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Five injured 2015 Patriots that could help the 2016 Patriots

We’ve all already heard about the high profile injuries that hurt the Patriots’ chances in 2015. There has already been plenty of talk about what New England should or could do in terms of acquiring talent to bolster the 2016 version of the Patriots. But the team already has some internal options who had minor or non-existent roles in 2015 and ended up on the shelf, but shouldn’t be forgotten when building your way-too-early depth charts.

The disclaimer here is this: None of these players can be considered locks to make the roster in 2016, but could prove something in order to carve out a role.

Trey Flowers, DE Largely forgotten due to the relative success of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard on the ends of the Patriots’ defensive line, Flowers didn’t spend much time on the field in New England, prompting some to think his placement on injured reserve was more a way for the team to stash him for a year and clear room on the roster to address other needs (the Patriots picked up running back Trey Williams the same day). He’s a former two-time All-SEC athlete whose 48 career tackles for loss are the second most by an SEC defender since 2005. He would still have to prove himself, but could have value as a run-stopping defensive end, or move inside in smaller sub-packages.

AJ Derby, TE The Scott Chandler experience did not turn out as expected and there’s a decent chance the veteran will be released to relieve some cap pressure, which opens up some opportunities at the tight end position. Derby spent the entire season on IR with an undisclosed injury, which suggests maybe the Patriots were simply hoping to stash him away for the season as he learns a position that he had just switched to in his final year at Arkansas. He’s 6-foot-5, 255 pounds with good athleticism, including a 4.72 40 time, which would have placed him third in the 2015 Combine, had he not been suffering from a stress fracture in his foot and sidelined for the event. Considered more of a pass catcher, he could act as that second tight end split  out off the line in an effort to create mismatches.

Tyler Gaffney, RB If he can stay healthy, the six-foot, 220-pound late-round pick out of Stanford the Patriots plucked from the Carolina Panthers in 2014 could have an opportunity to play a role as an internal option to take some of the workload previously shouldered by LaGarrette Blount, who may leave via free agency. He’s ended up on IR each of the last two seasons and has never had a regular season snap, but is someone Bill Belichick is said to value, especially for his work ethic, evidenced by the team’s willingness to hold onto him for another lost season. He’ll certainly see some manner of outside competition, but as the roster currently projects, he would be the team’s best in-house option as a between the tackles runner.

Brandon Gibson, WR Did someone order a big-bodied receiver on the cheap? Gibson was an inexpensive one-year signing after a forgettable tenure in Miami that included a patellar tendon tear. He was having a strong preseason, catching 12 passes for 98 yards before getting hurt in the second preseason game and ending up on season ending IR. Granted, preseason stats don’t mean a lot, but reports were good out of Foxboro. Gibson is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in March, but could return on a short money, incentive-laden kind of deal. He has experience in McDaniels’ system, posting his best professional season under the direction of the Patriots’ signal caller in 2010 with the Rams. Gibson has always been known as a guy who knows how to use his size (6 feet, 210 pounds) to his advantage and has played the slot for a good portion of his career, which, along with his size, could make him an asset in running interference in the underneath pick plays the Patriots love so much. At 28 and coming off of multiple knee injuries, he might not have anything left, but could be worth another flier.

Chris Jones, DT Jones started the year on the PUP list after offseason calf surgery and was never taken off, so his season was lost to IR. The Patriots had depth at the position in 2015, they face the prospect of losing Akiem Hicks and Sealver Siliga, and Jones would add a body at the position. He also isn’t a lock to make the team, but it helps that Jones also has special teams experience. He was the guy who committed a penalty on a Jets 56-yard attempt that cost the Patriots a game in 2013, he also blocked what would have been a game-winning kick against New York in 2014, probably his biggest claims to fame thus far in his career.

 

Breaking down the Patriots’ free agents

There aren’t very many of them, but the Patriots do have some members of the 2015 squad who may be playing elsewhere in 2016.

Much of the talk of the future has revolved around the fact that nearly all of the team is at least under contract next season, which obviously doesn’t mean they’ll be on the roster come Week 1, but let’s take a look at some of the notable players whose contract situation specifically is up in the air.

This list is compiled in order of impact on the 2015 team, starting with the most and ending with the least significant.

  1. Akiem Hicks, DT, Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA): Hicks came over in a trade from New Orleans and asserted himself as a key member of a strong interior defensive line rotation. Expected to be a key interior pass rusher for the Saints, he never really found a rhythm and lost playing time before shifting to New England where he flashed a strong all-around game. His three sacks and eight QB pressures (tied for fourth on the team) and three QB hits were expected, but he also had six run stuffs. Not bad for someone who was acquired for a journeyman tight end. At 26 years old, the solid season signals a pay day for Hicks. He’s almost certainly going to test the market seeking not only cash, but the opportunity for more playing time.
  2. Justin Coleman, CB, Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA): Coleman had some injury issues, most notably his hand injury that kept him out for several weeks, but when on the field, he had his moments, especially when lined up in the slot. Opposing quarterbacks threw for 51.1 percent, 301 yards and two touchdowns (an 85.5 passer rating) in 10 games against Coleman, who also recorded seven pass break-ups and 21 tackles. As an ERFA, the Patriots have until March 9 to extend him a minimum salary tender, which for a player with one year’s experience works out to $525,000, which the Patriots will surely pay.
  3. Nate Ebner, S, UFA: Ebner’s contributions to the Patriots have almost exclusively been on special teams units that historically have been good, thanks to key pieces like Ebner, Matthew Slater and Brandon Bolden. That, and his seemingly low salary demands would make it likely that he could return, but there is the possibility of a shakeup on a unit that had some gaffes uncharacteristic of a Patriots team in 2015.
  4. LeGarrette Blount, RB, UFA: When Blount went down with a hip injury, many lamented the loss of a much-needed impact runner with Dion Lewis also on the shelf. The only thing is Blount didn’t offer much in the way of impact. His 2015 season yielded maybe the quietest 700 yards ever, a number ballooned by one big game against a bad Redskins defense. The only reason he looked so good to Patriots fans when he went down was because of how bare the cupboard was behind him. While the injury won’t require surgery, Blount might end up back in New England on a short money, incentive-laden deal, a result of a weak market for him simply because he hasn’t proven to be able to do much elsewhere. Otherwise, the Patriots will surely move on.
  5. Tavon Wilson, S, UFA: A second-round draft pick in 2012, Wilson became a special teamer and depth safety who struggled in coverage. He offers more versatility than a guy like Ebner, but it’s likely the Patriots could find a better option and he could find a better fit elsewhere.
  6. Sealver Siliga, DT, Restricted Free Agent (RFA): After proving to be a pretty solid value signing in 2013, Siliga saw a significant drop-off in playing time in 2015, getting supplanted as the big body in the Patriots’ middle of the line rotation by Alan Branch and he fell even further back when New England traded for Hicks. He’s 26 and still has a place in the league, but it probably won’t be with the Patriots. He likely won’t be tendered a qualifying offer by March 9 and will become an unrestricted free agent.
  7. James Develin, FB, RFA: After breaking his leg in August, Develin’s presence was missed both in the run game and in pass protection as the offensive line got more and more beat up. The cost to keep him would be steep for the position at $1.6 million, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be back. It really depends on what Belichick identifies as priorities for the backfield in 2016.
  8. Cameron Fleming, T/G, RFA: The Patriots drafted Fleming in the fourth round in 2014, but by September 2015, he was cut. After time on the practice squad, he returned to the Patriots as depth when Nate Solder went down. He plays both tackle and guard and Bill Belichick likes versatility, but Fleming’s poor performance on the field probably outweighs that. It would be surprising if he gets a qualifying offer by the March 9 deadline.
  9. Tarell Brown, CB, UFA: Before Logan Ryan asserted himself as the No. 2 corner in New England, Brown appeared to have that spot, but a foot injury cost him the season. Coming off that kind of injury at 31 years old, he’s probably going to have to settle for a “show me” one-year deal with a lot of incentives tied in. He could get that in New England, but it might depend more on what he’s looking for. While he might have a shot to play for a ring in New England, he might want to pursue more playing time elsewhere.
  10. Ryan Wendell, C, UFA: Wendell played all of 13 snaps between illness and injury in 2015. A couple years ago, he surprised and showed some prowess, especially in the run game, but he had regressed and between the injury and his age with the current youth movement underway in the middle of the New England offensive line, it seems as if his time is done. Always more valuable to the Patriots than anyone else, his career might even be coming to a close.
  11. LaAdrian Waddle, T, RFA: This season proved the need for depth at the tackle position, but Waddle didn’t perform well for the Lions (which is why the Patriots were able to get him via a waiver claim) and then basically spent his entire tenure with the Patriots on the injured list, only appearing in New England’s Week 15 loss to the Jets. There’s almost no way he returns.
  12. Steven Jackson, RB, RFA: He’s not coming back and, after proving he has no juice left, will probably retire.

Megatron meets Minitron?

 

Admit it, many of you are still at least mentally sitting in your man cave in the dark staring a television you turned off as soon as Tom Brady’s forced pass to Julian Edelman on that two-point conversion got batted up in the air.

How did this happen? How did this happen to a team with this kind of offense … To a team with Tom Brady?

And after a period of anger in which you blame everyone from Bill Belichick not taking the three points with six minutes left in the game to Marcus Cannon for attempting to block Pro Bowl edge rushers seemingly with a spin move to that damn waterboy for not keeping Rob Gronkowski hydrated, it hits many of you – the “if only.”

“If only the Patriots had that one deep threat, that one guy who could win one-on-one downfield every time. That would have changed everything.”

Looking past the fact that without the prototypical “deep threat” (and really their best receiver of any size or shape for seven weeks) the Patriots had more plays of 20-plus yards than anyone else in the league or the fact that Tom Brady’s own inaccuracy on quick throws was as much to blame as his receivers’ inability to get open or his line’s inability to block against an elite Denver defense, OK, I’ll play your game.

I’ll play it if we can both acknowledge that when talking about deep threats, you’re not talking about a guy who will occasionally stretch the field; you’re talking a top-caliber, every down receiver.

You’re talking about Randy Moss 2.0.

That guy doesn’t exist on the free agent market, so really, you’re talking about a guy on another team of Pro Bowl quality who might be made available by a team in transition. Enter Megatron.

Calvin Johnson has hinted at retirement, a notion that is questionable given his age (31) and the fact that he is still playing at an extremely high level, but also somewhat understandable, given the Detroit Lions’ futility.

In his career with Detroit, his teams have managed to make the playoffs just twice (wild card qualifiers ushered out in their first game), their only two winning seasons. While playing at a high level, he’s suffered through some 0-16, 2-14 and 4-12 campaigns. During the winless season of 2008, he led the league in touchdown receptions, while in 2012 when the team won just four games, his 122 receptions (currently seventh all-time) yielded the most receiving yards in NFL history. To say they guy has paid his dues is an amazing understatement.

But the real wild card lies in how serious Johnson is about his retirement contemplation. After an amazingly uninspiring year of leadership from Jim Caldwell, new General Manager Bob Quinn not only announced Caldwell would stay, but also recently gave him an added endorsement, which, believe it or not, could actually tilt the scales in favor of Johnson staying. After all, the retention of Caldwell also signaled that Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who was able to get the Lions’ offense playing well after his mid-season promotion, would also be sticking around in the Motor City. Johnson is on record saying he enjoyed playing in Cooter’s offense.

Johnson’s contract carries with it a $24 million cap hit for next season and nearly $13 million in dead money that the Lions would be responsible for if he retires or is released. He’s not going to be released. Detroit does not face a cap crunch in 2016. So simply put, the Lions stand to benefit from moving on from Johnson only if they are convinced he won’t play for them.

From the Patriots’ perspective, it’s easy to see why you would want a guy of that caliber. From a purely logistical standpoint, the Patriots would have to do some maneuvering to afford to take him on, but it’s far from impossible.

Some of the moves are obvious. Jerod Mayo figures to be gone, which would automatically result in $6.4 million in savings. Scott Chandler, who was a huge disappointment, would save about $2 million against the cap if released. Danny Amendola, who carries a $7 million cap hit, will surely have his contract restructured regardless of Johnson’s status.

The Patriots could also do what they did with Moss and make a restructure of Johnson’s deal a condition in the trade, turning some of his salary into bonuses.

Whether the Patriots have enough equity to acquire him, or are willing to part with the assets necessary to do so is another topic altogether. Already missing their first round pick in this year’s draft thanks to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s unfounded and unprecedented punishment for the self-made DeflateGate “scandal,” the remaining picks carry with them a higher premium, especially for a team that figures to address some line of scrimmage issues via the draft. Some of the Patriots’ best draft pick currency is in the form compensatory picks, which can’t be traded.

But then how much would it take to pry away a guy who will handcuff a team to the tune of $13 million to watch games from his couch? Randy Moss was not just a malcontent; he was an underperforming malcontent, so a fourth-round pick for a player like Johnson would probably be a stretch, but how much?

Too much remains unclear about Johnson’s mindset (the Lions have admitted that to this point, they haven’t spoken with him regarding his future) and that remains the lynchpin in this discussion.

In this case, the uncertainty means hope for many Patriots fans, who remember Brady’s glory days (as if they’re gone).

Go ahead and dream.

Crazier things have happened.

Time to look forward for the Patriots

Patriots fans will hate to hear this, but it’s true.

It could be worse.

Sure, you have a broken toe and a 52 inch plasma screen TV that needs to be replaced after the temper tantrum that ensued when Rob Gronkowski wasn’t able to get his hands on the Patriots’ last-ditch Hail Mary as the Super Bowl clock ticked down to zero.

But as we come to accept the fact that the Patriots simply didn’t make that one play here or one play there that could have been the difference, we should also take the time to realize that while time to win another Lombardi Trophy with Tom Brady under center is waning, it still exists and truthfully, there is always next year.

This season, more than anything, was considered to be a bridge year. No one really gave the Patriots a chance to win the Super Bowl. After the Patriots lost back-to-back games to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants, no one gave them a chance to come close.

It wasn’t that it was believed that this team was bad, but that it was still in the building process. Even if they overachieved, that still remains true. The building blocks are still in place.

Before you start throwing one of the half-empty beer cans that are strewn around your house following your Super Bowl party at the screen, consider these points:

1. The four most explosive weapons on the best scoring offense in the AFC will be back next year. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez are all under contract and it’s almost guaranteed that Wes Welker will be back under the franchise tag.

2. The offensive line that protects the most important weapon will still be strong. There are questions about whether or not Brian Waters, who was tremendous all season and played very well in the Super Bowl, will be back and Dan Koppen is also an unrestricted free agent. But especially on the edge the team is deep with Matt Light, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Volmer. Should Waters, who was considered by Pro Football Focus to be the second-best right tackle in football, return, he and Logan Mankins make up one of the best guard tandems in football.

3. The defensive line turned out to be a strength this season. Once the liability of Albert Haynesworth was gone, the Patriots’ defensive line became quite formidable. Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love, easily the most improved Patriot and maybe one of the most improved players in the league this season, were a handful for any offensive line, while Brandon Deaderick proved to be a useful addition once he came off the PUP list. Love is a restricted free agent, but as an undrafted player is most likely to be retained by the Patriots.

4. The Patriots are all set at inside linebacker. When Brandon Spikes is healthy, he is an incredible force in stopping the run. Having a player who can charge forward, plug a hole and drive a running back backwards next to him allows Jerrod Mayo to do what he does best, which is a little bit of everything else.

Now, I’m not trying to blow sunshine up any orifices that are not meant to see the light of day. There are questions that remain about this team, most of them on defense. They still need pass rushers, as Mark Anderson, Rob Ninkovich and Andre Carter are all unrestricted free agents. They need help at safety, as clearly James Ihedebo and Sergio Brown are not a real answer next to Patrick Chung. While guys like Sterling Moore and Kyle Arrington showed some flashes, the cornerback play is a concern.

In addition to that, there’s the question of whether Steven Ridley is ready to be a consistent contributor to this team, as it is likely Benjarvus Green-Ellis will be gone. There’s uncertainty about who the number-two wide receiver, who is really the fourth option in the passing game, will be.

But the Patriots had  a lot of these questions this year and they made it to the Super Bowl. They didn’t just make it, they were about five minutes from winning it.

Which brings me to my biggest point: The Patriots have two first-round and two second-round picks in the upcoming draft. Say what you will about Bill Belichick’s draft history. We all know it. There have been some bad picks. But he also picked up Gronkowski, Spikes and Hernandez in the same draft two years ago, stealing Hernandez in the fourth round.

There are no guarantees. There is no easy road back to the Super Bowl. But there is hope. The sky is not falling.

Patriots’ additions raise eyebrows, hopes and questions

Those who have been frustrated in recent years with Bill Belichick’s penchant for hoarding draft picks can now rejoice. The New England Patriots head coach has taken some of his picks and made them work for him, something critics have chastised him for not doing enough.

But even more interesting are the players those draft picks were able to yield on the trade market. Reports on New England sports pages seemed more like big box store back-to-school advertisements. Brand names at low, low prices.

In Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco the Patriots acquired two immensely talented veterans who can make immediate impacts on their respective units. They also come with baggage.

A lot has been made of Belichick’s supposed ability to tame the otherwise untamable with Corey Dillon and Randy Moss being the two pieces of evidence those drinking the Kool-Aid point to. First, let’s examine this.

Dillon was hardly a bad apple when he came to New England. He was branded as a cancer and a malcontent by the Bengals after he made several statements about his displeasure with the team’s inability or unwillingness to get better. He went so far as to say the Bengals could never win so long as the Brown family owns the team. He wasn’t wrong then. He still isn’t. Speaking out publicly when you are living up to everything you signed on for and the team refuses to do anything to improve itself may make you disgruntled, but it hardly makes you a deviant the way the Bengals portrayed him. And funny that while Dillon was so hard to deal with the organization still required a second-round pick for him.

Moss came in with plenty of history and many fans swore off rooting for the Patriots so long as he was on the team. That mood changed when the Patriots were on their way to a perfect regular season and a Super Bowl appearance. Everyone thought Belichick had cured Moss. However, Moss proved that he was only following his typical pattern. So long as the team kept him happy, he would be a good soldier. As soon as he felt he wasn’t going to get the contract he felt he deserved, out came the good old Randy of old, talking about being disrespected and people hoping he would fail and eventually Belichick jettisoned him. If he was cured, apparently he relapsed badly.

Now that the notion that Belichick is a miracle worker is out, the question that remains prominent in everyone’s mind is how these two troublemakers will fit on the field, in the no-nonsense Patriots locker room and in a community that examines everything under a microscope.

Let’s look at Ochocinco first. While he doesn’t have the speed to burn he once had now that he’s 33, he remains one of the game’s top route runners and on top of that, he’s clearly smart. Belichick proved last season how much he valued both of those qualities by trading for Deion Branch, who supplanted Brandon Tate as the receiver opposite Wes Welker.

Ochocinco opens up options for the Patriots by spreading the field not vertically, but horizontally. Even teams with two Pro Bowl corners could find their hands full with Tom Brady with the likes of Ochocinco, Welker and Branch at wide receiver as well as versatile tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, both of whom enjoyed breakout rookie seasons. Brandon Tate still holds a spot serving as the vertical threat the team may need from time to time while Danny Woodhead and rookie Shane Vereen are both very competent pass catchers out of the backfield.

Questions revolve around Ochocinco’s headline stealing antics and how those will be tolerated by the Patriots’ brass. He’s always been about establishing his brand and at times could be accused of putting the name on the back of the jersey ahead of the one on the front. Clearly, that won’t fly in New England. However,  Ochocinco is presented with an opportunity he never really had in Cincinnati – the chance to play for a winner. It’s possible that given his perceived intelligence and his reported admiration of Belichick, he will recognize what his role on the team is. Also, number 85’s antics rarely have been to the detriment of his team. He’s more of a clown or a side show than a locker room bully or a degenerate.

The same cannot be said for the other marquee player brought in by the Patriots for essentially the equivalent of a baloney sandwich. Haynesworth brings with him excessive amounts of risk. Granted, he cost next to nothing to bring in and has no guaranteed money in his contract, so he would be easy to let go if need be. Ideally, he will provide a tremendous inside pass rush, especially in nickel and dime packages when Vince Wilfork is next to him occupying two bodies.

Of course, that will happen only if he is properly motivated, in shape, healthy and out of prison. Haynesworths’ clashes with the Redskins ownership are well-documented and clearly there was a disconnect there that was unrepairable. In that respect, a fresh start could do him good. However, the fact of the matter is Haynesworth’s issues go well beyond disputes with his coaches.

His wrap sheet is long and distinguished with violations including assaulting teammates and waitresses alike, stomping on an opposing player’s head after pulling off his helmet (he missed the first time and went back and tried again) and paralyzing a motorist while driving his Ferrari in excess of 100 miles per hour. To this day he refuses to help pay that man’s bills. I’m no psychiatrist, but I’ve been around people long enough and have logged enough hours watching Law and Order: SVU to recognize a borderline sociopath when I see one.

The odds of Haynesworth working out in New England might be less than 50-50. The odds of Ochocinco working out are much higher. That said, in either case, Belichick believed the upside was far to great  to turn his back on them, given the asking price.

Now the great experiment begins. Will Belichick the alchemist be able to turn these ingredients into gold, or will their volatility cause the whole thing to blow up in his face?

Weekly poll: Who will be Super Bowl champion?

The field is now set. Who will emerge from the NFL playoffs victorious?

Maza’s Monday Musings: Patriots the toast of the AFC

If the New England Patriots haven’t proven to you that they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, it may be time to see a doctor.

With their second straight dominating win over the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots completed a regular-season stretch that set multiple team records, as well as a few individual ones for Mr. Tom Brady.

While many viewed the first meeting a fluke game in which the Patriots were on the positive end of so many unusual plays that it could not be considered a legitimate win, the second go-around was nothing more than a classic beatdown.

I will first argue the point that the first game was less of a fluke. By scoring a touchdown in basically every conceivable way possible, the Patriots played a complete game. They dominated in every facet of the game. How that can be considered a fluke is beyond me.

In a similar respect, Sunday’s game was also a domination that to me more than anything legitimized the first game against these two teams. It was also a game that was controlled in all respects by the Patriots. Offensively, the Patriots stood up against the third-ranked defense in total yards allowed and only managed the following:

  • Picked up 502 total offensive yards, including 122 from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer;
  • Went 11-17 on third down;
  • Dominated time of possession, 36:19 – 23.41;
  • Didn’t allow a sack;
  • Had five different players cross the goal line, including Julian Edelman’s franchise record 94-yard punt return; and
  • Did all of the preceding without their top three receivers.

Defensively, the Patriots, who have been an opportunistic, but far from dominating bunch this season, had one of its best games statistically this season by doing the following:

  • Held Miami to 250 total yards on the day;
  • Allowed an average of just 4.3 yards per play and 2.4 yards per rush attempt;
  • Sacked Miami quarterbacks five times;
  • Forced two turnovers;
  • Allowed just four first downs on 13 third-down situations; and
  • Shut out the Dolphins for 57:49.

Miami clearly has its problems and that is why it is not going to the postseason. But this win for the Patriots was an illustration of how this team has gelled from Week 1 to now.

A defense that was considered at worst a joke and at best a liability at the beginning of the season has contributed an AFC-high 38 takeaways.

With those opportunities, Tom Brady, whose most talented receiver was shipped out of town mid-season, has led the offense to nine straight games of 30 points or more, which ties a record shared by the 2007 Patriots and the 2000 St. Louis Rams. The Patriots turn turnovers into points. They don’t give it up and make you pay when you do.

What’s more, the Patriots have done all this against one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL this season.

While statistically they may not be the best Patriots team ever, you could make the argument that this young squad may be the most complete Patriots team.

And that is why they have to be considered a true Super Bowl favorite.

Maza’s Thursday Musings: Jets tripping over themselves now

As if the last two games weren’t embarrassing enough, the New York Jets now have an extremely sticky situation on their hands.

The Jets took further action against strength coach Sal Alosi, stating they knew nothing about the “human wall” he and inactive players made when he stuck out his knee and tripped Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll while covering a return.

The Jets want you to think that Alosi acted on his own accord and without the knowledge or consent of the rest of the Jets’ coaching staff. Right. And Josh McDaniels knew nothing about what his “rogue” employee from video department was up to.

Now, I know during the course of the game a lot is going on and probably the last thing on Rex Ryan’s mind is, “I wonder what my strength coach is up to right now.” And I won’t presume to know the intricacies and inner workings of an NFL coaching staff.

However, when there’s as much smoke as there is surrounding this, there usually is more than a lit cigarette somewhere. With the season quickly spiraling with second straight poor outing against a division foe, the Jets and Ryan, who have been nothing short of bombastic this season, are not a team that I would put past to try anything to stop the bleeding. Something like a big punt return might have turned that game around.

Whether he told Alosi to do it or just let him do it knowingly, there had to be some level of involvement on Ryan’s part. And to make Alosi the sacrificial lamb just confirms that Ryan and the Jets are who we thought they were.

Weekly Poll: Who’s the NFL MVP?

Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are throwing the ball all over the yard. Maurice Jones-Drew is running through, around and over people. And Troy Polamalu is, well, just doing his thing. So who’s the Most Valuable Player in the league?

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