How the NFL Draft shuffle affects the New York Jets

The New York Jets remained rooted in the second overall slot, but chaos erupted behind them on Friday. Where does that leave them?

Never mind the Super Bowl shuffle…the draft board boogie aired at full blast on Friday afternoon.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets respectively remain in the top two slots, but the landscape behind looks drastically different. At the cost of two future firsts, the San Francisco 49ers will now choose in the third slot. The Miami Dolphins, recipients of those Bay Area picks, dealt the No. 12 they gained to Philadelphia, officially situating themselves at sixth overall. 

How does this affect the Jets, still the ongoing holders of the No. 2 choice? ESM investigates…

No Way, Darnold

Many assume that the 49ers, like the Jets before them in 2018, are trading up to the third pick to select a quarterback. Trevor Lawrence remains the consensus top choice to Duval, while many believe the Jets will take BYU passer Zach Wilson after team brass attended his pro day on Friday.

Despite being firmly entrenched in the rookie passer discussion, San Francisco has no imminent plans to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But this move more or less eliminates them from the Sam Darnold conversation. If the 49ers are apparently comfortable with a lingering quarterback controversy between Garopoolo and, say, Justin Fields, there’s no way they would add a third name to that list.

This week has been one of the roller-coaster variety for Darnold. Corey Davis mentioned that he was under the impression that Darnold would be his thrower come September in his first New York statements. But the New York prescience in Provo dictates that the Jets are still exploring other options. If the Jets are ready to officially close the book on Darold, likely only one potential destination remains: the Carolina Panthers. 

Tua Time

Miami owned the third pick through one of the earliest chapters of the downfall of the Houston Texans: the trade for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. After Friday, the Dolphins have essentially turned Tunsil (who fell to their grasp at 13th overall in 2018 after the bizarre social media hacking) into six first-round picks over the next three drafts.

But the cold truth is that draft quantity means nothing without quality, and major questions surround a high-profile choice in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 in 2020).

While many have pegged the Dolphins as a surprise playoff team this season after winning ten games, questions hovered around their quarterback position, especially after the Ryan Fitzpatrick safety net went to Washington. Trading out of the third slot essentially says they’re not looking for a quarterback. Even with the sixth choice, the best passers, including FCS stud Trey Lance, will probably be gone. With Atlanta rounding out the top four and possibly looking to prepare for the post-Matt Ryan era, we well could see quarterback taken with the first four picks.

From a New York standpoint, the upgrades to their front seven through Vinny Curry and Sheldon Rankins look even wiser right now. It’s possible they could use their latte first-round choice (the Seattle pick at No. 23) to further shore up their edge game, though cornerback options have also been analyzed.

Would the Jets be willing to trade too?

San Francisco elevator ride up the draft board ensures that they can get one of the three or four most-talked-about passing names in the draft. Could that inspire other teams to give the Jets a call in an attempt to find further passing stability?

Carolina’s passing conundrum is anything but solved in the eighth choice, their current depth chart topped by Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker. Denver could be trying to put pressure on incumbent Drew Lock. Stifling the tough of such a deal is the fact that neither potential partner has much to offer in terms of future picks (the best in terms of a surplus amongst each of them is day three picks in 2021). Either way, this shift will possibly have other quarterback-hungry teams trying to work their way through, so Joe Douglas might have some extra calls to field as draft day in Cleveland approaches.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

How the Buffalo Bills can clinch a playoff spot/division title in Week 15

Baltimore’s Monday night thriller denied the Buffalo Bills a clinch last week, but there are several simple avenues on the Week 15 slate.

The Buffalo Bills appear to be well on their way to the 2021 NFL playoffs. But, like Han Solo before them…never tell them the odds.

Buffalo (10-3) took care of business on their end when it came to officially punching their ticket to the postseason, topping the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Sunday night showdown at Bills Stadium. Several other factors, namely in the form of losses from New England, Miami, and Las Vegas. The Baltimore Ravens weren’t in the mood to cooperate, however, as their 47-42 thriller over Cleveland on Monday night prevented a letter from forming next to the Bills’ name in the standings. Nonetheless, the odds experts at FiveThirtyEight currently have the Bills at over a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs in their updated playoff ledger.

How can the Bills add those precious percentage points and clinch their third playoff berth in four seasons? The Bills simply need ONE of the following to go down during Week 15 action…

Win @ Denver on Saturday

The Bills can return from the Rockies with the sweetest of Christmas gifts if they simply take care of the Denver Broncos in a special Saturday late afternoon game (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network). Winning out west hasn’t been too much of a problem for the Bills, who are 3-1 in the Mountain and Pacific time zones this season, the one loss stemming from Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins’ collaborative miracle in Arizona.

Miami Loss vs. New England (clinches division) 

The Dolphins (8-5) took the defending champion Chiefs to the brink last Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to buy themselves real estate in the standings. Their ensuing loss has set up a scenario where the Bills’ so-called “magic number” toward their first division title since 1995 is down to one. Thus, a Dolphins loss of any kind will earn the Bills one of the top four seeds. They’ll be taking on a desperate Patriots team whose salvation lies far, far beyond winning out to keep their postseason streak alive on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Baltimore Loss vs. Jacksonville

It’s highly unlikely that the Ravens (8-5) fall to a Jaguars team destined for one of the top two picks in April, though the return of Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew does make things a tad less certain on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). A loss in-conference would allow the Bills, should they fail to top Denver on Saturday, to clinch the conference record tiebreaker (Buffalo is 7-2 while Baltimore sits at 5-5).

Other Week 15 Games That Could Affect the Bills

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati

The win over the Steelers last Sunday night secured not only some major style points amongst fans and analysts alike, but the Bills also earn the tiebreaker that trumps them all: the head-to-head victory, which could come up big if Pittsburgh (11-2) carries on this troubling streak of consecutive losses after winning their first 11 games. Many expect them to get back on the right track against the lowly Bengals (2-10-1) in a Monday night divisional match (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Kansas City @ New Orleans

A potential Super Bowl preview in The Big Easy, a Sunday matchup (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) with a Saints team reeling from last week’s upset loss in Philadelphia will be must-see television from every football perspective. The Chiefs (12-1) have the inside track on the top seed and the only first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, as well as the impenetrable head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo. Kansas City can clinch the precious top seed if both the Bills and Steelers lose this week.

Detroit @ Tennessee/Houston @ Indianapolis

The Bills are closing in one being one of the AFC top seeds, but they’ll want to keep a close eye on the AFC South proceedings. With Kansas City pulling away in the race to No. 1, Buffalo would probably want to avoid the fourth slot as best as they possibly can. If they do, the earliest they would play the Chiefs in the playoffs would be the AFC title game. The Titans and Colts each sit at 9-4, with Tennessee holding the tiebreaker through a better divisional record (the teams split their yearly pair).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Miami

New York Jets, Adam Gase

Typical New York Jets silliness ensued on Sunday in South Beach, leading to another loss, their first in the post-Le’Veon Bell era.

Le’Veon Bell may be gone, but the results are, alas, the same for the New York Jets.

Three first half touchdown passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick helped the Miami Dolphins build an insurmountable lead at Hard Rock Stadium, en route to an 24-0 win over the Jets. After the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants won in Sunday afternoon’s early window, the Jets (0-6) are the only team in football without a win. New York also becomes the first victim of an NFL shutout in 2020.

ESM looks back on another brutal loss so you don’t have to, tracking down a play from each quarter, for better or worse, that determined the Jets’ present and future in a visit to Florida that was anything but a vacation.

1st Quarter: Miami Vice

The Jets’ problems with penalties are overshadowed by malarkey on both sides of the ball, but they entered Sunday’s game averaging over eight flags per game. Their first half against Miami provided only further fuel for this yellow flag fire, picking up seven infractions before the first half-hour let out. The most egregious sequence came in the final stages of the opening frame. Down only 7-0…which, let’s face it, could be seen as insurmountable by some Jets fans…the Jets actually had a strong drive going, getting to the cusp of the Miami red zone.

Alas, their biggest enemy rose to the occasion: themselves.

The Jets appeared to keep the drive on with a nine-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Breshad Perriman on a one-yard third down, but that was wiped out due to an offensive pass interference penalty of Ryan Griffin. An illegal motion penalty on the next play, later declined, took the spotlight of a Flacco fumble, one that was recovered but pushed the Jets back to the 40, where they opted to punt. Braden Mann, one of the rare silver linings of consistency in New York, downed the ball five yards from the end zone, but Vyncint Smith failed to get on top of it before it went to the back of the end zone…at which point, a Harvey Langi personal foul gave the Dolphins 15 extra yards and giving the Jets a net worth of five yards on the punt.

That sequence, which ended the first quarter, simply highlighted the dysfunctional fire that is Jets football…one that shows little signs of pacifying. Making things all the more brutal for the Jets: that drive that ended in the brutal penalties was the drive on the first half in which they obtained first downs.

2nd Quarter: Offensive Defense

Earlier this week, Gregg Williams took what was perceived as a thinly veiled jab at the offense, claiming the Jets’ struggles at giving up points were “not all defensively”. But his defense certainly didn’t help matters, with their own struggles perfectly on display at the end of the first half.

Williams may nonetheless have had a point; all but one of the Jets’ first half drives (as mentioned above) ended without the team getting a first down, forcing the defense into brutal on-and-off situations throughout the ball game. With Miami getting the ball right before the two-minute warning (a Jakeem Grant punt return for a touchdown stopped only by a Mann tackle), they wasted no time in a third invasion of the Jets’ end zone, a trek amplified by a 44-yard hook-up between Fitzpatrick and Adam Shaheen. Myles Gaskin needed only one play to earn the final yard to glory, giving the Dolphins a 21-0 halftime lead.

3rd Quarter: Ty Ballgame

Somehow, even with Bell having moved to the greener pastures (pun intended) of Kansas City, Frank Gore remained the Jets’ top ball rusher at 11 carries…still getting more opportunities than fourth-round project La’Mical Perine. Perhaps even more surprising, Gore earned more carries than Perine and recent veteran signee Ty Johnson combined. The latter made his mark in a mostly quiet third quarter, Johnson uncorked a 33-yard carry that set up a failed Sam Ficken field goal (his first three-point miss of the season). It was the longest carry by a Jets running back this season, besting matching 13-yard tallies by Bell and Gore. Who knows if Gore will continue to see a lion’s share of the carries, but Johnson’s emergence should not be quickly forgotten, especially on a team that has lost everything there is lose.

4th Quarter: Oh No, Joe

The fourth quarter could’ve been a time to look at the silver lining of an incredible Marcus Maye interception, but the Jets couldn’t even emerge with that fleeting positive. Following Maye’s backside grab, the Jets embarked on another potentially lucrative drive, one that could, at the very least, avoid a shutout. However, Flacco’s scramble of doom cost New York a whopping 28 yards, one that pushed the Jets all the way back into their own territory at the 45. Flacco had the opportunity to throw the ball away, but instead committed a rookie mistake at 35.

If Darnold continues to miss games, the Jets’ next step is simple…it’s time to activate fourth-round thrower James Morgan, if only to see what they have and at least add some intrigue to this ten-game dirge.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Game Preview Week 6: Miami Dolphins

The New York Jets begin the post-Le’Veon Bell era on Sunday in South Beach, engaging in a rescheduled match with the Dolphins.

What: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
When: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS

Back in September, the New York Jets expected to have Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell, among others, for an October 18 showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers. Now that the day has finally come, Darnold is hurt, Bell has been released, and even their opponent was shifted due to the ongoing health crisis’s impact on the NFL.

The Jets nonetheless press on, as Jets head coach Adam Gase returns to his former site of employment through a matchup against the Miami Dolphins. This matchup was originally scheduled for November 15, but that now serves as the Jets’ bye. The aforementioned visit to Los Angeles now comes on November 22.

“We’ve got to play somebody, so it doesn’t affect me,” linebacker Avery Williamson said of the switch, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It shouldn’t affect anybody.”

New York (0-5) is coming off a 30-10 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Joe Flacco threw for 195 yards and a touchdown in his first start in place of the injured Darnold, with the score and 116 yards of his tally going to Jamison Crowder. The slot receiver reached triple figures in receiving for the third time this season, currently pacing the Jets with 335 yards over his trio of games. Arizona relentlessly countered with 411 yards of offense from Kyler Murray, who was also responsible for two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins (2-3) are coming off a dominant upset win in San Francisco, drubbing the 49ers by a 43-17 final. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards and three scores, each of which went to a different receiver. Miami defenders also united for five sacks of San Francisco quarterbacks.

The Series

The Jets and Dolphins will continue a series that has been staged twice yearly since Miami’s inception in 1966. New York maintained their lead in the series, currently up 55-53-1, by snapping a four-game losing streak in the series through a 22-21 decision at MetLife Stadium last December. Miami had won six of the past seven entering that game, which was decided by a Sam Ficken field goal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yeTlz4TbnE&ab_channel=NFL

History Happens: 2015

The Jets’ last sweep of the Dolphins came in 2015, starting with a 27-14 triumph in London. Part of the NFL’s International Series, the Jets jumped out to an early lead thanks to Chris Ivory’s score on their opening drive. Ivory would go onto run for a career-best 166 yards, while the aforementioned Fitzpatrick would find Eric Decker from 10 yards just before the halftime gun to build a 20-7 lead at intermission. Stoppage time wasn’t required for the Jets to finish their British masterpiece. Zac Stacy scored another touchdown, while Darrelle Revis and Marcus Williams each earned an interception. Brandon Marshall paced the Jets with 128 receiving yards, while Muhammad Wilkerson had two sacks of Ryan Tannehill.

They Said It

“When you lose, the week is long. It’s long and it’s painful, because if you put the amount of time and effort that everybody in this building has, really since the offseason, doing everything virtually and then coming back and trying to figure out how training camp was going to go…It’s the constant talking to these guys, whether it be at practice or in a team meeting or offense and defense split up. Just keep the reminders of, ‘Hey, this is how we can get things flipped around. This is how we can improve. This is what we can do to help our team on this side of the ball.’ And that’s a conversation that’s definitely been had the last couple weeks.”-Adam Gase on the state of the 0-5 Jets, per Brian Costello

“Winning last week was a good start, but we’ve got to take care of business this week, then we’ve got a bye,” Dolphins center Ted Karras said. “I’m having a lot of fun. I love all the guys on this team. It’s been a great start to the year. Obviously, we left a few things out in a couple of the early games, but we’re going to continue to work our hardest and prepare and then go out there on Sundays. That’s the only way to turn any tide, is to go out there and perform your best on Sunday, so that’s what I’m focused on every day.”-Dolphins center Ted Karras, per Adam H. Beasley

Matchup to Watch

Jets Pass Defense vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ah, Ryan Fitzpatrick…ruining your favorite team’s draft position since 2005.

That truly shouldn’t be held against Fitzpatrick, who has carved a respectable NFL career since his seventh-round drafting out of Harvard (did you know he went there?). It has become a bit of an NFL tradition for a team to bring in Fitzpatrick as a placeholder quarterback, only to see him post strong numbers that make it difficult to move on from him. The Jets certainly know what that’s like, having seen Fitzpatrick throw a team-record 31 touchdown passes during the aforementioned 2015 campaign after filling in for the incapacitated Geno Smith.

Fitzpatrick took over placeholder duties last season and performed respectably. This year, he was expected to keep Tua Tagovailoa’s seat warm, but, once again, he’s making it hard to pull off the transition. Fitzpatrick has completed a career-best 70 percent of his passes thus far and has earned triple digits in passer rating three times (including 154.5 in San Francisco last weekend). He has done so with his top receivers being DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki…the former of whom was a pupil of Gase’s during their time in Miami together.

Like several others, Parker has seemed to improve since Gase moved on. It’ll be up to the Jets defense to not only attack Fitzpatrick but to harass his receivers. If the Jets can make Miami think of Tagovailoa for any stretch on Sunday, they’ll have done something right.

The Jets Will Win If…

Their defense takes care of the offense.

To say the Jets’ offense is in a period of transition would be the understatement of this topsy-turvy year. They could get Breshad Perriman back, but Darnold is still out and Bell isn’t coming back, giving way to Flacco, Frank Gore, and La’Mical Perine. Keeping Miami at bay is a duty that will fall to the defense…one that doesn’t sound too pleased by the way things around going.

“It’s not a very good number, and a lot of it’s not all defensively,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said on Friday, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “It’s points on the board and we’ve got to do a good job of that, and how you do that is make them kick more field goals, got to do a better job in field-position-type things. As you see, the scoring is up in the league, but it still makes me sick.”

Reeling and in the midst of a rebuilding purge brought upon by Bell’s release, the Jets need to put their differences aside if they’re going to band together for a much-needed victory.

The Dolphins Will Win If…

They take advantage of a trap game opponent down in the dumps.

Crazy things tend to happen in divisional matchups. Last season, the 0-7 Dolphins earned their first win against the Jets, kickstarting a strong finish to end the year and generating some buzz around head coach Brian Flores (Miami is 7-7 since that November meeting, with four of the defeats coming by 10 points or less). In the premature playoff picture, the Dolphins are one game out of the extra spot with their bye week coming next week. A perilous trek aways the Dolphins in the immediate aftermath (both LA teams sandwich Arizona).

No one could fault the Dolphins if they missed out on the playoffs this year, but it’d certainly be an inspiring sign if the team was ahead of schedule in year two under Flores. If Miami has any hopes of breaking into the postseason picture this year, Sunday is more or less a must-win.

Prediction

You’d be hard-pressed to find another game for the Jets to win on their current schedule, at least in the near future. But, once again, a win appears to be simply too much to ask for from this squad in squalor. The post-Bell era will start the way the rusher’s New York tenure began and ended…with a loss.

Dolphins 23, Jets 13

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Joe Flacco prepares for another start

With Sam Darnold still ailing, Joe Flacco will make his second consecutive start for the New York Jets on Sunday.

The New York Jets announced on Wednesday that Joe Flacco will make his second straight start with Sam Darnold still ailing from a shoulder injury.

Flacco will make his first road start in Jets colors, as the New York head to Miami on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). The match previously scheduled for November but shifted forward due to schedule adjustments enforced by COVID-19 outbreaks across the league.

A matchup with Miami could be exactly what Flacco needs to earn what could be a final blaze of glory in a strong NFL career. Numerous celebrities are listed as minority owners of the Dolphins (including tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams), but Flacco could make a case to add himself to that list. He owns a 7-0 record against Miami and owns a 109.4 passer rating over those six showdowns.

Flacco was aware of his success against the Dolphins when fielding questions on Wednesday. When his streak came up, Flacco jokingly accused the inquirer of “jinxing it”.

“I’ve been fortunate to play on a lot of good teams and you know some that maybe weren’t as good outcome wise at the end of the year but we still have some good teams and some good players that showed up to play on Sundays,” Flacco said of the streak, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “So, (I’ve) played down there a few times and definitely know a little bit about getting ready for the heat, doing all those things and I think if we prepare right and hydrate right, then we’re in good shape and then we can be the team that you know tries to wear the other team out, even though we’re coming down there only one time a year.”

The monopoly over Miami began in Flacco’s rookie campaign in 2009 after first-round call from the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco threw for 232 yards and a score in an October win in Miami before managing a 27-9 decision in the AFC wild card playoffs three months later. More recently, Flacco earned his most recent of three career four-touchdown pass games in a 38-6 shellacking in Baltimore in December 2016.

The Jets could use any victorious distraction in these trying times. They’re back in the headlines for the wrong reasons after the release of Le’Veon Bell on Tuesday night, sinking their perpetual rebuild into new levels of woe.

In times of offensive trouble, attention almost always turns to the quarterback. Flacco acknowledged that role in his Wednesday statements.

“You just need to have plays build off of plays. You need to get some chunks here and there. Right now, we are just going the long hard way,” Flacco said. “It’s a good sign to have a long drive, because you know you’re obviously doing a lot of little things right, but it’s hard to do that consistently. And right now, that’s what we’re kind of forcing ourselves to do, is just be so perfect and as soon as one little thing gets messed up by us, or it goes wrong because there’s a good defense, we’re off the field.”

“I think that, you know, we need to try to get some more first downs in first and second down and then once we get in the red zone we really just have to finish, we have to get points.”

To Flacco’s point, the Jets reached the opposing 35-yard-line four times on last Sunday afternoon against Arizona, but emerged with only one touchdown, as the others ended in a Sam Ficken field goal and failed attempts on fourth down. New York lost 30-10 and fell to 0-5 on the season.

Reinforcements will slowly begin to trickle in for the Jets. Breshad Perriman is expected to play this week after suffering an ankle injury in Week 2’s game against San Francisco. Like Flacco, Perriman was a first-round pick of the Ravens and they spent several seasons together in Baltimore (2015-17).

“I think Breshad over the last couple years has gained a lot of confidence and he’s been playing really well when he’s healthy and he’s rolling,” Flacco said. “You know he’s a tough guy to cover. He can bring a lot of explosive plays to your offense, so it’ll be exciting to kind of get him back out there and it was exciting to see him back out there at practice today.”

Further good news came from the Jets in the form of an update on second-round pick Denzel Mims. The rookie receiver has dealt with injuries all season, but was recently cleared to return to practice alongside Arthur Maulet and fellow rookie Cameron Clark.

No matter the on-field activity, the main talking point throughout Sunday late afternoon will more than likely be Bell’s absence, even if it fully isn’t shown on the statsheet. Flacco, of course, is more than familiar with what will be missed in his departure, as the two were on opposite sides of one of the NFL’s most intense, continuous rivalries in the Ravens-Steelers’ battle for AFC North dominance.

But nonetheless expressed hope that an opportunity has arisen for younger players to take on a role, namely fourth-round rookie La’Mical Perine. The development of these young talents, with the help of some veteran leaders, could well give the Jets something to play for over these dire eleven weeks left on their docket.

“I think we got a really good room. I think we got, obviously in Frank (Gore), a Hall of Fame veteran, a really good young kid coming up (in Perine), I think those guys are going to step up and play really well.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

One burning question for each AFC East team

New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Sam Darnold, Tua Tagaviola, Cam Newton

The AFC East has been at the forefront of league news throughout the past couple of months. Tom Brady left New England, Cam Newton replaced him. Miami drafted Alabama standout and injury-riddled Tua Tagovailoa. New York traded Jamal Adams to the Seahawks. Buffalo traded for veteran wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

Through all the changes and breaking news, each team still has some questions to be answered. So, let’s address one burning question that remains for each team in the division.

New England Patriots

Question: Which Cam Newton are they getting?

From the moment Cam Newton was drafted by the Panthers in 2011, he was one of the most dynamic players in the league. He led Carolina to a 68-55-1 record as a starter and brought them to the Super Bowl in 2015. Being a true dual-threat quarterback, he totaled 29,041 yards with 182 touchdowns through the air and 4,806 yards with 58 touchdowns on the ground.

However, he has an injury history. He’s coming off a shoulder injury that caused the Panthers to move on from him. No now knows how he’ll play or if he’ll even be a sliver of what he once was. Now, obviously, Cam Newton has been posting videos of himself in the gym and on the field, and he looks good. That doesn’t prove anything. The only way to know for sure is through real game action.

The entire Patriots season is riding on Cam Newton’s health and ability. If he is anywhere near what he once was, they’ll be good. If he’s not, they won’t. So, the question remains, which Cam are they getting?

Buffalo Bills

Question: Can Josh Allen improve as a passer?

Josh Allen has helped turn this Buffalo Bills team into a real playoff team. The third-year quarterback led the Bills to the playoffs last year, before losing to Houston 22-19. His performance in that game is a perfect example of how he needs to improve.

In that game, Allen had 9 carries for 92 yards. That’s a whopping 10.22 yards per attempt. He also threw for 264 yards. However, he didn’t have a touchdown and completed just 24 of 46 passes for a 52.17 completion percentage. That is not ideal for a quarterback that is expected to be the franchise guy.

Yes, he’s helped lead the Bills to a 15-12 record as a starter and a playoff appearance, but it’s not because of just him. He has been helped out by a fantastic defense, as well. Allen can certainly make plays when needed, but most of those big-time plays are made on the ground. He needs to improve as a passer because, frankly, a 56.3 completion percentage through two seasons isn’t going to cut it.

New York Jets

Question: Is Adam Gase the right coach for this team?

I could’ve gone two ways here. I could’ve either focused on Gase or whether or not Sam Darnold is the future of the Jets. Gase seemed like the better question because the Jets haven’t had great luck with coaches, everyone seems to have mixed feelings about Gase and, well, I didn’t want every question to be about a quarterback. So, let’s get to the point.

Adam Gase’s hiring was a somewhat questionable one for many fans because people such as Mike McCarthy were available. McCarthy has been to a Super Bowl, Gase hasn’t even come close. He blew onto the scene when he took over as the head coach of the Dolphins and led them to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. Since then, with the Dolphins and Jets, he’s had three consecutive losing seasons.

His first season as the Jets head coach was off to a dreadful start, but a late-season push led to a 7-9 record. That push may very well have saved his job. Sure, he still might’ve stayed as head coach, but his “leash” would’ve been much shorter. In order for Gase to help his own case, the team needs to at least improve to 8-8. If they finish with another losing record, fans are going to be calling for Adam Gase’s job.

Miami Dolphins

Question: Can Tua Tagovailoa stay healthy?

Okay, time to go back to a quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa was one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football when he was on the field. He replaced Jalen Hurts as the quarterback for Alabama in the second half of the 2017 National Championship. What’d he do? He won the National Championship as a true freshman.

As a sophomore, he led Alabama to another championship appearance but lost to Clemson. Last season, as a junior, he dealt with a massive amount of injuries. He had surgery ankle surgery after a game against Tenessee. Later in the season, he suffered three injuries on one sack. He broke his nose, suffered a concussion and his hip dislocated and fractured the posterior wall. That one instance forced everyone to begin questioning his draft stock and NFL future.

When the Dolphins drafted him fifth overall, they took a big gamble on the collegiate star. If he can fully rebound from the injuries, specifically the hip, he has tremendous upside and may be the best quarterback in the draft, ahead of Joe Burrow. If he can’t stay healthy, the Dolphins’ future plans have to take a new route. All in all, the entire future of this team seems to be resting on Tua’s health at this point.

 

Photo edit credit: Anthony Rivardo

 

NFL: New Jersey native, Super Bowl champion Jim Kiick passes away at 73

The nine-year NFL veteran starred at Boonton High School before partaking in the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl runs in the 1970s.

New Jersey native and former NFL running back Jim Kiick has passed away at 73, the Miami Dolphins announced on Saturday.

A native of Lincoln Park, Kiick starred at Boonton High School, where he was a multi-sport athlete that made the all-Morris County team as a defensive back. He then spent three years at the University of Wyoming, where he led the Cowboys to victory with an MVP performance in the 1966 Sun Bowl, where he put up 177 total yards in a 28-20 win over Florida State. One year later, he was the spark behind Wyoming’s undefeated regular season.

Two years after breaking Floridians’ hearts by running all over the Seminoles, Kiick became a crucial part of the state’s athletic history when the Miami Dolphins chose him in the fifth round (118th overall) of the 1968 NFL/AFL Draft. He and fellow Miami draftee Larry Csonka rekindled a friendship begun at the 1968 College All-Star Game and, along with Mercury Morris, formed a deadly rushing attack. Kiick tallied 3,644 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns over seven seasons in a Dolphins uniform. His nine scores during the 1969 America Football League campaign.

To this day, Kiick ranked fifth in Dolphins history in rushing yardage (3,644) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (28).

Kiick would go on to make a name for himself via big performances in the postseason. Notably, he scored in all playoff contests during Miami’s completion of their perfect season in 1972-73. Kiick touchdowns were the difference in all three wins, including his one-yard score in Super Bowl VII against Washington. Previously, he posted a two-touchdown performance in the AFC Championship Game win in Pittsburgh (won by a 21-17 margin). His score in the divisional round against Cleveland was the last end zone entry of a 20-14 victory. One more Super Bowl score awaited Kiick in the eighth edition against Minnesota, which Miami won 24-7.

Clashes with head coach Don Shula about his Miami role led Kiick to seek a new opportunity in the World Football League. He, Csonka, and fellow Miami champion Paul Warfield spent a year-plus with the Memphis Southmen/Grizzlies (no relation to the NBA team of the same name). The trio were three of the richest WFL players before the league shut down in the middle of its second season in 1975.

Kiick was set to reunite with his good friend Csonka (the Miami media dubbed the pair “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) with the New York Giants, but the team was wary of the pair’s hard-partying ways. He would go on to play four games over two final NFL seasons with Denver and Washington before retiring in 1978. The dual-threat retired with 6,061 yards from scrimmage, with his best statistical season coming in 1971 (738 rushing yards in 1971, a year that ended with Miami’s first Super Bowl appearance).

After football, Kiick returned to Florida and served as a private investigator in the public defender’s office of Broward County. He routinely appeared at modern Dolphins games and was inducted into the University of Wyoming’s sports Hall of Fame in 1996. The running back was living with dementia at the time of his death.

Kiick is survived by his children Allie and Austin, the former being a tennis pro on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

The past decade’s best moments in the New York Jets-Miami Dolphins rivalry

On World Oceans Day, we look back on the finest metropolitan moments the New York Jets-Miami Dolphins rivalry gave us during the 2010s.

As the world commemorates World Oceans Day, ESM looks back on the finest moments between the New York Jets and their most traditional aquatic opponents, the Miami Dolphins, from the past decade.

The 2010s were an interesting time for the Jets and Dolphins, a pair of star-crossed opponents trapped in the New England monopoly that was the AFC East. As such, postseason success was limited on both sides, but they did manage to provide their football-starved fans some brief moments of pride…

9/26/10: On the Mark in Miami

The last decade began with so much hope for the Jets, and the opening stanzas of the opening season did nothing to quell these feelings. New York began its season with a 5-1 mark, including a 31-23 victory in Miami in its first road game of the campaign. Mark Sanchez got things rolling with two touchdown tosses to Dustin Keller, but 17 unanswered points but the Dolphins ahead. Immediately after Brandon Marshall’s 11-yard score, however, Sanchez put the Jets ahead for good on a 67-yard hookup with Braylon Edwards. Miami was five yards away from a potential tying score in the dying stages, but Drew Coleman’s interception of Chad Henne officially set off the celebratory journey back home.

10/17/11: 100-Yard Grand

A winless Dolphins team waltzed into MetLife Stadium looking for some early momentum on Monday night. They succeeded with an early field goal deep in Jets territory and seemed poised to increase that lead as they got closer to the goal line. But, like so many other hopeful drives in the decade, Miami’s surge was put to a swift end by Darrelle Revis, who took back a Matt Moore toss the length of the field for a touchdown…literally. Revis’ 100-yard return permanently shifted momentum in what became a 24-6 Jets win, one that required only 13 New York first downs.

1/1/12: Wipeout in Miami

One week after Victor Cruz and his 99 yards put a major dent in the Jets’ playoff hopes, the Dolphins official deflated them with a 19-17 victory in the 2011 season’s listless finale. A lot needed to happen for the Jets to recover their dwindling playoff hopes, but Miami rendered it fully null and void by forcing their opponent into three Sanchez interceptions (two landing in the hands of Randy Starks). The game was also a coda for Dolphins legend (and brief Jet) Jason Taylor, who retired shortly after.

9/23/12: The Sparanos

That offseason, the Jets brought in a former enemy in Miami head coach Tony Sparano, who was hired to be the offensive coordinator. Sparano didn’t have to wait too long to administer revenge, as the first matchup of the Jets’ yearly Miami pair came in September. Miami took an early 10-0 lead, but the Jets knotted things up with a Nick Folk field goal and LaRon Landry’s interception return for a touchdown in the early stages of the third quarter. Overtime was needed as the teams went back forth for the rest of regulation. Sparano got to put the finishes touches on the victory, as Folk’s game-winning field goal from 33 yards out was set up by a 38-yard hookup between Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.

12/28/14: Geno’s Perfecto

Geno Smith’s perfect game didn’t go down in New York lore like those of, say David Wells, Don Larsen, and David Cone, but it was nonetheless impressive in an otherwise meaningless game. With the Jets and Dolphins set for quiet exits once again, Smith sent New York (as well as soon-to-be-fired head coach Rex Ryan) out in style with a 158.3 passer rating, the highest mark a quarterback can earn. Smith went 20-for-25 for 358 yards and three scores in a 37-24 victory to earn the sixth perfect game in Jets history…and the only one during the 2014 NFL season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yeTlz4TbnE

10/5/15: Cheerio, Joe!

The Jets dealt the final blow to Miami’s Joe Philbin era, indirectly paving the way for Adam Gase’s inclusion in the rivalry. Philbin’s last stand came when the rivalry went international, as the Jets beat up Miami in front their “home” crowd at Wembley Stadium in London. Chris Ivory put in a career-best 166 rushing yards in the upheaval while Muhammad Wilkerson tallied two sacks and a forced fumble. Revis Island was in effect on the island nation as well, earning an interception of Ryan Tannehill overseas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e_sZncvnfg

12/17/16: Saturday Night Heaver

Head coach Adam Gase’s first career playoff clincher as a head coach came at MetLife Stadium. Alas for the metropolitan area, it wasn’t for the Jets, but rather the Dolphins, who more or less clinched their first playoff berth since 2008 with a 34-13 shellacking of the Jets in East Rutherford in a Saturday night prime time game (Miami officially clinched based on results from the next day). The third quarter was the dealbreaker via 21 unanswered Miami points, which consisted of two Matt Moore scoring passes and Walt Aikens returning a blocked punt for a touchdown.

9/16/18: Miami Thrice

The Jets’ 2018 home opener was one of the more hopeful ones the team had had in a long time. They were coming off a victory in Sam Darnold’s first career start in Detroit and were eager to see what he could do in the first AFC East tilt. Darnold was passable to the tune of 334 yards and a touchdown pass to Bilal Powell, but the Jets’ raucous crowd was silenced by a 20-12 Miami victory. Time was limited for Darnold, who was sacked three times and forced into two interceptions by a relentless Dolphin pass rush. It also didn’t help that Miami had jumped out to an early 20-0 lead via assistance from two Ryan Tannehill touchdown passes.

12/8/19: You’re a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith

Five weeks after granting the downtrodden Dolphins their first win of the season, the Jets were on the brink of a most embarrassing sweep at MetLife Stadium. They had built a lead via 16 points in the second quarter and kept Miami out of the end zone, but seven Jason Sanders field goals were enough for the visitors to hold a 21-19 lead in the penultimate minute. On the potential drive to victory, Darnold found Vyncint Smith for an immediate 37-yard gain into Miami territory before getting sacked by Andrew Van Ginkel. Darnold once again sought Smith for a big play downfield, but it appeared for naught when it fell incomplete. However, a review determined that Smith’s quest for the ball was interfered with by Nik Needham, and the Miami defender became the rare victim of a penalty view replay. The Jets subsequently moved back into Dolphins territory, where Sam Ficken booted the game-winning field goal from 44 yards out.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Miami Dolphins Allen Hurns Spreading Blessings

Miami Dolphins, Allen Hurns

Miami Dolphins Allen Hurns knows the value of a mother.  Together Hurns and his mother Erica Wilson started 88 Blessings Foundation to provide resources for single parents.  88 Blessings equip single parents with essential advice on topics ranging from financial stability to other issues.  They also offer assistance both financially and emotionally and connect these single parents to sources that will aid them with whatever they may need.  They make it clear that they are their wholeheartedly and fully support them through it all!  They also ensure these single parents know through it all that they are not alone no matter what and that things can and will get better in due time- spreading an absolutely beautiful message of hope and solidarity for these strong, brave individuals!

Hurns’ 88 Blessings helps countless people in need and gives back in any way they possibly can.  When Hurns sees an opportunity to provide support or assistance to those less fortunate he immediately jumps at it and offers his aid.  For instance, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Hurns saw fit to honor high school seniors part of the class of 2020 by creating the S.O.A.R. Movement which sends out care packages to the graduates to brighten their day.  Also, Hurns has promised that when the pandemic is over, he will host a night out for the seniors to further celebrate and honor them.  Hurns has been a part of aiding hurricane relief efforts, handed out Christmas gifts to children of single mothers, and has done so much more to impact so many lives.

Hurns inspiration is his beautiful mother Erica Wilson, the driving force and CEO of 88 Blessings, who is a strong, brave, resilient single mother to Hurns and his brother.  She is a successful businesswoman and empowers others and uses her platform to enact change and encourages others to do the same.  She is an absolute role model not just to her successful sons but to all!  The apple does not fall far from the tree- it is no wonder why Hurns is such a giving, kind person, an absolute class act with a heart of gold.   It truly is wonderful to see such a loving family using their platform in such a positive way, making a difference in the lives of others!

5 NFL Teams that Could Surprise Fans This Season

New York Giants, Darius Slayton, Saquon Barkley

The Kansas City Chiefs won their first Superbowl in 50 years this past February. The team was lead to victory by their former MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes led the Chiefs to overcome a 10 point deficit in the fourth quarter of the game. While the Chiefs are expected to make another strong run for a championship title, there are a few teams that have had their potential flying quietly under the radar. Here are five teams that could surprise people with a strong season this fall. 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons had a worrisome start to their 2019 season. Through their first eight games before their bye week, the team had only won one game. Atlanta had appeared to be heading for a top pick in the draft. Some fans had lost hope on the remainder of the season. However, after the bye week, the team came back with a new identity. The Falcons won six of their last eight games including wins against playoff-caliber teams such as the Saints and the 49ers. Atlanta finished their year on an impressive four-game winning streak, leaving their fans with high hopes for the next season. The team followed up their strong end of season performance by adding running back Todd Gurley in the offseason and drafting one of the classes best corners in A.J. Terrell out of Clemson. The Falcons improved on both sides of the ball and are definitely a team to look out for in 2020. 

Denver Broncos

Late last season the Broncos handed over their offense to their rookie quarterback Drew Lock. Denver drafted Lock in the second round last year and knew he would eventually take over as the teams starting QB. It wasn’t until Week 13 when Lock finally got his chance as the starter. Lock definitely didn’t disappoint as he performed very well and helped the team win four of their final five games since he took over. Denver continued to support Lock this offseason by adding more weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The team signed running back Melvin Gordon to play alongside running back Phillip Lindsay. The Broncos also added two more weapons on the outside. Denver drafted wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler in the first two rounds. Not only did the team add two fantastic receivers in the draft, but they already have Courtland Sutton who had a breakout season last fall. The team has set Drew Lock up for success after surrounding him with tons of talent. The ceiling is high for the Denver offense in 2020 as they’ll look to compete with the best of the best this year. 

New York Giants

The Giants made plenty of big moves this offseason, including major changes to their coaching staff. New York hired former Patriots special teams and wide receivers coach, Joe Judge to be the next head coach of the team. Judge has since come in and made significant changes to the teams coaching staff. He brought in former head coaches such as Jason Garrett and Freddie Kitchens to coach alongside him. Despite the team having a poor performance last season, there were some bright spots that displayed their potential. Last offseason the team drafted quarterback Daniel Jones sixth overall and the pick came with lots of controversies. Jones took over as the starter in the third week of the season replacing the franchise’s great Eli Manning. Jones performed well despite having trouble with turnovers. He displayed flashes of qualities of a franchise leading quarterback. The Giants added some key players in free agency such as cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez. New York continued their offseason by drafting one of the top offensive tackles in the draft in April. With a revamped defense and offensive line, the Giants will look to surprise people this season. 

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals made one of the biggest moves this offseason by trading for superstar wide our DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona fans were provided with much hope after watching their number one overall pick last April be named the NFL offensive rookie of the year. Kyler Murray provided a spark to the Cardinals offense that turned him into one of the most electric players in the league. However, the team did not stop after trading for a superstar. They followed it up with a fantastic draft. The team selected do-it-all player Isaiah Simmons from Clemson. Simmons was considered by many the most talented player in the entire draft. Arizona had been lucky enough for Simmons to still be on the board by the eighth overall pick and there was so chance the Cardinals would let him getaway. The team also took another top offensive tackle in Josh Jones in the third round of the draft. The Cardinals could quite possibly become a must-watch team this upcoming season. 

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins struggled badly at the start of last season. It seemed for sure that the team would end up with the first overall pick and likely not win a game all season. However, head coach Brian Flores kept his team fighting as they put on impressive performances against competitive teams late in the year. Despite having such a young and inexperienced roster, Miami was able to win a couple of games including beating their rival Patriots on the road in December. Miami landed arguably the top free agent corner in Byron Jones, giving them possibly the best cornerback duo in the entire league. The Dolphins also drafted what they consider to be their future franchise quarterback in this April’s draft with the fifth overall pick. Dolphins fans are extremely excited about their future as they believe their rebuild has been executed perfectly so far. The Dolphins will definitely be a sleeper team to watch this fall.