05 Sep AFC East Preview
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are 77-21 in divisional games since 2003. Do I need to say more? This division has been a cakewalk for New England for more than a decade. Many will say this is Tom Brady’s last year or that he’s not the same, this is true, he’s certainly not the same. Last year TB12 had his lowest QBR since 2015 (68.8), his lowest passer rating since 2014 (97.7) and his lowest touchdown total since 2013 (29). Now Brady is 42, but you know he and the coaching staff will make it work regardless of his limitations. Sony Michel and the other 3 running backs will be carrying the load. Josh Gordon is a huge get for this receiving core if he can stay on the field. The retirement of Rob Gronkowski is an irreplaceable piece in this offense. But the Patriots are very good at reloading at a low cost. New England had 5 draft picks in the top 101 of this year’s draft after winning a Superbowl. They always allow their big free agents to walk and reload with under the radar guys. They replaced edge rusher Trey Flowers with Michael Bennett and rookie Chase Winovich. Paired Jamie Collins who was a former All-Pro in New England with stud Dont’a Hightower. The secondary will still feature All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, the McCourty’s, and rookie Joejuan Williams. The Patriots will win this division again, I still think there is one more year of Brady success, and one more year until the sophomore quarterbacks in the division dethrone Brady and Belichick.
New York Jets
The Jets come into this season after a strange but great offseason. The structure of the team saw an overhaul. Adam Gase is in at head coach, Joe Douglas is in at general manager, and Le’Veon Bell is in at running back. In the biggest splash of the offseason, Bell is returning to the field on a four-year, $52.5 million dollar deal. This is a huge get for a Jets offense and particularly for Sam Darnold. Bell is going to help Sam Darnold in so many ways and I can’t wait to see the product on the field. Sam Darnold looked great this preseason, completing 17 of 25 passes for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, a QBR of 120.6. I expect Darnold to have a breakout season with the help of Bell and some much needed offensive line protection. Former All-Pro Ryan Kalil and Kelechi Osemele join the offensive line to help protect the golden arm at quarterback. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has received great praise from President Jamal Adams, which is promising to hear. The defensive front is going to be rock solid, drafting Quinnen Williams out of Alabama and signing CJ Mosely to control the defense. The issues lie in the secondary, outside of Jamal Adams, the best safety in football, this is a really weak unit. Trumaine Johnson is getting paid a ton to be injury-prone and just not that great. There is simply no depth and little talent in the cornerback unit. It is very easy to lose football games with weak cornerback play in 2019. Adam Gase’s offense will help Darnold’s development, and we will see a big step up for New York Jets football, I but I still think they’re a year away from making real noise.
The Bills followed up a 2017 playoff appearance (how?) with an abysmal season in 2018. Going 6-10 with a lot of ugly on offense. This year, however, that offense is completely revamped. The Bills signed 15 free agents costing them $173 million, the most of any team. This can be a whole new starting 11 outside of quarterback. The recent cut of LeSean McCoy leaves ageless Frank Gore, rookie Devin Singletary, and average TJ Yeldon at running back. Slot man Cole Beasley, deep threat John Brown, and tight end Tyler Kroft fill out the receiving core. There was competition for all 5 offensive line spots. Everything for this team comes down to Josh Allen. Allen had some great moments in 2018, but a lot more bad than good. Will he take a step forward and produce some quality offensive games? Will we see some real development from the second year QB? They certainly filled out a competent roster around him, with stronger skill positions and much-improved protection. Allen always has the ability to make big plays with his rocket arm and scramble ability, the potential is there but will he be consistent. The defense was great last year and won them a few games on their own (Week 3 vs. Minnesota as 17 point underdogs). The defense is led by LB Tremaine Edmunds and CB Tre’Davious White. There is real talent on this side of ball, bringing in rookie Ed Oliver to play all over the defensive line. This defense is bound to regress in my opinion, hard to be as good as they were in 2018, let alone be better. The offense needs to step up big for this team to be successful. Josh Allen’s development will decide is this team is competing for a playoff spot.
Oh man, the Miami Dolphins are in trouble. Trading for Josh Rosen this offseason leaves three sophomore QBs and 42-year-old Brady in the division. I can’t really explain why the Dolphins would elect to start Ryan Fitzpatrick over Rosen, let the kid play see what you traded for. Why would you trot out Fitzpatrick just to lose games? Let Rosen lose the games, develop him, see if you found lightning in a bottle. Regardless of who starts at QB, Miami is headed for the leagues worst record. This is a real rebuild year for them, a whole new wave of assistant coaches and the second year of Brian Flores. This team is building from the ground up. Recently trading Laremy Tunsil to Houston leaves Xavien Howard as the only great player on the roster. The skill positions are underwhelming, Kenyan Drake and DeVante Parker never really worked out. 2nd round tight end Mike Gesicki has had struggles at this level. Who is going to make consistent plays on this offense? The defense loses Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake, its two best pass rushers. Kiko Alonso, their best linebacker last year was cut. Former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled at corner but played well as a hybrid safety, he is an interesting player to watch in year two. Xavien Howard mentioned before is the best player on this defense. This is a growth year for Miami, it won’t be long before Josh Rosen takes over at quarterback.