Now that the Super Bowl and the 2013 season are in our rearview mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2014 season and the NFL offseason that’s just getting underway. The first step is to examine the offseason needs of each to team to see where they need to focus their efforts in free agency and the draft. We’ll start today with the teams of the AFC East.
Buffalo Bills – Much of the Bills’ 2014 season will hinge on the development of quarterback E.J. Manuel and the team’s young wide receivers, but there are several areas where they can improve their roster. A pass-catching tight end and an improved offensive line could go a long way toward helping Manuel make big strides in 2014, so those are two areas for the Bills to address. Buffalo does have one of the strongest defensive lines in the NFL, but they need to add one, if not two, quality linebackers to play alongside Kiko Alonso. The team also needs to re-sign safety Jairus Byrd, and if they can’t do that they’ll need to find a way to adequately replace his presence in their secondary.
Miami Dolphins – For a team that was so close to reaching the postseason, the Dolphins have a lot of work to do this offseason. Miami may need to completely overhaul its offensive line, which is a task that could take up a majority of their time and resources during the offseason. Adding help at running back could also be a part of Miami’s plans this offseason. Defensively, Miami could stand to make improvement at all three levels, although the interior of the defensive line and the secondary are their most pressing needs.
New England Patriots – The Patriots making it to the AFC Championship Game this year with a watered down set of skill players shows that the window to get to the Super Bowl is still open if they can make some improvements. Tom Brady can still do a lot, but he needs more support. New England would be wise to bring in the best wide receiver they can find, while also acquiring a tight end to both guard against another injury to Rob Gronkowski and give them a two tight end attack, which has worked well for them in the past. Help along the offensive line is also a must for the Patriots, as they need to keep Brady healthy for as long as possible. Defensively, New England has some good young talent, although they could use some more depth in their secondary.
New York Jets – Before they do anything else, the Jets need to find some offensive playmakers. New York needs to add at least two, perhaps three, quality wide receivers that they know will be productive in 2014. Adding a tight end would also be beneficial for their offense. The offensive line could use some help as well, but it’s not as much of a priority as the skill positions. Defensively, the Jets are in good shape under Rex Ryan, although they are in need of a safety after their mid-season signing of Ed Reed didn’t work out and they’re also going to need some reinforcements at linebacker, specifically an outside pass rusher.
Rob Hopkins, Who Fell From Upper Deck Of Buffalo Bills Stadium Onto Crowd Below, Fired By Employer (Video)
The man who slid down a railing at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., and fell from the upper deck into fans below has reportedly been fired from his job.
The incident at the stadium took place during Sunday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets when Rob Hopkins lost his balance sliding down a railing in the 300 level and then crashed into the crowd below, according to The New York Daily News.
Obviously, Hopkins’ employer wasn’t thrilled that it was one of their employees who fell from the upper deck. WKBW reports that Eric Mower and Associates in Buffalo, which employed Hopkins, released a statement on Tuesday.
"EMA is very concerned about Sunday’s incident at the Buffalo Bills' game and we are relieved that the injured were released from the hospital. Rob Hopkins is no longer employed by EMA."
One fan in the 200 level of the stadium was injured, while Hopkins sustained a shoulder injury. Both were treated and released from local hospitals.
On Monday, the Bills released a statement announcing that Hopkins was no longer welcome at their home venue.
"The irresponsible behavior that occurred at yesterday's game by the fan who fell from the upper deck is a violation of our Fan Code of Conduct and cannot, and will not, be tolerated. This individual will not be permitted back into Ralph Wilson Stadium."
WKBW also notes that Hopkins could face criminal charges, according to law enforcement sources.
After having Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart’s baby while he was still playing football in college six years ago, former USC basketball superstar Brynn Cameron gave birth to Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin’s kid in August. Cameron, 27, and Griffin, 24, are not still together but they did confirm that the baby is theirs.
Cole Cameron Leinart, 6, lives with his mother and Leinart pays up to $15,000 in monthly child support after a custody and support battle. She was a star basketball player at USC from 2004 to 2008 but missed the 2006-07 season when she was pregnant with Cole, The Daily Mail reported.
Cameron met Leinart, the future $51 million 2006 draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals, when he introduced himself during a study hall at USC.
Although Cameron and Leinart have had their personal and financial differences, their relationship is now amicable and the two are often seen in public with their son.
“We still fight and disagree on things,” Cameron said in an interview with the New York Times. “We’re both on the same page now for what we want with our son. We’ll be in each other’s lives forever, so we may as well get along and make the most of it.”
Cameron was hurt by accusations that she was a gold-digger and said it was very hard to have such an overly-publicized pregnancy.
“I was already devastated that I was pregnant,” Cameron said. “Then being pregnant and having it so public, emotionally, I can’t deal with this. There were times when I would break down — why is this so public, why do people care? After a while, you learn to not listen, to not care.”
Leinart was cut by the Buffalo Bills earlier this year.
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.
The Buffalo Bills have a lot of question marks heading into the season, but one place where they have a lot of potential amidst a lot of uncertainty is at the wide receiver position. With the offensive minded Doug Marrone the new head coach of the Bills, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve put a lot of emphasis this offseason on stockpiling offensive skill players, especially during the draft and immediately after. The result has been and young and talented contingent of wide receivers who are low in experience but high in talent.
The lone veteran of the group is Steve Johnson, who has been Buffalo’s leading receiver each of the last three seasons. Even without reliable receiving targets around him to take the pressure off, Johnson was able to amass over 1,000 yards receiving three years in a row. The Bills should be able to rely on Johnson to give them about 75 catches and 1,000 yards again this season, but if Buffalo expects to finish better than 25th in the NFL in passing offense the way they did last year, they’ll need to give Johnson some support.
The Bills took steps to give Johnson some support in this year’s draft, using two of their first four picks on wide receivers, with the hope that they’ll be able to make an immediate impact. Second round pick Robert Woods is a good bet to be the starter alongside Johnson. Woods doesn’t have the type of size and speed often associated with top-flight NFL receivers, but he has good hands, polished route-running skills, and the quickness to make plays in open space. Even if he doesn’t become a difference maker right away, Woods should at least become a viable target for whomever the quarterback of the Bills ends up being, and that should draw some attention away from Johnson.
Third round pick Marquise Goodwin is less polished than Woods, but he is an Olympic athlete with blazing speed, which is a dimension Buffalo will welcome to its offense. It may take a while for Goodwin to make an impact, but he has a high ceiling, and Marrone will find ways to utilize his speed, as he’ll try to slowly increase Goodwin’s role in the offense as the season progresses.
After the draft, the Bills added three more rookie wide receivers with nearly as much talent and potential as the wide outs they added during the draft. Da’Rick Rogers, who started his college career at Tennessee, could have been one of the first receivers taken in this year’s draft, but after he got kicked off the team at Tennessee prior to his junior season, he ended up going undrafted because of character issues. Marrone is the kind of coach that believes in discipline, and he will challenge Rogers to get his act together and focus on football. If Rogers can do that he has the talent to be an impact receiver for the Bills, who have nothing to lose by giving him a chance as a free agent. Brandon Kaufman was an overlooked player out of Eastern Washington, but at 6’5’’ he has the size that NFL teams look for in receivers, as well as the speed and hands to become a receiving threat vertically and in the red zone. Buffalo also added Kevin Norrell of Stony Brook, who has a reliable set of hands and should be able to make some catches for the Bills this season out of the slot.
In addition to the talented group of rookies, Buffalo has a few more young wide receivers that have only been in the league for a year or two and a still looking to establish themselves. T.J. Graham caught 31 passes as a rookie last season and could challenge for a starting spot after a strong performance in offseason workouts. Kevin Elliot had 10 catches for the Jaguars last year, coming on late in the season. Also, the Bills are still holding out hope for Marcus Easley, who has yet to see much of the field after being drafted in the fourth round in 2010. All three have a chance to join Buffalo’s rotation at receiver.
Outside of Johnson there are no guarantees in this group, especially with the uncertainty as to who the starting quarterback will be. But the Bills have collected a lot of young talent at the wide receiver position with the hope that some of it will be ready to contribute and make them less reliant on Johnson in the passing game. We won’t know until the season starts which of Buffalo’s receivers will be able step up and become play makers in the passing game, if any, but this young and talented group of receivers offers a lot of promise and should be exciting to watch this year.
The Buffalo Bills weren’t good enough to make the playoffs last year, and they’re no closer to getting there this year. They keep getting marginally better - barely keeping their head above water, really - and the rest of their division keeps making moves. For that reason and oh so many more, they can not let E.J. Manuel start in his first season in the NFL.
I’m no fan of the Bills selection of Manuel with the 15th overall pick. Calling it a reach doesn’t even do justice to the word and there’s no convincing me (and almost everyone else for that matter) that he had any business being the first quarterback selected in this year’s draft. The third quarterback maybe or maybe the fourth ideally, but by no stretch of the imagination the first.
Value and pre-draft rankings aside, even the most optimistic scouts felt Manuel was a project. All the physical tools are there, more or less - he just needs some time behind a savvy veteran quarterback to polish his technique up a bit. What he has in physical ability, he lacks in mental aptitude - to this point. Great physical tools, solid but far from perfect fundamentals and a developing football mind... These marks are not the ones of a week 1 starter.
In ending what is surely coming off as a hate parade on my part, at the expense of Manuel, I must let it be known I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him have a successful career in the NFL. The likelihood of this happening, however, is significantly decreased if he gets thrown to the wolves in his rookie year. Worst of all, if all he has to do is beat out Kevin Kolb and - for journalistic integrity’s sake, I probably should mention - Tarvaris Jackson for the job, to these wolves his career could likely be thrown.
Assuming Marrone’s not half as crazy as his first draft would indicate, Manuel is miles ahead of Kolb and, well, lightyears ahead of Jackson. Fine, that’s just great; still doesn’t make the Bills a contender.
So in keeping with reality, the Bills haven’t a hope in hell of making the playoffs. This much we know. The Dolphins and Jets both got considerably better this offseason and the Patriots are the Patriots; good luck coming out of that division. What benefit, if any, is there to letting Manuel’s confidence get beaten like a rented mule week after week for the sake of his gaining the “experience”? What good will these experiences do for Manuel if the vast majority of them are negative?
A lot can be said for patience in the NFL. It’s gotten the Seahawks and Niners to the top of power rankings nation wide and has played a key part in the rebuilding of several other successful franchises. More importantly, you can see the effect a lack of patience has had on even more. I’m looking at you Jacksonville, Arizona and Oakland - to name a few. If a little of this golden word (patience) is exerted on Manuel, the Bills might have a chance at adding Buffalo to the list of successful rebuilds and Marrone’s name to the list of unconventional geniuses. Best of luck otherwise.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
In case you haven’t heard, the Buffalo Bills signed Kevin Kolb to a 2 year contract worth $13M. The plan is to have Kolb compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting gig and possibly another quarterback added via the draft.
That’s hardly news at this point though. Hope you’re ready for this one Bills fans. Kevin Kolb, he of the zero playoff appearances, is coming to Buffalo to bring the city a Super Bowl! When asked why he chose the Bills Kolb said “I’m here to win the Super Bowl. Period”. It was really kind of cute if you ask me.
As much as I can appreciate Kolb’s confidence - or at least comedic value - I can’t help but laugh a little too. If I’m Carson Palmer I think there’s no better time than now to upgrade that helmet. This is what happens when you play behind the Cardinals offensive line.
The fact of the matter is this team isn’t even close to playoff contention, nevermind this Super Bowl talk. They did just finish one of the more hyped up season’s in recent history 6-10 and fire their coach after all. Oh, and release their starting quarterback. What I’m trying to say is, I can almost let unrealistic expectations slide due to that whole “athlete’s needing to be confident” thing. Something this absurd though, not so much.
Kolb needs to be more selective in his choice of words and try to not shove his chest out so far the next time he speaks to the media. At this point in his career I think he should stray away from unnecessary hype and bravado. It didn’t work well in Arizona and it’s not endearing himself to the fans in Buffalo.
The good news for Kolb is that at this point the brain damage should develop at a much slower pace behind a much better offensive line. The bad news: Kolb’s as many established weapons in the receiving game in Buffalo as he did in Arizona. Should be interesting to see how this pans out. Assuming he beats out Tarvaris Jackson and whichever quarterback they draft that is.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV