Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wilfork taking Pats' inefficient run defense personally

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

The New England Patriots defense has been one of polarity the past couple years, a circumstance that has defensive tackle Vince Wilfork pretty peeved.

The team's passing defense, a sore spot in year's past, has been pretty impressive the last two seasons, finishing in the middle of the pack in 2013 and currently first in the league this season. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the run defense.

Last year, while Wilfork spent most of his time on the bench rehabbing a torn Achilles, the Pats front seven was awful against the run. The unit allowed more than 130 yards on the ground per game on average, the third-worst performance in the league.

And though Wilfork is back in the picture this season, things haven't improved much.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Twitter analytics break down NFL fandom across US

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Over the summer, we provided you some data, via Ticketcity.com, of the most Googled sports teams in each state, with some surprising results.

Now, we're sure a bunch of you out there at the time were saying things like, "Well, not in my town," when teams like the Eagles popped up as the most popular in New Jersey, or when the Bruins topped the Patriots in Massachusetts.

Well now you can see for yourself, right down the county line.

Marrone on O-line: Urbik 'has to be ready to step up'

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Doug Marrone has caught a lot of flack of late for his depth chart decisions across the Buffalo Bills offensive line. Wednesday, it seemed like those decisions were getting a second look.

Reporters and fans alike have been questioning the placement of 23-year-old Cyril Richardson at left guard ever since Chris Williams was lost to a back injury a month ago. As we've pointed out, Richardson has ranked in the bottom five among guards in the league in the four games he's played, according to ProFootballFocus, allowing a sack, six QB hits and eight hurries in that time while committing four penalties.

With Richardson practicing with the second-team offense to start Wednesday's workout, however, while veteran Keith Urbik filled for first-team reps, it seems the youngster's time in the hot seat is over.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday's wheelings and dealings around the division

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

It was a busy day for general managers in the AFC East Tuesday, as all four teams were drafting contracts, new and old, ahead of the trade deadline Oct. 28. Here's what went down:

New York Jets

Gang Green signed wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to a four-year, $16 million extension, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. The 25-year-old, who's tallied close to 1,900 yards receiving and seven touchdowns since his fifth-round selection in 2011, told the team's website that, "Being a Jet is something I'm truly proud of. They gave me an opportunity and took a chance on me. I just feel like it was pretty much love at first sight."

Bills add Tanner to RB unit; Spiller put on IR-Return list

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

With word that both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are now officially out for a number of weeks following a pair of injuries in Week 7, the Buffalo Bills bolstered their thinning unit by signing running back Philip Tanner Tuesday.

Tanner, a former undrafted free agent, joins the Bills after a three-year stint in Dallas, where he saw 183 total snaps, according to ProFootballFocus. At 5-foot, 10-inches tall and 217 pounds, the 26-year-old out of Middle Tennessee State is the smallest back on the roster.

Tanner's averaged 2.7 yards per carry since he entered the league, though he had only nine carries all of last season while working as part of the Cowboys' practice squad.

Philbin: Plenty of questions surround Jordan's return

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Dion Jordan is eligible to return to action this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll be on the field, though.

The team technically has until Monday to decide on Jordan's roster status now that he's completed his second suspension of the season, the most recent for substance abuse issues. Moreover, coach Joe Philbin and the coaching staff have to decide whether they think Jordan is prepared -- in all aspects of the game -- to return this weekend.

"We’ll look at everything (including special teams)," Philbin said via Alain Poupart of the Dolphins' website Tuesday. We’re going to look at every single thing and dress the guys that we think are going to give us the best chance. Everything counts. Everything matters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gray adds another element to Pats' backfield sans Ridley

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Following news that running back Stevan Ridley was out for the season with a knee injury, Patriots fans expected to see an uptick in touches from utility man Shane Vereen in last Thursday's divisional game against the New York Jets, as well as some face time from bruiser Brandon Bolden. 

They got half that, as Bolden saw only one snap and had no carries, while Vereen had a season-high 11 rushing attempts for 43 yards.

What they did see, however, was the premiere of rookie Jonas Gray, who despite receiving only three carries was nonetheless impressive in his first NFL game.  

Harvin excited to work with Geno, blessed to have Vick

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Geno Smith looks like he'll continue to run the offense for the New York Jets, but it's Michael Vick that newly signed wide receiver Percy Harvin is excited to see.

Harvin, who was acquired for a conditional pick this past week, grew up in the same area of eastern Virginia as Vick. The two have reportedly been close for some time, and the new addition to Gang Green is looking forward to having his mentor close by.

"I’ve been in touch with him throughout my whole career," Harvin said via the team's website. "Whenever I needed advice or I just wanted to hang out, he’s a go-to guy. Being here with him, man, it’s a blessing."

Jackson confident in Dixon, Brown as Bills eye backups

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Celebrations were abound at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday following the last-second touchdown that sealed the victory for Buffalo Bills. The hugs prior to halftime, however, were those of consolation.

The team's top two running backs, veteran Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, left Sunday's game in sequential quarters, victims of groin and collar bone injuries, respectfully. While Jackson's prognosis seems positive -- he's projected to miss about a month -- Spiller's is a bit more bleak.

With a tough start to the season and now a chance he could end up on IR following reported surgery, the elder of the two tailbacks dealt with the situation the only way he could.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Watkins: 'Leader' Orton 'what we need in veteran QB'

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Journeyman quarterback Kyle Orton connected with rookie receiver Sammy Watkins on a two-yard touchdown pass with seconds left in the Buffalo Bills' ugly-but-glorious 17-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Orton, who threw another scoring strike to Watkins earlier in the game, made quite an impression on the young pass-catcher.

“He’s a leader,” Watkins said after the game, via BuffaloBills.com. “He knows what he’s doing with the ball. He puts us in the greatest situations. He knows how to help us out on the field, put us in different areas. That’s what we need in a veteran quarterback.”

Tannehill 'on point' leading Dolphins past Bears

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Ryan Tannehill completed his first 14 pass attempts Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and the Miami Dolphins rolled on.

Tannehill finished the game 25-of-32 for 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing at least two passes to eight different receivers and going the distance without a turnover.

“He was on point,” receiver Mike Wallace said of Tannehill after the game, via MiamiDolphins.com. “The whole game he was hitting all the guys who were getting open. [Charles] Clay had a good day. We were just clicking today on offense.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jimmy Wilson still considers himself a starter at nickel

BY NICK ST. DENIS

In the pass-happy NFL, a fifth defensive back is a regular sight on the field.

So despite what the depth chart says, Miami Dolphins nickel back Jimmy Wilson may as well be listed as a first stringer, according to the fourth-year defender.

“I’m starting nickel,” Wilson said this week, via MiamiDolphins.com. “I still consider myself a starter. I think the guys on this team consider me as a starter. I got that caliber of play in me.

Idzik: Jets 'excited' to add 'versatile, dynamic' Harvin

BY NICK ST. DENIS

New York Jets general manager John Idzik failed to give quarterback Geno Smith much help this offseason.

Now that his team is down and out at 1-6, getting an explosive playmaker on offense is all of a sudden a priority for the second-year personnel decision-maker.

Gang Green traded a conditional draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks this week for receiver and returner Percy Harvin. Harvin instantly upgrades a pass-catching corps that has handcuffed Smith all season long.

After 'mind-clensing,' Patriots to get back on track

BY NICK ST. DENIS

After eking out a victory over the rival New York Jets Thursday night on a short week, the New England Patriots are off for the weekend--no practice or team activities.

"I think definitely there’s something to be said for a cleansing of the mind," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday. "We’ve been at it here pretty hard since the end of July. It’s been virtually every day. So, that’s all of August, all of September and we’re halfway through October.

"I’d say there probably wasn’t much more than any 24-hour period there where there hasn’t been, I’d say, quite a bit of substantial, hopefully anyway, substantial thought, preparation, treatment, whatever you want to call it, different aspects of preparation, physical conditioning, mental film study and preparation that hasn’t gone into each and every guy over that period of time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Marrone high on Kounandjio; Urbik's role still backup

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills have decided to shake things up with their offensive line, just not the way you'd expect.

According to Chris Brown of buffalobills.com, the coaching staff has decided to give rookie Cyrus Kounandjio another shot to prove his worth, though it won't be at tackle, where he was projected to start at the beginning of preseason workouts. The second-round pick has been reportedly taking snaps at guard with the scout team for the past couple of weeks, a move that Marrone feels could be a permanent one for the 21-year-old.