AFC East Preview: What Pats Fans Should & (More Importantly) Should NOT Be Worried About


THE MIAMI DOLPHINS

Why We’re Worried:

Ryan Tannehill isn’t awful. He’s a far cry from being a super star or even a regular star, but he’s probably a better developmental QB than anything else the subterranean standards of the AFC East has seen in a while. He’s got Mike Wallace to throw to who has averaged 103 yards per game in 2 career appearances against the Patriots (the one and only stat that worries me in an overall stupid free agent signing). Wallace is already gushing about what a breath of fresh air it is to be in Miami as if the environment of a perennial Super Bowl contender like Pittsburgh was what was really holding him back.

Despite deceiving the world into believing they had a great defense last year (13th against the run, 27th against the pass) they went out and re-did their entire linebacker position adding veterans Phillip Wheeler, Danelle Ellerbee and Florida rookie Jelani Jenkins. It’s a nice mix of veteran and young talent that might be actually good on the field instead of just the PFT comments section.

Why We’re Not Worried:

With the maintstream media gushing over Miami’s stellar offseason you’d almost think that they’re actually having a stellar offseason. The truth is the media hasn’t had much to talk about and Miami has been in a race with the Colts to see who can spend the most money for the least gain. It’s a close one, but for the first time in a while Miami is staying competitive in something.

If you listen to Dolphins fans long enough you actually start to believe that this team has a great defense. Cameron Wake took home 15 sacks last year and that’s lovely. But truthfully the Dolphins gave up over 5800 yards last year (21st in the league) and allowed only 14 fewer points than the Patriots who have consistently been criticized for their defense. This year they traded up to nab Dion Jordan to compliment Cameron Wake on the other side of their defensive line. Jordan is in the mold of former college star Aaron Maybin in that he’s way undersized for his position and no one really knows where to put him. Maybin, as you’ll recall, was a bust for 2 separate AFC east teams. For all that Maybin didn’t do, most noticeably perhaps is the fact that he never lit himself on fire trying to syphon gas from a car with a vacuum. I’d love to see what that Wonderlic score looked like.

In addition they grabbed Dannell Ellerbe who had an outstanding post season in Baltimore even with a serious injury. I was fawning over his gritty play even while he was beating up on the Patriots offense. My admiration aside his starting experience is limited and the fact that Baltimore didn’t want to retain a guy they had developed with no other options at middle linebacker should tell you something. I think he’s a great talent but 5 years/$35 million for a guy with 1/2 a season’s starting experience is the kind of deal you only see in Miami.

Dolphins fans do the same dance every year. They spend the whole season cursing Jeff Ireland for being a terrible GM, then love him in the offseason when he spends money on big name players… then spend the rest of the season cursing him again when those same players don’t work out: Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, Karlos Dansby, and you can add Mike Wallace to that list. The Dolphin fanbase cheered Ireland for shrewdly dealing away their top corner former first rounder Vontae Davis for a second round pick. Not only do they turn a first round pick into a second round pick but they sign former Falcons CB Brent Grimes to replace him as their top corner for even more money. Grimes is coming off an achilles injury on the wrong side of 30. They also drafted Boise State corner Jamar Taylor who is talented, but will miss a big chunk of the offseason recovering from a sports hernia surgery that somehow no one knew about. Meanwhile the Patriots retained Aqib Talib for less money in a similar deal with much less fanfare.

And the offense… the billion dollar Miami offense in the making… Ireland spent over a month trying to finagle a trade for Brandon Albert after they failed to retain their franchise LT Jake Long. The Chiefs didn’t bite on the trade and now the Dolphins have to insert last year’s 2nd round pick Jonathan Martin in at left tackle and act like that was the plan all along and spend even more money signing RT Tyson Clabo.

Their “feature back” is a tossup between 2nd year player Lamaar Miller (250 yards last year), and one of fantasy football’s most regrettable bangs Daniel Thomas. Not to mention the fact that they traded away Devon Bess a guy with markedly better success against the Patriots than Brian Hartline and never really replaced him.. except for signing Brandon Gibson for an absolutely insane 3 year $9.78 million contract earned with a bland 4 year career in St. Louis.

And lastly if you actually listen to Dolphins fans gush about how great Ryan Tannehill is you’d think he actually had a great rookie season. He threw more INTs than TDs. His passer rating was 76.1, which was less than a point higher than Chad Henne’s the last time he started a full season for the Dolphins. And that’s great but no matter what anyone tells you about his potential, as of right now he’s accomplished exactly as much as Chad Henne and less than Chad Pennington.


THE BUFFALO BILLS

Why We’re Worried:

No more Buddy Nix calling the shots. This is a sad development for those of us who enjoyed the 16-32 record of the Nix/Gailey/Fitzpatrick era. Buffalo was happy to spend money in weird and pointless ways including a 6 year $59 million deal for Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 4 year $20 million deal for Mark Anderson, and an absolutely obsessive pursuit of Mario Williams that took up so much time and resources that they lost out on all their other priority free agents last year. He’ll get credit for drafting CJ Spiller but those of us who watch football know it took Spiller 3 years to even figure out how to play professional football while putting a ton of miles on Fred Jackson.

One of Nix final moves does have me a bit concerned though and that was the pairing of new franchise QB EJ Manuel with Texas’ Marquise Goodwin through this year’s draft. We’ve discussed Goodwin quite a bit on the Patskrieg Facebook and consider him maybe the most underrated commodity in this whole draft class. The former Longhorn was an Olympic track athlete that possesses blinding speed that was giving DB’s a major headache at Senior Bowl practice. Literally no one could cover him vertically. In fact, I’m more afraid of him than 2nd round pick Robert Woods. He’s very raw and only had modest production at Texas, but I think the Patriots should start thinking about how they’re going to cover him now. I don’t know if anyone is fast enough to do it one on one.

On the defensive side of the ball new coach Doug Marrone is attempting a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense that he’s been stockpiling mismatched personnel for. They sent former 3rd rounder Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts for former 1st rounder Jerry Hughes to get some more options for a 3-4 pass rush attack. On top of that they still have a solid young CB tandem in Leodis McKelvin (re-signed) and last year’s first rounder Stephon Gilmore. And as bad as this team was at times last year they still managed the 6th best rushing defense in the league without any of the blowhard attitude we saw from Miami’s fake defense.

Why We’re Not Worried:

Where do I even start?

Manny Lawson, Mario Williams, and Jerry Hughes are their options for a “hybrid” 3-4 attack? OMG Terrifying. What has Lawson ever done to keep justifying these contracts? He was a 1st round pick in San Francisco 7 years ago and has been living off his draft stock ever since. He’s only managed more than 3 sacks once in his entire disappointing career and has flopped in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. Hughes just sucks. He always sucked and I was glad when the Colts drafted him because I knew Bill Polian had absolutely nothing left in the tank. People are actually still arguing that he had started to breakout during his last year in Indy. Look at the stats: he had FOUR sacks that year and it was 4x as many as his first two seasons. That’s a breakout season like my cat having a breakout intestinal career by not throwing up for two days in a row. SO SCARY.

On top of that they dumped a perfectly good safety in George Wilson to keep spending money on the Republican Guard of front sevens that has never and will never scare anyone. They replaced Wilson with 2 F- talents via the draft (Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks) to thin out an already suspect secondary. Think about how much time you spent last April talking about how fierce the Bills pass rush would be. Now go look at the stats and realize that they actually managed fewer sacks than the Patriots… again, the team with “no pass rush” whose defense sucks and can’t do anything but win football games.

The chest puffing of Bills fans last year just looks hilarious in retrospect. How many times did you hear some version of “Bro, how tha Pats gonna block Mario Williams, kehd??” As it turns out Nate Solder and the gang rose to the task just fine. They blanked Williams in two appearances last year (that’s zero sacks, kehd), and surrendered only 2 sacks to the Bills total. The supposedly non-existant Patriots pass rush returned the favor with 6 sacks against the Bills. That’s more.

And great job drafting a read-option QB that can’t pass from the pocket meaning the Bills will have to come up with yet another completely revamped offense. No big deal though right? It only took superstar CJ Spiller 3 years to figure out the last offense.

You’ll excuse me if I don’t get a fear boner over another mediocre Bills team.


THE NEW YORK JETS

Why We’re Worried

For the first time in the entire Rex Ryan era the Jets have humbled themselves to having zero sense of entitlement in the NFL. That to me is the most dangerous thing of all because Ryan might pull his head out of his own ass and actually coach the team for once. For all the massive public humiliation he’s caused himself in a short period of time he’s still the same guy who out-coached Bill Belichick in several important games. He’s still a dangerous coach and no one should forget that.

When he’s inevitably fired this season I wouldn’t mind seeing him punch Joe Namath in his alcoholic face for the nonstop trash talking he’s done of a Jets organization that’s tried to include him for years. I’ve got no special beef with Namath, but the organization has been forced to kiss his ass while he yucked it up with the media with fat jokes and cheapshots at the Jets misfortune.

Jets fans already hate new GM John Idzik for two just plain stupid free agent signings of criminal Mike Goodson (who was described as “covered in vomit” at the time of his arrest) and the unexplainable David Garrard. The truth is he didn’t screw up the draft that bad in my opinion. Trading Darrell Revis was the right move. Revis is one of the best but he’s selfish and arrogant and quits when things get hard (i.e. the hamstring injury he faked after Randy Moss smoked him). They got a talented corner in Dee Milliner for their troubles and the athletically gifted Sheldon Richardson to play 3-4 DE. The whole Geno Smith thing might blow up but what do you want the guy to do? Paint the team into another Mark Sanchez QB corner again and have zero options but to stick with the biggest active bust in the league? Give the guy a break. He signed a QB that could have been 1st overall in the 2nd round. It’s not a do or die pick.

Why We’re Not Worried:

I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out yet but I will. After 2 pretty good first round picks, and an honest stab at a QB in the second the Jets had 4 more picks. They went tackle, guard, guard, fullback. Lost in all musings on what the hell are the Jets doing with Geno Smith they took 3 interior offensive linemen and a fullback and ignored all the depth available at every position besides “guy who blocks.” Even if one of these guys is supposed to play center you’ve already got Pro Bowler Nick Mangold at center and 7 year veteran Willie Colon at LG. How many guards can you fit into this roster?

It’s tough to pinpoint when exactly Rex Ryan lost complete control of this team but it’s gone. They’re trying to switch to a 3-4 now by moving all 290 lbs of Quinton Coples over to outside linebacker. If he’s asked to drop back into coverage that’s an automatic mismatch with just about anyone. As far as their secondary; I’ve been getting thumbs-downed on PFT for years now every time I pointed out how much 1st round pick Kyle Wilson sucks. What happened Jets fans? If Revis is gone, why is Wilson still the #3 corner? I thought Wilson was better than McCourty??

All the egos that made this team the disaster that it is are still alive and well and too expensive to get rid of. Santonio Holmes is still there to argue with the gaggle of third rate QB options. Antonio Cromartie is still there. QB of the future Geno Smith has already shown flashes of egomania; firing his agent after blaming him for not getting drafted first overall, and then signing with an agency run by rapper Jay-Z. I’m sure his career will make for a successful reality show / Affliction-esque clothing line / men’s fragrance but I don’t know what he’s supposed to do about football.

All signs point to business as usual for the defending pre-season champions.

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