AFC East NFL Preview
In preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Just A Guy has decided to give a team-by-team run down of every division along with the staff’s picks for how the division will shake out. Today we highlight the AFC East, which includes the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.
The Buffalo Bills are hoping new head coach Doug Marrone can finally bring them back to relevance. The Bills have been mediocre at best the last decade, and that’s being nice. Marrone brings his offensive style over from Syracuse, where he breathed new life into the Orange’s once faltering program. He inherits an offense with the finally emergent CJ Spiller. Spiller, a former top 10 pick, burst onto the scene last year when the aging Fred Jackson went down. He dominated, posting a 6 yard per carry average on only a little over 200 carries; also chipping in with 43 catches for 459 yards, scoring 8 total touchdowns. Marrone and the new regime have stated Spiller will become a major focal point of their attack, something Chan Gailey could never quite comprehend last season. At QB, the wanderer Kevin Kolb arrives. He’ll battle with first round surprise pick EJ Manuel of Florida State. It was a shock when he was the first QB taken. I for one think it was a bad pick. But time will tell. Whichever QB starts will have favorite target Stevie Johnson, along with an interesting crop of rookies, including: USC’s Robert Woods, a second rounder once thought to be a top 10 pick, track star speedster Marquise Goodwin of Texas, and undrafted Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers was kicked out of Tennessee, where Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter were from. They were first and second round picks in April. Rogers is actually considered by some to be the most gifted of the three, and to possess the most upside. His off the field issues derailed his entire stock. But he is a very intriguing prospect to watch as the season approaches.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jarius Byrd remains the ball hawk anchor in the backfield. He is a free agent after this season in which he’ll play under the franchise tag. The Bills recently cut Mark Anderson after signing him to a sizeable deal last year. He could never stay healthy. Mario Williams also grossly underperformed, not living up to his 100 million dollar payday at all. They’re hoping he will regain form and be the pass rushing menace he was in Houston. The twist here is that the Bills are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, which usually is tough the first year, due to not having all the components for said scheme. In what appears to suddenly be a wide open division given all the uncertainty regarding the Patriots, the Bills should still be worse before they are better given all the changes. They’ll finish third behind the improved Dolphins and ahead of the lowly Jets.
The AFC East is very different than it looked last year. Tom Brady doesn’t know who he’s throwing to, Buffalo has a new coach and a rookie QB and the Jets have the potential to be a glamorous train wreck. In step the Miami Dolphins. They’ve spent the money to bring in big names (Mike Wallace being the biggest). The main question is can QB Ryan Tannehill make it all work? This team has some of the same qualities that the Bengals have had recently.
But flip it around, this offense will have to be replacing tackle Jake Long and running back Reggie Bush, who both departed in free agency. Tannehill will have to prove he can play with the best of them for this team to have a chance. I honestly believe the Dolphins can win this division or be in contention for a wild card berth, but the team will go as far as Tannehill can carry them.
New England Patriots
“Tom Brady completes a pass to Tim Tebow” might sound like a scenario from Seinfeld’s bizarro world, but it may happen a few times in a hurting Patriots passing game. Gronk has had multiple surgeries, the Aaron Hernandez saga continues to play out, and Wes Welker and Brandon Llyod are gone. Danny Amendola leads an interesting receiving unit(watch out for rookie WR Aaron Dobson). Brady has made stars out of unknown players before, so this offense shouldn’t see a huge decrease in production. However, the running game headed by Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen may be leaned on a bit more. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have their strong LB’s and D-Line still intact, which made them one of the better defense’s in the league in 2012. The weak secondary was somewhat addressed with the addition of aging Pro-Bowler Adrian Wilson. They did lose Patrick Chung, so not a whole lot of improvement there. 2013 will be a test for Belichick, Brady and co. Usually picking against these guys is a poor decision and I have no reason to do so this year. In quite a weak division, the Patriots should be on top in the East again.
New York Jets
The Jets stink. We could end the article here, but we won’t. QB Mark Sanchez is the worst starter in the entire league and his leading receiver last year was a 5th round pick from a couple years ago. To put that in perspective, their five leading receivers combined for 162 receptions and 10 TDs. Those are numbers one certain Lions receiver could put up in a year. Geno Smith was a reach of a pick and his immaturity is evident in his off the field attitude. He’ll seem some playing time, but he’s not gonna get the offense going any better than Sanchez. The only bright spot on offense was Shonn Greene, who left for the Titans, and an above average o-line.
It’s not much better on defense as they traded their superstar corner, Darrelle Revis to the Bucs for a measly two draft picks. The only way that favors the Jets is if Revis can’t reestablish himself after his knee injury. Last year, three of their four leading tacklers played defensive back and now three of those top five tacklers are no longer on the team. That’s not a good sign for a team that can’t get it done on offense. The special teams return game isn’t terrible with Kerley and Joe McKnight. Nick Folk was one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL last year, and their punter Robert Malone was below average. The 2013 season will not be a pretty one for Jets fans, but they will provide some terribly interesting entertainment.