Preseason AFC East breakdown

Posted: July 6, 2013 in Football, New entries
Tags: , , , ,

Buffalo Bills

2012 record: 6-10, 3rd place AFC East (tied with NY Jets)

Notable offseason losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Donald Jones, LB Nick Barnett, SS George Wilson, QB Tarvaris Jackson

Notable offseason acquisitions: HC Doug Marrone, QB Kevin Kolb, WR Da’Rick Rogers

Notable draft picks: QB E.J. Manuel, WR Robert Woods, LB Kiko Alonso

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 9-7

The winds of change blow in Buffalo. New head coach Doug Marrone brings experience as a former offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints and head coach of the Syracuse Orange. Buffalo selected the first QB in the draft with E.J. Manuel who should challenge Kevin Kolb for the starting job as the weeks progress in Buffalo. Kolb has shown he can perform as a competent backup in tight spots (see Philadelphia), but has struggled in the past as a starting quarterback (see Arizona). Kolb should perform the buffer role to help Manuel ease into the pro game.

Buffalo clearly drafted for need as former USC standout Robert Woods comes into challenge David Nelson for a starting spot left by departed Donald Jones at wide receiver. Additionally, former Oregon Duck Kiko Alonso looks to be the natural replacement for former starting linebacker Nick Barnett. Former Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers failed to get drafted, but Buffalo signed the controversial talent this offseason with hopes that he’ll bring a spark to the offense.

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Buffalo Bills rookie wideout Robert woods

On defense, Buffalo has a surprisingly talented defensive line. Established star Mario Williams accrued a healthy 10.5 sacks last season while defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus collected 5 and 5.5 respectively. That’s a lot of pressure coming only from the defensive line. While Buffalo did not statistically speaking have a great defense last season, and gave up oodles of yards on the ground, they performed respectably against the pass. Safety Jairus Byrd intercepted five passes, defended six more, and forced four fumbles. Second round pick Kiko Alonso should help turn things around on a defense that ranked second to last in rushing last season.

Miami gets all the attention for bringing in plenty of free agent talent, but Buffalo may challenge New England for the AFC East crown this season. If Marrone (an offensive mind) and Manuel can get the ball rolling on offense, all the tools are there for Buffalo to assemble a very balanced attack. Running back Fred Jackson is one of the very top running backs in the league when healthy. C.J. Spiller has proven his worth as a very talented runner averaging six yards per carry to break 1,200 yards this past season. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson broke out two seasons ago and tight end Scott Chandler has a nose for the endzone. If Manuel can live up to first round pick expectations, Buffalo may catch many teams sleeping in the coming season.

Miami Dolphins

2012 record: 7-9, 2nd place AFC East

Notable offseason losses: RB Reggie Bush, OT Jake Long, DB Sean Smith

Notable offseason acquisitions: WR Mike Wallace, TE Dustin Keller, WR Brandon Gibson

Notable draft picks: LB Dion Jordan, CB Jamar Taylor

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 8-8

Miami is undergoing the Oregon Ducks treatment this offseason with brand new uniforms hoping to inspire change in the team atmosphere. That and the drafting of former Oregon Duck Dion Jordan should help. Expectations are high in Miami with budding second year QB Ryan Tannehill and a host of receiving options including: Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, Brandon Gibson, and hometown hero Brian Hartline. NFL.com pundits suggest that second year running back Lamar Miller will have a breakout year in the absence of Reggie Bush. While Miller has done little to hint of any breakout NFL performance, the talent is there for Miami’s offense to break out if Tannehill can take the next step.

Miami RB Lamar Miller

Miami RB Lamar Miller

Miami ranked seventh in scoring defense last season, with an average of 19.8 points per game allowed. Their most glaring weakness appeared in their inability to stop the pass ranking 27th out of 32 in passing yards allowed per game. The addition of first and second round picks OLB Dion Jordan and CB Jamar Taylor should bolster Miami’s pass defense.

Miami may be looking to eventually replace the departed left tackle Jake Long with the drafting of OT Dallas Thomas. Long left some big shoes to fill in Miami, widely regarded as one of the, if not the best left tackle in the game.

By and large, Miami’s season rests on Tannehill’s shoulders. The load a starting quarterback carries can be daunting, especially in a system built around the pass, which, looking at the team’s recent free agent acquisitions, appears to be the direction Philbin and his team are moving in. Watch for the new-look Dolphins to make a run for a wild card spot in the AFC this coming season.

New England Patriots

2012 record: 12-4, 1st place AFC East

Notable offseason losses: WR Wes Welker, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd

Notable offseason acquisitions: WR Danny Amendola, WR Donald Jones, RB LeGarrette Blount

Notable draft picks: WR Aaron Dobson, OLB Jamie Collins

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 11-5

New England may have the least familiar offense in the AFC east this coming season with the way their offseason has developed. Wide receiver Wes Welker defected in free agency to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos. Former receivers Deion Branch, Brandon Lloyd, and Donte Stallworth were not asked to return to the team. Former running back Danny Woodhead left for San Diego. Star tight end Aaron Hernandez has been arrested for murder and was cut by the team. Other star tight end Rob Gronkowski has had medical issues since week eleven of the 2012 season, but is expected to return by the start of the NFL season.

Brady, Belichick & Co. have led an offense into the playoffs with lesser known players before. Before Wes Welker was a star in New England, he was a walk-on at Texas Tech, undrafted in the NFL, and waived by San Diego. Part of Welker’s former responsibilities included returning kicks and making kicks. Welker is now a highly-respected star receiver on a high-powered Denver offense after his tenure in New England.

In his prime, Deion Branch won a Super Bowl MVP award in 2004 as a New England Patriot and netted New England a first round pick for 2007 in a trade with Seattle. Branch never fulfilled his potential outside of New England, and actually got traded back to New England from Seattle for a fourth round pick. The Patriots offense should rank in the top seven in scoring regardless of who is catching the ball this season.

New England’s defense got involved in many a shootout this past season, ranking 29th in passing yards allowed with 271.4 per game. New England drafted two pass rushers and two defensive backs in the draft, likely hoping to address defensive needs well enough to propel them further into the playoffs.

New England will likely face stiffer competition in the division this season as Buffalo and Miami have undergone significant change on offense, though the Belichick-Brady formula has not changed, suggesting the Patriots will again take the division crown.

New York Jets

2012 record: 6-10, 3rd place AFC East

Notable offseason losses: CB Darrelle Revis, RB Shonn Greene, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry

Notable offseason acquisitions: RB Chris Ivory, TE Kellen Winslow

Notable draft picks: CB Dee Milliner, DL Sheldon Richardson, QB Geno Smith

Dave’s 2013 record prediction: 5-11

The Jets stumbled this past season with a struggling offense and an aging defense. The Jets pass defense stood strong ranking 2nd overall in fewest passing yards allowed per game, but were gashed by the run and allowed 23.4 points per game. Since their dominant 2010 season, the Jets offense has failed to put up quite as many points, but more importantly, the notoriously stingy Jets defense has been much more beatable in the past two seasons. The loss of star corner Darrelle Revis should only exacerbate this issue. Instead of relying on former first round picks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson to fill the role, the team drafted first round pick Dee Milliner out of Alabama early to shore up the secondary in a division with Mike Wallace, Stevie Johnson, and whoever Tom Brady feels like throwing to this season.

The Jets offense looked, at times, like the keystone cops. The forcing of Tim Tebow into roles he was clearly never meant for and the infamous Mark Sanchez butt-fumble underscore some of the issues the Jets faced on offense. The drafting of Geno Smith should push Sanchez to raise his competitiveness throughout camp, and the season. Smith, widely considered as the number one quarterback prospect in the NFL draft, may be the future of the offense in New York if Sanchez doesn’t put together an uncharacteristically impressive season in 2013.

With the departure of Shonn Greene, Jets running back Chris Ivory will likely assume the starting role. Ivory rushed for 700+ yards and five touchdowns over twelve games in his rookie season in New Orleans in 2010.

Ivory, while no doubt reliable, is not thought of as one of the NFL’s dominant running backs. Dustin Keller, former Jets tight end and arguably their most effective receiving option, left for division rival Miami. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Kellen Winslow was brought in and is expected to claim the starting tight end spot in camp. The Jets face an uphill battle in an improving AFC East. Miami and Buffalo are priming to climb into the 8-9 win column this season, and Rex Ryan has more questions than answers on offense this season.

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