Rex Ryan comes into town and Percy Harvin follows him. They did lose Scott Chandler but his blocking impact is easier to replace than say, the Saints trading Jimmy Graham. There’s a new feature back in town, one that could show Fred Jackson the beginning of the end. LeSean McCoy rushed for the third most yards last season, first in 2013, and he’s been elite with the most elusive moves in the game. The Bills just got serious, and good or not, they didn’t get much, if any, contributions from Kiko Alonso or C.J. Spiller in 2014. Keeping pass-rusher Jerry Hughes was key, and Coach Ryan inherits one of the league’s best defensive units.
Ryan just can’t get away from the headache under center. He’s gone from Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, to E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel. The winner of that mediocre competition will at the very least, be handing Shady the ball around 300 times and he could give hope towards a 2,000-yard campaign. When the QB actually drops back to pass, they can also rely on Shady or Jackson, and they’ll also have the explosive Harvin paired with the promising Sammy Watkins. We know three things about the Bills: the defense is good, the ground game is good, and the wide receivers can take a short or intermediate pass for big gains.
This team shed a lot of salary and got their prized free agent target in Ndamukong Suh. The big man becomes the cornerstone for Miami, the plan is for him to wreak havoc as he has done, but especially against Tom Brady and disrupting the pocket. They pretty much purged the linebacker corps, but along with Suh, Brent Grimes is a stud corner that will help lead this unit. They do come with many questions, but it certainly helps to have the best defensive tackle and a borderline, if not elite, cover corner.
The offense is depending on Ryan Tannehill and Lamar Miller to grow together in the uptempo offense. Replacing Mike Wallace with Kenny Stills, the vertical threat will be there on the outside, if only Tannehill could make those throws downfield, consistently. Miller should remain in mid-teen range of total touches per week, and they expect Damian Williams to be that second guy to come in and produce. Perhaps the new game plan is to feature dual-tight ends after bringing Jordan Cameron to Miami, and applying the transition tag to Charles Clay, a versatile H-back type of player.
New England Patriots
After holding onto safety Devin McCourty, which was huge because he was coveted league-wide, the Patriots watched Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner walk out the door. Considering they have yet to sign a cornerback, they either believe in the youth on the roster that got to learn from those departed veterans, or due diligence will be done on the draft prospects, likely both. So far they’ve signed a couple linebackers (most notably, Jabaal Sheard from the Browns, and Jonathan Freeny) and wide receivers (Brandon Gibson and Kevin Dorsey), most of which will have to compete just to make the team let alone for snaps. Snagging tight end Scott Chandler from the rival Bills is an interesting move, it says that they want to keep the ball grounded more next season.
The reigning Super Bowl Champions, you would think, would have the least amount of holes to patch. But when you think again, about the players that leave for a bigger payday, this team doesn’t have any starting cornerbacks or running backs returning next season. There’s work ahead for the Pats to keep a stronghold on the AFC East that they’ve owned for years now, but the other teams are trying to make the necessary moves to knock them off their pedestal.
New York Jets
The Jets brought in a trio of cornerbacks, two of which used to play for them in those back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances several years ago. Darrelle Revis is still one of the league’s elite cover corners, Anotino Cromartie has had a successful career, also playing man-to-man, and Buster Skrine arrive last season across from Joe Haden in Cleveland.The Jets not only revamped their secondary with talent, new head coach Todd Bowles worked his way up the ladder as a defensive backs coach, so pass defense won’t be an issue moving forward.
The offensive side of the ball can’t really say the same at this point. The offseason began by bringing in Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator, a former offensive guru, but do keep in mind that he hasn’t coached since 2012. They predictably moved on from Chris Johnson, who clearly has no juice left after a good career, and it appears that the keys to the backfield belongs to Chris Ivory. For the second straight offseason, they did bring in another good wide receiver, Brandon Marshall will join Eric Decker as one of the better duos in football. The problem continues to be at quarterback, where they recently traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick to compete with Geno Smith.