot.
We all know the story of Victor Cruz, as well as countless other wide receivers that were ignored on draft day, but went on to become significant contributors. Here are some wide receivers from this year’s class that went undrafted, but have the skills to be impact players in the NFL.
Da’Rick Rogers – The Buffalo Bills hit the jackpot when they signed Rogers as an undrafted free agent. Rogers has a wealth of character issues to be concerned about, which is why he was kicked off the team at Tennessee and forced to transfer last season, but Rogers has as much talent as any wide receiver that was drafted in the first three rounds of the draft. He has the size and physical attributes that NFL teams drool over, and if he can get his head on straight and put forth effort and dedication, he could become a starting wide receiver in the league for a long time.
Emory Blake – Blake has NFL genes and stood out in college football’s best conference early in his career, but his team lacked a proficient quarterback late in his career, and the lack of production hurt his stock, which caused him to go undrafted. He has enough size to play outside and enough speed to push the defense vertically, as well as the quickness to be used on short passing routes. That skill set will make Blake a useful fourth or fifth receiver if he’s able to play well on special in order to hold a roster spot. He signed with St. Louis, who appears to be overhauling their corps of wide receivers with the drafting of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Blake is a nice complement to those two receivers, as he can help stretch the field vertically and open up the middle of the field for Austin and Bailey to attack with their speed. This gives Blake an opportunity to not only stay on an NFL roster, but also become an integral part of the Ram’s passing attack.
Alec Lemon – Don’t pay attention to his measurables, just look at his production. Just as he did in high school, all Lemon did in college was catch the ball, breaking Rob Moore’s record for career receptions at Syracuse. He has one of the strongest sets of hands of any wide receiver in this year’s class and will catch anything thrown his way, catching all the close-range fastballs Ryan Nassib threw at him for the past three years. Lemon’s not afraid to go across the middle, which makes him perfect to play the slot position in the NFL. He signed after the draft with the Texans, who have plenty of size on the outside, but need someone to play in the slot, which could make Lemon the perfect fit for them.
Brandon Kaufman – An injury his senior year of high school kept the 6’5’’ Kaufman from playing BCS football and drawing more attention. Even 93 catches for 1,850 yards at Eastern Washington wasn’t enough to get him drafted, but it got him a free agent deal with the Bills, a team that’s in dire need of wide receivers. He’s tall and long with an NFL body, and he knows how to use it in order to catch the football. He’s dangerous in both the red zone and on vertical routes. The things Kaufman lacks like route running are all skills that can be taught by NFL coaches, while Kaufman has a lot of natural ability that can’t be taught, and if he can put the two together he’ll be a starter in the NFL.
Ryan Spadola – Spadola comes from Lehigh and signed with the New York Jets, who could have another Wayne Chrebet on their hands, as Chrebet also came from a small school. He has great pass-catching abilities and a surprising amount of vertical speed. Spadola will probably end up playing the slot, but he has the skills to do a lot of damage from that position and become an impact player.