AFC Notes: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

     

Bills

  • Despite signing a three-year deal this offseason, Bills G Quinton Spain was released after losing his starting job. Bills GM Brandon Beane said they just wanted to give Spain a chance for a fresh start, per ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques: “There’s no blame to go around, Quinton Spain is a good guy, a good person … Nothing happened, there’s no one thing that, ‘this happened and the dam broke.'”

Dolphins

The Dolphins’ decision to name first-round QB Tua Tagovailoa their starting quarterback on Tuesday was surprising for a number of reasons. Veteran starter Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing fairly well and had led Miami to wins in three of its past four games. And as recently as a couple weeks ago, HC Brian Flores seemed to suggest the team didn’t think Tagovailoa was ready based on what they were seeing in practice. That apparently changed. 

“It’s like any other situation. Sometimes a guy week out, two weeks out, three weeks out, we talk about situations like this on a weekly basis. This is no different than that,” Flores said via Adam Beasley and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “Through practice and meetings and walk-throughs, he’s ready. That’s how we’re going to go moving forward.”

“We’ve seen a lot of improvement from Tua,” Flores added. “He’s gotten more comfortable. Accuracy, decision-making, all those things have been good in practice. But practice is very different from the games. We are going to do everything we can from a meeting, walk-through, practice standpoint to get him ready to play in a game. We’re confident he’ll be able to be competitive in those games when the time comes. It’s not just one person. We’re going to need contributions from everyone.”

Flores praised what Fitzpatrick has brought to the team during his tenure and said it was not an easy decision for them to make. 

“I don’t know that there’s been anyone more instrumental trying to instill a culture and embody what we’re looking for — toughness, competitiveness, team-first [attitude],” Flores said. “He’s made an impact on Tua and a lot of players on this team. I have a great respect for him. That made this decision very tough. But as a team, we felt this was the best thing to do for our team moving forward is go with Tua. Fitz’s impact on the team will still be there. He’s been a tremendous asset and leader on this team.”

  • Flores admitted the news broke before he had a chance to tell the team and he was not happy about that: “This is not how I want to do business. Unfortunately, this is the way of the world right now. I’m not happy about that at all. I will apologize to the team they had to find out through social media. I don’t think that’s fair to them.”
  • Fitzpatrick told reporters he was blindsided by the news: “I was shocked by it. It definitely caught me off guard. It was a hard thing for me to hear yesterday, just digesting the news. My heart just hurt all day.” (Armando Salguero)
  • He added it didn’t get much better today: “I basically got fired yesterday and my day today consisted of zoom meetings with the guy who fired me and sitting in a room with the guy who replaced me for four hours.” (Salguero)
  • Fitzpatrick said he can’t help but wonder if he’s started his final game in the NFL: “I’ve been a starter, I’ve been benched all kinds of different ways … but this was kind of the first place other than Buffalo that I’ve been fully committed and invested. I felt it was my team.” (Salguero)
  • However, he hasn’t requested a trade. His contract is up after the season and he doesn’t know if he’d be on board with staying as a backup: “I like playing more than I like sitting and watching.” (Jackson)
  • For his part, Tagovailoa was understandably thrilled about being named the starter while hurting for Fitzpatrick, who he says has become a father figure for him: “That’s news anyone would love to hear, being named the starter at any position. But I definitely felt for Fitz as well. And me and Fitz had a conversation about the situation.” (Salguero)

Jets

  • Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline says Ravens DC Don Martindale keeps coming up in league circles as an option for the Jets’ potential head coaching vacancy. Martindale worked with Jets GM Joe Douglas in Baltimore.
  • Pauline adds he could see Jets CEO Christopher Johnson getting blown away by Clemson HC Dabo Swinney if he decides to try and make the leap from the college game. 
  • Jets QB Sam Darnold and first-round LT Mekhi Becton practiced in a limited fashion Wednesday as they each come back from shoulder injuries. (Brian Costello)
  • Jets HC Adam Gase said a return to the field is on the table for Darnold depending on how his shoulder responds: “Right now, all options are available. We’ll have him on a pitch count. I think really the biggest thing will be: How’s he going to feel tomorrow? If there’s anything that lingers when he’s throwing, that’s kind of his red flag.” (Ralph Vacchiano)
  • Gase said it was unfair to judge QB Sam Darnold when he hasn’t had his top-three receivers. Both Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman have missed time while second-round WR Denzel Mims is set to make his debut this week: “You’d like to have the three dudes you planned on having out there,” Gase said. “I mean, that’s fair to ask of the guy, so he can see what it looks like when he has all three starters out there.” (Rich Cimini)
  • The Jets announced fifth-round CB Bryce Hall was designated to return to practice off the NFI list. (Twitter)

Patriots

The Patriots’ receiving corps has been the target of a lot of criticism this year as it’s struggled to create plays. However, New England has also struggled at times to get their best pass-catcher, WR Julian Edelman, involved in the offense. Patriots OC Josh McDaniels said some of that falls on him as the play-caller. 

“Certainly Julian’s always a big part of what we want to try to do, and I need to do a good job of trying to get him going,” McDaniels said via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “But, I think in the grand scheme of things, all of us need to do our jobs well and try to get contributions from everybody to be the most effective we can be.”

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