While remnants of the New England Patriots’ reign of terror slowly fades away on the rest of the division, a newfound head of the east has made its way out of the shadows in the Buffalo Bills. Although the Dolphins, Jets and the Patriots now look up to the two-time reigning division champs from western New York, improvements within each roster should produce one of the deepest divisions in all of football. With quarterbacks Zach Wilson, Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones all deemed irrelevant for this exercise, here is how the rosters of the AFC East shake out with the quarterback position excluded.
This season looks to be much of the same for the Bills. With Head Coach Sean McDermott entering his sixth season and Super Bowl aspirations at an all-time high, this could be the year for Bills Mafia. They remain the talk of the AFC East, and rightfully so. While familiar faces in Cole Beasley, Jon Feliciano, Levi Wallace and Star Lotulelei are all gone, new additions in Von Miller, Jamison Crowder, Rodger Saffold, Tim Settle and first-round draft pick Kaiir Elam shore up a roster already littered with talent on both sides of the ball. A veteran group that found itself just 13 seconds away from an AFC title game last winter – sorry Bills fans – they have every piece necessary to make another deep run this year.
Man, South Beach is going to be fun all year long. With wide receiver Tyreek Hill now in the fold opposite Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins intend to nip at the heels of the Bills in the AFC East until Week 17 comes to a close. While it remains to be seen just how impactful the hiring of Head Coach Mike McDaniel will be towards the overall success of this impressive Dolphins roster, pounding the rock with Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds and Sony Michel will be a formula for success all year long. Similar to how McDaniel enjoyed success in San Francisco – the Dolphins should pick apart teams in play-action and blow the roof off with speed. The fastest man in football, Hill is much more than a gadget weapon with world-class track speed. He’s well-rounded, sure-handed, can run every route in the book and win the tight areas – not just 40 yards downfield. His addition will open up grass not just for the second-year standout in Waddle, but for free agent signee Cedrick Wilson and tight end Mike Gesicki. Hill’s alignment alone will bring extra bodies out of the box for Edmonds, Michel and Mostert, too.
Up front, the Dolphins are well-rounded with the necessary beef to keep Tagovailoa upright. It’s a group headlined by Terron Armstead, who Miami paid handsomely this offseason to protect their signal-caller’s arm-side, and if the Dolphins can mesh in all facets, the duo of Hill and Waddle progress into one of the more dynamic tandems the league has to offer and if their defense continues to improve, don’t count out Miami when scribbling in your playoff brackets.
New York Jets
Still in the thick of their rebuild, the Jets will compete for a division crown in due time… just not this fall. However, I’m extremely excited to watch this Jets team compete with talent in an overwhelming abundance on both sides of the football. Away from the pocket, they have Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson II, Jordan Whitehead, Alijah-Vera Tucker, Breece Hall, need I say more? These are all talents that have been added in just the last two draft and free agency cycles, so a tip of the cap goes out to General Manager Joe Douglas for a job well done.
There’s been little for the Jets to hang their hat on since their last playoff appearance over a decade ago and six consecutive seasons of sub .500 football have turned them into the annual basement occupants of the AFC East, but keeping in mind that a rebuild is an intricate, detailed process, New York is on their way up. If it were my guess, their youth-infused core won’t take too long to assert themselves as a group to become familiar with in a short amount of time.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have one of the worst rosters in the AFC, plain and simple. This isn’t the New England of old, where AFC titles and Super Bowl appearances were as common as a Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski touchdown. Belichick and Co. have a long way to go if they ever look to recapture the division crown in the coming seasons. Yes, I understand they won 10 games last fall and made the big dance, but they have a ton of aging bodies that remain worrisome. They have not drafted well the last few cycles and comparing their potential 53-man unit to the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills – on paper – they simply aren’t in the same stratosphere.
Veterans matter, of course, but the Patriots lack talent at a multitude of positions. Although years of experience under live fire presents a relatively high floor, this roster just fails to move the needle for me right now outside of their ability to run the football. I remain high on Christian Barmore and Kyle Duggar, and I’m intrigued in Cameron McGrone’s first season within the Patriots’ defense but this group has a long way to go. Having Belichick on the sideline will always put you in a good spot to compete, but when it comes down to it, all we can do is evaluate the players and the Patriots need pop all over.