The New England Patriots claimed second-year safety Don Jones on waivers from the Miami Dolphins on Monday, and waived second-year offensive lineman Chris Barker to make room on the 53-man roster.

Jones, a 2013 seventh-round draft choice out of Arkansas State, played in 16 games last season for Miami. His primary contributions came on special teams as a gunner and led the club with 11 special teams tackles last year.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Jones joins a deep safety corps in New England that includes Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon. Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner. It's one of the few positions where the Patriots figured to be seeking depth.

One line of thinking is that the Patriots could potentially receive some Dolphins-based intelligence from Jones leading into the Sept. 7 season opener between the teams. Jones made headlines in May, and earned a suspension from the Dolphins, for his tweets on Michael Sam's reaction to being drafted.

As for Barker, the Patriots have groomed him over the past year after claiming him on waivers from Miami at the final cutdown last year. Barker, a guard who also played left tackle in training camp and preseason, would almost certainly sign to the team's practice squad if he clears waivers.

The Patriots kept 10 offensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster, which is a bit higher than the league average.

Patriots work out snapper McDermott

September, 1, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After releasing incumbent snapper Danny Aiken on Saturday, the New England Patriots have a void to fill on their roster and they took a closer look at one possibility on Monday, working out former San Francisco 49er Kevin McDermott.

The Patriots didn't immediately sign McDermott, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with San Francisco last year and won a training camp competition over veteran Brian Jennings. McDermott took pleasure in being the team's most anonymous player in 2013.

The 24-year-old, who played in college at UCLA, was waived by the 49ers on Saturday in favor of Kyle Nelson, who is known more for his coverage skills.

As the Patriots sort through their snapper-in-transition situation, they currently have Charley Hughlett on the practice squad and veteran Rob Ninkovich as the top option on the 53-man roster.

It would be a surprise if the Patriots go into Sunday's season opener against the Dolphins with Ninkovich as the primary snapper.

New York Jets sign CB Phillip Adams

September, 1, 2014
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Desperate for cornerbacks, the New York Jets acquired their second in as many days, signing free agent Phillip Adams.

Adams was released Saturday by the Seattle Seahawks. He was originally a seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, but he has bounced around the league. He has played for the New England Patriots, Seahawks (2011) and Oakland Raiders.

In 66 career games, Adams has three interceptions.

Clearly, the Jets are reaching, hoping something works out. On Sunday, they acquired Leon McFadden, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, on waivers.

To make room for Adams, the Jets waived wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-round pick. He likely will return on the practice squad.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The first offering of bad news happened this morning for the Miami Dolphins' defense: New England Patriots Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski declared himself ready to return in Week 1.

Gronkowski
Gronkowski
Miami’s defense has traditionally struggled against the Patriots’ offense. The Dolphins will be preparing for a New England team at full strength Sept. 7 at Sun Life Stadium to open the regular season.

Though Gronkowski’s return is news to the rest of the league, the Dolphins were not surprised. Miami was bracing for Gronkowski, who is coming off an ACL tear, as soon as the NFL schedule was released in April.

"We were fully prepared. We saw he was on the 53-man roster so we have to be prepared for every combination," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said Monday. "He’s an excellent player. He’s been very productive throughout his career. So we will have a good plan in place. ... We will be ready for him, for sure."

Gronkowski provides perhaps the biggest matchup problem Miami has on defense. The Dolphins' linebackers are one of the most inconsistent groups on the team -- both against the run and the pass. Gronkowski is arguably the NFL’s best tight end when healthy and New England quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite target in the red zone.

However, if the Dolphins focus too much on one player it could open things up for others on New England's offense, such as receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

"We’ve got to defend their entire group and that’s a big enough chore as it is," Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "We assumed that he would be playing. So that’s kind of how we’ve been proceeding since the spring."

This will be an interesting chess match between two division opponents who know each other well. The team which best took advantage of the extra prep time will start the regular season 1-0.

"You’re always able to spend more time on your first opponent -- and that goes back to spring," Coyle said. "Certain things that we worked on, and certain things we exposed our players to, I think they have a better feeling now than if it were Game 5 or 6 during the regular season."
Newly acquired cornerback Leon McFadden was the NFL poster boy for the dramatic increase in preseason penalties. In fact, he committed a league-high eight, according to the NFL's stats website, and it wasn't close for second.

Playing for the Cleveland Browns, McFadden was called four times for defensive holding, three times for illegal contact and once for pass interference. Two penalties were declined. All told, it amounted to 60 yards.

The former third-round pick apparently didn't get the memo on the league's increased emphasis on contact penalties.

A few other statistical nuggets on McFadden, whom the Jets picked up Sunday on waivers:
  • He played a lot in the preseason -- a total of 188 snaps, including two starts. Conditioning shouldn't be an issue.
  • He was targeted 20 times (that's a lot) and allowed seven completions for 145 yards, according to the stats-based website Pro Football Focus. His catch percentage (35.0) is good, but he obviously surrendered big plays.
  • As a rookie in 2013, he ranked 181st out of 199 cornerbacks, according to PFF.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots announced their 10-man practice squad Monday, and it's a group highlighted by second-year receiver Josh Boyce.

Joyce
Boyce
"A little bit [disappointed], but at the end of the day I'm on the football team still," Boyce said in the locker room Monday. "So you know I can't complain about that. It caught me off guard a little bit, but it's just all right now."

Here is the Patriots' initial practice squad:

DE Jake Bequette -- 2012 third-round draft choice has appeared in eight games over two seasons with the Patriots but hasn't registered any statistics.

WR Josh Boyce -- 2013 fourth-round draft choice out of TCU. Played in nine games with the Patriots last season, totaling nine catches for 121 yards and returning nine kickoffs.

QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson -- The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Sacramento State alum has been with Miami (2011), Minnesota (2012-2013) and San Francisco (2011, 2013-2014) after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He does not have any regular-season stats.

LB Ja'Gared Davis -- Davis was claimed on waivers from the Texans in August of 2013 and played in one regular-season game and two playoff games last season on special teams.

S Kanorris Davis -- In his first year out of Troy, Davis appeared in three regular-season games and two playoff contests last season for the Patriots in a special-teams-type role.

RB Jonas Gray -- First-year running back out of Notre Dame, a bigger presence at 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, did some good things in the preseason for the Patriots.

LS Charley Hughlett -- The first-year snapper was with the Patriots for a few months this offseason and has also spent time with Dallas and Jacksonville. He has not snapped in a regular-season game.

OL Chris Martin -- Rookie offensive tackle from Central Florida joined the team in June as an undrafted free agent and spent training camp on the active/non-football injury list.

LB Deontae Skinner -- Undrafted middle linebacker from Mississippi State was with the Patriots until the cut down to 75 players and adds some depth in practice at a position where the Patriots are thin on their 53-man roster.

CB Daxton Swanson -- The first-year cornerback from Sam Houston State, who stands at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, was with the Patriots in training camp and showed good ball skills in practice and games.

Every Patriots player present at practice

September, 1, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- All hands are on deck for the New England Patriots as they began preparations Monday for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at the Miami Dolphins.

No players were missing from practice other than cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms, who are both serving four-game suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones rejoined his teammates after doing some conditioning work at the start practice. He had been out since the Aug. 7 preseason opener against Washington after sustaining a sprained left ankle.

Rookie offensive lineman Chris Martin, who spent training camp on the non-football injury list, also returned after signing on the team's practice squad.

Meanwhile, for those keeping tabs on jersey numbers, defensive end Zach Moore switched from No. 71 to No. 90; linebacker Darius Fleming swapped from No. 44 to No. 55; and Martin changed from No. 72 to No. 69.

The Patriots were wearing shorts and shells for the practice.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski declared that he is ready to play in the Sept. 7 season opener against the Dolphins, while also adding that a full workload isn't a realistic expectation.

“Definitely not [playing] every single snap. But just get out there, get my feet wet, whatever coaches have, whatever we game-plan this week, will be good," he said.

With this in mind, here's a look at how the Patriots gradually brought Gronkowski back upon his return to action last year (including penalties):

at Jets: 51 of 79
vs. Dolphins: 33 of 65
vs. Steelers: 48 of 75
at Panthers: 63 of 72
vs. Broncos: 86 of 86

A realistic expectation Sunday would be for Gronkowski to be part of a rotation or a specific package, perhaps dedicated to the red zone, where he does some of his best work.

Sammy Watkins (ribs) practicing Monday

September, 1, 2014
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) participated in at least the start of Monday's practice.

Watkins took part in routes-versus-air while reporters were present. He dropped his first pass and immediately did push-ups.

It's unclear his participation in the remainder of practice, as reporters are allowed only a brief window to watch regular-season practices.

Watkins re-injured his ribs in the Bills' preseason finale last week.

The Bills will practice four times this week before traveling for their season opener against the Chicago Bears.

Stephen not worth a Hill of beans

September, 1, 2014
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A total of 26 players were claimed on waivers Sunday, and not one of them was named Stephen Hill -- a rather stunning downfall for the former New York Jets' starting wide receiver.

Hill
It wasn't a money issue. Any team that picked up his contract would've been responsible for only $718,394, his 2014 base salary -- non-guaranteed.

That Hill cleared waivers is somewhat surprising. The NFL is all about size and speed, and Hill is a size-speed player, sans the production. Evidently, the other 31 teams saw what the Jets saw.

Four wide receivers were claimed: T.J. Graham (Tennessee Titans), a former third-round pick of the Buffalo Bills; Kris Durham (Titans), a former third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks; Damaris Johnson (Houston Texans), a former undrafted free agent; and LaRon Byrd (Cleveland Browns), a former undrafted free agent.

Browns coach Mike Pettine knows Hill from his days with the Jets, and his Buffalo defense was torched last season by Hill -- and he still took a pass.

Hill is a free agent, eligible to sign with any team. On Saturday, his agent, Alan Herman, indicated Hill would prefer a team with an established quarterback situation.

Spikes, Graham among Bills' captains

September, 1, 2014
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The Buffalo Bills announced six team captains Monday for the upcoming season.

Graham
Spikes
Linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Corey Graham were both named captains. Defensive end Mario Williams is also a first-time captain.

The three remaining captains are the same from last season: running back Fred Jackson, center Eric Wood and defensive tackle Kyle Williams.

A notable absence among the captains? Quarterback EJ Manuel, who enters his second season.

Captains are selected by voting among teammates.
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One of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years is their failure to commit to the right quarterback for the long term.

If they don’t win one in the next five years, at least a lack of commitment to a quarterback won’t be the problem.

Smith
The Chiefs made a bold move with Alex Smith, agreeing with him on a four-year contract that various media reports put at about $68 million. From the Chiefs’ standpoint, this is a step they had to take.

While Smith isn’t one of the NFL’s great quarterbacks, he’s good enough to win with, even in the playoffs. He was good enough to throw for 378 yards and four touchdowns and guide his team to 44 points in last year’s playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, and it’s hardly his fault it wasn’t enough for the Chiefs to win.

Failing to lock up Smith for the long term would have left the Chiefs where they’ve been many times before, floundering around and looking for a quarterback. There’s nobody they could reasonably acquire who’s in Smith’s category. The Chiefs have a couple of developmental quarterbacks in Tyler Bray and rookie Aaron Murray, but at this point both represent wishful thinking when it comes to becoming as productive an NFL quarterback as Smith is.

The price tag of $17 million annually is steep, no doubt. But that’s the price of a high-quality starting quarterback these days. Anything less for a veteran quarterback and you’re looking at someone in the Matt Cassel category.

The Chiefs have been down that path too many times. This was their moment to seize and they took it. It’s their job now to make Smith into a playoff-winning quarterback and they happen to have a head coach in Andy Reid who has a history of making quarterbacks better than they otherwise might be without him.

The Chiefs can now move on to the important business of building around Smith. Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston is in the final season of his contract. His holdout from offseason practice failed to produce an extension.

The Chiefs can now get to that. Failing an agreement with Houston, the Chiefs are free to secure him by making him their franchise player, a move they won’t have to make with their quarterback.

Big-money, long-term contracts always carry some risk. So it is with Smith and his new deal.

But the bigger risk in this case would have been to set him free after this season. That would have increased the likelihood of another 20 years without a playoff win for the Chiefs.
Breaking down the New York Jets' 53-man roster, as of Sunday afternoon:

QUARTERBACK (2)

Geno Smith
Michael Vick

Analysis: For the first time in the Rex Ryan era, the Jets have a proven backup that can win games if called upon. The bigger question is the starter: Is Smith ready to take the next step? Re-signing Matt Simms to the practice squad was a smart move.

RUNNING BACK (4)

Chris Johnson
Chris Ivory
Bilal Powell
Tommy Bohanon (FB)

Analysis: Diverse, deep and talented. The offense will lean on this group, especially early in the season when they have to play ball-control against all those high-scoring passing attacks. The only question is how they divide the carries.

WIDE RECEIVER (7)

Eric Decker
Jeremy Kerley
David Nelson
Greg Salas
Jalen Saunders
Saalim Hakim
Quincy Enunwa

Analysis: Through most of camp, I had them keeping seven receivers, but that was before the Stephen Hill flameout and the Shaq Evans injury. The landscape has changed. It's hard to justify seven, especially since they're not stacked with Pro Bowlers. Saunders and Hakim are return specialists, restricting the team's flexibility for the game-day 46. Still can't believe Enunwa made it. John Idzik loves his draft picks.

TIGHT END (3)

Jeff Cumberland
Jace Amaro
Zach Sudfeld

Analysis: There's a lot riding on Amaro, who will be asked at times to line up as a traditional tight end -- something he didn't do in college. Cumberland is way behind after missing three weeks with an Achilles' injury. They're missing a hard-nosed blocker at the point of attack.

TACKLE (3)

D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Breno Giacomini
Ben Ijalana

Analysis: You didn't hear much about Giacomini in the preseason -- and that's a good thing for an offensive lineman. Ferguson needs to be better than last season. Ijalana is left-tackle insurance even though he's never played in a game. Go figure.

GUARD (4)

Willie Colon
Brian Winters
Oday Aboushi
Dakota Dozier

Analysis: They'd better hope Colon stays healthy or there could be trouble. The organization still has questions about Winters, who remains inconsistent. He'll be pushed by Aboushi, who also can play right guard and right tackle.

CENTER (2)

Nick Mangold
Dalton Freeman

Analysis: Mangold is the glue to the entire operation. Freeman, a former undrafted free agent, beat out Caleb Schlauderaff, who former GM Mike Tannenbaum once referred to as the Jets' version of Victor Cruz.

DEFENSIVE END (3)

Muhammad Wilkerson
Sheldon Richardson
Leger Douzable

Analysis: Wilkerson and Richardson -- aka D-Roy, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year -- are the pillars on defense. In Year 2, Richardson needs to step up as a pass rusher. Douzable provides good depth.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (3)

Damon Harrison
Kenrick Ellis
T.J. Barnes

Analysis: We're talking about almost 1,100 pounds of run-stuffing fury. Harrison and Ellis are players on the ascent, while Barnes made the team after dropping more than 20 pounds in the offseason -- and he's still 360.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5)

Quinton Coples
Calvin Pace
Jason Babin
IK Enemkpali
Trevor Reilly

Analysis: It's Year 3 for Coples; time to play like a first-round pick. Babin was a good pick up. He'll help as a nickel pass rusher and he can spell Coples in the base. They will miss Garrett McIntyre, a useful backup. This will be a developmental year for Enemkpali and Reilly. Antwan Barnes (PUP) will rejoin this group after six weeks.

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4)

David Harris
Demario Davis
Nick Bellore
Jeremiah George

Analysis: Davis is primed for a breakout year. This is a contract year for Harris. Presumably, Bellore (calf) is okay. If not, their depth is a major concern. George made the team because he was a fifth-round pick.

SAFETY (4)

Dawan Landry
Calvin Pryor
Jaiquawn Jarrett
Josh Bush

Analysis: Landry and Pryor figure to be every-down players. The Jets are counting on Pryor, their first-round pick, to make an immediate impact. He'll probably get more deep-middle assignments than Landry, who really is a "box" safety.

CORNERBACK (6)

Dee Milliner
Antonio Allen
Kyle Wilson
Darrin Walls
Ellis Lankster
Leon McFadden

Analysis: If you need an explanation, you haven't been paying attention the last three weeks. The addition of McFadden, acquired Sunday on waivers, is strictly for depth. This is one of the worst cornerback situations in the league.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Nick Folk (PK)
Ryan Quigley (P)
Tanner Purdum (LS)

Analysis: Quigley survives (for now) after an inconsistent preseason.

Jets sign seven to practice squad

August, 31, 2014
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Under the new rules, teams are allowed to place up to 10 players on the practice squad. On Sunday, the New York Jets announced the signing of seven players to the practice squad:
The trickle-down effect of the New England Patriots trading quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Texans is that the team will now account for the position on its practice squad. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, one of 12 players in for a tryout on Saturday, is joining the Patriots' 10-man practice squad, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.



Bethel-Thompson is a third-year player out of Sacramento State who has been with the Vikings (2012-2013) and 49ers (2013-2014). At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he is a bigger player at the position and was with the 49ers this past training camp before being released in the cut to 75 players.

In three preseason games this year, Bethel-Thompson was 11 of 18 for 113 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and doesn't have any regular-season statistics.

A few other notes relative to the Patriots' practice squad:
  • Wide receiver Josh Boyce cleared waivers and has practice squad eligibility.
  • Linebacker Ja'Gared Davis has agreed to join the practice squad, ESPNBoston.com's Lee Schechter confirmed earlier in the day. Doug Kyed of NESN had initially reported Davis' agreement.
  • Running back Jonas Gray has agreed to join the practice squad, per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal.
  • One name to keep an eye on is long snapper Charley Hughlett as a possibility for the practice squad. Hughlett was with the Patriots briefly earlier this offseason.

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