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AFC East Whispers

Leonhard's football acumen tough to replace

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Posted Dec. 04, 2010 @ 1:49 p.m. ET
By PFW staff

What follows are some whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC East:

• Losing SS Jim Leonhard to a broken tibia costs the Jets more than the five tackles a game and 11.3 yards per punt return. Leonhard was also a leader in the secondary, having played under Rex Ryan in both Baltimore and New York, and the safety knows the coach's defensive scheme better than anyone. Replacement Eric Smith may be able to fill in for Leonhard in run support and pass coverage, but the entire unit will need to elevate its game to replace Leonhard's intelligence.

• Over the past week the Bills have added a pair of TEs — Scott Chandler and Mike Caussin — to the 53-man roster, an indictment of current starter Shawn Nelson, a player who team management once thought was a building block for the future. Nelson has been invisible for much of the season, and the team has gone away from throwing to the tight end almost altogether, instead focusing on rookie WRs Donald Jones and David Nelson over the middle of the field.

• Injuries to Dolphins ILBs Karlos Dansby and Channing Crowder have thrust veteran Tim Dobbins into a spot-start role. When healthy, Dansby and Crowder provide two very good 'backers up the middle, but staying healthy has been a problem, especially for Crowder, who missed time at the beginning of the season with a groin injury. Dobbins is a run stuffer, making him a natural replacement for Crowder, who is also known for his run defense. But when Dobbins started for Dansby in Week 12, it left the Dolphins devoid of a good cover linebacker until Dansby came on the field in the sub package.

• Patriots ILB Jerod Mayo will likely finish the season as the league's leading tackler, and a daily team observer said that Mayo looks faster than he did last year. In the Patriots' loss to the Browns, Cleveland often sent blockers after Mayo to keep him out of plays, but otherwise he has been very effective. The one thing Mayo still needs to work on is turning his tipped passes into interceptions so he can become an even bigger playmaker.

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