Saturday, June 30, 2012

No. 2 receiver label means little on Bills' depth chart


The Bills have a little competition going on this offseason for their No. 2 receiver gig, though it's just as much competition for a label as it is for actual playing time.

Returner Donald Jones is supposedly the leader in the clubhouse to win the job, but Jones has reportedly worked mostly out of the slot during OTAs. He's battling with rookie T.J. Graham and returners Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan, among others, for a spot high on the depth chart. David Nelson will also see plenty of time from the slot.

Regardless, the difference between the No. 2, No. 3 and even No. 4 wideout tag on Buffalo's roster is marginal, according to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"We're not in a lot of two wide receiver sets," Fitzpatrick told's Chris Brown this week. "We're three, four wide receiver sets, getting everybody on the field.

"So for guys to be versatile, to be able to play all those spots. those are the guys that are really going to help us out."

Basically, the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers will likely see a comparable amount of time and passes, with clear-cut No. 1 wideout Stevie Johnson as Fitzpatrick's No. 1 target.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

6/28: Midweek transaction and injury news blitz

Photo: jdn, Flickr 

Bi-weekly set of links regarding AFC East teams' signing, trading and/or releasing of players, as well as updates on injuries:


Rookie receiver Jordan White, who is recovering from a fractured foot, is walking without a boot or crutches and hopes to start running soon. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson flipped his car Saturday morning and was treated for "minor injuries." According to the police report, he wasn't drinking. He's expected to be OK for training camp. [ESPN]


Tight end Rob Gronkowski could begin camp on the active/PUP list, but his health isn't expected to be an issue by preseason. Gronkowski had ankle surgery after the Super Bowl. [ESPN Boston]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Davis: Fins CBs to play lots of man-to-man in new 'D'


Vontae Davis is working on technique this offseason. At least he says so. A lot.

The Dolphins' fourth-year cornerback did an interview with the Finsiders earlier this week, and he said the word "technique" five times in five sentences.

“First, we have to start with the little things, and that’s technique," Davis said when asked what Miami's cornerbacks can do to improve the defense's numbers. "The better you get your technique, the better position you’re going to be in to make plays.

"Biggest thing for a corner is to be hard on yourself on technique. Technique—that’s what matters. If you’re playing with technique all the time, it’s going to put you in a position to make plays.”

New Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is installing a 4-3-leaning defense in hopes to apply more pressure on the quarterback and force him into quicker, poorer decisions. With that pressure comes one-on-one matchups for cornerbacks on the outside.

"The corners are going to be put on an island, playing a lot of man-to-man," Davis said. "It’s good to be aggressive and also compete with the receivers.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flag-wise, Bills had East's most-disciplined D in '11

Photo: John Trainor, Flickr 

The Bills' defense didn't play very well last season, but it did behave well.

Only one team in the NFL, the Colts, had fewer flags thrown on their defense than the Bills. Buffalo's defense was penalized just 85 times in 2011.

The Bills did make their penalties count, though, giving up 871 yards to penalties on defense. And despite the Bills' defense's low penalty tally, the rest of the AFC East made up for it.

The Patriots' defense was flagged 115 times, good for sixth-most. The Dolphins were right behind with the league's seventh-most defensive penalties, racking up 112. The Jets were tied for ninth with 110.

Miami accumulated the fifth-most penalty yards on defense with 975. The Jets were sixth with 966.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

6/24: Weekend transaction and injury news blitz


Bi-weekly set of links regarding AFC East teams' signing, trading and/or releasing of players, as well as updates on injuries:


Defensive end Andre Carter, who is recovering from a torn quad, is expected to return to Foxboro. [ESPN Boston]

New England re-signed safety James Ihedigbo. []


Stevie Johnson saw an increased amount of reps later in the week as his success in recovering from groin surgery continued. [WGR 550]

Coach Chan Gailey says center Eric Wood and cornerback Terrence McGee will be ready for training camp, though Buffalo will "work them slowly in." []

Jets, Dolphins

Gang Green and the Fins had a no-news second half of the week in terms of signings and injuries.

New D, role should help Dolphins' Wake get to QB


Two things changed for Dolphins' star pass rusher Cameron Wake this offseason.

He got paid, signing a five-year, $49 million contract that completed his arrival to NFL stardom from his humble Canadian Football League beginnings.

And his team switched from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a four-man front. This change will move Wake from outside linebacker to defensive end.

The scheme switch, which has become the trend for all four AFC East teams, is a response to the passing proliferation that the NFL is seeing. The 4-3 allows teams to get to the quarterback and defend the run while having versatility with their coverage packages.

Wake will now have his hand in the dirt nearly every down and will rush the passer every time he drops back. Anyone who watched the Dolphins closely last season saw that Miami often had the former CFL star as a down defensive end, but changing the base defense to a 4-3 is still a significant move.

Wake will now be setting the edge on every play, using his elite rushing ability to contain perimeter runs as well as being in position to do what he does best, attack the quarterback.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ferguson: Sanchez 'is a great leader. I follow Mark'

Photo: killthebird, Flickr 


Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the Jets' best players. And while he's likely one of the most respected players in the locker room, he isn't much of a vocal leader. He prefers to lead by example.

Ferguson, however, considers another offensive player a clear-cut leader. It couldn't be...

"I think Mark [Sanchez] is a great leader. I follow Mark," Ferguson told Joe and Evan of WFAN New York Thursday. "Any guy who can play that quarterback role has to be strong and I think he demonstrates a lot of great qualities..."

Sanchez boasts a 94.3 quarterback rating in six playoffs games, all on the road in his first two seasons in the league. That ranks him sixth all-time in that category. Sanchez's postseason work, despite his pedestrian regular-season numbers, are probably big factors in being looked up to in the locker room.

Adamantly backing Sanchez has been a trend for the Jets' offensive linemen this offseason. At least Sanchez is on their good side, as they're ultimately responsible for his safety.

When anonymous locker room sources ripped Sanchez in a New York Daily News story at the conclusion of the 2011 season, All-Pro center Nick Mangold came to Sanchez's defense that very day, saying no one in the locker room cares more about the team than Sanchez.

I believe it was guard Matt Slauson who said later in the offseason that if teammates found out who the "anonymous" voice was, it wouldn't be good for that person.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Was Ochocinco Fins' best free agent WR option?

Photo: Beth Hart, Flickr 

The Dolphins recently signed Miami native and six-time Pro Bowl wideout Chad Ochocinco to address an obvious deficiency at the receiver position. Always a magnet for controversy and fines from the commissioner, the signing of Ochocinco brought more of the ridicule that the Dolphins organization has become so accustomed to in recent years.

After all, it's been three years since the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson has produced a 1,000 yard season or a Pro Bowl selection.

Now 34-years-old and coming off a disgraceful one-year stint in New England, it would appear that Ochocinco's career is drawing to its conclusion.

Was Ochocinco the best choice for the Dolphins? Was there a better option out there to fill Miami's hole at receiver?

Miami neglected to select a receiver until the sixth and seventh rounds of April's draft due to the multitude of needs at other positions, neither did they allot the cap space to make a push for any big-name free agents.

This late in the offseason, the free agent pickings are slim. The biggest possibilities are Plaxico Burress, Braylon Edwards, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and former Dolphin Greg Camarillo. Burress has been vocal about his desire to sign on with his hometown Dolphins, but it's obvious that the interest only went one way. He would bring just as much if not more baggage than Ochocinco, but also would be the big, experienced red zone target that Miami very much lacks. It would have seemed like a logical fit, but it doesn't look like any other teams are eager to sign the former Jet, either.

Edwards is in a similar situation as Burress, though he would have more years in the tank if he can rehab from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season. He is another big target who can stretch the field vertically as well, but neither Edwards or Burress are ideal receivers for the west coast offense that Miami will be running.

Houshmandzadeh and Camarillo would both struggle to be higher than a fourth receiver on just about any other team, so they aren't much of an improvement in any sense other than depth. The fact that they are in the top four free agents is more of a testament to the weakness of the remaining options.

Journeyman Carpenter has look of Patriot defender


The Patriots are one of the NFL's more successful teams at finding productive roles for veteran front-seven defensive players who didn't do much the season before.

Andre Carter is an example. A seventh-overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2001, Carter played for both the 49ers and Redskins before being released by Washington and inking a one-year deal with New England last offseason.

The result was Carter's first-ever Pro Bowl campaign (despite a late season-ending injury) that included a franchise record-breaking game vs. the Jets (four sacks) and a team-high 10 sacks overall (tying Mark Anderson).

The Patriots hope linebacker Bobby Carpenter (pictured) can have a similar rebirth.

The former 2006 first-round draft pick out of Ohio State, signed this year by the Pats in early April, also has similar expectations. And he's fit in perfectly thus far.

"It's been exciting," Carpenter said during minicamp last week, according to the team's website. "We have a great team atmosphere and I was very pleased with how great the locker room was. We've got a tremendous group of players here and not only that, but they're great people. So it's been easy to get acclimated."

And while there is still plenty of time before the season begins, coach Bill Belichick has liked what he he's seen out of Carpenter.

Landry: Jets' cornerback situation a 'safety's dream'


LaRon Landry will be in a sort of dreamland when he takes the field for the Jets in 2012.

Landry, a former first-round draft pick of the Redskins (No. 6 overall, 2007) signed with Gang Green in March to improve a thin safety corps that wasn't going to see the return of fan-favorite but oft-injured Jim Leonhard.

The hard-hitting safety, who is recovering from an Achilles injury from a season ago, is excited about the prospect of playing in the defensive backfield between the widely-regarded best cornerback in football in Darrelle Revis and a better-than-average corner in Antonio Cromartie.

In fact, the Jets' top three cornerbacks, rounded out by third-year player Kyle Wilson, were all selected in the first round of their respective drafts.

"That's a safety's dream," Landry told Eric Allen of "... they just enable you to play football and do what you got to do, just knowing that those guys are going to handle the receivers. This is a great defense."

Landry will be part of a sort of three-way safety rotation also consisting of Eric Smith and former Dolphin Yeremiah Bell. With Smith's inconsistency and Bell's aging, Landry will have every opportunity to earn more than an ample amount of playing time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anderson: Mario still jealous of my Combine vertical

Photo: The Brit_2, Flickr 


Mario Williams referred to fellow Bills defensive end Mark Anderson as a "little guy" Tuesday when addressing the media.

Wednesday, Anderson clarified the eyebrow-raising/chuckle-inducing comment.

"He is just mad because I jumped a higher vertical than him," Anderson, who played with Williams during his year (2010) with the Texans, told reporters. "He owes me some money."

Anderson tallied a 42-inch vertical at the 2006 NFL Combine, which was the best in the class. Williams was an inch and a half below Anderson at 40 and a half.

"We just had a little side bet and he is just mad because I beat him," Anderson said. "Now he tries to blast me talking about me being the little guy."

Truth is, the pair will be looking to beat each other in the quarterback sack department this season, as well. Buffalo signed the star pass-rusher Williams and double-digit sack-getter from a season ago in Anderson to bolster its defensive line. The Bills now have one of the better units in the league.

6/20: Midweek transaction and injury news blitz

Photo: Karen Cardoza, Flickr 

Links regarding AFC East teams' signing, trading and/or releasing of players, as well as updates on injuries:


Running back Kevin Faulk, who returned to the field midway through the 2011 season after spending time on the PUP list, says he's fully healthy. [Boston Globe]

New England released tight end Bo Scaife and offensive tackle Mike Ingersoll. []

Guard Logan Mankins is on the bubble of starting the season on the PUP list. [Comcast Sportsnet New England]

Rob Gronkowski, like most players recovering from injury, insists his post-surgery progress on his ankle has been great. [WEEI]


Receiver Brian Hartline's apparent strained calf injury is 'probably worse.' [Palm Beach Post]

Quarterback David Garrard says he hasn't had any back spasms, which was his main issue prior to back surgery last year, since having the operation done. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]


Receiver Stevie Johnson claims he's 90 percent recovered from his May groin surgery. [Buffalo News]


Gang Green signed undrafted (2011) receiver Raymond Webber Tuesday and waived linebacker Matthias Berning. []

New York waived undrafted linebacker Donavan Robinson. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Gailey: Wildcat requires the right person, Smith is it


For the majority of OTAs, Bills all-purpose player Brad Smith has donned a red jersey. That changed at the end of last week, and according to head coach Chan Gailey, he’ll be wearing a lot of different hats as well this upcoming season.

Smith worked out with the receivers Friday, a role that became mostly permanent last season as the team suffered multiple injuries at the position. But with a healthy, deep crew of wideouts ready to fight for a starting spot this preseason, Gailey is more than happy to move Smith all over the field.

“He worked at quarterback, which we needed him to do that,” Gailey told the media Friday. “He’ll go into the season, unless something major changes which I don’t foresee, he’ll be the third quarterback. He’s got to have enough quarterback knowledge to get you out of a game. He’s a very good special team’s player, lines up and does that. He can play receiver and help us there. There are a lot of things.”

One of those things will be working at reinstituting the Wildcat into the playbook. Gailey told reporters Friday that he would have liked to use Smith in that role more last year if it weren't for the amount of injuries. But now that the roster is back to full health, they will definitely be practicing more in that formation.

“We still plan to use it ... We’re going to keep it," Gailey said. "We’re going to keep working with it. The better Brad gets at quarterback … now he’s a threat to throw it and run it and that helps your Wildcat.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jets stressing 4th-quarter conditioning this offseason


Rex Ryan saw his Jets team compile a plethora of strong finishes in 2010. The same can't be said about 2011, and it came to a head at the end of the season.

The Jets gave up 6.2 points per fourth quarter last season, which was tied for 15th in the NFL.

That wasn't too bad, except they gave up 10.7 per game over the last three games. Gang Green went 0-3 in that stretch and missed the playoffs for the first time under Ryan.

"I want this team to own the fourth quarter," Ryan told reporters Thursday, according to the team's website. "That is something that we need to do. And I think you do that by making strides in the offseason with your conditioning, with all those types of things."

Offensively, the Jets were actually pretty good in the fourth quarter, scoring 7.4 points a game in the final stanza. That was good enough for sixth in the league and was consistent with the team's 7.3 fourth-quarter-points-per-game tally in 2010.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

6/16: AFC East Daily transaction, injury news blitz

Photo: Dirk Hansen, Flickr 

Daily links regarding AFC East teams' signing, trading and/or releasing of players, as well as updates on injuries:


Oft-injured defensive lineman Shawne Merriman says he's "One hundred percent" good to go after recovering from Achilles surgery. [Buffalo News]

Receiver Stevie Johnson, who participated in individual drills Friday, is expected to see an increased workload at minicamp next week. Johnson had groin surgery this offseason. [CBS Sports]

Jets, Patriots, Dolphins

It's been a slow end to the week news-wise in AFC East Land. Not complaining today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Brady: Pats haven't had a receiver quite like Lloyd

Photo: Jeffrey Beall, Flickr 

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have plenty of familiar targets to throw to in 2012.

The NFL's leader in receptions from a season ago in Wes Welker will be back at least one more year, and the Patriots extended the league's best tight end in Rob Gronkowski.

New England also re-signed receiver Deion Branch and acquired Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney, who were past Patriots before departing for other teams for a couple years.

However, a Patriot who will likely be one of Brady's top targets this season is new to Foxborough. New England signed veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd this offseason to join a crowded and talented receiving corps.

"He's got a unique skill set so it's going to take some time to get used to things that he does really well," Brady told reporters Wednesday. "We haven't had anyone quite like him, so just to understand where he likes the ball placed and how he gets open. ... he can be a big part of this offense if we can really get up to speed."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bess on Dolphins' new D: 'They're coming after guys'

Photo: Flickr, hcabral 

New Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is installing his 4-3-base defensive scheme this offseason in contrast to former coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4-leaning scheme.

And for the Dolphins' offense, the bigger defensive front has increased pressure.

"Aggressive. They're coming after guys, man," Dolphins receiver Davone Bess told Jesse Agler of the Finsiders Thursday. "A lot of pressure. They're not giving the quarterbacks enough time to check, they're not giving guys enough time to sit in the pocket.

"They want to put the pressure on and make quarterbacks make bad decisions."

Coyle was a defensive backs coach with the Bengals prior to taking the Dolphins' gig, so he understands the impact pressure up front can have on the rest of the defense.

6/14: AFC East Daily transaction, injury news blitz

Photo: Mark Barron, Flickr 

Daily links regarding AFC East teams' signing, trading and/or releasing of players, as well as updates on injuries:


Receiver Stevie Johnson, who is recovering from groin surgery, told NFL Network's Total Access Thursday that he'll take the field in minicamp next week. [Rotoworld]


Gang Green signed seventh-round receiver Jordan White Thursday to a four-year contract worth $2.14 million. White, who fractured his foot in May and likely won't see the field until training camp, is the final Jets' 2012 draft pick to be signed. [Newark Star-Ledger]


New England inked third-round defensive end Jake Bequette (pictured) Thursday to a four-year deal. First-round linebacker Dont'a Hightower is the last unsigned Patriots draft pick of 2012. [Boston Herald]


Nothing to see here.

Bills expect even more out of TE Chandler in 2012


Scott Chandler had a little bit of a breakout season in 2011. The Bills think he could break out some more.

Chandler caught six touchdown passes last season, with four coming in the Bills' first three games.

"I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t have a better year this year than he had last year," Bills coach Chan Gailey told reporters Monday. "He and Fitz (quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick) have a great feel for each other at this point in time."

Chandler signed a two-year deal in March, finally etching himself on an NFL roster for an extended period of time. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2007 by the Chargers, but the Cowboys picked him up when he was waived two years later.

After being waived by Dallas, the 26-year-old out of Iowa spent time with the Giants in the 2010 offseason before being reacquired in September of 2010 by the Cowboys when the Giants waived him. Buffalo acquired him later that season.

Chandler's presence as a pass-catching tight end was a bonus for Buffalo, a team that hadn't have that luxury a year before. Now, they will depend on him to be an important part of the offense, as he's also a solid run-blocker.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sparano: Rex quickly picking up offensive language

Photo: Marianne O'Leary, Flickr 


When Rex Ryan admitted to losing the "pulse" of the team at the end of last season, he was likely speaking mostly of the offense.

Ryan, a hardcore defensive coach, hadn't been very involved with the Jets' offense when offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was running things on that side of the ball the past three years. But after an 8-8 season and a switch from Schottenheimer to new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, Ryan is now trying to be a more complete head coach.

"One of the things early on in the process when we started to build a package that Rex and I were doing on a daily basis is he would come in with me and it would just be he and I for a short period of time out there every day," Sparano told reporters Tuesday, according to "It gave me a chance to kind of catch him up to speed with what it was that we were doing that day, whatever it was that we talked about, whatever part of the playbook that went in and that we discussed that day.

"... And that was good time for me, too, because I was able to pick his brain a little bit defensively."

In recent weeks, Ryan has spent upwards of an hour a day meeting with Sparano about what is going on offensively. Ryan has also sat in on a handful of offensive meetings, and according to Sparano, he's picked things up pretty quickly.

Reasoning for Bills' focus on Smith at QB unclear


Two years ago, then-Jets utility player Brad Smith was arguably the NFL's best kick returner, taking two returns to the end zone and averaging an NFL-best (for players with more than 21 returns) 28.6 yards a return.

Three years before that, Smith made 32 receptions as a receiver and caught two touchdown passes. And as a first-year Bill, Smith made 23 receptions last season, including a 36-yard touchdown catch.

Oh, and he's also rushed for a touchdown in each of the last three seasons.

So it's only fitting that the Bills are putting Smith's focus on being a quarterback. Except not really.

So far through the Bills' OTAs and beginning of minicamp, Smith has been working exclusively as a quarterback. Despite the fact that Buffalo is paying Ryan Fitzpatrick franchise money and signed veteran quarterback (and proven winner) Vince Young as Fitzpatrick's backup, Buffalo has felt inclined to bother trying to make Smith a quarterback first, even if he's better at everything else.

Smith was a converted receiver entering the NFL, having played quarterback for his entire college career at Missouri. He mainly excelled at running the football and was sub-par mechanically and accuracy-wise, which is why he projected as a wideout, running back and option quarterback.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Patriot RBs Ridley, Vereen neighbors on and off field

Photo: Beth Hart, Flickr 

Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were both drafted by the Patriots in 2011 and became neighbors in New England's offensive backfield.

But that's not all.

"Shane is actually my next door neighbor, so not only is he a good teammate, but he's my neighbor," Ridley told reporters Tuesday.

"We spend a lot of time breaking down the playbook together, studying it together and trying to better each other," Ridley said. "I'm running things off of Shane, Shane is running things off of me and we're really working together. It's a team concept here at the Patriots and that's what we need to continue to do if we want to be successful."

The two sophomore tailbacks are battling for playing time this offseason, as New England parted ways with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who signed with the Bengals. New England, However, still has veteran third-down back Danny Woodhead on the roster, as well as former Colt Joseph Addai trying to earn a gig.

In limited time during the 2011 season, Ridley gained 441 yards on 87 carries for a 5.07 yards-per-rush average. He found the end zone once. Vereen also recored a score but only attempted 15 rushes, picking up a total of 87 yards.

"... we're going through the same struggles on the field and off the field at the same time," Vereen said of his bond with Ridley. "Both of our heads were spinning 100 miles an hour last year. It's a very good bond between me and Stevan."

6/12: AFC East Daily transaction, injury news blitz

Photo: Marianne O'Leary, Flickr 

Daily links regarding AFC East teams' signing, trading and/or releasing of players, as well as updates on injuries:


- Defensive end Andre Carter says he's ahead of schedule in rehabbing a torn quad muscle. [CBS Sports]

- New England claimed former Giants tight end Jake Ballard off of waivers. []

- Right tackle Sebastian Volmer reportedly had a "small procedure" to correct a back injury recently. [Boston Globe]


- Linebacker Bryan Thomas is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, the same shoulder surgery offensive lineman Matt Slauson underwent. [Newark Star-Ledger]

- Rookie receiver Stephen Hill will continue to sit out of minicamp due to a strained hamstring, and receiver Santonio Holmes (pictured) is missing time to a hamstring, as well. [Newsday's Kimberley A. Martin & ESPN's Rich Cimini]

- Safety LaRon Landry won't participate in minicamp this week, as he's recovering from an Achilles injury from last season. The Jets, however, expect him to be ready for training camp. [Associated Press]


- The Dolphins signed fullback Ryan Mahaffey and waived receiver Derek Moye. Mahaffey saw time in five games with the Colts last season after being signed off the Ravens' practice squad. []


- No news is good news for the Bills on the transactions/injury front.

Monday, June 11, 2012

For Dolphins' receiving corps, Ochocinco won't hurt

Photo: Beth Hart, Flickr 

The Dolphins weren't very interesting at receiver, and Chad Ochocinco hadn't generated much interest himself. But the two together could work.

Ochocinco, who was released by the Patriots last weekend, reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins Monday, according to

Before Monday, Miami's receiving corps was led by Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Not exactly an overwhelming group. The Dolphins are young at the position and could have one of their up-and-comers have a surprise season, but they couldn't depend on that with a quarterback situation that is unsettled.

Miami is holding a three-way competition for the starting signal-caller gig between rookie Ryan Tannehill, incumbent starter Matt Moore and veteran David Garrard. Whoever wins that bout will likely want a relatively-settled receiver depth chart to work with at the start of the season.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Best tight end in football, Gronk, inks historical deal


Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL in every way, and by a mile. So the Patriots are paying him that way.

Gronkowski, who set a pair of important NFL records for his position last season, reportedly agreed to a six-year contract extension with the Patriots worth $54 million, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The 23-year-old was slated to make salaries of $540,000 and $575,000 in 2012 and 2013, respectively. His new deal reportedly comes with an $8 million signing bonus, and his contract is now eight years, obviously including the last two.

Gronkowski's 17 receiving touchdowns and 1,327 yards receiving last season were both NFL records. He also scored a "rushing" touchdown on a pass that didn't go forward.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Interior of Bills' D-line to benefit from DE additions

Photo: Matt Britt, Flickr 

Acquiring defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to the Bills' defensive line has made things a little more exciting for the guys on the inside.

Buffalo, which is installing new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt's 4-3 defensive scheme this offseason, hopes the addition of the pair of proven pass-rushers will open things up for second-year defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and veteran interior defensive lineman Kyle Williams.

"We get to crash the pocket from the outside and not just from the inside," Dareus said Thursday, according to "It just brings more versatility to the defense."

Dareus tallied 43 combined tackles and 5.5 sacks in 16 games last season. Williams had 5.5 sacks of his own in 2010 but only played in five games last season due to injury. Having a premier pass-rusher in the former Texan Mario Williams and double-digit sack-getter from a season ago in the former Patriot Anderson drawing opposing offense's should help Dareus and Kyle Williams' production.

Holmes, Tebow to attend Jets West, but not media


This summer, fourth-year Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will be running "Jets West," his voluntary offseason 'bonding' camp for Jets quarterbacks and skill players, for the third year in a row.

Santonio Holmes, who attended the first year but not last season due to his contract situation, and new backup quarterback-slash-media sensation Tim Tebow will be on the scene in Southern California.

"It’s great. Those guys expect each other to be there," Sanchez said of what he expects to be full participation at Jets West, according "They expect it to be a good learning process just like I do. I’m glad they put the effort out and really understand how important that is to me."

Sanchez and the rest of the crew, however, decided to keep the media out of the equation this time around.

"We kicked it around with some of the guys and we just wanted it to be our thing," Sanchez said. "We wanted it to stay within us, get a chance to get away from everything, focus on ball and relax. We know you guys want to be there and we appreciate it, but not this time."

Ochocinco's departure from Pats was long overdue

Photo: Beth Hart, Flickr 


Making just 15 catches throughout an entire season won't cut it, but it will get you cut.

Chad Ochocinco, the former three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro-Bowler, was released by the Patriots Thursday. It was long overdue, as Ochocinco never got on the same page with the rest of the Patriots' offense last season despite having ample time -- especially for a veteran -- to do so.

Thursday, Ochocinco changed his Twitter bio to "UNEMPLOYED BLACK GUY."

"Thoroughly enjoyed the oppurtunity to play for the "Patriot" organization," Ochocino wrote on Twitter. "... fans were (expletive) wicked awesome, I wish all of you the best..."

Right from the start of the 2011 season, from the quarterback to the offensive coordinator, people within the Patriots' locker room insisted Ochocinco was starting to get it, citing getting acclimated with New England's offense as a learning curve.

However, Ochocinco was still on that curve during OTAs this offseason, as he reportedly needed help from fellow receiver Deion Branch on where to line up at the line of scrimmage in one instance.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Patriots' defense working to improve on third down

Photo: Daniel Spiesse, Flickr 

The Patriots' defense had a few issues last season, but the biggest may have been its lack of production on third down.

New England allowed opponents to move the chains on third down 43 percent of the time, which was tied for fifth-worst in the league.

"That's always an issue. If you can force teams into third downs, then you have to be able to get off the field," Vince Wilfork told reporters Thursday, according to Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't. Every year that's a focus point."

With a high-powered offense like the Patriots', it's not uncommon for defenses to focus more on preventing the big play to the end zone than worrying about the short stuff that will accumulate first downs. However, New England had some teams make late-game, backbreaking drives on it last season.

The Patriots were unable to get off the field on third downs 46 percent of the time during the playoffs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bills' Barnett: Buffalo could have best defense in NFL


The Bills ranked 26th in total defense last season. Linebacker Nick Barnett thinks they can improve that number by 26.

"I think we can be as good as the best defense in the NFL if we do what we’re supposed to do," Barnett told reporters Tuesday, according to "I definitely think we have that potential."

While Buffalo's defense has a lot to prove on the field, it looks pretty stout on paper. "Best in the league" seems like a bit of a stretch at this point, but the Bills' defenders definitely make up a unit that is much-improved from a year ago.

Buffalo signed standout defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract and added defensive end Mark Anderson, who recorded double-digits worth of sacks in 2011. The Bills were already solid on the interior with an underrated Kyle Williams and second-year tackle Marcell Dareus.

The Bills have a good mix of young and old in the secondary and linebacker corps, including a veteran presence in safety George Wilson coupled with first-round cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who could start right away.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pennington undoubtedly perfect mentor for Sanchez

Photo: (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy), Flickr 

Mark Sanchez will be the first to say he needs to improve his decision-making. Sanchez made one decision this offseason that shows he's already gotten better in that category.

Following a tumulus season that saw Sanchez miss the playoffs for the first time since being drafted by the Jets in 2009, Gang Green's now-fourth-year signal-caller had his agent find former Jets and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington's phone number.

In seeking some wisdom from one of the NFL's most cerebral quarterbacks of all-time, Sanchez texted Pennington "out of the blue." He got the response he was looking for.

"I said, ' hope you're cool with this, it's really me,'" Sanchez told Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole in a one-on-one interview Tuesday. "Right away, he said, 'I'm glad you called. I was hoping you would, great, let's do this.'"

Sanchez traveled to South Florida more than once this spring for a handful of days at a time to be mentored by the oft-injured Pennington, who last played in 2010 with the Dolphins. He spent eight seasons with the Jets before being traded to Miami when New York picked up Brett Favre in 2008.

Pennington boasts the NFL's highest completion percentage (66.05), so it's only fitting that Sanchez, who struggled with turnovers last season, would see Pennington as the golden standard for ball-security.

Dolphins DE Wake leading, learning simultaneously


Cameron Wake looked to then-veteran defensive players Joey Porter and Jason Taylor in finding his way as a new NFLer in 2009.

After recently signing a near-$50 million, four-year contract following a 28-sack campaign over the last three seasons, Wake is now the one being looked up to.

"The torch has been passed," Wake told the Sun-Sentinel.

But while Wake is helping the Dolphins' younger defenders find their stride, the 30 year old is adapting to Miami's switch to a 4-3 base defense, where Wake will primarily position himself at defensive end.

"It's a little different because it's kind of new for all of us in this new defense," he said.

Wake said he's helping his understudies more with technique than particulars of the system.

Merriman 'like Benjamin Button,' feeling like old self

Photo: Dirk Hansen, Flickr 


Veteran defender Shawne Merriman, who has played in just eight games the past two seasons and five since joining the Bills in 2010, feels young these days.

“I’m like Benjamin Button, man,” Merriman told reporters Thursday, according to ”I’m going backwards.”

Merriman, 28, is coming off Achilles surgery and was medically cleared earlier this week to be full-go in OTAs. He compared himself to Button, the short story/movie character who aged in reverse, because he says he's moving as efficiently as he was when he first entered the NFL.

“I feel very young,” he said. ”Anybody that will get a chance to watch me this year, I’m moving around as I did when I came into the league. Fortunately, that’s really all I had, the Achilles, over the last three years. Now that I’ve had that done, I’m a lot more confident.”

Bills have some narrowing down to do at receiver


Three's a crowd. In the Bills' case, so is 11.

That's the current number of wide receivers on the Bills' roster, a squad overshadowed in OTAs this week by a defensive reconstruction, but a group poised to make an efficient offense more two-dimensional this season.

The corps, led by the rehabbing Stevie Johnson, consists of an eclectic mix of veterans, rookies and third-year players whose primary goal is to not only sync up with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but also take some of the pressure off the running-back duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Johnson, still recovering from groin surgery, isn't expected to return to the field until July for training camp, but that doesn't mean Buffalo's top receiver isn't watching and talking with his fellow receivers this week.