With two weeks of the NFL preseason in the books, teams across the league will look to develop their rosters and sure up position necessities. Cuts will certainly be made and each team will get closer to their season opening 53 man rosters. In a tough AFC East, each team has, and will continue to strategically maneuver its personnel. As we dive deeper into the AFC East, let’s begin to assess the strategies that have been implemented and how these moves will affect the outcome of this competitive division.
New England Patriots: Finished 1st in AFC East in 2011
The perennial power house Patriots were a win shy of a fourth superbowl championship in 2011. Under the Belichick/Brady era the team has one of the best win percentages in football. With all the success last season the Patriots defense proved to be their fatal flaw, a flaw that was heavily addressed this offseason.
In 2011 the patriots finished second to last in the NFL in total defense. A young and inexperienced secondary finished 31st against the pass and the defense finished 17th overall against the run. Six of the seven patriots draft picks were spent on defensive players. Top two picks, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower will be expected to contribute quickly. Newly acquired veterans Will Allen (Miami) and Steve Gregory (San Diego) will bring experience to the patriot’s defensive back field.
Offensively the Patriots have added wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis). Lloyd will provide deep threat ability for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Jabar Gaffney, Donte’ Stallworth and Jake Ballard were other offseason acquisitions that will contribute.
Through 2 preseason games the patriots look like most teams do in the preseason, first team is solid and the rest, really doesn’t matter. In 2012 expect the Pats defense to improve drastically and the offense to pick up where it left off in 2011… with some new toys for Brady to utilize.
New York Jets: Finished 2nd in AFC East 2011
There is no question what the biggest roster move in the league was this past offseason. Tim Tebow!! The Jets will look to use Tebow in their ground and pound philosophy. In 2 preseason games the Jets have not revealed the Wild cat offense that Tebow will run come the regular season. The Jets have struggled to move the ball and have high hopes that the wild cat will improve their run game.
The play of Right tackle Wayne Hunter has become a huge cause for concern. In the Jets preseason game against the New York Giants, Hunter gave up 2.5 sacks in limited action. Coming into this season Hunter was a question mark because of his mediocre play last season. If these two preseason games are any indication of what is to come, Mark Sanchez and the Jets are in for a long and painful season.
There have been talks of bringing in a new tackle to replace Hunter or giving third year tackle Austin Howard a shot at the spot. Since there doesn’t seem to be any seasoned tackles on the market just yet, the Jets will look to improve the position from within and/or hope that Hunter can get his act together
Miami Dolphins: Finished 3rd in AFC East in 2011
The Miami Dolphins have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino and with the 8th overall pick in this years draft, the Dolphins chose Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M.
The rookie quarterback was a hold out at the beginning of camp and was listed 3rd on the depth chart behind veterans David Gerrard and Matt Moore. After two impressive preseason performances, the Dolphins have decided to pull the trigger and name Tannehill their week one starter.
Acquiring Chad Johnson looked to be a huge transaction for the Dolphins but as quick as Chad arrived in Miami, he was gone that much faster. Johnson and new head coach Joe Philbin struggled to get on the same page and after an alleged domestic violence dispute, Philbin decided to move on without the 6-time pro bowl receiver.
Not much is expected of the Dolphins in 2012. They are talented but young. If Tannehill can have a breakout season and perform up to the standard that he is capable of, the Dolphins will have plenty to build on as they move forward.
Buffalo Bills: Finished 4th (Last) in the AFC East
This offseason the Buffalo Bills went out and addressed their 26th ranked defense. The Bills signed former #1 overall pick Mario Williams. The acquisition gives the bills much needed help on the defensive line.
The defense finished last season tied for second in interceptions but besides that ranked in the bottom of almost all other defensive categories. Stopping the run was a problem last season. The signing of former patriot defensive end Mark Anderson, who will play on the other side of Williams, will surely improve Buffalo’s pass rush and run defense.
The secondary was a positive for the Bills last season recording 20 interceptions which was tied for second in the league. The Bills added the second best corner in the draft by picking up Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore will help the secondary that was 19th ranked against the pass.
This season the Bills can take the next step to becoming a contender or continue to be a middle of the road team. The talent is there and the big name has been signed. We shall see how the Bills stack up in the AFC East as they face the New York Jets in week one.