It’s been one of the busiest off-season’s in recent memory, following up on an NFL season for the ages. Contenders have been bolstering their rosters while the bottom of the league has committed to their rebuilding process’.
So who is coming out on top this year in the AFC East? Let’s find out.
New England Patriots
The Tom Brady and Bill Belichick led New England Patriots reached the pinnacle of football yet again in 2018.
Coming off a tough Super Bowl 52 loss to Philadelphia and having somehow an even bigger target on their backs, Brady and Belicheck were masterful in a 13-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams.
Even in a low scoring and a rather ugly affair, defensively it was an impressive performance, and Tom made every throw he needed to when it mattered as he has done time and time again. It was just another signature and not so shocking victory for New England.
After an entire season of even more doubters and naysayers, the Pats are right where they are at the beginning of every season. As the whole sports world looks on, everyone ponders how they will do it again, simply admiring another fantastical playoff run.
Of course, question marks are surrounding Foxborough this season, the first being about Rob Gronkowski. August and training camp are around the corner and it appears Gronk will stay retired.
The 30-year-old had a frustrating season but turned it around and had one of his least flashy but most impressive postseasons as a pro, most from a blocking perspective.
He did have a pair of very important catches in back to back games, however, helping the Patriots put away the Chiefs and the Rams. A storybook career got a bit of a storybook ending for Gronk.
As much of a masterclass of an organization the Patriots are, everyone is if this is the year Tom Brady starts his descent from greatness? The only certainty left to find is that the Patriots, even with many question marks, find themselves to be favourites of their division yet again.
Much of their regularly improving defence remains intact, and even with the loss of their brittle future hall of fame tight end, the additions of Broncos/Texans Wideout Demaryius Thomas and draft pick N’Keal Harry.
New England also traded for Michael Bennett of Seattle Seahawks fame, and will only contribute to that Belichick defence. The New England Patriots have won the AFC East in every season since 2001 with only two exceptions. Unless one of the other three rebuilding teams in the division is ready to unseat them, then the dynasty will inevitably continue.
The Patriots finished 11-5 in 2018, a modest but solid record nonetheless. Only five teams were able to take games off of the defending champions, and one of those teams was the Miami Dolphins.
After a hot start to their season, the Dolphins only ended up with 7 wins and missed the playoffs. The early consensus on the Dolphins is that they will be one of the weakest teams around the league and are in full a full rebuild.
Nothing is more apparent than this after the offloading of many Miami veterans, such as defensive end Robert Quinn and long-time QB Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill will play his 2019 season in Tennessee while Quinn will be in Dallas.
Miami was expected to draft a quarterback, but when draft night time came they opted to trade for Arizona’s first-round pick last season Josh Rosen. Rosen will get a chance to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick, who did see a bit of success in Tampa Bay in 2018. Miami does seem to be committed to Rosen for the future, however.
Miami also bid farewell to Head Coach Adam Gase, replacing him with New England standout assistant Brian Flores. Flores is a defensive-minded coach who will try and get Miami on the right path after many seasons of mediocrity.
The rest of the Dolphins off-season was quiet. A young coach, a young QB and a young team around the two need to improve. It is a waiting game for Miami moving forward.
The Dolphins are not the only team playing the waiting game though. The Buffalo Bills will also be sending out a young squad hoping to improve on a lack-lustre 2018.
Lack-lustre, but strangely appealing. Buffalo would go from bottom of the NFL to a playoff threat in a matter of weeks. A week one loss by 44 points and then an impressive week three win over Minnesota, but in the end, a 2-7 start to the season was too tall a mountain to climb.
The Bills and rookie quarterback Josh Allen did show flashes of wonder at times, but there was very little in the way of consistency. A lack of outside weapons and the continuous decline of Running Back Lesean Mccoy marred what little chance there was for.
After getting to the postseason in 2017, the first playoff appearance for the franchise since the turn of the century, head coach Sean McDermott and his team moved away from QB Tyrod Taylor trading him to Cleveland.
McDermott is looking to a new QB coach as well as newly acquired Running Backs TJ Yeldon and Frank Gore, to help develop Allen grow and hopefully take the next step in his career in the NFL.
Ed Oliver, a big-time defensive line prospect out of Houston University will also be looked upon to improve a Bills defence that was anything but impressive at times last season. Buffalo finished 6-10 last year.
New York Jets
In 2015, the New York Jets were a victory away from being playoff bound. It wasn’t in the cards, falling to the Bills in week 17 in miserable fashion. What followed after that was three straight last-place finishes in the AFC East.
However, the league appears to have fairly high expectations for a team who hasn’t won more than 5 games since 2015.
This could be for a few reasons, the first being how they have drafted. Since the 2016 NFL Draft, the Jets have acquired the likes of defensive playmakers Darron Lee, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Quinnen Williams and Quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold appears to be such a can’t miss prospect, New York may be able to put behind past draft blunders at the QB position such as Geno Smith and Christian Hackenburg.
Darnold, the third overall pick out of USC, faced massive challenges in his rookie season. Dealing with a frustrating receiving corps, a brutal offensive line, as well as ineffective running backs in your first season, is standard, but harsh nonetheless. Darnold played decently through it all, and the positions mentioned appear to be much improved next season.
Everything starts at the top though, and the jets will look very new both on their coaching staff as well as in the front office. After moving away from Head Coach Todd Bowles, the Jets hired Adam Gase from Miami. This will be the first offensive-minded head coach for the Jets in recent or distant memory.
Gase then brought in Dowell Loggains and Greg Williams to be his offensive and defensive coordinators alike. The new coaching trio has been exciting the organization immensely. The Jets offseason did not end there, however.
Linebacker Cj Mosely and Wide Receivers Jameson Crowder and Josh Bellamy were the first free agents to come over to New York, followed by possibly the biggest splash of NFL Free Agency. Le’Veon Bell signed a four-year contract worth over $50 million with the Jets on 13 March, immediately making New York a dark horse playoff team.
The Jets finished off one of their busiest offseasons in team history by unveiling new uniforms and firing general manager Mike Maccagnan, eventually hiring Joe Douglas from Philadelphia.
The decision to move on from the general manager after a full offseason where Maccagnan and new head coach Adam Gase made many monumental organizational shifts is strange, to say the least. It’s the type of decision that doesn’t help the apparent dysfunctional appearance that the jets can’t seem to shake.
A playoff appearance would go a long way to improving that appearance however, as well as the development of Sam Darnold into a star. The New York Jets are undeniably a better football team than they were in 2018, but are they ready to leap the basement of their division? This remains unclear, but the core is massively improved.
These improvements on the coaching staff, in the front office and on the field product are all signs of progress. It is important to see this as a step in the right direction for an organization who has struggled at continuing to move forward when progress finds them.
New England Patriots
New England Patriots