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Kiper Identifies AFC East Shortcomings


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Mel Kiper identifies AFC East shortcomings

June, 2, 2011

Jun 2



By Tim Graham

Draft industrialist Mel Kiper began a series of "Summer Audits" for ESPN Insider. Kiper takes a look at the infusion of talent from the draft, remaining questions and the hypothetical best fit for next year's draft.

The AFC East is in the leadoff spot Thursday. Although the article is for subscribers, I can share some snippets from each club.

Buffalo Bills

Kiper likes the Bills' draft, especially Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus with the third overall selection. Problem areas continue to be the pass rush and the offensive line. Kiper writes the "Bills simply believe they have more at O-line than the results seem to bear out." He still sees quarterback as a concern, but notes Ryan Fitzpatrick might be the most stable quarterback for any team that drafted among the top 10.

Miami Dolphins

Kiper already is targeting quarterback as the Dolphins' biggest draft need for 2012, pairing them up with Oklahoma's Landry Jones. That coincides with Kiper's biggest remaining question, Chad Henne, who ranked 26th in passing efficiency despite the addition of Brandon Marshall. "To put that in context from a developmental standpoint," Kiper writes, "Sam Bradford was ranked just ahead of Henne, with a total absence of viable targets."

New England Patriots

The draft wasn't enthralling, but it was solid in Kiper's eyes. But he's unsettled that "New England didn't have a greater sense of immediacy" when it came to adding immediate impact players to a 14-2 team. The Patriots went more with longer-range talent, leading Kiper to believe they will be active in free agency when it comes to bolstering an unsatisfactory pass rush.

New York Jets

Kiper loves the Jets' first-round pick, Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Outside linebacker should be a free-agency priority, and with the Jets becoming a popular consideration for seemingly all unattached veterans, they shouldn't have trouble getting one interested.

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Problem with this theory is I don't see many pass rushers as UFA. JT again? Made a few big plays last year, but just didn't bring consistent heat.

Suspect we will be going with Westerman, or Brown. See how that works. Holmes is a RFA. A trade perhaps? Doubt it

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I like Tamba Hali out of the list.

2011 NFL Free Agent Linebackers

By: Roshan Bhagat


Chad Greenway (MIN) – For three years, Greenway has been a consistent linebacker for the Vikings. While the Vikings took a step back, the Iowa product took a step forward and has become an elite 4-3 outside linebacker. He’s an instinctive, well-rounded player who excels at stopping the run at the line of scrimmage. The Vikings can’t afford to lose a player of his caliber.

LaMarr Woodley (PIT) – Woodley was somewhat of a disappointment this year, but that’s only because he expected to take the next step and join the elites this year. Still, he remains one of the best left outside linebackers in the game with the ability to play all facets of the game effectively. The Steelers draft and develop linebackers better than any other franchise, but they have little reason to part ways with a player who has helped form the backbone of one of the league’s best defenses.

Tamba Hali (KC) – Hali has become an outstanding pass rusher the last two seasons while spending more time on his feet. He’s a consistent and relentless rush linebacker with a good burst off the edge. Though he’s more one-dimensional than Woodley, he’s probably had a bigger impact for the Chiefs defense. Without him, their pass rush would significantly diminish and the entire defense would suffer a big setback.

David Harris (NYJ) – Harris has flirted with becoming a great linebacker the last two seasons, but still hasn’t reached that level. Given his experience, I question whether he’ll ever get there, but his presence in the middle is still crucial to the success of the Jets defense. While he’s not great in coverage, he’s a great downhill linebacker that controls the pulse of the front 7. Without him, the Jets linebacking corps takes a big step back as does their run defense which very rarely allows 100 yard runners.

Stephen Tulloch (TEN) – Tulloch has had a better season in the middle of the Titans defense than most would have expected coming into the year. He trails only Jerod Mayo in tackles and has been just as good as his numbers indicate. He does a good job in the hole and cleans up plays.

Paul Posluszny (BUF) – Posluszny has difficulties playing the entire season, but when he’s healthy, he’s a very smart, instinctual linebacker in the middle of the defense. The Bills don’t have a particularly strong defensive line, which asks Posluszny to play through blockers a lot. The Bills have many holes in their run defense, but Posluszny isn’t one of them.

James Anderson (CAR) – The breakout of strongside linebacker James Anderson has been one of the bright spot for the Panthers. Anderson has done a nice job of filling the stat sheet and has been every bit as productive for the Panthers defense as it looks on paper. If Thomas Davis could return to form, the Panthers linebacking corps could be one of the strongest in the league after they lock of James Anderson in what seems like an obvious move.

Rocky McIntosh (WAS) – The Redskins have a number of free agents this offseason and Rocky McIntosh appears to be one of those that won’t be re-signed. He struggled to adapt to the Redskins schematic switch to the 3-4 defense, which is in Washington to stay. If he becomes a restricted free agent (depending on the CBA), the Redskins could tender him and see what comes of what.

Thomas Davis (CAR) – Before suffering a torn ACL, Thomas Davis was having his best season as the Panthers’ outside linebacker. Shortly after recovering, Davis suffered a 2nd torn ACL, which has kept him off the field for all of 2010. Who knows how effective he’ll be when he returns to the field, but the Panthers have expressed interest in returning him to Carolina.

Barrett Ruud (TB) – Into training camp, Ruud was pretty angry about not getting a long-term extension, especially when he was passed over for left tackle Donald Penn. After this season, it looks like the Buccaneers won in their decision to not re-sign him. Ruud has been somewhat disappointing this season, especially when asked to do more in coverage. He also has the tendency to get engulfed by guards, which puts him in limbo as far as middle linebackers are concerned. As the Buccaneers go back to more Tampa 2, the middle linebacker’s coverage ability will continue to be accentuated. It’ll be interesting to see the initial ballpark Ruud’s agent throws out to the Buccaneers and how far apart they are to begin with.

Takeo Spikes (SF) – Takeo Spikes has played well at 34 years of age and no one knows this better than Patrick Willis, who has “urged” his team to bring Spikes back next season. With the combination of Spikes and Willis in the middle playing behind Aubrayo Franklin, the 49ers have had one of the best run defenses between the guards.

Other Notable Free Agents:

Stephen Nicholas (ATL)

Mike Peterson (ATL)

Tavares Gooden (BAL)

Keith Ellison (BUF)

Jamar Williams (CAR)

Pisa Tinoisamoa (CHI)

Nick Roach (CHI)

Dhani Jones (CIN)

Brandon Johnson (CIN)

D’Qwell Jackson (CLE)

Chris Gocong (CLE)

Matt Roth (CLE)

Jason Trusnik (CLE)

Landon Johnson (DET)

Zach Diles (HOU)

Kevin Bentley (HOU)

Clint Session (IND)

Justin Durant (JAC)

Kirk Morrison (JAC)

Mike Vrabel (KC)

Quentin Moses (MIA)

Ben Leber (MIN)

Erin Henderson (MIN)

Tracy White (NE)

Danny Clark (NO)

Scott Shanle (NO)

Chase Blackburn (NYG)

Keith Bulluck (NYG)

Thomas Howard (OAK)

Kamerion Wimbley (OAK)

Stewart Bradley (PHI)

Ernie Sims (PHI)

Omar Gaither (PHI)

Antwan Barnes (SD)

Kevin Burnett (SD)

Stephen Cooper (SD)

Brandon Siler (SD)

Travis LaBoy (SF)

Manny Lawson (SF)

Will Herring (SEA)

Leroy Hill (SEA)

Matt McCoy (SEA)

David Vobora (STL)

Quincy Black (TB)

David Thornton (TEN)

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