Buffalo Bills Week 2 Primer

The Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday in what will be the biggest home opener in Western New York in years.  It will be an emotionally charged day in Orchard Park as the Bills face their biggest rival, the Miami Dolphins.  Both teams are coming off of big opening weeks wins.  The Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots in Miami by a score of 33-20 and the Bills defeated the Chicago Bears at Soldier’s Field in overtime by a score of 23-20.  A win on Sunday will be huge for either team as they will jump ahead of the division with a 2-0 record.  The Dolphins had perhaps a more impressive victory last week but the Bills will be the ones with the home field advantage on Sundays.  Here is a look at what to watch for in this Week 2 match-up:

Bills QB E.J. Manuel

Bills QB E.J. Manuel

When the Bills have the ball:  The Bills slowed it down last week opposite the high-powered Bears offense but look for a quicker pace on Sunday.  The Dolphins suffered several key injuries in week 1 on defense and the Bills will try to exploit that by keeping the Dolphins on their toes.  The Patriots had some success against the Dolphins on the edges last week so look for the Bills to get creative with Sammy Watkins.  They’ll also try to pound the ball with the running backs to try and control the clock.  The Bills’ offensive line held their own last week against Chicago but will have a tough task with Cameron Wake and company on Sunday.  E.J. Manuel bucked his rookie year trend by passing for a 7.9 yards per pass average in week 1, over a yard better than the 6.4 yard average that he had during his rookie season.  Look for Manuel to take more shots down field with Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams and Marquise Goodwin.  If the Bills can protect Manuel they should be able to find success on offense against a depleted a Dolphins defense.

When the Dolphins have the ball:  The Dolphins got a big game out of former Broncos’ running back Knowshon Moreno on opening day.  They tired the Patriots’ defense out last week in the Miami heat and humidity but they won’t have the same opportunity this weekend in the cozy September Western New York atmosphere.  They’ll need to come up with a different game plan in Buffalo.  They are going to have to protect Ryan Tannehill like they did last week.  The Dolphins’ O-Line looked great against New England but will be facing 3 Pro Bowlers in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on Sunday.  If Tannehill is under heavy pressure all day it will force him into mistakes and give the Bills opportunities to score points off of turnovers.  Tannehill does not have a stellar track record away from Sun Life Stadium so if he wants to show that last Sunday wasn’t a red herring he’s going to have to show up big eventually in a tough road environment.  Sunday will be a perfect opportunity to do just that.  We’ll see if he can get it done on Sunday.

X-Factor for the Bills:  QB E.J. Manuel – Manuel could probably go one of three ways on Sunday.  He can exploit the injuries on the Miami defense and ride the emotional highs to a big time performance, he can lay an absolute egg and hurt the Bills’ chances of winning or he can be an effective game manager and do just enough that the defense and running game can take over the game.  He hasn’t had too many of the first type of games but if there ever was an opportunity for one in his young career it will be this Sunday. It could be the perfect storm for Manuel to have a break out game.  However if the Dolphins come to play on offense game manager Manuel will probably serve the Bills best.  How the game plays out early will dictate how many chances that they let Manuel take.  If the Dolphins struggle on offense early and the Bills’ defense can force some turnovers then Manuel may take some early shots to try and get in a rhythm.  If Manuel can get his confidence up early he can make a huge impact for the Bills and both this game and beyond.

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake

X-Factor for the Dolphins:  DE Cameron Wake – Wake can literally take over a game – just ask Tom Brady.  Wake was in Brady’s back pocket all day long last Sunday and severely hampered Brady’s production late in the game.  Expect Wake to spend most of the game at left defensive end opposite Bills’ rookie right tackle Seantrel Henderson.  It’s a match-up that Wake can exploit and is a much better draw than Henderson’s counterpart, the severely underrated Cordy Glenn.  If Wake can get in Manuel’s back pocket all day like he did to Brady he could single-handedly force Manuel to lay the aforementioned egg.  If Wake is neutralized by the Bills’ offensive line then it could be a long game for an injured Miami defense.  Wake is that star of that defense and needs to set the pace.

Final Thoughts:  It’s going to be very tough for the Dolphins to take the Buffalo crowd out of the game.  It has all of the makings of an epic crowd this a Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The RD lot was already full on Saturday afternoon.  Ryan Tannehill will have to battle the crowd noise along with a stout Buffalo front line.  Both teams have a good amount of momentum heading into the game but this is just too good a set-up for a happy ending of the Bills’ story book week.  Maybe Ryan Tannehill puts it together but I don’t think it happens this week.  The Bills ride a week of momentum with a complete team victory and get to 2-0.

Final Score Prediction:  Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 23

Full AFC East Draft Recap

The 2012 NFL Draft is in the books.  I’m not going to give out grades because I think it’s pretty stupid to judge guys who have not even stepped on an NFL field yet.  Instead I will outline all of the picks for the AFC East and say what I liked and didn’t like about the 2012 NFL Draft.

Buffalo Bills

  1. 105th pick Nigel Bradham

    10th Overall – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

  2. 41st Overall – Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  3. 69th Overall – A.J. Graham, WR, NC State
  4. 105th Overall – Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State
  5. 124th Overall – Ron Brooks, CB, Louisiana State
  6. 144th Overall – Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
  7. 147th Overall – Tank Carder, MLB, Texas Christian
  8. 178th Overall – Mark Asper, OG, Oregon
  9. 251st Overall – John Potter, K, Western Michigan

WHAT I LIKED: Pretty much everything they did from Rounds 1-5 with the exception of A.J. Graham.  Gilmore was the 2nd best CB in the draft and Cordy Glenn was a 1st round talent drafted in the 2nd.  They added some guys with a lot of experience from big schools in rounds 4 and 5.  Ron Brooks could be a real steal coming from a stacked LSU secondary that included Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, and Tyronn Mathieu.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  This was a deep wide receiver draft and to end up with only Graham who had more of a mid round grade seems to be a bit disappointing.  The Bills could have used more depth at WR, TE, and LB but went with a guard in the 6th round after taking two offensive linemen earlier in the draft.

Miami Dolphins

  1. 42nd pick Jonathan Martin

    8th Overall – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

  2. 42nd Overall – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
  3. 72nd Overall – Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
  4. 78th Overall – Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
  5. 97th Overall – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
  6. 155th Overall – Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon
  7. 183rd Overall – B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
  8. 215th Overall – Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas
  9. 227th Overall – Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada

WHAT I LIKED:  Martin is a good tackle prospect.  He can play right tackle and if the Dolphins continue the purge and dump Jake Long after next season he can move over to the left side.  Egnew will be able to catch the ball, just don’t ask him to block.  Cunningham was productive in college.  Lamar Miller is a low risk/high reward guy.  He could replace Reggie Bush if they decide to jettison him.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  Ryan Tannehill.  I wasn’t enthralled by their front 7 picks.

New York Jets

  1. 202nd pick Terrance Ganaway

    16th Overall – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

  2. 43rd Overall – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
  3. 77th Overall – Demario Davis, MLB, Arkansas State
  4. 187th Overall – Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest
  5. 202nd Overall – Terrance Ganaway, HB, Baylor
  6. 203rd Overall – Robert T. Griffin, OG, Baylor
  7. 242nd Overall – Antonio Allen, SS, South Carolina
  8. 244th Overall – Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan

WHAT I LIKED:  Stephen Hill is a high risk/high reward pick in the 2nd round but at his best could be a poor man’s Randy Moss.  Davis will give them decent depth in the middle and provide for some Bart Scott insurance.  I LOVED the Ganaway pick in round 6, that guy is a little ball of fire.  Also loved the Antonio Allen pick in Round 7.  He was very productive in college, that seems like great value.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  No one can talk me into liking the Coples pick.  Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, even Courtney Upshaw were better options that were still on the board to bring in to rush the passer.  I’m not sure a guy with a reputation of taking plays off is the best guy to add to the Jets locker room.  They also took the wrong Robert Griffin from Baylor.

New England Patriots

  1. 21st pick Chandler Joens

    21st Overall – Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

  2. 25th Overall – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  3. 48th Overall – Tavon Wilson, FS, Illinois
  4. 90th Overall – Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  5. 197th Overall – Nate Ebner, DB, Ohio State
  6. 224th Overall – Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
  7. 235th Overall – Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern

WHAT I LIKED:  Obviously the aggressive moves in the 1st round.  Belichick and co. picked up two huge pieces for their defense.  Jones was the sexy pick because he’s the sack guy and has a UFC fighting brother but Hightower is the meat and potatoes guy that can be the heart of your defense.  Jake Bequette is a solid pick, he’s your standard hard working, never give up defensive lineman.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  Going way off the board for Wilson and Ebner.  I’m not sure what the point is?  I understand the Dennard pick but a guy doing something so stupid so close to a life-changing event just rubs me the wrong way (Dennard got arrested for assaulting a police officer last week).  Guys like that don’t usually stick.

The Pats made the biggest impact early by securing Jones and Hightower in the 1st.  The Bills I thought had the most consistent draft and really hit on their picks in rounds 4 and 5, which included a pick acquired for Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch respectively.  In total the 4 AFC East teams made 33 picks.  Of those 33 picks 15 were on the offensive side of the ball, 17 on the defensive side, and 1 on special teams.  The ACC had the most picks to the AFC East with 9.  The SEC and Big 12 came in second with 5 each, the Pac-12 and Big 10 had 4 each, the Mountain West and MAC had 2 each and the Big East and Sun Belt Conference each had 1.  Ryan Tannehill was the only QB picked by any of the AFC East teams.  There was 6 WRs drafted, the most of any position.

Now all of these guys will get to work in the coming weeks with rookie mini-camps and OTA’s and then training camp.  Some of these guys will make an immediate impact, some will sit for a while before they hit their strides and then some will never pan out at all.  You never know what return you are going to get on any draft pick until they hit the field.  That’s the beauty of the draft – it’s a crap-shoot.  That said, I think it’s time for ESPN to give up their draft coverage because NFL Network was light years ahead of them in quality all weekend long.

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AFC East Draft Day 1 Review and Day 2 Preview

Day 1 of the NFL draft is in the books and day 2 looms tonight.  From a pure recap and review stand point the new draft format works a whole lot better.  You can spend all day analyzing the first round picks and then move on to what will happen on Friday night in Rounds 2 and 3.  Here’s a look at what I liked and didn’t like on Day 1:

  • The Pats got aggressive in order to acquire the uber-versatile Hightower

    I LIKED:  The Patriots’ aggressiveness in Round 1.  Their swindling pick system became obsolete with the new draft rules and so instead of finding trade partners to kick the ball down the road they reversed course and aggressively pursued their targets by trading up.  They got two good young defensive guys to add to their front 7 although I seem to be in the minority in liking the Hightower pick more than the Jones pick.  You just don’t find that versatility that Hightower possesses often.

  • I DIDN’T LIKE:  The pick of Ryan Tannehill from a football standpoint.  I get why they did it and I can’t honestly say that I wouldn’t have done it if I were in their shoes but this guy just doesn’t do it for me.  If he doesn’t pan out then it could set your franchise back for years.  Is it worth it to get a few months worth of fan support?  It certainly is desperately needed after the failures by Stephen Ross to woe coaches and quarterbacks to Miami.  The only benefit of the doubt I will give them in that Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s college coach, is now the Offensive Coordinator in Miami so that may help Tannehill’s transition.
  • South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore fit the Bill for Buddy Nix and co.

    I LIKED:  Buddy Nix staying true to his draft board again and not reaching for need.  The Bills need a WR and LT the most but since they had Michael Floyd off of their board due to character issues there was no guy at those positions worth the #10 pick.  It happens every year…two years ago it was Jimmy Clausen and Bryan Bulaga.  If they took either one of those guys then they would still be looking at trying to find a QB and a LT since Clausen sucks and Bulaga plays the right side.  Gilmore should be a great player in time and will get veteran leadership from Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee in the meantime.

  • I DIDN’T LIKE:  The Jets picking Quinton Coples over Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, or even Courtney Upshaw.  Coples was seen as a top 10 pick during the college season but attitude and effort issues dropped him down the board.  He also seems big to play OLB in the 3-4 which is what the Jets needed.  The Ingram pass is the biggest mystery to me because I think Ingram is going to be a real player in the future.  I can’t fault them too much for passing on Upshaw because everyone else did too but I still think he’ll be a player in the right situation.
  • NON AFC EAST THINGS I LIKED ABOUT THE DRAFT LAST NIGHT:  Loved Pittsburgh’s pick of David Decastro at #24, best pick of the night in my opinion.  Just a perfect fit and there may not be a guy in the draft set up to contribute right away than DeCastro.  Dallas made out by moving up to get Morris Claiborne at #6.  Dre Kirkpatrick could be a steal for the Bengals if he pans out, his arrest helped Cincy with that one.  They also got a good player in guard Kevin Zeitler with their 2nd 1st rounder.  I think Melvin Ingram was a steal for San Diego at #18 as well.
  • I didn't like the Poe pick before he got up to the podium...

    NON AFC EAST THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:  I’m not sure about Dontari Poe going #11 to the Chiefs.  Even factoring the systems I liked Fletcher Cox and Michael Brockers better.  Whitney Mercilus was a one year wonder so Houston going with him was a bit of a surprise.  I didn’t like the AJ Jenkins to San Fransisco pick although there is room for him to develop behind Moss and Manningham.

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR TONIGHT:  What’s interesting is that the 3 AFC East teams that didn’t make the playoffs all have the same needs going into tonight.  The Bills, Jets and Dolphins all need receivers and offensive tackles.  The Pats have multiple picks and still need help in the secondary and could use some offensive line depth but they can add it anywhere, don’t necessarily need a tackle.  Buffalo is up 1st with the 9th pick of Round 2 however any 1 of the other 3 teams can move up.  As you saw last night that’s not hard to do these days.  There are plenty of wide receivers and tackles at the early stages of the 2nd round so look for a lot of action there.  The 3rd round seems so far away at this point but I’m sure the teams will be looking for whatever they didn’t get in Round 2.  I am not bold enough to mock the next two rounds especially after all the movement of last night.

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AFC East 1st Round Mock Draft

I don’t know enough about all 32 teams and all of the 50 or so potential 1st round prospects to do a full 1st round mock draft but I follow all of the AFC East teams enough to know what they need, who they like, etc.  So instead of trying to pick the 32 picks of the 1st round I will focus on the 5 that the AFC East teams currently hold.  Here is my prediction for what happens tonight within the AFC East

Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M -The Dolphins are desperate for a QB.  They lost out on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn this off-season.  They desperately need a win in the PR column right now and that’s why they’ll reach by about 20 spots to take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill.  The problem the Dolphins have is that they hold the #8 pick in a draft where the two best quarterbacks are also the two best players.  The drawback to taking Tannehill is that they have created so many holes in the off-season that they really need a guy who can come in and contribute right away.  Tannehill will likely start the season playing behind Matt Moore, David Garrard, or both.  It would probably be for the best as the Dolphins traded their best receiver and lost their starting right tackle to retirement.  They are in year 1 of a rebuild and they can sit on their future franchise QB for a year while they build a team around him.  The question that remains is whether or not Tannehill is a franchise guy.  Some people feel strongly that he is and some feel strongly that he isn’t.  He’s got a big arm but he lacks experience playing in NFL style systems.  He hasn’t played the same competition that Andrew Luck played against at Stanford or Robert Griffin III played against at Baylor but Texas A&M is no slouch playing in the Big 12.  I guess only time will tell whether or not he can be “the guy” for an NFL franchise.  Back-up pick: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore

10. Buffalo Bills – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina – The Bills upgraded their pass rush in the off-season and need a few more players at key positions.  Left tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback are the three most glaring needs.  The left tackle crop isn’t all that strong and the Bills could probably get a similar player at tackle at the 41 spot as they can at #10.  They need a big wide receiver with speed opposite Stevie Johnson and Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd would seem to fit the bill but the Bills had not engaged much with Floyd in recent weeks and didn’t even bring him to Buffalo for a visit.  That leaves cornerback.  The Bills are also very high on Alabama safety Mark Barron but at this point he is flying up the boards and I doubt that he even makes it to #10.  The Bills have two aging corners, Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee, and can put Gilmore with 2nd year player Aaron Williams and match them up on the outside for many years to come.  They play in the AFC East with the pass happy New England Patriots and their secondary has struggled against Mark Sanchez of the Jets.  Getting a ball-hawk could be enhanced if the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson do what they are supposed to do up front and put pressure on the passer.  Despite their interest in Barron they are deep at safety and adding Gilmore would give them a great deal of youth mixed with some veteran leadership in the secondary.  It would not shock me to see the Bills trade down and try to grab and extra 2nd rounder so they can fill the LT, WR, and impact secondary guy all within the first 2 rounds.  But if they stay put and make the pick at #10 my prediction is that Gilmore will be the guy.  Back-up pick – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram

16. New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina – The Jets have a few areas of need and are another team that has been rumored for a trade up but in the end I think they stay predictable and go for the pass rusher.  Syracuse DE Chandler Jones is an intriguing option at this spot but I’m not sure that Jones projects well in the 3-4 scheme that Rex Ryan loves.  Ingram has the skills to be a prototypical hybrid defensive end/linebacker.  He is skilled at rushing the passer, which the Jets are looking for, and has the savvy to play in the Rex Ryan 3-4 defense.  He’s got decent enough cover skills so that he won’t kill them but a match-up against a Gronkowski could be an issue.  Still, the reason he would go here is his pass rush abilities and he has plenty of those.  The Jets could use a receiver and Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd could still be in play but I doubt it.  They could go secondary or they could go offensive line as well but at the end of the day I think the instincts of Rex Ryan win out and the Jets go and grab the pass rusher and put him with the outstanding trio of Bart Scott, David Harris, and Calvin Pace.  It’s a safe pick and it makes the most sense.  Back-up pick – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

Notre Dame S Harrison Smith

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints) – Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame – I know that every Patriots fan in the world will be screaming for front 7, for someone to rush the passer but I don’t think it’s the pick here.  Bill Belichick and his staff rarely do what you think they are going to do.  I could see them trading this pick because it will have more value than the #31 pick but you’re probably not going to be able to get another 1st round pick next year for either pick so might as well use the higher one.  The Pats biggest problem last year was in the secondary.  They played poorly in pretty much all areas.  They had no one at safety almost all year with Patrick Chung’s injury.  Adding a player like Smith to the fold and assuming Chung can stay healthy for a season would make a huge weakness into a strength.  The Pats still need help at corner as well but Smith may be a safer pick than the corners that will be left at the end of the 1st round.  The Pats could go D-line here but I think that Belichick is weary about putting a rookie into his complex system, especially one that could be a 4-3 for several weeks then back to a 3-4 for another stretch.  Smith is a versatile safety who could help with both the run and the pass.  I just get the feeling that they are going secondary with this pick and in my opinion Smith is the best bet at this spot in the draft.  Back-up pick – Nick Perry, DE, USC 

31. New England Patriots – Trade down into the 2nd round.  You know it’s coming.  The Patriots love drafting players in the 2nd round and #31 is a prime spot for someone to move up 10 or so spots to get the player they want and Belichick will jump all over the opportunity.  He’ll probably get more than he should for the pick too.

We’ll see how I do.  If I am close enough maybe I will try the 2nd and 3rd rounds for tomorrow.  Enjoy the draft.

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