AFC East: The Quest For QBs

News from around the AFC East appears to be quarterback-centric except in New England where it's about who will leave next. The Bills are looking to dump J.P. Losman after just two short disappointing seasons. The Dolphins hope Daunte Culpepper can be their guy and the Jets are looking at the Draft for their QB of the future.

Jets :: Dolphins :: Patriots

BUFFALO BILLS

Rumors are growing that the Bills want to trade quarterback J.P. Losman.

But while such a move might make sense for many reasons -- and may indeed eventually take place -- Buffalo's coaching staff has yet to see the team's 2003 first-round draft pick throw a pass in practice.

A trade before spring drills or even training camp would contradict recent statements by GM Marv Levy and coach Dick Jauron that they want their quarterback competition to be a three-horse race between Losman, Kelly Holcomb and newly acquired Craig Nall.

All three players have been in Buffalo for two weeks for conditioning work and initial classroom sessions. They take to the field for the first time with teammates when Jauron conducts a voluntary three-day camp April 7-9 that is expected to draw near 100 percent attendance.

Buffalo will conduct another three-day session after the draft and there will be 14 days of organized team activities in May and June.

Jauron said he wants to have a starter penciled in by the time summer training camp starts in July, making these spring sessions vitally important to the overall evaluation process.

"It's not like training camp and it's not like playing the game," Jauron said during a coaches breakfast at the NFL owner's meetings in Orlando, Fla. "But we get to see them. We get to see them think, we get to see them in the huddle, get the feel for the team around them. It's still not the game. But it is important."

A year ago, Losman was clearly Buffalo's starting quarterback after the old coaching staff cut Drew Bledsoe and gave him the job.

He struggled when the regular season began, was benched after four games, and wound up starting just eight games overall. With Losman losing his two fiercest supporters (Tom Donahoe and Mike Mularkey), his future in Buffalo is cloudy at best. The signing of Nall, a career backup in Green Bay but a player Levy and Jauron are fawning over, only made things foggier.

Still, that doesn't mean he's got one foot out the door, Jauron seemed to indicate.

"We recognize his great ability," Jauron said. "Now we have to try to help him fit those abilities onto the field in the NFL and succeed and be consistent. He has to slow himself down a little and be accurate. We recognize that talent."

Jauron added: "He had to play a lot last year, and it was thrown on him early. It was a difficult situation to be in for a young guy. So he's got a real chance. ... He's got all that physical talent. He can run. He's got a strong arm. He's a smart guy. He's not afraid to work. He's got a lot of upside to him. We've got to give him a chance to get it out. Hopefully those other guys competing will force the hand a little bit and make them all better."

 


MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Dolphins are hoping that quarterback Daunte Culpepper's first workout with the team is a harbinger of things to come.

Five months removed from a major right knee injury, Culpepper made his first on-field appearance March 27 since becoming a member of the Dolphins by joining his teammates in their offseason workout program.

"He did some straight-line running. He threw the ball some. He took some easy drops," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "It's not like this guy is not at a point where he can't start doing some things."

While he as at the NFL owners' meeting during Culpepper's first workout, Saban was encouraged by what he heard from Dolphins trainer Kevin O'Neill and others assisting in the quarterback's rehabilitation from three torn ligaments suffered last October against Carolina.

"He was there early and stayed late and worked hard," said Saban, who acquired Culpepper from Minnesota in mid-May for a 2006 second-round draft choice. "We were pleased."

St. Louis head coach Scott Linehan, who has ties to the Dolphins and Culpepper, said the latter was one month ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Saban, though, made it a point to emphasize he is not going to rush Culpepper back onto the field, even if that means having to start another quarterback for the September 7 regular-season opener against Pittsburgh and beyond.

"Player safety is the first issue," Saban said. "There's nothing we can do in OTA days, practices and the offseason program that we would want to put the player in jeopardy.

Once medically cleared to practice, Culpepper could have an easier time getting back into the starting lineup because of familiarity with Miami's offensive system. Culpepper played in a similar scheme with Minnesota from 2002 to 2004 under Linehan, who left the Vikings to become Miami's offensive coordinator in 2005.

In his final season under Linehan, Culpepper completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 4,717 yards with 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

"Obviously, the guy has had a significant number of starts in a very similar system," Saban said. "Maybe in this case we can minimize (practice time) a little bit because he may be able to play effectively without the same number of reps he'd need in a totally new system."


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Bruschi Talks About Changes

 


NEW YORK JETS

New Jets coach Eric Mangini hasn't said much since getting the job. So whenever he does talk it's a big deal, like when he was asked about several players who the Jets could be eyeing in this month's draft.

The Jets pick fourth overall but also have the 29th pick, acquired from the Falcons in the John Abraham trade and five picks overall for use in the draft's first day. That means the Jets could easily package picks to move up -- making all players a possibility to be wearing green next season.

Speculation continues to emphasize the Jets need for a franchise quarterback, something Chad Pennington is no longer suited to be after a pair of shoulder operations. The Jets will likely have to move up for USC's Matt Leinart or they could hang back and wait for either Texas' Vince Young or Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt.

"They're all great players, but I want to make sure we're getting a great person too," Mangini said at the NFL Owner's Meetings. "(The next several weeks) will be used to sort that out with the scouts, spending time individually, getting to know them. It will all sort itself out the more we learn about them."

Mangini added that he wasn't worried about Young's low Wonderlic scores, saying that he's coached players who also scored low on the standardized test but turned out to be some of his smartest players.

Essentially, Mangini is looking for smart players, especially those smart enough to believe in the team concept and the fact that it's Mangini's way or the highway. He's already signed two familiar faces in ex-Patriots LB Matt Chatham and WR/KOR Tim Dwight. Neither player is a star, nor are they expected to be. But they're cost efficient and can play special teams as well as on the base offense and defense.

Mangini's demands have the Jets' scouting staff on alert as well for potential players.

"It's all the intangibles: smart, hard-working, tough, competitive, selfless, and football is important to them," Mangini said of the traits he looks for. "If (a scout) brings them to me, they'd better have those qualities. Your name is associated with the player you bring to me. If they don't have it, there's going to be a problem."

Related: Bills Report | Jets Confidential | Dolphin Digest | Patriots Insider | More News

 


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