- WR Hartline cut after 6 seasons WR Gibson was also released
- Mike Tannenbaum hired... ...as Dolphins' executive VP of football operations
- Philbin retained Coach Philbin was given a contract extension
- Fins season ends on low note Jets down the Fins to end their season 8-8
AFC East Positional Grades – LBs
4) Buffalo Bills
This LB group may be a poor fit in the Bills new 3-4 Defense under DC Mike Pettine. Free Agent signee OLB Manny Lawson has never had more than 6.5 sacks in his 7-year career. Mark Anderson (30) played in only 5 games last season before going on IR, and has never played in a stand-up OLB position. Second-year ILB Nigel Bradham is coming off a solid rookie year, but can he take the pounding as a 3-4 ILB at 235 pounds? Rookie 2nd-round ILB Kiki Alonzo is expected to be the heart and soul of this group. Keep on eye on former 1st round pick Jerry Hughes, who was acquired in a trade for Kelvin Sheppard from the Colts.
3) New York Jets
Quinton Coples will move from DE to OLB in this 3-4 Defense in a boom-or-bust attempt to make him their cornerstone defender. Don’t hold your breath. ILB David Harris enters his 7th year at ILB, and is one of the more underrated players in the league. Rex Ryan raves about second-year ILB DeMario Davis, a raw player with great athleticism and tenacity. OLB Antwan Barnes could be a bargain FA signing if he regains his 2011 form when he had 11 sacks with the Chargers. OLB Calvin Pace likely will return in a backup role after starting 71 games for the Jets over the last 5 years. Backups Garrett McIntyre, Josh Mauga, and Nick Bellore are just that: backups.
2) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins replaced Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with MLB Dannell Ellerbe and WLB Phillip Wheeler in an effort to improve speed and youth at this position. Ellerbe and Wheeler will be long-term upgrades if they play to the level they did in 2012, but remains to be seen if they are one-year wonders or ascending players who have just hit their stride. Koa Misi turned in a solid season at SAM Linebacker. 4th-Round pick Jelani Jenkins was drafted for his coverage skills, and could take over at SAM LB for Misi if he leaves via Free Agency after the 2013 season. Depth could be an issue.
1) New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has invested heavily in this position, and is beginning to see the fruits of his labor. WLB Jerod Mayo is aiming for his third Pro Bowl in 4 seasons as one of the more complete LB’s in the game. MLB Brandon Spikes, a highly criticized 2nd-round pick in the 2010 draft after running a 5.0/40 in pre-draft workouts, has emerged as a great two-down thumper for Belichick. Last year’s 1st round pick SLB Donta Hightower flashed star potential with 4 sacks and a team-leading 10 tackles for loss. If that wasn’t enough, the Patriots made DE/OLB Jamie Collins their first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft after trading out of the 1st round. Collins (6-4, 250 with 4.59/40 speed) fits Belichick’s scheme perfectly as a hybrid player because of his intellegence, upside, and versatility.
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