What Next for 2018 … Division by division – AFC East
The AFC Conference was once again represented by the New England Patriots of the AFC East Division during Super Bowl LII. Perfect segway into the needs of each team heading into 2018 season.
New England Patriots – The Pats have been a model of consistency over the past 12 + seasons, with their adept draft and personnel moves, resulting in their 9 straight division titles, 7 straight conference championship games and 3 Super Bowl appearances in the past 4 years. Bill Belichick, more so then any other GM, understands that continued success, means never standing pat (Ha, ha). He routinely trades players when their value is its highest or releasing them, when financially retaining these stud players would strap the club cap wise … see Richard Seymour and Jamie Collins Sr. Okay, the Pats are shrewd. However, they must remedy their lack of speed and pass rush on defense; and address the quarterback position early in the 2018 NFL Draft to acquire Tom Brady’s eventual successor. His high level of play can’t possibly continue much longer … can it?!!?
Buffalo Bills – The Bills teams have always had a solid talent base. However, since Jim Kelly led the Bills to 4 straight Super Bowl appearances, they have not found a way to get over that proverbial hump. Head coach Sean McDermott and staff brought in a never quit blue collar attitude that reflected in the Bills being in every game. I believe it makes sense for Buffalo to select a QB with one of its 1st Rd Picks. However, Tyrod Taylor had his moments in 2017, ending a 17 year play-off drought. With a now solid receiving core with mid-season pick-up Kelvin Benjamin, tight end Charles Clay and Zay Jones and the ever dangerous RB LeSean McCoy, the Bills have a potential noise making offense. Improved offensive line play should allow them to build on 2017.
Miami Dolphins – Another team as talented as any in the league. One could argue that the Dolphins deserve a pass, having lost their starting QB Ryan Tannehill & 2nd Rd pick inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan among others. Having said that, this team has an abundance of play-makers: wide receivers Jarvis Landry (fA), Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, Jakeem Grant; running backs Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. However, the offensive line was a mess, outside of left tackle Laremy Tunsil and center Maurkice Pouncey, upgrades are needed. The offensive coordinator left a lot to be desired as Clyde Christenson’s play calling came into question throughout the season and has been replaced by recently hired Dowell Loggins the bears OC in 2017. The defense which also has a wealth of talent in cornerback Xavien Howard, defense tackle Ndamukong Suh, and safety Reshad Jones must be more consistent. A play-making weak-side linebacker is needed at the second level of the defense and another quality CB will also help.
New York Jets – Same template as the other teams chasing the Pats in this division … QB play. The Jets fleeting successes have all been predicated on a solid, at times elite defense. Everyone envisions the Jets selecting a QB with the 6th overall pick in the draft. I say to you Jets fans, “enough”. This organization has spent too much high value draft resources in recent years on the position. I say, re-sign Josh McCown, who with the limited offensive talent except at the RB position, did one heck of a job. Wide receiver Robby Anderson’s production will have to be replaced given his recent off field issues, definite suspension coming. Adding a free agent wide-out like Allen Robinson coming off injury or Jarvis Landry to TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a good starting point. The left side of the Jets o-line which features LT Kelvin Beachum and left guard James Carpenter has been solid if not spectacular … but serious upgrades are needed. With 2 stud safeties from the 2017 draft entrenched on the back end, the defense is in need of a pair of solid CBs and a stud edge rusher. Kony Ealy gave them solid play after coming in from the Pats. LB Demario Davis must be re-signed as he and Darron Lee form a solid starting duo.