Key losses: TE Scott Chandler (signed with NE), LB Kiko Alonso (traded to PHI), LB Keith Rivers (released; signed with DAL), QB Kyle Orton (retirement)
Key additions: Head Coach Rex Ryan, QB Matt Cassell (trade with MIN), RB LeSean McCoy (trade with PHI), WR Percy Harvin, TE Charles Clay, G Richie Incognito
2015 Draft Picks: CB Ronald Darby- 2nd Rd, G John Miller- 3rd Rd, RB Karlos Williams- 5th Rd, MLB Tony Steward- 6th Rd, TE Nick O’Leary- 6th Rd, WR Dezmin Lewis – 7th Rd
2014 Record: 9-7
For years now, it seems that the Buffalo Bills kryptonite has come on the offensive side of the ball. They have struggled to find a signal caller but they have done a good job at building at other positions. Their 2014 1st rounder, Sammy Watkins looks like the real deal at receiver along with Robert Woods. They also added WR Percy Harvin, who is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL with the ball in his hands, when healthy. Charles Clay will also be a welcomed addition as he is one of the most dynamic tight ends in the NFL today. Their offensive line play should be solid with Cordy Glenn at left tackle to anchor it. The addition of Shady McCoy should pay big dividends, as new HC Rex Ryan loves to pound the rock early and often. With all the talent they have assembled on offense, it’s all about finding out which QB will take charge and lead them in 2015.
The Bills finished 2014 with the 7th ranked defense according to PFF. With the addition of Rex Ryan, the thought that they could be even better on that side of the ball is scary. After switching to the 4-3 briefly with Doug Marrone as coach, they will go back to the 3-4 in 2015. OTFYL breakout candidate, Nigel Bradham will be responsible for getting the defense lined up at MLB, while Mario Willams and Jerry Hughes will look to continue cause chaos off the edges. They still have two of the best defensive lineman in the league with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams so they should be stout against the run and give the linebackers plenty of space to make plays. Their cornerback play a year ago was good, but they now need for safeties Aaron and Duke Williams to take a leap and sure up the back end of that defense.
2015 Projection: 9-7
The running game and defense should allow the Bills to keep games close but at the end of the day, you can’t hide your QB. Rex Ryan did take the Mark Sanchez led Jets to two straight AFC championships so anything is possible, but I just don’t see the answer at QB on this roster.
Key losses: WR Brian Hartline (signed with CLE), DT Randy Starks (signed with CLE), LB Dannell Ellerbe (traded to NO), WR Mike Wallace (traded to MIN), DT Jared Odrick (signed with JAX), TE Charles Clay (signed with BUF)
Key additions: DT Ndamukong Suh, TE Jordan Cameron, WR Kenny Stills, WR Greg Jennings
2015 Draft Picks: WR Devante Parker- 1st Rd, DT Jordan Phillips- 2nd Rd, G Jamil Douglas- 4th Rd, CB Bobby McCain- 5th Rd, RB Jay Ajiya- 5th Rd, S Cedric Thompson- 5th Rd, CB/WR Tony Lippett
2014 Record: 8-8
It sure does look like the Dolphins finally have found an answer at quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. He showed vast improvement last year and will look to take strides to be even better in 2015. The Dolphins have solid RBs in Lamar Miller fresh off his first 1000-yard season and LaMichael James who I believe will contribute in a big way. Miami retooled their receiving corps, trading diva WR Mike Wallace to the Vikings and acquiring a better deep threat in Kenny Stills. Jarvis Landry sure looks like a player and Devante Parker should be a good receiver on the outside in time. Don’t underestimate the addition of Greg Jennings to this group as well. Even though they lost TE Charles Clay, they replaced him with a bigger, more athletic target in Jordan Cameron. Their offensive line play should also improve with the return of Branden Albert from injury.
The Dolphins will boast one of the strongest defensive lines in the NFL with Ndamukong Suh teaming up with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. Koa Misi is a good player at MLB but outside of that there is much to be desired. WLB Jelani Jenkins was solid against the pass last season but must improve against the run. SLB Chris McCain is an imposing presence at 6’5” 250 lbs but must play like it. The Dolphins have one of the best safety tandems Louis Delmas and Reshad Jones and Brent Grimes is coming off one of his best seasons, but they need to find an answer at RCB and in the slot.
2015 Projection: 10-6
I love what the Dolphins have done in the offseason. Ryan Tannehill should take the next step towards becoming a top tier QB with all the new weapons that surround him. The defense will be better against the run with Suh in the middle and they should be even better at getting after quarterbacks, which should in turn improve secondary play. I expect the Dolphins to fight the Patriots for some much needed change at the top of the AFC East.
New England Patriots
Key losses: RB Shane Vereen (signed with NYG), RB Stevan Ridley (signed with NYJ), TE Tim Wright (released; signed with TB), G Dan Connolly (retirement), NT Vince Wilfork (signed with HOU), DE/OLB Akeem Ayers (signed with STL), CB Darrelle Revis (signed with NYJ), CB Brandon Browner (signed with NO), CB Kyle Arrington (released; signed with BAL)
Key additions: QB Matt Flynn, RB Travaris Cadet, TE Scott Chandler, WR Brandon Gibson, DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard, CB Tarrell Brown, CB Bradley Fletcher
2015 Draft Picks: DT Malcom Brown – 1st Rd, S Jordan Richards- 2nd Rd, DE/OLB Geneo Grissom- 3rd Rd, DE Trey Flowers- 4th Rd, G Tre Jackson- 4th Rd, OL Shaq Mason- 4th Rd, LS Joe Cardona- 5th Rd, LB Matthew Wells- 6th Rd, TE AJ Darby- 6th Rd, CB Darryl Roberts- 7th Rd, DE/OLB Xzavier Dickson- 7th Rd
2014 Record: 12-4 (Super Bowl XLIX Champions)
At this point who knows if Tom Brady will play week 1? Regardless, New England will be fine with Jimmy Garoppolo under center if Brady is indeed suspended for the first 4 games. However, I have questions about their RBs with the departure of Vereen and Ridley. Blount assumedly will be the bell cow and they did sign Travaris Cadet who can block and catch the ball out of the backfield but is unproven. At receiver, they return the same group of LaFell, Edelman and Amendola, along with Gronk at TE. They added 6’8” TE Scott Chandler who will be used in the redzone as another option and 2013 draft pick Aaron Dobson will look to contribute returning from injury.
The Patriots lost huge names on defense this offseason, particularly Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork. Nonetheless, they still have great linebackers in Collins and Hightower and solid defensive ends with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. Jabaal Sheard will strengthen their pass rush and first rounder Malcom may be an impact player because of his ability to play all 3 downs. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler will get a chance to start at corner along with Logan Ryan. They added depth with Tarrell Brown and Bradley Fletcher and they have an elite “center fielder” in Devin McCourty.
2015 Projection: 11-5
Bill Belichick is still the Head Coach and Tom Brady will still play at least 12 games. He’s won more with less and it wouldn’t shock me to see them sitting atop of the AFC East once again. The division definitely got a lot stronger so it’s no longer a lock for them to win it, but with the experience and the “us against the world” mentality will have them right there in the thick of things.
New York Jets
Key losses: WR Percy Harvin (signed with BUF), NT Kendrick Ellis (signed with NYG)
Key additions: Head Coach Todd Bowles, WR Brandon Marshall (trade with CHI), CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, CB Buster Skrine, RB Stevan Ridley, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (trade with HOU), G James Carpenter, FS Marcus Gilchrist
2015 Draft Picks: DE/DT Leonard Williams- 1st Rd, WR Devin Smith- 2nd Rd, DE/OLB Lorenzo Mauldin- 3rd Rd, QB Bryce Petty- 4th Rd, G Jarvis Harrison- 5th Rd, NT Deon Simon- 7th Rd
2014 Record: 4-12
The Jets offense will look to improve after an abysmal 2014 season. They have questions all over the place, mainly at quarterback. Geno Smith will be the starter heading into 2015 but he’s been ranked near the bottom in every statistical category the past two seasons (except turnovers.) Ryan Fitzpatrick is waiting in the wings if he struggles early on. They acquired a big time wide receiver in Brandon Marshall to play across Eric Decker and to provide veteran leadership. Devin Smith can take the top off defense but somebody will have to get him the ball. Their offensive line remains suspect at best with the only consistent performer being center Nick Mangold. They have a stable of capable backs with Chris Ivory and new acquisitions Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy. We’ll see if this offense can find more balance and be more effective in 2015.
The Jets finished last season as a top 5 defense and are expected to be in that neighborhood once again. Head Coach Todd Bowles is aggressive in his blitz schemes and you can expect him to take full advantage of having Darrelle Revis in his secondary. He has a great defensive line with Wilkerson, Harrison and Richardson. The latter is suspended the first 4 games to start the season and maybe facing more discipline after being arrested again on July 14th. First round pick Leonard Williams should be able to step in and fill the void. The Jets are still looking for a pass rush off the edge at outside linebacker as Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples have been underwhelming. They’re hoping Lorenzo Mauldin can help in that department. Their secondary play should improve with the return of Revis and Cromartie and the addition of Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist.
2015 Projection: 6-10
At the end of the day, I believe we see Fitzpatrick under center sooner than later in New York. The defense will be stout, but their offense has entirely too many holes. Marshall should help and they should be able to be more consistent running the ball, but it won’t be nearly enough to greatly improve their record from a year ago. They will finish last in the AFC East and will be exploring new options at QB in 2016.