Insiders Report: Around the AFC East

The rest of the AFC East has been busy working on making the changes necessary to give the New England Patriots a run for their money in 2005. The Bills have been working on their line. The Jets have been watching Chad Pennington rehab while quietly pursuing help on defense. The Dolphins for their part have looked at a couple ex-Patriots as well as install a new system by head coach Nick Saban. More inside.

By NFL staff


The Bills aren't pushing rookie center Ray "Duke" Preston III into their starting lineup, but if he winds up there sooner before later, nobody's going to be surprised.

Preston, a fourth-round pick out of Illinois, has been grooming for a career in the NFL since he was a young boy. His father, Ray Preston II, played nine seasons at linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, and while the elder Preston never pushed his son toward a pro football career, some things just can't help but rub off on a youngster.

"I feel like I'm ready," Preston said when asked if he could start as a rookie. "Going back to my father playing, I feel I have a good perspective on the business of the NFL and just the expectations of what playing at that level entails. I want to come in and compete. I'm not looking for anything being handed to's going to take work and the dedication I've had the last 10 years.

"If my role is to back up and push the starter, I'll do it the best of anybody in the league. If my role is to be on the field playing, I'll be out there doing my thing."

For now, the Bills plan to leave veteran Trey Teague at center, providing free agent Mike Gandy performs well through the rest of the spring and summer at left tackle, where departed free agent Jonas Jennings left a giant gap. If Gandy falters, the juggling starts.

Preston will be ready for whatever the Bills ask of him.

The 6-5, 311-pounder played in a pro-style offense at Illinois and his transition into the Bills' playbook should be a smooth one, particularly with Preston's IQ. He graduated a year ago with a bachelor's in speech communication and is currently enrolled in a master's in education program.

"This is a guy we've liked for a long time," said Doug Majeski, Bills coordinator of college scouting. "We brought him in here to meet with the coaches after the combine and his personality and intelligence level was really impressive. He's competed three years in the Big Ten and he's ready. As far as the blocking schemes, this kid is capable of handling all of that."

Preston said he's not intimidated by anything he's seen in coach Mike Mularkey's playbook so far.

"It's tough but I can't imagine what it'd be like had I gone somewhere other than Illinois for college," he said. "We really had a pro style offense, pretty advanced in the stuff we did. Right now, it's pretty much the same scheme and things I'm familiar with, but it's the wording and the terminology that I'm getting acclimated to."

Preston is a rare athlete for a man his size. He surfs, carries a five handicap in golf, and starred in baseball in high school. Despite his love of the game, the elder Preston didn't allow his son to start playing football until he got to high school.

"I thank him now that I didn't start three years early and beat up my body," Preston said. "I've only been playing eight years and I feel my best football is ahead of me."


--Andre Reed called it a 20-year "detour." But what a ride it was. Two decades after leaving Kutztown University (Pa.) for the NFL, the Bills' all-time leading receiver who played in four Super Bowls received his bachelor's degree this spring. Reed was 10 credits shy but kept a promise to himself and his family that he'd get his degree. The 41-year-old father of four addressed his fellow graduates and told them, "Always finish what you start." Said Reed: "I had to make a right instead of a left, but that (degree) was always in the back of my mind, no doubt about it. I mean, I came to school to get that college degree, I came to school for a reason. Football was secondary. Did I know football would take me to where I've been? No." He couldn't wait to show his kids his sheepskin. "They know how important education is," Reed said. "I always tell them about it. It's just a reiteration of what my dad told me."

--The Bills will throw new QB J.P. Losman into the fire early in training camp and couldn't be happier about it. Buffalo will travel to Green Bay Aug. 4-5 for a series of practices and a scrimmage against the Packers at Lambeau Field, coach Mike Mularkey announced.

"Scrimmaging is good for our team because it increases the speed of the game and gives our players a chance to perform in game-type situations," Mularkey said. "We welcome the competition that the scrimmage brings and are excited to be playing in Lambeau Field because of its history and mystique."

The Bills will be part of Green Bay's wildly-popular "Family Night" at Lambeau in which an average of 51,444 fans have watched the team's intra-squad scrimmage since 1999. This is the first time an opposing team will take part in the event that is televised throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Buffalo was originally scheduled to travel to Cleveland to scrimmage the Browns but their new coach, Romeo Crennel, asked out of the four-year rotating arrangement to so he could spend more time with his own team. The Bills hope to resume the Browns' deal in the future.


The Bills plan to take advantage of QB J.P. Losman's mobility by instituting more rollouts, bootlegs and draw plays. But he's only one piece of the puzzle offensive coordinator Tom Clements is assembling. The buzz phrase this offseason is "multi-layered." The Bills have stockpiled a lot of speed and a lot of skill on offense with their last three top draft picks spent on a big, powerful RB (Willis McGahee) and two speed-merchant wide receivers (Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish).

"I don't know if it's tailored to me but I feel we're using my strengths well," Losman said of Buffalo's offense. "But I think we're using all of our playmakers, like Roscoe Parrish. We've got routes for him to use his speed, then the power running game with Willis. I'm just doing what the coaches tell me at this point."

MEDICAL WATCH: TE Ryan Neufeld (groin), WR Josh Reed (back) and DT Lavale Sape (calf), who sat out the team's recent minicamp with minor ailments, are expected to take part in a series of organized team activities that begin in late May.



--LS Bradford Banta was a quality veteran fill-in for the final three games after Jon Dorenbos injured his knee; Dorenbos' health will determine if Bills bring Banta back.
--OT Marcus Price is a high-quality reserve, logging three more emergency starts last season. He's a priority to re-sign.
--OL Mike Pucillo (not tendered as RFA) went from starter to backup to not dressing for games. Could return as a depth player but not at the top price.
--FS Izell Reese, a former starter, lost his job to rookie Rashad Baker (who in turn lost it to Troy Vincent) and won't likely return.



--RB Dante Brown: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--RB/FB Joe Burns: Not tendered as RFA; $455,000/1 yr.
--LS Jon Dorenbos: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--QB Shane Matthews: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE Ryan Neufeld: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Josh Stamer: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--CB Kevin Thomas: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.

--OG Bennie Anderson: UFA Ravens; $5.1M/3 yrs $1.5M SB.
--OG Mike Gandy: FA; terms unknown.
--QB Kelly Holcomb: UFA Browns; $6.6M/4 yrs, $2M SB.

--QB Drew Bledsoe (released).
--OT Jonas Jennings: UFA 49ers; $36M/7 yrs, $12M SB.
--S Pierson Prioleau (released).
--DT Pat Williams: UFA Vikings; $13M/3 yrs, $2M SB/$4M RB '06.


Miami's secondary was dealt its second major blow of the offseason when Will Poole suffered what is likely a season-ending knee injury during a minicamp.

Poole will need surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during a May 4 practice session. Poole is likely to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list and will need a quicker-than-expected recovery for any chance of playing in 2005.

"It's unfortunate when any player gets hurt," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said in a team-released statement. "But when it happens before the start of the season, it means he doesn't have the opportunity to prove or disprove whether he can contribute to the team's success and determine what role he can best play. When Will recovers from his injury, hopefully he will get the opportunity to prove what he can or can't do."

Poole was expected to contend for the starting position that became open last month when Patrick Surtain was traded to Kansas City for a 2005 second-round draft choice. Veterans Reggie Howard and Mario Edwards as well as rookie Travis Daniels are now the top contenders for that spot, although the Dolphins may add another cornerback via free agency.

The Detroit News reported the Dolphins plan to meet with ex-New England cornerback Ty Law. Terrell Buckley, who played with the Dolphins from 1995 to 1999 and in 2003, also has expressed interest in rejoining the franchise.

A 2004 fourth-round draft choice from Southern California, Poole was impressive enough as a rookie to serve as Miami's dime cornerback. Poole played in 15 games and registered 37 tackles, six passes defensed and one sack.

Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison had praised Poole's offseason development before learning his teammate was seriously injured.

"Watching him in the weight room and his study habits and his diet, the guy has lost 10 or 12 pounds," Madison said. "He looks extremely well on the field ... He learned about doing things in the games last year, not in a big role but in a minimal role. Now, he has an opportunity to have a chance to step in and maybe be a starter. It opens your eyes and makes you see there are opportunities."


The Dolphins lost out on a potential hire to their front office when Ruston Webster decided to accept a promotion to Director of Player Personnel in Tampa Bay.

Coach Nick Saban is believed to have met last week with Webster to discuss a position that would essentially replace Rick Spielman, whose power as general manager has been greatly usurped this offseason. Spielman no longer has final say over personnel decisions.

-- The Dolphins have released guard Greg Jerman, who had spent the past three seasons with the franchise. Jerman entered the 2004 preseason as the projected starter at right guard but failed to win the position and was beaten out by Taylor Whitley, who in turn was replaced by Rex Hadnot at the midway point of the season. Jerman's one career start came with the Dolphins in 2003.




--CB Jimmy Wyrick finished second on the Dolphins in special teams tackles and could be re-signed as a reserve with a minimum-salary contract.



--C Seth McKinney: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--RB Travis Minor: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE/LS Ed Perry: UFA; $4.1M/5 yrs, $300,000 SB.
--DT Dario Romero: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--QB Sage Rosenfels: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DE Kevin Carter: FA Titans; $30M/5 yrs, $5M SB/$3M OB '06; $1M base guarantee '05-06.
--OG Damion Cook: UFA Browns; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Mario Edwards: FA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--FB Heath Evans: UFA Seahawks; $540,000/1 yr; 2005 cap: $455,000.
--QB Gus Frerotte: UFA Vikings; $3M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--DE Vonnie Holliday: FA Chiefs; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Tebucky Jones: FA Saints; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--OT Stockar McDougle: UFA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Donnie Spragan: UFA Broncos; $1.9M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--S Travares Tillman: UFA Panthers; $1.7M/2 yrs, $600,000 SB; 2005 cap: $840,000.

--WR David Boston (released/failed physical).
--QB Jay Fiedler (released).
--S Arturo Freeman (released).
--QB Jason Garrett (retired).
--LB Morlon Greenwood: UFA Texans; $22.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB.
--OT Greg Jerman (released).
--S Sammy Knight: UFA Chiefs; $11M/5 yrs, $1.5M SB/$1.2M other bonuses.
--FB Rob Konrad (released).
--DT Bryan Robinson: UFA Bengals: $6M/3 yrs, $1.7M SB.
--CB Patrick Surtain (traded Chiefs).
--DE Jay Williams (released).


Quarterback Chad Pennington may not be at 100 percent when the Jets open training camp on July 28, but he's positive he'll be ready to go when the Jets open the season at Kansas City on Sept. 11.

"There's no doubt," Pennington said at the beginning of the team's first minicamp earlier this month. "There's no doubt at all."

Pennington underwent surgery in February to repair a slight tear in his right rotator cuff. The rehab has been a daily routine for Pennington since his arm came out of a sling two months ago. He won't be at full strength when training camp begins and will likely be held back, participating in just one practice a day.

It's a situation Pennington said he'll enjoy and benefit from more than just physically.

"I'm actually more excited about this offseason than I even have about any other offseason," Pennington said. "It's almost like when I played behind Vinny (Testaverde) and got that extra year to year and a half of experience of just watching."

Pennington sustained the injury against Buffalo back on Week 8. Originally classified as a strained shoulder, Pennington missed the next three games. Yet when he came back, Pennington just wasn't the same. Playing tentatively, Pennington threw seven touchdowns to six interceptions upon his return and had just one touchdown to five interceptions in losses to Pittsburgh and New England.

Before the injury, Pennington threw just three interceptions with nine touchdowns.

"Last year was a big challenge for me," Pennington said. "Not only do you have an injury but you have to play with a very difficult injury."

Pennington should benefit from the wide-open offense of new coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, which will have Pennington throwing out of the shotgun at times and will allow him to utilize the tight end more -- the Jets traded for Doug Jolley just before the draft -- as well as sets using three and even four receivers, things the Jets never did under Paul Hackett.


--Ex-Jets QB Joe Namath spoke to lawmakers in Albany in the past week to lobby for a new stadium for the Jets. The proposed 75,000-seat stadium, located on the West Side of Manhattan, was originally budgeted at $1.4 billion has skyrocketed to around $2 billion. When asked for a prediction, Namath declared, "We're going to have that stadium."

--The Jets appear to be the favorite to sign cornerback Ty Law -- they need a starter opposite David Barrett in the worst way -- but it's a waiting game right now. Due to a broken foot, Law won't be able to work out for teams for at least a few more weeks. For their sake, the Jets better be patient.


MEDICAL WATCH: QB Chad Pennington is continuing his rehab process in order to build strength and mobility in this surgically repaired right shoulder and should resume throwing in June. He will likely be limited at the start of training camp but expects to start the regular season opener.

--DE John Abraham (tendered at $6.666M).


--CB Terrell Buckley showed little at nickel back late in the season and won't be back.
--QB Quincy Carter went 2-1 as the starter when Chad Pennington went down. His offseason problems and struggles will likely preclude him from coming back.
--LB Jason Glenn has been solid when the Jets go to the nickel but his true worth is on special teams. He'll likely be brought back.


--RG Brandon Moore (tendered at $380,000) has developed quickly in just his second year after being switched from the defensive line.

--TE Chris Baker: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--WR Jonathan Carter: RFA: $656,000/1 yr.
--S Oliver Celestin: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--G/C Jonathan Goodwin: RFA: $656,000/1 yr.
--DT Alan Harper (not tendered as RFA; terms unknown).
--DT James Reed: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Kenyatta Wright: UFA; terms unknown.
--OG Dave Yovanovits: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.

--RB Derrick Blaylock: UFA Chiefs; $11.1M/5 yrs, $3.2M SB.
--WR Laveranues Coles (trade Redskins).
--QB Jay Fiedler: FA Dolphins; 5 yrs, $500,000 SB; other terms unknown.
--LB Barry Gardner: UFA Browns; terms unknown.
--TE Doug Jolley (trade Raiders).
--RB Delvin Joyce: FA; terms unknown.
--DL Lance Legree: UFA Giants; $7.3M/5 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--QB Ricky Ray (released).

--TE Anthony Becht: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--PK Doug Brien (released).
--LB Sam Cowart (traded Vikings).
--DT Josh Evans (retired).
--NT Jason Ferguson: UFA Cowboys; $21.5M/5 yrs, $9M SB.
--P Toby Gowin: UFA Falcons; $665,000/1 yr.
--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Raiders; $27.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB.
--OT Kareem McKenzie: UFA Giants; $36M/7 yrs, $12.5M SB.
--WR Santana Moss (traded Redskins).

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