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Friday NFL News and Notes

Friday NFL News and Notes

NFL Preseason Preview - Carolina (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1)
(Sports Network)

Donovan McNabb is set to make his return to the field on Friday night, when McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles host the Carolina Panthers in the second preseason tune-up for each team.

McNabb tore his right ACL in a loss to the Tennessee Titans last Nov. 19th, missing the final six games of the regular season and a pair of postseason contests. The five-time Pro Bowl honoree did not play in the Eagles' 29-3 loss to the Ravens on Monday night, with A.J. Feeley making the start before being succeeded by Kelly Holcomb and rookie Kevin Kolb.

McNabb, who has missed 15 games due to injury over the past two seasons, is expected to play a few series against Carolina before yielding to backups.

Without the star QB on hand, Philadelphia played poorly on both sides of the football against Baltimore. None of the team's three quarterbacks was able to direct a touchdown drive, six running backs combined for 11 yards on 15 carries (0.7 yards per rush), and the defense surrendered nearly 400 yards of total offense to Baltimore.

Carolina fared better in its preseason lid-lifter, looking sharp in a 24-21 victory over the Giants.

Three Panthers quarterbacks - Jake Delhomme, David Carr, and Brett Basanez - threw touchdown passes in the victory. The latter two threw their TD strikes to undrafted second-year hopeful Taye Biddle, who scored on pass plays of 23 and 85 yards to increase his chances of making the club.

On the injury front, Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan (concussion) and Philadelphia guard Shawn Andrews (ankle) are among the notables who will not play on Friday might. Earlier in the week, the Eagles announced that running back Ryan Moats (leg) and defensive end Jerome McDougle (torn triceps) would likely miss the season.

The Panthers and Eagles will be meeting for the first time in preseason play, though the teams have a shared history in both the regular season and playoffs.

Philadelphia leads the all-time regular season series with Carolina, 4-1, including a 27-24 upset when the teams met at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 13 of last season.

Carolina, meanwhile, denied Philadelphia a Super Bowl trip with a 14-3 road win in the 2003 NFC Championship.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Atlanta (0-1) at Buffalo (1-0)
(Sports Network)

The Buffalo Bills will make their home 2007 debut on Friday night, when Dick Jauron's club plays host to the Atlanta Falcons in the second preseason tune-up for each team.

The Bills got off to a positive August start last Friday, traveling to New Orleans and securing a 13-10 victory.

Quarterback J.P. Losman completed 4-of-6 passes for 20 yards in limited duty, and should see more extensive time against the Falcons.

Rookie running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed just twice for three yards in New Orleans, will make his first appearance before the home fans on Friday.

Lynch, the No. 12 overall pick out of Cal, is being counted on to breathe life into a running game that saw starter Willis McGahee (traded to Baltimore in the offseason) fall short of the 1,000-yard plateau.

The Falcons, meanwhile, will be looking to secure their first win of the preseason while also distancing themselves further from the Michael Vick situation.

Atlanta began its preseason with a 31-16 loss at the Jets last Friday night, with new starter Joey Harrington making his first appearance in a Falcons uniform. The former Lion and Dolphin did a decent job, completing 6-of-9 passes for 88 yards before yielding to backups Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley.

As of Thursday, Vick was reportedly negotiating a plea with prosecutors on federal charges of sponsoring an interstate dogfighting ring. The quarterback appears destined to miss the entire 2007 season and faces possible jail time in the case.

Whoever plays quarterback for the Falcons on Friday is unlikely to get much help from the running game. Starter Warrick Dunn (back) is expected to miss most if not all of the preseason and his backup, second-year-pro Jerious Norwood, could be held out of Friday's matchup due to an illness that has limited him in practice this week.

The Falcons hold a 5-4 edge in their all-time preseason series with Buffalo, but were 20-14 road losers in the last such meeting, prior to the 1995 campaign.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Tennessee (0-1) at New England (0-1)
(Sports Network)

Vince Young will make his preseason debut at Gillette Stadium on Friday night, when Young and the Tennessee Titans take on the New England Patriots in the second preseason tune-up for both teams.

Young did not appear in Tennessee's 14-6 loss to the Washington Redskins last Saturday, as the 2006 NFL Rookie of the Year was serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. Veteran Kerry Collins started in the defeat.

Young will be trying to breathe some life into an offense that had trouble sustaining drives against the Redskins. Tennessee managed just two field goals versus Washington, and four Titans running backs could muster only 72 yards on 28 combined carries for the evening (2.6 yards per carry).

Certain members of the Titans defense will be looking to contribute the same brand of stifling play that the Redskins offered up last week. Linebacker Keith Bulluck, perturbed that the Patriots scored a meaningless touchdown in a Week 17 win that knocked the Titans out of the playoff picture last season, told The Tennessean, "Just the way [the Patriots] were acting after the game kind of irked me. A couple of the guys on the team weren't being too professional," complained Bulluck. "It is only a preseason game, but No. 87 [Reche Caldwell] needs to keep his head on a swivel, that's all I've got to say."

New England will be looking to avoid Bulluck's wrath and look sharper on the offensive end of the football Friday night. The Patriots managed just 213 yards of offense in last Friday's 13-10 loss at the Buccaneers.

Quarterback Tom Brady is expected to appear only briefly for a second straight game. Brady, who was 5-of-7 for 34 yards in Tampa Bay, will be succeeded in the lineup by backups Matt Cassel and Matt Gutierrez.

Among the notables not expected to be in uniform on Friday are Tennessee running back LenDale White (ankle) and New England wideout Randy Moss (hamstring) and running back Laurence Maroney (shoulder).

The Titans hold a 5-0 edge in their all-time preseason series with the Patriots, though all of those games date back to the franchise's time as the Houston Oilers. Coincidentally, the last time the teams met in preseason play was 1988, when the then-Oilers earned a 27-14 victory in a game played in Memphis.

As mentioned, Tennessee and New England also met during Week 17 of the 2006 regular season, with the Patriots dashing the Titans' playoff hopes in the form of a 40-23 thumping in Nashville.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Minnesota (0-1) at N.Y. Jets (1-0)
(Sports Network)

The New York Jets will be trying to build on an impressive performance in their preseason opener on Friday night, when Eric Mangini's squad plays host to the Minnesota Vikings in the second August tune-up for both clubs.

The Jets were 31-16 winners over Atlanta in their preseason debut last Friday, with three of the team's four touchdowns coming on scoring passes from second- year quarterback Kellen Clemens. The club's first TD of the game was scored by offseason acquisition and running back Thomas Jones, who suffered a calf strain in practice the following day and could miss the remainder of the preseason.

Friday could mark the first Jets appearance of cornerback Darrelle Revis, who became the second-to-last 2007 draft pick to ink a contract when he signed on Wednesday. Revis, the No. 14 overall selection out of the University of Pittsburgh, is expected to bolster a Jets secondary that struggled at time during the 2006 campaign.

Minnesota head coach Brad Childress, meanwhile, will be looking for stronger play out of his offense than was displayed in last Friday's 13-10 home loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson (8-of-11 passing, 83 yards) and Brooks Bollinger (4-of-6, 23 yards), who are fighting for the starting job, both did some good things but could not execute a touchdown drive in the loss. Minnesota's only TD in the game came on an interception return by linebacker Dontarrious Thomas.

Bollinger will be returning to the Meadowlands for the first time since the 2005 season, when he started nine games (going 2-7) for a New York team that finished 4-12. Bollinger was obtained by the Vikings in a trade from the Jets last September.

On the injury front, in addition to Thomas Jones, Minnesota defensive end Erasmus James (knee) is among the notables who will not appear on Friday.

The Jets are 4-1 in the all-time preseason series with the Vikings, extending their advantage with a 28-21 victory when the teams last met, prior to the 2005 season.

The teams also met in Week 15 of the 2006 regular season, with the Jets traveling to Minnesota and scoring a 26-13 win.

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Bills Fowler unlikely to play this week
August 16, 2007

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -Bills starting center Melvin Fowler is expected to miss Buffalo's preseason game against Atlanta on Friday because of a sore left ankle.

Fowler missed his second straight practice Thursday and coach Dick Jauron said the team will be cautious on whether to allow him to play. If Fowler can't play, the Bills will go with reserve lineman Duke Preston in their preseason home opener.

Reserve defensive tackle John McCargo (left ankle) is expected to play after he returned to practice. Starting outside linebacker Angelo Crowell (left knee) has been limited in practice the past two days and it's uncertain whether he'll play.

Jauron said reserve offensive linemen Brad Butler (hamstring) and Aaron Merz (shoulder) are out. Rookie free-agent safety Trevor Hooper is also out because he's not yet been cleared to practice after he was hurt in a 13-10 win at New Orleans last week.

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Bills focused on improving defense, not facing Vick-less Falcons
August 16, 2007

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -Perry Fewell acknowledged he hasn't kept track of Michael Vick's legal troubles this summer.

The Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator has a good excuse.

In between practices at training camp in suburban Rochester, Fewell has spent most of the past three weeks sequestered in his St. John Fisher College dorm room focused solely on getting his veteran-depleted unit ready for the regular season.

``The Bills have consumed me,'' Fewell said.

And he still has plenty of work to do.

The Bills (1-0) won't be playing against Vick when they host the Atlanta Falcons (0-1) in their preseason home opener Friday. Instead, it will be journeyman Joey Harrington getting his second turn this preseason to show he's capable of taking over.

Vick has been barred from joining the Falcons while the NFL investigates his role in a federal dogfighting conspiracy case. The quarterback and his representatives are currently attempting to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.

Fewell might not have an opinion on Vick, but he's open to sharing concerns regarding his defense, which struggled despite a 13-10 preseason-opening win at New Orleans last week.

In two series against Saints starter Drew Brees, the Bills allowed 118 yards passing - and 142 overall - seven first downs and a field goal. It would've been worse had Buffalo's special teams not blocked a field goal attempt on New Orleans' opening drive.

``I do worry about it a little bit,'' said Fewell, who lost three veteran starters - linebackers Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher, and cornerback Nate Clements - this offseason. ``I thought we should be stronger in the pass game with some of the things they did.''

With or without Vick, Fewell understands the Falcons will present a strong challenge because of the team's first-year head coach, Bobby Petrino. The two previously worked together as assistants with the Jacksonville Jaguars, before Petrino took over at Louisville.

``He's a brilliant offensive mind,'' Fewell said. ``I expect that same type of fire and competitiveness. And he'll want to put a lot of points on the board.''

Petrino's offense hasn't changed much even with the far less mobile Harrington taking over.

Harrington looked comfortable, going 6-of-9 for 88 yards in a 31-16 preseason opening loss to the New York Jets last week. The Falcons also got a strong showing from second-year running back Jerious Norwood, who had eight carries for 29 yards rushing and a touchdown while filling in for injured starter Warrick Dunn.

``We really haven't changed anything, but we are just utilizing different parts of the offense,'' Petrino said. ``There are different parts that Michael was very good at, and we are still trying to improve on some things. But we are really just trying to improve on what Joey does best.''

The Falcons real problems rest with their defense, which is banged up and tends to struggle against the pass.

The Falcons are troubled by injuries. Besides Dunn (back), other starters not expected to play against Buffalo are star tight end Alge Crumpler (knee) and defensive tackle Rod Coleman (quadriceps). Norwood has been bothered by a stomach virus this week, while cornerback DeAngelo Hall is questionable because of back spasms.

Petrino remains upbeat, particularly with how his players have handled daily questions regarding Vick.

``I think our players have done a good job of keeping focus and allowing the distractions to not get the best of them,'' he said. ``We are going to continue to focus on the Buffalo game, and then the opener versus Minnesota. That's all we can do.''

For Buffalo, Friday's game will mark the home debut for budding rookies, first-round pick, running back Marshawn Lynch, and linebacker Paul Posluszny, a second-round selection.

Lynch, groomed to take over the starting job after the Bills traded Willis McGahee to Baltimore in March, will get more playing time this week after being limited to two carries for 3 yards last week.

Quarterback J.P. Losman is eager to see Lynch show fans the speed and versatility - he doubles as a receiver in certain situations - he's displayed in training camp.

``He's been exciting to watch in practice,'' Losman said. ``I don't know why he only got a couple of snaps in the game. ... But I'm sure he'll get a few more chances and people will get to see what he has to offer.''

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Friday's NFL starter report

Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-3, 34)

Atlanta head coach Bobby Petrino may be forced to start rookie running back Jason Snelling, who went for 48 yards on 10 carries last week, if Jerious Norwood’s lower stomach infection doesn’t subside.

“(Norwood) woke up this morning with stomach cramps,” Petrino told reporters Tuesday. “He’s going to be fine. He got a little dehydrated (Monday) and had some effects from that. He should be OK."

Warrick Dunn is back practicing with the team following off-season back surgery, but isn’t expected to play until next week. The rest of the first-stringers are expected to play into the second quarter. There’s been no word regarding the quarterback rotation after Joey Harrington checks out.

Buffalo's Dick Jauron is being typically tight-lipped about his starters’ playing time though it’s almost a given that running back Marshawn Lynch will be in more than the handful of snaps he took last week. QB J.P. Losman will likely work at least the first quarter.

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (-3, 35)

Donovan McNabb makes his first start since tearing his right ACL last year and should lead a few series before giving way to A.J. Feeley and Kelly Holcomb.

"He's had an awfully good camp, so I would expect him to play well," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told reporters of McNabb. "He's moving around very well. There were only one or two occasions in training camp where I thought his legs were going a little bit, just like everyone else's. Other than those couple of occasions, I didn't see anything that reminded me that he's coming off major knee surgery."

Carolina expects to give its starters up to a full half of action.

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-5 ½, 35)

Vince Young sat out last week’s 14-6 loss to Washington for leaving Titans camp to sleep at home the night before the game, so expect him to start and stay in for at least a quarter against the Pats. LenDale White, slowly working off the 10 pounds he put on in the off-season, may be unable to go with a bum ankle. If he’s out, Chris Brown and Chris Henry will take most of the carries.

New England's Tom Brady is only expected to take a few snaps before giving way to Matt Cassel and then Matt Gutierrez. Randy Moss (hamstring) and Laurence Maroney (shoulder) are both expected to sit out.

Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets (-4, 35)

Each of Minnesota’s four quarterbacks will play a quarter tonight, with Tarvaris Jackson starting, followed by Brooks Bollinger, Drew Henson and Tyler Thigpen.

The rest of the Vikings starters are expected to play the first half.

Jets head coach Eric Mangini wouldn’t disclose how long his starters will be in the game, but it’s expected they’ll play into the second quarter. Quarterback Chad Pennington took 10 snaps in last week’s 31-16 win over Atlanta, but didn’t attempt a pass. He’ll get a chance to throw the ball a bit tonight.

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2007 NFL Preseason Notes


Carolina Panthers - QB Rotation: Jake Delhomme (first half), David Carr (3rd Q), Brett Basanez.

The Panther starters will get to play about half the game.

The injury list shrank dramatically Tuesday; WR Dwayne Jarrett (hamstring), safety Nate Salley (knee) and RB DeAngelo Williams returned to practice.

The Panthers are using zone-blocking schemes this season, a dramatic change for a system that's been built around a power-running style.

They have a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Davidson, who is revamping the Carolina offense from a year ago, when it was run by Dan Henning.

By all accounts, the new scheme gives runners a chance to use their vision to pick holes, rather than funneling them to a specific scheduled opening that might be there. The first team got one full series and turned it into an 81-yard drive and a touchdown. Players are saying there is more variety with this offense.

LB Dan Morgan likely will not play his first game for at least another week.

Philadelphia Eagles - QB Rotation: Donovan McNabb (1st half), A.J. Feeley, Kelly Holcomb, rookie Kevin Kolb.

Donovan McNabb will start after being held out of Week 1. McNabb, along with the rest of the Eagles' first-team offense and defense, could play most of the first half against the Panthers. McNabb will be followed into the game by A.J. Feeley, then rookie Kevin Kolb. QB Kelly Holcomb (knee) will not play.

Defensive line thin: DTs Montae Reagor and Ian Scott continue to miss practice time with knee injuries.

Secondary thin, with safety Brian Dawkins (Achilles tendinitis), CB Marcus Paschal (leg spasm), and CB Lito Sheppard has missed the majority of training camp with a strained oblique muscle.

Atlanta Falcons - QB Rotation: Joey Harrington (into the 2nd Q), Chris Redman, D.J. Shockley, Lang Campbell.

QB Joey Harrington and most of the starters will play into the second quarter against Buffalo, Bobby Petrino said. He aslo said there has been no discussion on the use of backup quarterbacks Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley.

The Falcons could be without their top two running backs. Starter Jerious Norwood is "very questionable" because of a lower stomach infection. RB Warrick Dunn is recovering from back surgery, and said he won't play.

Rookie RB Jason Snelling will start and see plenty of action. Sha-Ron Edwards, Justin Vincent, Taurean Henderson and Arlen Harris also could see some playing time at tailback.

Bobby Petrino is the new head coach, coming over from Louisville.

A Petrino camp is a more business-like place, almost corporate. "He's all about football," owner Arthur Blank said of Petrino.

Petrino has not been hesitant to put his stamp on this team, either by promoting or demoting players, opening competition, moving players or by kicking them to the curb. The release of WR Fred Gibson three days into training camp sent a warning that there is no tolerance for not doing things the right way.

Buffalo Bills - QB Rotation: J.P. Losman, Craig Nall, rookie Trent Edwards, Kevin Eakin.

J.P. Losman and the rest of the starters will play at least the first quarter and, depending on the flow of the game, possibly into the second quarter. Craig Nall will see some time, then Trent Edwards will finish up.

"Trent will probably still get more because he is so new to the league and the game, but we'll see a little more of Craig, too," Jauron said. "It just depends on how the game goes and how many snaps we get. We'll try and stay on schedule. We have a lot of people we want to see and want to see again before we have to make decisions.'' After getting only two carries in the preseason opener last week, RB Marshawn Lynch is expected to start and carry the ball as often as the Bills can get it to him in the first quarter. "We'd like to see more of Marshawn, so to ensure that, we're thinking of putting him out there with the first group," coach Dick Jauron said.

The offensive line is starting to get hit with some injuries. Second-year man Brad Butler, who was involved in the competition at right guard, has been out almost a week with a hamstring injury, and as he continues to limp, he doesn't look close to returning to practice. Now second-year man Aaron Merz is sitting out with a shoulder injury.

The Bills plan to use more three- and four-receiver formations because they know they must involve WRs Reed and Parrish.

Cornerback depth a concern: They dealt Nate Clements in the offseason, and 8-year veteran CB Jason Webster has missed two practices with a leg injury. Other CB options are Kiwaukee Thomas, Ashton Youboty and Jabari Greer. "Webster is ahead of those guys, but we need depth at that position," Bills defensive backs coach George Catavolos said.

"I do believe we're a fast defense," Jauron said.

Tennessee Titans - QB Rotation: Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Tim Rattay.

Jeff Fisher said Vince Young will start but won't play any more snaps than previously planned. "The disappointing thing for me is he didn't get to play in the opener," Fisher said. "He's fine."

Bad blood? New England's 40-23 victory kept the Titans out of the playoffs. LB Keith Bulluck said he will be thinking about last year's game: "Just the way they were acting irked me. A couple of the guys on the team weren't being too professional," Bulluck said. "It is only a preseason game, but No. 87 (Caldwell) needs to keep his head on a swivel, that's all I've got to say." The Patriots had also sent veteran Vinny Testaverde into the game and let him throw a touchdown.

Defensive line thin: Needing depth for a unit hit hard by injuries, the Titans claimed former Panthers defensive end Jason Hall off waivers on Tuesday. The Titans have lost two rookie defensive linemen for the season .5? end Jacob Ford with a torn Achilles and tackle Antonio Johnson with an ACL injury.

There's a battle in the backfield with LenDale White, Chris Brown serving as the third-down back and rookie Chris Henry. Fisher said it's too early to know whether RB LenDale White, who came out of the preseason opener with a swollen ankle, will be able to start as scheduled against the Patriots.

New England Patriots - QB Rotation: Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, rookie Matt Gutierrez.

Secondary thin. CB Chad Scott is out for the season (knee) and CB Asante Samuel is holding out.

Looking forward to Friday's tilt with the Titans, Belichick explained his rationale for preseason game planning. He said the coaching staff must strike a balance between preparing for what the opponent runs and evaluating players in the Patriots' system. "I don't think it's really all that good in the evaluation process to run plays that attack the heart of the opponent's scheme because you just find out you have a good play against that scheme. That's not what we're looking for. We're looking for how our players execute the basic fundamentals."

Minnesota Vikings - QB Rotation: Tarvaris Jackson (1st Q), Brooks Bollinger (2nd Q), Drew Henson (3rd Q), Tyrus Thigpen (4th Q).

The Vikings hope to get all four quarterbacks playing time Friday. Tarvaris Jackson is scheduled to start and play the first quarter, followed by Brooks Bollinger (second quarter), Drew Henson (third) and Tyler Thigpen (fourth).

That arrangement will allow Bollinger to play with most of the Vikings' offensive starters. Other than Jackson and a handful of other selected veterans, first-team players on offense and defense will play until halftime.

QB Tavaris Jackson's downfield accuracy has been lacking as he learns the offense, and most of his best throws have been dropped.

Running backs thin.

The Vikings have a new defensive coordinator in Leslie Frazier.

NY Jets - QB Rotation: Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Marques Tuiasosopo.

Pennington didn't attempt a pass in two series against Atlanta. The Jets said they wanted to concentrate on their running game. Pennington will almost certainly be given the green light tonight and has plenty of targets with a strong receiving corps and TE Chris Baker.

RB Thomas Jones (leg) is slated to miss Friday's game. RB Leon Washington will get the start, but the Jets are looking for a third back, and rookie free agent Danny Ware could be their guy. He's having a strong camp and broke off a nifty 26-yard run against the Falcons last week. Rookie free agent Alvin Banks and veteran Tony Hollings are also in the mix.

The offense is in the second year of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's high-tech scheme that features an array of shifts and motions.

Secondary thin. Friday could mark the first Jets appearance of CB Darrelle Revis, who became the second-to-last 2007 draft pick to ink a contract when he signed on Wednesday.

Offensive line concerns: Guard Pete Kendall is still holding out and has ripped the organization almost daily since the start of training camp.


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