The AFC East has been one of the NFL focal points this offseason.
With the addition of two rookie quarterbacks and the oldest quarterback in the division being only 25 years old, this division comes with a ton of question marks.
Many of those question marks will be in Miami and New England. Tua Tagovailoa will have full control of the Dolphins’ offense in his second season and his performance will be a huge indicator of how well the Dolphins do this year. Tagovailoa was plagued by inconsistency last season and head coach Brian Flores would constantly play, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” with him and Fitzpatrick for the starting job. Miami has a solid defense and now they have playmakers in their receiving corps with the addition of Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller. The progression of this team will fall squarely on the shoulders of Tagovailoa.
The same philosophy applies to the Patriots. New England is a team that doesn’t have many holes on its roster outside of the quarterback position. The defense is returning a lot of guys who opted out because of COVID in 2020. They also spent a ton of bread in the off-season to get more playmakers on offense. The surprising release of Cam Newton opened the door for Mac Jones to take the keys to the franchise. If Jones can be an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, the Patriots could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But it’s more likely that he’ll serve more as a game manager than a game-changer for the Patriots’ offense. That’s not a slight on Jones’ ability; we have to remember that he’s still a rookie adjusting to a new league. The main thing Jones has to do is limit his mistakes and he’ll be fine. Even if he’s only an average quarterback in his first year, the Patriots will still be in the running for a playoff spot when it comes down to the final weeks of the regular season.
The Bills are the most talented team in the division, especially on the offensive side with quarterback Josh Allen and a litany of receiving options. If Allen is anywhere near as good as he was last season, the Bills will be one of the teams that could be a play or two away from taking home the AFC crown. Players like Gabriel Davis, Emmanuel Sanders, and especially Stefon Diggs will be a matchup nightmare for opposing secondaries. The wide range of passing options for Allen could open up this offense even more and make them even better in the passing game than they were last season, which could be scary.
As for the Jets, their future is bright with newly drafted quarterback Zach Wilson and new head coach Robert Saleh. Wilson was the best rookie quarterback by far in the preseason and Saleh’s defensive mentality will go a long way in helping the Jets build in the future. However, as for this season, they’ll be back drafting in the top five picks of the 2022 NFL draft most likely. They just don’t have the overall talent to compete with the rest of the teams in their division and the rest of the AFC. Their main focus should be on making sure Wilson gets through the season healthy and learns how to be a better quarterback each day. The real measuring stick for the Jets this season won’t be in wins and losses, but it will be in Wilson’s performance — and if Saleh’s defensive scheme can get New York to not give up nearly 30 points a game this season.