Bills will have hard time replacing April

Posted Jan. 16, 2010 @ 4:15 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

• Of all the coaches the Bills lost in their recent housecleaning, the one who might be hardest to replace is special-teams coach Bobby April. April spent six seasons in Buffalo and became known as one of the top special-teams minds in the league, consistently churning out some of the most productive kicking and returning units. It didn't take long for April to catch on elsewhere, though, as the Eagles hired him to the same position on Jan. 14.

• The Patriots have realized that several defensive starters this past season were miscast, forced to play far too many reps commensurate with their talent. Players such as ILB Gary Guyton, S Brandon McGowan and CB Jonathan Wilhite are not bad players, but they probably will end up as sub-package defenders next season if the Patriots can revamp those positions with better options.

• Jets OLB Calvin Pace made a career-high eight sacks in just 12 games in his second season in New York, and he told PFW the team's LB coach, Chuck Smith, deserves credit for his success. "Along with (head coach) Rex (Ryan), Chuck Smith has helped me out a lot this year in terms of showing me different pass-rush stuff, how to look at stuff as far as pass sets," Pace said. "He's been a blessing for me in my career. ... He still looks at it, pass rushing, through a player's eye, so it helps. It's hard to explain, but it's almost like your coach is your teammate."

• RB Rashard Mendenhall is the Steelers' unquestioned starter for 2010, but what about the spots behind him on the depth chart? Willie Parker, who lost his job to Mendenhall, is an unrestricted free agent who may not be re-signed. The Steelers' third-down back, Mewelde Moore, didn't play as well in 2009 as he did the previous season, but if Parker departs, Moore could be next in line, behind Mendenhall, to be Pittsburgh's featured back. In short, it seems likely the Steelers will look to add at least one running back in the offseason - perhaps a bruising complement to the speedy Mendenhall, something the Steelers lacked this season and could use in the rugged AFC North, as some have suggested — in free agency or in the draft.

• There hasn't been much turnover on Marvin Lewis' coaching staff in his seven seasons in Cincinnati. Most of the assistants currently working for the Bengals have been with the club for all of Lewis' tenure. "I think that it enables us to revise things we're doing without having to rewrite the framework all the time," Lewis told PFW. "I think it makes those things easier. I think it makes everybody know how we're going to react in certain situations a little bit better so we're not having to learn that. I do think the staff continuity has been a plus. It enables the players and everybody to focus on what their particular roles and responsibilities are and not (have) to relearn those things constantly."

• We hear the Colts like undrafted rookie OLB Ramon Humber well enough to possibly make Tyjuan Hagler, who ended the season on injured reserve, or Freddy Keiaho expendable this offseason. Said one team insider of Humber, who led team in tackles in Week 16 while replacing an injured Clint Session: "They really like how active he is. And he's been a very good special-teams guy."

• The Jaguars' defense had more than its share of struggles this season, but we hear the team is pleased with the performance of 31-year-old DT John Henderson. While Henderson's numbers don't jump out at you, when paired with the impressive rookie season by Terrance Knighton, the tackle position is viewed by the team as the strength of the defense.

Elvis Dumervil had a career year and made his first Pro Bowl this season after moving from defensive end in a 4-3 scheme to outside linebacker in coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense. Despite the remarkable results since moving to a new position, Dumervil, who will become a restricted free agent this offseason, told PFW he's open to playing end in a 4-3 again if the opportunity presents itself. "Absolutely (I would play end in a 4-3)," he said. "I don't mind having my hand on the ground, but at the same time I kind of love this (3-4) system. I think it's something (where I'm) versatile and can maybe play both. I had a little bit of success in both categories. Like my high school coach used to say, 'The more you can do, the better.' "

• When going over some of the individuals he believed were "core" players upon completion of the 2009 season, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley mentioned some unexpected names. Among them was rookie WR Quinten Lawrence, who bounced on and off the roster and had just one reception, and QB Brodie Croyle, a backup who made only one start. Haley said each of those two made noticeable strides as the season progressed.


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