Pending the inevitable injuries, a way-too-early team by team look within our division;
The New England Patriots: Projected winners of the division
Let's get them out of the way. They preserved their OL for the most part but there are question marks at depth. If they stay healthy, they'll be fine. While we lost outside-threat Brandon Lloyd we added Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce who may be able to help cover fr the loss of an unstable but proven veteran. While we lost Wes Welker we brought in Danny Amendola and Josh Boyce can also provide some help as the slot-receiver. Add in Donald Jones and TJ Moe and we may have acceptable depth at the position that had the biggest question marks heading into the year. The only part of the O that concerns me is depth at the interior of the OL and the production we can get from our rookies wide of the numbers.
As for their D, we seem to start every off-season hoping we finally got a DT to pair with Wilfork. Enter Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead, who I think can make an impact and vastly strengthen the inside of the line. Factor in the additions of Michael Buchanan, Jason Vega, and Jamie Colins and the pass-rush should have better depth behind a more-experienced Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. At LB we added Jamie Collins and Steve Beauharnais behind the big-three-SEC group of Mayo/Spikes/Hightower. At CB we'll have our guys back from the tail-end of last year and also can add Logan Ryan into the mix. Our Safety group is probably better this year given the additions of Adrian Wilson and Duron Harmon, but also the more-seasoned projects we drafted in Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner. Topping the secondary off with Devin McCourty, this looks like a fairly promising group.
In conclusion, there is little reason to think the New England Patriots will be usurped this year in the AFC-East. They look overall to be just as talented if not more talented than they have the last few years.
The Buffalo Bills: Projected to be tied for worst in the division
Since the AFCWC game vs the Jets, the only AFC-East team to beat New England was the Buffalo Bills. The Pats just so happen to open the season against them in Buffalo. On Offense, they have of course gone from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Kevin Kolb with EJ Manuel learning behind him. After Geno Smith I thought Manuel may be the most promising QB in this draft class, but you got to think the project-QB is going to be extra green. Either he or Kolb may very well have a more talented WR group this year with the additions of Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Da'Rick Rodgers. They'll still have a great RB tandem to lean on. But their offensive line may just not be the same with the loss of LG Andy Levitre, which can effect the overall offense for them. They've also lost some depth on the OL which was once a strength of the team. Now that it's weaker and supporting either Kolb or a very-green Manuel...
On the other side of the ball, they added a very talented but very undisciplined LB in Kiko Alonso. He'll improve the second level of their D but opening day he could very much find a target on himself. If not him then one of the other Buffalo LBers that Brady has exposed before. While I expect Duke Williams to eventually be an upgrade over their former SS I don't think it'll be easy for him at first. I think this year except for Jarius Byrd and Stephon Gilmore it may be a tough going for their secondary. They also still haven't figured out who's going to help Mario Williams upfront.
Overall, I just can't see Buffalo being much of a threat when we open up in their house. I think they are fighting with the next AFC-East team for the bottom of the totem pole.
The New York Jets: Projected to be tied for worst in the division
Rex Ryan recently pointed out that since he became HC the Jets have had more playoff wins than the Pats have had. Geno Smith promised playoffs. The OL was once a strength of the line and they have some unproven commodities there to make up for the loss of proven commodities. We'll see. They improve at RB and I think could be better at TE if project Hayden Smith develops from rugby player to football player. Then of course there's Geno Smith and a new offensive coordinator. It should be interesting. With Santonio Holmes back and project Stephen Hill with a year under his belt the Jets O could be about the same this season than last season. It all depends on Geno.
However, let's talk about their D. Dee Milliner is a heck of a football player but picking a CB in the 1st round means he'll forever be known as "the guy that replace Darrell Revis". CB is still going to be the strength of their back-7. Safety is still going to be a massive liability for them that Brady will happily continue to exploit. I thought Laron Landry was overrated but I fail to see how either Josh Bush or Antonio Allen are better options. So what do they do? They sign Laron's older and less talented brother. Okay. At ILB they are banking on second-year man Davis filling in for Bart Scott and David Harris having a comeback year. We'll see, but with such huge question marks at Safety they really can't afford to be any weaker between the numbers. As for the Sheldon Richardson addition, I have absolutely no idea. BPA? Fine. But throwing a bunch of sexy prospects doesn't necessarily build a team. Richardson, Coples, and Wilkerson may make for some mean 3-man fronts on passing downs but they did absolutely nothing to improve the talent at OLB.
You know what a rookie QB doesn't need? A D that gives up so many points he has to throw, throw, and throw the ball. CBs, DTs, and a running-game don't make a D. This is a team that is severely lacking depth. If they're going to keep Sanchez on the roster they might as well go clowning for Clowney. Does anyone really think the Red Sox are where they are today if they kept their overpaid trash?
The Miami Dolphins: Projected 2nd in the division, potential WC contender
I know, i know, they've made some big moves. But even a down-year Jake Long is still a better LT than second-year man Jonathan Martin. While I like Dallas Thomas as an OG prospect I'm not sure if he's the answer at RT. Then when you look at TE and RB, considering their importance in picking up the blitz, I really wonder if Tannehill and his weapons are going to get the time they need to really make a run. I could see Martin improving but I think protecting Tannehill is going to be the story for their O and their team overall.
They still have decent players at Safety starting with SS Reshad Jones. Dion Jordan can compliment Cameron Wake. They have some good DTs as well. However, we'll see how they mesh. They completely overhauled their LB group and CB group. It's bold on their part and could pay off but we'll really have to wait and see. They've moved from a lot of proven commodities to unproven commodities. I think on this side of the ball they stay the same or improve.
Overall, I think the Dolphins have at least slightly improved from last year. They might potentially challenge the Patriots but they need a lot to come together for that.