Evan Rodriguez

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Alonso, Jets, Davis

Can the Patriots be stopped by any team in the AFC this year? Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh certainly thinks so.

I think the Patriots are definitely beatable,” Suh told ESPN (video link). “It’s just a matter of playing a good game, almost a perfect game in a lot of ways because they’ve got great coaching and obviously great players and talent on their side of the ball. So you’ve got to be going on all cylinders. Without question, I have a ton of respect for them, but without question, they’re definitely beatable as everybody is in the league.”

While you mull the mortality of the Patriots, here’s a look at the AFC East:

NFC Notes: JPP, Mathis, Wayne

According to three sources informed of his recovery, Jason Pierre Paul‘s rehab is “progressing very well,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. However, it’s not clear if the Giants star will be in uniform Week 1 against the Cowboys. It’s also not clear when the Giants will get a chance to examine JPP’s hand to get a better read on his situation. Here’s more from the NFC..

  • Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters, including Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times (on Twitter), that even though Evan Mathis‘ workout went well, there are “a lot of issues” preventing a deal from happening. The biggest roadblock, unsurprisingly, is Mathis’ asking price. Carroll indicated that the Seahawks can’t offer the guard the $5.5MM salary he earned last year with the Eagles. The Seahawks may have to wait and see if Mathis gets that kind of cash elsewhere. If he doesn’t, then he could bounce back to them, Condotta tweets.
  • Reggie Wayne considered waiting for the Packers, but the team did not confirm its interest before Wayne decided to sign with the Patriots, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Washington worked out fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez today, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The versatile Rodriguez spent time on Tampa’s practice squad last year and made five starts with the Bears in 2012.

Buccaneers Sign Gosder Cherilus

TUESDAY, 9:06am: The Buccaneers have officially confirmed the signing of Cherilus, announcing that they’ve cut FB/TE Evan Rodriguez to clear room on the roster (Twitter link). The details on Cherilus’ two-year deal can be found here.

MONDAY, 3:09pm: After hosting free agent offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus for a visit today, the Buccaneers have agreed to terms with him on a two-year contract, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). As Stroud adds (via Twitter), Cherilus is poised to replace injured right tackle Demar Dotson, who could be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a sprained MCL.

Cherilus, who was released by the Colts in late July, started 29 games for the club at right tackle over the past two seasons. However, after a solid first season in Indianapolis, the 31-year-old struggled last year. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Cherilus 70th out of 84 qualified tackles, and he graded particularly poorly as a pass blocker. According to PFF’s data, he allowed six quarterback sacks, another 42 hits or hurries.

Despite his down year, Cherilus appeared to draw plenty of interest when he became a free agent. The veteran tackle reportedly visited the Bills and Lions, and Stroud tweets that the Chiefs and Vikings had some interest in him as well. Per Stroud, the Colts were also interested in bringing back Cherilus at a reduced salary.

While the financial terms of Cherilus’ new two-year deal with the Bucs aren’t yet known, he’ll certainly make less than he would have in Indianapolis, had the Colts held onto him. The former first-round pick signed a five-year, $35MM contract with the Colts back in 2013, and would’ve counted for $6.9MM against the team’s cap in 2015, including a $4MM base salary, if he hadn’t been released.

In Tampa Bay, Cherilus looks like the favorite to start the season at right tackle, though it’s not clear if he’ll continue to get regular playing time after Dotson returns from his MCL injury. Currently, second-round pick Donovan Smith is penciled in as the Bucs’ starter at left tackle, so his performance early in the season could determine whether or not there’s room on the line for Cherilus throughout the year.

Bucs Promote Three Players From PS

After placing three players, including standout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, on injured reserve yesterday, the Buccaneers have now filled those three openings on their roster without adding an outside free agent. The team announced today in a press release that it has promoted three practice squad players to the active roster — wide receiver Tavarres King, tight end/fullback Evan Rodriguez, and defensive tackle George Uko got the call for Tampa Bay.

King, 24, spent five weeks on the Jaguars’ active roster this season, but has yet to see action in a regular-season NFL contest. Rodriguez, cut by the Bills in the preseason, has played for Buffalo and Chicago since entering the league in 2012. As for Uko, the undrafted rookie initially signed with the Saints as a free agent back in May, but didn’t survive roster cutdowns in August.

Having created three newly-opened spots on their practice squad due to the promotions, the Bucs filled one of those openings by signing wide receiver Chandler Jones, according to the team. Jones worked out for Tampa Bay a little over a month ago.

Bucs Sign Two TEs, Cut Marcus Thigpen

The Buccaneers have announced a series of transactions today, making multiple changes to both their 53-man roster and their practice squad, per Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com. In a series of Twitter links, Smith reports the following moves:

Added to 53-man roster:


Placed on injured reserve:

Added to practice squad:

Released from practice squad:

It’s no surprise that Thigpen and Lane were removed from the 53-man roster, considering Thigpen has muffed multiple punts in recent weeks, and Lane is out for the season with a leg injury. It’s interesting though that the team added a pair of tight ends to the roster to replace the departed players — that suggests that the club may rely on an in-house option to return kicks, and that perhaps one of the tight ends will play fullback, if necessary.

East Notes: Dolphins, Pats, Giants, Redskins

While most teams around the NFL have set their 53-man rosters and 10-man practice squads for the season, we shouldn’t expect those clubs to just sit on their hands going forward. Many clubs have been auditioning players this week for potential spots on the active roster or practice squad, including several teams from the NFL’s two East divisions. Via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, who passes along the latest updates in a series of tweets, here are the latest items out of the AFC and NFC East:

Bills Cut Brian Moorman, Jordan Palmer, Others

The Bills have announced the first wave of their final roster cuts, and the list of released players includes some familiar names, including punter Brian Moorman, who has been with the team for nearly his entire career since 2001 and wrote an open letter to Bills fans following his release. Via Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 (Twitter link), here’s the list of Bills moves:


Placed on injured reserve:

AFC East Notes: Ridley, Bills, Vick

Patriots running back Stevan Ridley should have plenty of motivation heading into the season. After struggling with fumble issues for much of last year, the former third-rounder was replaced by veteran LeGarrette Blount towards the end of the regular season and playoffs. With Blount gone, Ridley has a great opportunity to reestablish himself as a premier back. The opportunity to regain his starting gig isn’t the 25-year-old’s only motivation, however – Ridley is also entering the final year of his contract.

The fourth-year player addressed the situation and acknowledged that a future contract is certainly on his mind (via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com)…

“I have to be honest about it, it’s there,” Ridley said. “But it’s not my first concern. My first concern is going out there and being the best player for this team. If I go out there and have a productive year and do what I need to do, the contract will take care of itself.

“I’m not really gonna put too much thought into it. As you guys know, if I start thinking about that, it can easily be a distraction. I can’t worry about that. I’m gonna have some good days, have some bad days, I’m just gonna keep working, keep grinding, keep my head in the dirt and keep grinding it out.”

As the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe tweets, the Patriots haven’t had any discussion with Ridley’s camp regarding a new contract. Howe doesn’t expect any type of action until after the season, “if at all.”

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC East…

  • The Bills lost another tight end to injury as starter Scott Chandler left the field on Sunday with a groin injury, writes Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550. The team was already without Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg, but coach Doug Marrone indicated that the Bills would rely on their own players to fill the void. The only healthy tight ends on the roster are Lee Smith and Dominique Jones, and Buscaglia suggests that fullback Evan Rodriguez could get some reps.
  • Michael Vick had an impressive weekend at Jets training camp, but the veteran quarterback is aware of his position on the depth chart behind Geno Smith. “It’s a very fine line,” he said (via USA Today Sports’ Jarrett Bell). “I accept this role and I embrace it and I appreciate it. But I know this is not my football team. So that’s why I’m able to deal with it. At the same time, I feel like I’m one of the best quarterbacks in the league. That’s the way I feel.”
  • During the 2013 season, only one Jets starter (Demario Davis) played more than 29 percent of the team’s snaps on special teams. As Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com writes, that will certainly change in 2014 as the team looks to improve a lackluster unit. “We’re going to use a bunch of those guys on all of our special teams,” said head coach Rex Ryan“We think we have to get better on ‘teams.’ We want to be one of the best special teams units in the league. It’s really all hands on deck, especially the punt team. We want to have a great punt team.”

Jeffery Buoying Emery’s First Draft

Bears GM Phil Emery has been on the job two and a half years, and with a series of bold moves, has positioned the Bears as a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering the 2014 season. That’s noteworthy status given the fact Emery’s first draft class (2012) has been fruitless with the exception of rising star Alshon Jeffery.

Buried in an article about the Bears’ kick coverage units, CSN Chicago’s John Mullin notes that 2012 19th overall selection Shea McClellin, a disappointment through two NFL seasons, has been used on special teams this offseason. Unable to hold up against the run, the Bears have converted him from defensive end to linebacker, where he’s competing with John Bostic for the starting job on the strong side. Position changes and special-teams impact are things typically associated with rookies, not third-year pros, especially ones drafted as highly as McClellin. His backward career trajectory doesn’t bode well for his future in Chicago.

If McClellin can’t find a way to make an impact this season, he’ll be stamped with the bust label, which prompts a more macroscopic concern. Emery, whose background is rooted in scouting, was hired to replace Jerry Angelo, whose first-round failures still resonate with Bears fans who cringe at the memories of names such as Rex Grossman, Michael Haynes, Cedric Benson, Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi. Emery is supposed to reverse that debilitating trend, but aside from Jeffery in the second round, his 2012 draft class has failed to live up to expectations:

  • First round: McClellin – “Earned” -30.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2013, and has just 6.5 sacks in 28 career games.
  • Second round: Jeffery – Made the Pro Bowl in his second year, a breakout season in which he totaled 89 catches for 1,421 yards and 7 touchdowns, teaming with Brandon Marshall to form one of the most dominant receiving duos in the league.
  • Third round – Brandon Hardin: Arrived an injured player and departed an injured player, never playing a game for the Bears.
  • Fourth round – Evan Rodriguez: Considered a reach because of character concerns, Rodriguez was released after his rookie season (and two off-season arrests).
  • Sixth round – Isaiah Frey: Has yet to make a significant contribution and faces a training camp battle to stick as the team’s fifth cornerback.
  • Seventh round – Greg McCoy – Cut at the end of 2012 training camp.

In McClellin’s case, the Bears might have misevaluated his utility, as many draft scouts projected the Boise State pass rusher as a 3-4 rush rush linebacker. Nolan Nawrocki’s 2012 Draft Preview graded McClellin as a mid-round talent with tweener traits, strength deficiency and an inability to defend the run: “Functional, character football player who plays better than he tests and could warrant consideration as a stand-up, upfield 3-4 rush ‘backer. Versatility and dependability increase comfort level and could drive up draft status.”

Nawrocki’s assessment proved accurate, as McClellin ascended all the way to the 19th pick, where Emery pounced on him with 3-4 teams such as the Patriots (who took Chandler Jones 21st), Texans (who took Whitney Mercilus 26th) and Packers (who took Nick Perry 28th) lurking in subsequent picks. McClellin’s versatility was key to the selection, with the thinking at the time being if he doesn’t pan out as a defensive end, he could be a starter-caliber linebacker, be it as Brian Urlacher‘s long-term replacement in the middle, or on the outside. The time is now for McClellin to reward Emery’s confidence before Chicago’s all-too-familiar first-round failure worries are stirred up.

East Notes: Wilkerson, Snee, Ertz

Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson will make a “ridiculously low” $1.2MM this season, writes ESPNNewYork’s Rich Cimini: “[Wilkerson] won’t become a Darrelle Revis-type distraction — Wilkerson vowed not to stage a holdout — but the topic is bound to come up in his dealings with the media. He has two years remaining on his deal…The Jets have time (and leverage) on their side, so they won’t do a deal unless it makes sense for them. With more than $20 million in cap room, why not do it now? It would send a positive message, showing the organization is committed to keeping its own. That hasn’t always been the case. See: Revis.”

Here’s some more AFC and NFC East reading:

  • Center Nick Mangold carries the second-highest cap hit on the Jets, and while his play has slipped a bit, he remains invaluable, says Brian Costello in the New York Post.
  • The rookie season of Bills first-round quarterback EJ Manuel was scrutinized by Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo. The results? Manuel struggled with deep passing, but perhaps more worrisome is that Manual struggled with a clean pocket.
  • The Bills are unlikely to keep two fullbacks, meaning bubble players Frank Summers and Evan Rodriguez will compete for the job. ESPN’s Mike Rodak makes the case for both players, saying Summers “contributed on both offense and special teams and remains the Bills’ best option as a lead blocker in goal line situations,” while Rodriguez “offers more of that ‘triple threat.'”
  • Veteran Chris Snee will be the Giants’ right guard if he’s healthy enough to handle the job, but his elbow injury prevented him from getting through OTAs and minicamp. Accordingly, NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan views Brandon Mosely as the “healthiest and strongest candidate heading into camp.”
  • The Eagles are anticipating a breakout season from second-year tight end Zach Ertz, who produced 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns in 450 snaps last season.
  • Redskins safety Bacarri Rambo started three games as a rookie last season, but he sounds like a player on the bubble in the eyes of ESPN’s John Keim: “Rambo did such a poor job in this area last year and there’s no way you can be a backup safety and not contribute on special teams. He will not bump Ryan Clark from the starting job so Rambo had better improve on special teams.”