Jay Skurski of Buffalo News made an interesting note about the Buffalo Bills roster, highlighting the fact that half of the players that saw time for the Bills in 2016 will not be back with the team in 2017. That roster turnover of 50% is pretty incredible, but I wanted to dig a little bit deeper.
Some players that played a snap or two for the Bills include FB Glenn Gronkowski and QB E.J. Manuel- relatively low impact losses when looking at the overall change in the roster.
So I decided to look at the four teams in the AFC East to see how many snaps on offense and defense each team has lost heading into the 2017 season.
The Bills players combined for 23,479 snaps on offense and defense in 2016 and 8,853 of those snaps will not be back with the team in 2017, headlined by key losses on defense in FS Corey Graham (1,052 snaps), CB Stephon Gilmore (981 snaps), and LB Zach Brown (977 snaps). In fact, 50.4% of the Bills defensive snaps in 2016 will not be back with the team in 2017.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo needs to replace a bunch of wide receiver snaps as Marquise Goodwin (640 snaps), Robert Woods (634 snaps), and Justin Hunter (302) are no long in Buffalo. The Bills need to replace 25.0% of their offensive snaps in 2017.
The Patriots need to replace 17.8% of total snaps, easily the lowest in the division, followed by the Miami Dolphins (25.0%) and the New York Jets (25.6%). The Bills need to replace 37.7% of total offensive and defensive snaps, a clear indicator the team is going through a deep reboot.
2017 AFC East Roster Turnover
New England only needs to replace six players that saw 90 or more snaps in 2016, and that’s including LB Jamie Collins (438 snaps), who was traded in the middle of the season and already replaced by LB Kyle Van Noy.
The others are CB Logan Ryan (897 snaps), who has been replaced by CB Stephon Gilmore; TE Martellus Bennett (867 snaps), replaced by the return of TE Rob Gronkowski and acquisition of TE Dwayne Allen; EDGEs Chris Long (677 snaps) and Jabaal Sheard (579 snaps), replaced by the trio of EDGEs Kony Ealy and rookie Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr.; and then RB LeGarrette Blount (527 snaps), replaced by RBs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead.
The player with the next-highest number of snaps was DT Anthony Johnson (74 snaps), who played a mere four games in New England before his release.
Needless to say, while the Patriots have possibly improved over their losses, they have absolutely taken the steps necessary to replace those departed players.
And for a base comparison, the Bills lost 20 players with 90 or more snaps, while the Dolphins lost 14 and the Jets lost 12. Those teams will have to not just find able replacements, but serious improvements if they wish to catch up with the Patriots.
While the Bills have lost a huge chunk of the secondary, head coach Sean McDermott never believed in investing heavily in his defensive backs while with the Carolina Panthers. But Buffalo has also lost some serious snaps from their defensive front seven, making this a near-complete makeover of a defense that ranked second in DVOA in 2014, prior to a collapse under head coach Rex Ryan.
The Dolphins have also lost a lot of snaps on their defense (30.7%), particularly up the middle of the defense at linebacker and safety, although their offense projects to be fairly consistent. The big losses on offense of OT Branden Albert and TE Dion Sims have been mitigated by second-year first round OT Laremy Tunsil and the acquisition of TE Julius Thomas. The Dolphins didn’t lose anyone else of note on offense.
The Jets need to replace a division-high 30.9% of their offense and a division-low 20.2% of their defense. The offense moved on from veterans WR Brandon Marshall (899 snaps), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (763 snaps), OT Ryan Clady (536 snaps), C Nick Mangold (432 snaps), TE Brandon Bostick (296 snaps), OT Breno Giacomini (266 snaps), and TE Kellen Davis (259 snaps). There will need to be a major youth movement at quarterback and the offensive line, although the Jets generally ignore their tight end position on the field.
On defense, the Jets lost CB Darrelle Revis (922 snaps) and FS Marcus Gilchrist (819 snaps). Gilchrist finished the season on the injured reserve, while Revis was too expensive for his performance on the field. The Jets have essentially purged their big free agent signings of the past three seasons and are starting over again.
The Patriots have had a tight hold on the division since 2001, with just two lapses in that span of time, and 2017 shouldn’t be any different. While New England has taken its roster and improved it, the Dolphins defense looks to take a step backwards, the Jets offense is starting from square one, and the Bills are going through a huge rebuild.
Don’t be shocked when the AFC East is the same in 2017 as it’s been in the previous years.