Less than three weeks before the National Football League enters into an uncapped season, the 32 teams can now designate franchise or transition players — they’ll have two weeks to do so before the Feb. 25 deadline.
And while the Jets have some important decisions to make that we’ve discussed and will continue to analyze, there have already been some noteworthy happenings in the division this offseason.
The most interesting aspect of the Patriots coaching roster is there are no coordinators listed. Dean Pees served as the Pats’ defensive coordinator from 2006-09 until his contract expired and he is now the Ravens’ new linebackers coach.
So Bill Belichick will become more involved with a transitioning unit that actually finished fifth in points allowed (17.8 points/game). New England, which owns three second-round selections in April’s draft, recently hired former Jets DBs coach Corwin Brown as a defensive assistant to help coach the secondary.
"Corwin Brown is one of the high-class people in football," Belichick said on the Patriots’ Website. "He was a tough, smart leader who was great to coach and those are the traits he brings to our staff.”
Brown — the Green & White’s DBs coach from 2004-06 — worked under Charlie Weis the past three seasons at Notre Dame.
On the offensive side of the ball, Belichick didn’t appoint an offensive coordinator in 2009 and it seems as it he’ll stick with that setup even though QBs coach Bill O’Brien had playcalling duties last season.
In terms of major personnel decisions, what are the Patriots going to do with NT Vince Wilfork? They have until Feb. 25 to place the franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowler, but the big man wants a long-term deal. You can’t imagine the Patriots allowing the 6’2”, 325-pound anchor of their defense to hit the open market, especially considering two of their rivals — the Dolphins and the Bills — look to be in need of a rock in the middle of their defenses.
Another interesting tidbit coming out of Foxboro was that Randy Moss reportedly suffered a shoulder separation against the Denver Broncos back in Week 5. Moss, who finished with five receptions for 34 yards and a TD in his second meeting against Darrelle Revis, finished the regular season with 1,264 yards receiving and 13 TDs while averaging 15.2 yards a grab.
The Jets will set their sights on capturing the AFC East next season and rightfully so. Right tackle Damien Woody recently posted on Twitter, “Gotta get home playoff game next year.” The Pats have won seven division titles dating to 2001 and they’ll enter 2010 as the defending AFC East champs.
It appears Joey Porter’s days are numbered in South Florida. Porter, who will turn 33 in March, racked up 26.5 sacks the past two seasons but is itching to move on and the ‘Fins might grant him that wish. Former Jets NT Jason Ferguson, who’s 35 himself and had his season end early last year due to a quadriceps injury, may opt to hang the cleans up.
But the Dolphins did well by scooping up Mike Nolan to coordinate their defense. Despite helping the Broncos improve their “D” ranking from 29th to seventh in his first season in Denver, Nolan became a free agent when he and Broncos head man Josh McDaniels parted ways. Remember Nolan was the Jets’ defensive coordinator back in 2000 under then-GM Bill Parcells, so this reunion shouldn’t come as a surprise.
One of the hotter topics regarding the Jets lately has been the possibility of a Chad Pennington return to the Green & White. While it’s a nice story to kick around the water cooler, let’s review a couple of key points. The Jets have four quarterbacks under contract and they’re going to place a tender on RFA Kellen Clemens, meaning an interested party would have to either work out a trade with Mike Tannenbaum or be willing to part ways with a second-round pick if the Jets elected not to match an offer sheet. Pennington has also made it clear that he’d like to stay in Miami even if that means backing up Chad Henne.
With the aforementioned Henne, the Dolphins have the makings of a pretty good offense, but they’ll have to figure out a way to keep Ronnie Brown healthy. Brown, a Wildcat gem for nine games last season, had a foot injury cut short a career year, and he played only seven games back in 2007 because of a knee injury. The Dolphins still finished fourth in the NFL in rushing as Ricky Williams turned in a 1,121-yard, 11-TD rushing campaign.
Change is everywhere in Western New York.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey will be the playcaller on offense. The well-respected Bruce DeHaven, back for a second tour of duty in B-Lo, will lead the special teams. And the Bills brought in George Edwards to coordinate the defense — Edwards left the same post at the University of Florida just weeks after being brought on board by Urban Meyer.
The Bills go to a 3-4 look on defense and now all four AFC East teams operate out of a base 3-4. This promises to be a major transition because the Bills don’t have a prototypical nose on their roster. Aaron Maybin, a speed rusher who was the 11th overall selection last April and didn’t record a sack as a rookie, moves to outside linebacker. Longtime end Aaron Schobel may make the same conversion but is said to be contemplating retirement. Perhaps both sides would consider a trade?
"We’re going to start from the 3-4 from a schematic standpoint because we think it will be the most advantageous thing to start out with," said Edwards, who coached the Dolphins linebackers from 2004–09. "It gives us the flexibility to adjust to a lot of things. Offenses will have to guess who’s rushing, who’s dropping, what we’re doing coverage-wise. It should help with the disguise aspect of that."
There’s no disguising that the Bills haven’t found their answer at quarterback. With Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm signed, most people believe somebody else will be the Bills’ starter in 2010. On Thursday, Gailey called the NFL "a quarterback-driven league.”
"It hasn’t always been that way, but it seems to have become more so in the last decade or so. You have to have a quality player there,” he said. “It does not have to be a big-name player. You just have to have quality production. That’s the decision you’re trying to make."
Tags: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Joey Porter, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Vince Wilfork
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