Around the AFC East: Week 9 News
By Scout.com Staff
Last season, the New York Giants, 5-4 at the time, inserted rookie quarterback Eli Manning into the lineup and took their lumps the rest of the way. The benefit was getting Manning ready for this season. The Giants are 5-2 and Manning has 13 touchdown passes.
When it comes to J.P. Losman, are the Bills considering following the Giants' model?
"It may have been the model for the Giants, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the right model for the Bills," Bills general manager Tom Donahoe says. "(Giants) Coach (Tom) Coughlin may have felt his team wasn't good enough to get into the playoffs. I think our circumstances are a little bit different right now."
Indeed. The Giants were light years behind the Philadelphia Eagles, who advanced to the Super Bowl, in the NFC East last season, but the Bills aren't that far behind the defending champion New England Patriots in the AFC East this year.
At 3-5 overall and 2-1 in the division, Buffalo is in the thick of a heated AFC East race with New England, the New York Jets and Miami. The Bills, coming off their bye, host the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 13.
With Losman having had a chance to settle down, get more practice time and work on his accuracy, he may be ready to make a return to the lineup at some point, possibly against the Chiefs.
Mularkey said the decision comes down to deciding which quarterback he feels gives his team its best chance to win.
Donahoe said he fully supports that philosophy and that developing Losman shouldn't be a priority as long as Buffalo is in playoff contention. If Losman returns to the starting lineup and the Bills are still in playoff contention, the move shouldn't be misinterpreted, Donahoe said.
"If Mike decides, 'I'm going to be put J.P. back in,' I wouldn't interpret that as we're giving up on the season," Donahoe said. "I'd interpret it that Mike feels maybe J.P. has had a chance to settle down and to watch and now he gives us the best chance to win.
"I don't think Mike is ever going to say, 'Let's throw the towel in on the season,' until mathematically we don't have a chance. As long as you have a chance, that's what you have to build on. That's what players do. They won't throw in the towel regardless of what the record is at the halfway point. J.P. could go back in next week, it could be three weeks. I don't know when it's going to happen. That's Mike's call. But when he does go back in, I wouldn't interpret it as we're getting ready for 2006."
The Bills are coming off their best offensive performance of the season, setting 13 statistical highs in a 21-16 loss at New England.
That included total yards (394), first downs (24), third down conversions (7 of 14), and time of possession (39:20). It also included the year's first long touchdown strike, a 55-yard pass from Kelly Holcomb to Eric Moulds.
The Bills hope that game can become a springboard to a better second half of the season. They have the potential to become more explosive with the return of rookie WR Roscoe Parrish from a broken wrist.
Parrish, who has uncanny quickness and cutting ability, had six touches against the Patriots as a rusher, receiver and punt return specialist.
The bye week, meanwhile, allowed RT Mike Williams to rest a damaged ankle that has forced him to miss half of his starts so far. A healthy Williams would make the Bills' running game, ranked ninth in the league, even more potent. RB Willis McGahee is on pace for 1,600 yards and was second in the league in rushing heading into the bye.
Despite teams gearing their defenses to stop McGahee, Buffalo has been unable to take advantage through the air.
The Bills have just eight pass plays of 20 yards or longer and WR Lee Evans, who led NFL rookies with nine TD catches a year ago, has just one.
Pass protection, a quarterback switch from untested J.P. Losman to conservative-thinking Kelly Holcomb and passive play calls have been key factors in Buffalo averaging almost 40 fewer yards passing per game compared to a year ago.
Defensively, the Bills, who have plummeted from No. 2 in total yards allowed to 14th, can't stop the run. Opponents are averaging 150.8 yards per game on the ground (55 yards more per game than last season) and have 13 rushing touchdowns.
What was once the strength of Buffalo's defense - the interior wall - is now a weakness. Free agency broke up the 1-2 punch of Sam Adams and Pat Williams (now with the Minnesota Vikings), and Williams' main replacement, Ron Edwards, is out for the season after more shoulder problems.
The loss of weakside LB Takeo Spikes (Achilles' tendon tear), the unit's emotional leader, has been incalculable.
Despite everything, the Bills would be in much better shape if they could produce in the red zone on both sides of the ball. The offense has scored TDs on only 43.5 percent of its red zone trips while the defense has allowed 71 percent to opponents, including TDs on 10 of its last 11 opportunities.
As Miami's third-string quarterback, Cleo Lemon has little chance of playing this season, barring injuries to starter Gus Frerotte and backup Sage Rosenfels. But Lemon is playing a pivotal role for the Dolphins this week by assuming the role of Atlanta's Michael Vick as Miami's scout-team quarterback to help his team prepare for Sunday's game against the Falcons.
"You try to make plays with your feet," Lemon said of his role emulating the NFL's top scrambling signal-caller. "With Vick, a play is never over. They have got to realize that even though it might not look that way at the time, he'll improvise and keep going. He gets outside the pocket and anything can happen.
"I probably don't know another human being as fast as him, and he has the ball in his hands every play. I have nowhere near his speed, but at the same time, you've got to do your best to emulate for the defense."
Lemon actually has previous experience copying Vick in practice, as he did the same thing last season with San Diego. The Chargers also used a fleet cornerback (Robert Butler) in that role for portions of practice.
Vick, though, still led Atlanta to a 21-20 victory with three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and 253 yards of total offense.
"Everyone wants to say you need to be a typical passer to be successful in this league," Lemon said. "He's showing everyone you could be a scrambling-type quarterback, a guy who makes plays with his feet, and win games.
"You pretty much try to contain him. It's almost impossible. Teams try to do it every week, but he still finds ways to get out of the pocket."
Lemon, who was acquired from the Chargers last month in exchange for quarterback A.J. Feeley and a 2006 sixth-round draft choice, said his personal playing style isn't similar to Vick's.
"I see myself more as a pocket passer," said Lemon, a two-year NFL veteran who is the career passing leader at Arkansas State. "I can make plays with my feet, but I feel my strength is getting the ball down the field. That's what I try to do."
The Jets thought they had their tight end situation all figured out just before the draft, sending their low first-round pick and a seventh-rounder to the Raiders for Doug Jolley and a pair of sixth-rounders.
To date, the deal has been a bust.
Jolley earned himself a spot in the doghouse early in training camp when he criticized coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's new offense and Jolley's lack of work. Expected to get 40-50 catches, Jolley has just seven receptions for 79 yards and wasn't even able to wrest the starting job from Chris Baker, getting only 8-12 snaps a game.
Baker has 16 catches this season and the Jets are even using rookie Joel Dressen in goal-line situations.
"I was expecting to play more," Jolley said. "(The coaches) know where I am. They know I want to play."
But unlike training camp, Jolley's keeping his thoughts to himself these days.
"The way I was brought up, the players play and the coaches coach," Jolley said. "Players let the coaches coach."
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