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11AFC East Offseason Needs: Patriots, Jets, Bills, Dolphins

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.

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11New York Jets Showing True Colors

Rex Ryan and the New York Jets almost had us fooled. Give Ryan and the team some credit, because they really had us going there for a while; making us think that we were all wrong about writing them off before the season started as one of the worst teams in the NFL. For the first couple months of the season, Ryan and the Jets actually had us thinking they could compete for a playoff spot in a wide-open AFC wildcard race. But over the last few weeks, Gang Green has shown their true colors by playing absolutely dreadful football, and to borrow a line from Dennis Green: the Jets are who we thought they were.

We really shouldn’t have been fooled, as the Jets were the epitome of inconsistent for much of the season, alternating wins and losses over their first 10 games, and even their wins weren’t all that impressive. They were handed a week 1 win by a Tampa Bay team that committed 13 penalties, including a couple costly ones on the final drive of the game. They escaped a young Buffalo team in week 3 that couldn’t take advantage of the 20 penalties the Jets committed. They won on a late field in week 5 against Atlanta, a team that is also one of the worst in the NFL. They benefited from a controversial penalty in overtime to beat New England in week 7. They had just one impressive win, and that came week 9 against New Orleans, although the Saints haven’t been quite so dominant over the past month.

When the Jets weren’t lucky to escape with wins, they looked as pitiful as can be, but they would come back and win the following week to remain in contention and continue tricking us into thinking that they were a competitive team. During their first five losses of the season, the Jets averaged just over 10 points per game, with an average margin of defeat of over 20 points, but because they retained a .500 record, we assumed they were on par with the other teams in contention for the AFC wildcard. However, judging by the last two weeks, the charade is up, as the Jets looked pitiful and scored only three points against both the Ravens and Dolphins, two teams that aren’t exactly dominating with defense this season. It’s now obvious that the Jets are an awful offensive team with a defense that can only carry them so far, and a delusional coach that’s on his way out the door.

With the preseason injury to Mark Sanchez, the Jets had no choice to start Geno Smith, whose intangibles and NFL readiness were questioned, despite plenty of arm talent, and now it’s clear that he’s unprepared to lead an NFL offense, as the Jets have the fewest passing yards in the league, with Smith throwing for less than 160 yards in each of the last five weeks. Of course, it’s not all on Smith; there were serious questions about the Jets’ skill players heading into the season, and those questions have not been answered, leaving Smith without quality passing targets. The Jets have a pair of solid running backs in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, but neither is a back capable of carrying a team that’s so inept throwing the ball, leaving the Jets with little offensive firepower.

That’s who we thought the Jets were coming into the season: a team with a terrible offense and a defense that would be good, but not good enough to make up for a team that couldn’t find the end zone on a regular basis. Finally, after nearly three months of disguising themselves as a halfway decent team, the Jets are finally showing everyone who they’ve been all along. While they may still be mathematically alive for a spot in the postseason, there is no way a playoff birth is a reality for the Jets. They are simply an awful football team with no leadership and no direction. That’s what we thought we’d see from them when the season began and it’s what we’ve seen from them the last three weeks, as they can’t hide anymore from who they truly are.

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11William Cullen, Mired In Property Dispute With Widow Of Former New York Jet Sam DeLuca, Can’t Enter Part Of His Own Home

Thanks to a property dispute, a retired NYPD cop risks being arrested if he enters a portion of his house in Westchester County, N.Y.

The New York Daily News reports that the trespassing ruling earlier this year is the latest turn in the decade-old battle between William Cullen and the widow of New York Jets player Sam DeLuca.

Their houses are on opposite sides of stone wall that was built more than 100 years ago. The stone was the the undisputed boundary for years, but a subsequent survey redrew the property lines and put three feet of Cullen’s house on DeLuca’s property.

Cullen sought to do home repairs, but couldn’t get a permit from town officials because the house wasn’t on his property anymore.

Apparently, the issue went to court, but a judge sided with the subsequent survey, meaning Cullen could be a trespasser in his own house if he enters the disputed area.

“This judge drew a line through my house, and said, ‘You don’t own this part of the house,’” Cullen told the Daily News.

DeLuca was a guard for the New York Jets in the 1960s. He became a broadcaster after sustaining a career-ending injury, according to The New York Times. He passed away in 2011.

DeLuca’s widow believes she’s been victorious in the property dispute.

“It’s all been settled in our favor,” said Diane DeLuca, according to the New York Daily News. “The case has been to the (state) Supreme Court in New York twice, and it’s all settled now.”

Cullen is reportedly trying to find an appeals lawyer in an attempt to convince a federal judge that “there’s something outrageously fraudulent here.”

Sources: New York Daily News, The New York Times

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11Mark Sanchez Needs Surgery, Reminds Everyone He’s Better than Jets Rookie Geno Smith

The New York Jets better get used to seeing Geno Smith leading the offense, because he isn’t going anywhere. On the heels of Thursday night’s surprisingly close game between the Jets and New England Patriots, all football-related talk in New York surrounds the status of the guy who originlly (narrowly) won the starting quarterback spot, Mark Sanchez.

According to USA Today, Sanchez needs shoulder surgery and will almost certainly be placed on the injured reserve list. This of course directly contradicts what Sanchez himself said this week on Rich Eisen’s podcast, when he noted that he was “pleasantly surprised” by how much progress he was making and that there was “no plan for surgery at this time.”

Sanchez originally hurt his shoulder during a preseason showdown against the New York Giants.

On an amusing, somewhat related note: During his interview with Eisen, Sanchez was trolled into taking a little shot at the rookie that Rex Ryan and Co. clearly brought in to replace him.

"Do you feel you won the [QB] competition?" Eisen asked him, point blank.

"There's no doubt," Sanchez said. "It was a done deal.

He’s right, of course – it was a done deal. Sanchez is definitely less bad than Smith. However, it’s still pretty funny that, even though it serves absolutely no purpose, Sanchez will never pass up an opportunity to take someone down a peg and stroke his own ego.

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112013 NFL Week 2 Breakdown: New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

The Patriots will look to continue their dominance over the New York Jets in their home opener in Foxborough Thursday night.

Unlike years past though, one could argue that there are almost as many questions surrounding the Patriots as the Jets going into this one. After all, Tom Brady will most likely be missing his top 2 targets from week 1 in Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola, while Gronkowski is still on the mend. This is on the heels of a victory over the Bills in which Brady looked very unconnected with his WR’s and TE’s for almost the entire game.

On the other side of the field, for the second week in a row, a rookie QB will look put up points against a Bill Belichick led defense. Now, usually that would sound like a definite advantage to the Patriots, which I think it still is, but if you watched week 1 there could be slight reason for concern. Last week in Buffalo, Bills rookie E.J Manuel threw for 150 yards, 2 TD, and ran for 19 without turning the ball over once to the top ranked “take away” defense from last year.

As far as turnovers go though, you would think that could be the turning point in the game for both teams. Both teams turned the ball over multiple times in week 1 and ended up having to win the game at the end. It will be crucial for the Jets that they take care of the football and don’t let Brady and company seize the momentum, because that when they tend to step on your throat better than any other team.

Lastly, we all know that when it comes to a rivalry, all bets are off. These two coaches and teams know each other very well, neither team looks to be very smooth on offense as of yet, and both defenses have given the other team’s fits over the past few years.

Prediction: What does all this mean? That the Jets are going to go on the road with a rookie QB and stun the 11 ½ point favorite Patriots. Let’s not get crazy. After all, it is still the Jets we are talking about. Plus, the Pats have one huge advantage we didn’t talk much about, but everybody already knows: they will be starting Tom Brady while the Jets will be going with Geno Smith.

In the end though, as long as Geno takes care of the football, don’t be surprised if it is closer than the spread indicates and the Patriots have to win ugly with a depleted WR and TE corps.

Tell me how wrong I am on twitter @Cole_Stevenson

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11Mark Sanchez' Season, Career With Jets May Be Over

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez’ tenure with Gang Green has be tumultuous to say the least. Now, you can add a potential season-ending injury to the list of problems he’s faced in the NFL.

Dr. James Andrews confirmed to ESPN Wednesday that Mark Sanchez tore the right labrum in his right, throwing shoulder, and is "likely to have surgery,” according to team and league sources, as well as a source close to Sanchez. The surgery would end his 2013 season, and leave the Jets offense in the hands of rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

Sanchez who is still trying to make a final decision on whether to have the surgery told ESPN late Wednesday night via text message, "If I needed surgery right now, I never would have left Andrews' office. I would've stayed and got the surgery." Asked if he wanted to deny that he was likely to have surgery, Sanchez texted: "There's nothing to report. It's reckless."

Labrums cannot heal on their own—only through surgery—and Sanchez’ decision would likely be based on how effective he could be at passing with a torn labrum, and if he would still be a better option than Smith, who the Jets drafted from West Virginia University in the second round of 2013 NFL Draft.

Smith won the first start of his career in Sunday's 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The rookie led a late, game-winning drive, albeit aided by a key penalty. Smith finished 24 of 38 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown while leading the team with 47 yards rushing.

According to NFL.com, Sanchez’ days with the Jets just may be done.

“If Sanchez's 2013 season indeed is lost, it's a near certainty he has played his last snap with the Jets, a team he helped lead to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two NFL seasons.

“With rookie Geno Smith coming off a Week 1 victory, it would be seen as a step backward to re-insert Sanchez into the starting lineup. Now it appears Sanchez's health could make that option a moot point,” writes Dan Hanzus

Sources: ESPN, NFL.com

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11New York Jets Should Not Play Two Quarterbacks

The New York Jets have perhaps the most intriguing quarterback competition of the NFL preseason, as incumbent Mark Sanchez tries to retain his job by fending off rookie Geno Smith. However, the Jets have put a twist on that competition by intimating that if Sanchez does indeed win the starting job that it would be possible to see Smith get snaps, possibly as a read-option specialist to give the Jets’ offense a different dimension. This is a horrible idea, and if it’s actually implemented during the regular season, it will have a long list of negative consequences for both Sanchez and Smith, as well as the Jets.

The Jets tried to do the same thing last year with Tim Tebow, but it didn’t work then with a player that’s only useful running the ball, and it’s not going to work now with a quarterback in Smith that actually has the potential to be a starter in the NFL. If Sanchez ends up being the best quarterback on the team and is made the starter, then he should be handed the keys to the entire offense, and he shouldn’t have to worry about being interrupted midway through a drive. Due to the manner that the team, most notably head coach Rex Ryan, have jerked Sanchez around over the past couple of years, he is low on confidence, and having to sit out plays while a rookie takes over isn’t going to inspire confidence in him, especially when that rookie is a legitimate threat to take over his job full time. If Sanchez is going to have any chance to be successful this year and lead the team to wins, he needs to have confidence and feel that the team is behind him, which won’t be the case if Smith keeps getting subbed in and throwing Sanchez off his rhythm.

As for Smith, making him a read-option novelty isn’t going to help his development; he needs to become accustomed to being a full-time quarterback. Although Smith is a good athlete and a capable runner, that’s not the strength of his game, and it’s not the reason why the Jets drafted him in the second round. Smith is a pass-first quarterback, and isn’t always comfortable leaving the pocket; and even when he does, he is generally still looking downfield for an open receiver to throw to. Making Smith enter the game at odd times to run the read-option would take him out of his comfort zone and not put him in a position to have success, which is not going to help the Jets win games, and it’s not going to help make Smith a better quarterback.

Furthermore, the fan base is already divided between Sanchez and Smith, and making it a point to play both of them will only add to that. That’s not to suggest that fans should dictate decision making, or even have any say in the matter, but giving Smith any playing time while Sanchez is the starter opens the door to speculation that Sanchez could be replaced at any moment, and that kind of instability at quarterback would not be beneficial to the Jets this season.

As tempting as it might be to use Smith as a read-option quarterback in short stints, the Jets don’t need to recreate the situation they had last season with Tebow. It won’t benefit Smith’s development and it won’t benefit Sanchez to be sharing snaps with his backup. If the Jets are serious about winning, and serious about giving Sanchez a honest chance to lead them to wins, they need to let him play and keep Smith on the bench unless he’s ready to take over for Sanchez full time. The Jets are the last team in the NFL that needs a quarterback controversy to take place during the regular season, and once the preseason is over they should avoid creating one at all costs.

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11Who Will the New York Jets' Playmakers Be?

Much of the summer for the New York Jets has revolved around who the starting quarterback is going to be this season: incumbent Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith. But there’s another issue that the Jets have been slow to address that could be just as important as their starting quarterback: who are their offensive playmakers going to be? As much as Sanchez was blamed for the team’s struggles last season, his struggles can be blamed in part on a lack of quality skill players at his disposal. Without an improved group of backs and receivers, it may not matter who the Jets put at quarterback in 2013.

To their credit, the Jets were pro-active in trying to improve their backfield after losing last year’s leading rusher Shonn Greene in free agency to the Tennessee Titans. The Jets made a trade for Chris Ivory, an under-rated and under-utilized back who is still young enough for his best years to still be ahead of him, if he’s in the right situation and given an opportunity to play regularly.

New York intends to give Ivory that opportunity and make him the starter, hoping that he can take the reigns of a running game that was at least serviceable last season. Meanwhile, Mike Goodson, who they acquired in free agency, will be used as the third-down back, with Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight there to provide depth. With rookie fullback Tommy Bohanon added to the backfield, the Jets should feel good about having at least an average running game this season.

The wide receiver position is where the Jets should be concerned, especially since they didn’t do anything during the draft or in free agency to improve at that position after just one receiver, Jeremy Kerley, caught over 30 passes last year. Kerley led the team with 827 receiving yards last season, and having such a mediocre leading receiver is not something that can’t repeat itself, regardless of who’s under center for the Jets. The Jets are holding out hope that Santonio Holmes will be able to return from the injury that kept him out for most of last season and be back to 100%, but if that doesn’t happen, the team will find itself in the same position they were in last year when Holmes went down, except now they’ll also be without tight end Dustin Keller, who left for Miami in free agency.

Even if Holmes is healthy, and close to the player he was at the start of last season, there isn’t much help around him. Kerley and the always-disappointing Stephen Hill are New York’s top options other than Holmes, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in that unit. There are a slew of young receivers that the Jets will take a look at during training camp, such as Vidal Hazelton, Zach Rogers, Ryan Spadola, and Marcus Davis, but the Jets shouldn’t expect to get too much out of that group. The corps of receivers is so pitiful that the signing of tight end Kellen Winslow may have been the most promising move the Jets made this offseason to bring in a potential receiving target for their quarterbacks, and while Winslow may be the most talented tight end the team has, he’s getting old and is far from a guarantee to be a productive player for them.

While the attention in Jets training camp will all be on the quarterbacks, it’ll be important to remember that the group of receivers those quarterbacks will be throwing to is as thin and unreliable as it gets around the NFL. The Jets should be able to run the ball, which will take some of the pressure of Sanchez and Smith as their quarterback battle moves into the preseason, but the Jets are at a loss for offensive playmakers in the passing game, and that’s bound to make life difficult for whichever quarterback wins the starting job. Considering the lack of quality receivers on the Jets’ roster, it may not even matter who’s playing quarterback this year.

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11Darrelle Revis Buys No. 24 From Mark Barron for $50K

The long and not-so awaited on decision of what number Darrelle Revis will bring with him to Tampa Bay has finally been made. And it’s a decision that was come to with an absurd amount of cash and a little creativity.

According to Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch.com, Revis has made an arrangement with Buccaneers safety Mark Barron to stick with his traditional number of 24. An agreement that didn’t come cheap.

If you’re struggling with finances right now, viewer discretion is advised. It cost Revis a reported $50,000 to secure his old number. That figure represents somewhere in the neighbourhood of six percent of his weekly salary of $765,000. Or, 0.003 percent of his annual salary. Everything is relative right?

After surrendering (or selling, depending on your perspective) the number 24 to Revis, it is reported that Barron will switch to the number 23. Which, by my reckoning, isn’t a half bad number either.

Whether they will admit it or not, everybody has their sports superstitions - consciously or otherwise. Up to this point however, there had never been a price tag put on such a thing; or at least not one this lucrative. The price of superstition, $50,000.

You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV

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11New York Jets a Lock to Bench Their Starting Quarterback

With so much parody in the NFL, it can be tough to make any kind of predictions, especially more than two months before the regular season starts. However, if there’s a good bet that can be made this far in advance, it’s that at some point this season the New York Jets will bench their starting quarterback in favor of the backup. Obviously, who will be the starter and who will be the backup is yet to be determined, but regardless of who starts and who the back up is at the start of the season, a swap of quarterbacks at some point during the season could be imminent.

There are so many signs that point to a quarterback change for the Jets being likely. First and foremost, there are the issues they had at quarterback last season with the profound struggles of Mark Sanchez, constant speculation about starting Tim Tebow, Sanchez eventually getting benched in favor of Greg McElroy, and Sanchez only finishing the season as the start because of McElroy suffering a concussion. There was a lot of chaos and a lot of moving parts at quarterback last year, and while Tebow was released, the drafting of Geno Smith provided no clarity in New York’s quarterback situation, which means there could once again be a lack of continuity at that position.

Another reason to think that the Jets will have a quarterback change at some point this season is because head coach Rex Ryan is on the hot seat. After making a number of brash guarantees and predictions, Ryan has failed to deliver, and 2013 may be his last chance to bring the Jets back to the playoffs. If his team isn’t winning, Ryan will have to make changes in season, and quarterback will likely be one of the first changes he makes. The Jets schedule could work to expedite that change, as they play three of their first five games on the road and five of their first eight games against teams that made the playoffs last year, which means wins could be tough to find for New York early in the season.

With a coach who’s desperate for wins, a tough schedule, and a lack of quality skill players to help, the starting quarterback will certainly have a lot going against him at the beginning of the season, and if he’s not able to overcome it, then a change is likely to come. Then, the biggest question facing the Jets is not who wins the preseason quarterback battle between Sanchez and Smith, but would it be better to replace Smith with Sanchez or replace Sanchez with Smith midway through the season.

It’s no secret that a majority of Jets fans prefer to go with Smith, but it stands to reason that a rookie quarterback would have difficulty winning under these circumstances. If Smith falters, Ryan would be forced to go back to Sanchez with hope, but little confidence, that he will be able to help turn things around. On the other hand, the Jets could go back to Sanchez as the starter, much to the dismay of their fans, but he may be their best chance to win right now. Then if things don’t work out, Smith will have had more time to prepare before taking over the starting job, while also getting to play against a more manageable schedule the second half of the season.

Whoever the Jets ultimately choose to be their starting quarterback to begin the season isn’t likely to be the starter the entire season. With so much pressure to win, so much working against them on the field, and so little clarity at the quarterback position heading into training camp the Jets look like a team that will once again have a lot of controversy at that position. Right now, it’s tough to know when it might come and who might be replacing whom, but the odds are good that at some point this season there will be a quarterback change in New York.

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