NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC East Teams

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Scouts break down the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC East Teams

Winners of 10 of the last 11 division titles, the AFC East has been dominated by New England ever since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady joined forces in 2001. This is not expected to change in 2014 either, not with Darrelle Revis joining the secondary and Rob Gronkowski back to jumpstart the passing attack. So if the Patriots are the heavy favorite to finish first, how will the rest of this division shake out? Will Buffalo or New York take a step forward behind their second-year quarterbacks or did Miami make the right moves in free agency to be a threat this fall?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC East shapes up entering the 2014 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 

 

Buffalo Bills

 

“With the passing of owner Ralph Wilson, the Bills’ future will be discussed endlessly outside the football part of the organization. Regardless of what people say, this circumstance is always a distraction to a degree.” …

 

“Doug Marrone quietly did a solid job as a first-year NFL head coach in 2013 and Buffalo has more talent than meets the eye.” …

 

“Offensively, everything begins and ends with their QB play. EJ Manuel was selected in the first round of the 2013 draft and flashed the ability to be a long-term answer, but showed enough negatives to leave the question open at this point.” …

 

“Buffalo was 29th in the league in third down conversions (34.0 percent) and that is an area of much-needed improvement.” …

 

“There is enough skill around the QB to make for an effective offense. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson work well together and Anthony Dixon was signed from the 49ers.” …

 

“TE Scott Chandler was brought back and he is a dependable target. Buffalo traded their 2015 first-round pick to move up in the draft to get Sammy Watkins. With his addition, this is a nice mix of wide receiver styles in the form of Robert Woods, T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin.” …

 

“The offensive line does not have a superstar, but LT Cordy Glenn, OC Eric Wood and RG Kraig Urbik are functional starters. Chris Williams was lured from St. Louis to plug in at left guard.” …

 

“Nathanial Hackett is the offensive coordinator and is a coach worth tracking in the future, especially if he can coax the best out of Manuel.” …

 

“Jim Schwartz, the former head coach of the Lions, takes over as defensive coordinator and he is expected to stay as aggressive as his predecessor, Mike Pettine.” …

 

“Defensively, Marcell Dareus had a breakout year and Kyle Williams is one of the most underrated players in the league.” …

 

“Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes combined for 27 sacks and should provide the outside pass rush for this team.” …

 

“The Bills lost Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd to New Orleans, however, Aaron Williams was retained, Da’Norris Searcy has extensive experience and the coaches have high hopes for Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks.” …

 

“This team has enough ability to legitimately get into the fight with Miami and the NY Jets for second place in the AFC East, but almost everything will hinge on the play of the quarterback.” …

 

“And make no mistake about it, this current administration took a big swing in the draft to either save their jobs with a new owner or slash-and-burn their way out the door.” …

 

Miami Dolphins

 

“The Dolphins demonstrated their dysfunction on and off the field in 2013. While the locker room fiasco unfolded in front of the nation, Richie Incognito became the ‘face’ of the franchise and Jonathan Martin left the building.” …

 

“Upstairs, former GM Jeff Ireland and VP Dawn Aponte had their own turf battles going and owner Stephen Ross ultimately sided with her, leading Ireland to step down.” …

 

“Meanwhile, somehow head coach Joe Philbin survived despite two late-season losses and the Wells report that spotlighted his lack of awareness and his staff’s poor judgment in diffusing the Incognito/Martin situation.” …

 

“Ultimately, Dennis Hickey, who was likely to be fired from the Bucs by their new GM Jason Licht, emerged as the Miami GM after a protracted interviewing process led by Ross and Aponte.” …

 

“Now to the football, Ryan Tannehill did not get much help last year. Miami’s OL composed of bullies and tough guys allowed 58 sacks and never generated much room for an ordinary set of running backs. Center Mike Pouncey is the only returning starter in 2014.” …

 

“Hickey made a splash in free agency by signing Branden Albert and Shelley Smith for the line and probably over-drafted Ja’Wuan James in the first round, but to completely repair an entire OL is nearly impossible with other pressing needs, too.” …

 

“After Dustin Keller went down with a knee injury during the preseason, the tight end position was essentially handled by H-back Charles Clay. Clay is an underrated performer and maybe the most reliable teammate Tannehill has had over the past two seasons.” …

 

“The Dolphins signed Knowshon Moreno from Denver and he should help in a big way primarily through his pass protection skills. With an entirely new OL, he can serve as Tannehill’s personal protector and that should be a major help in 2014.” …

 

“Mike Wallace will probably never live up to the contract he received last year because he is a vertical, one-trick pony. He can really run, but most of his effectiveness comes on take-off routes and WR screens. He thrived in Pittsburgh because of the culture there and the people around him. Without that same kind of structure, he does not have the discipline needed to be a legit No. 1 receiver.” …

 

“On the defensive line, Randy Starks returns and they signed Earl Mitchell from Houston. They have to figure out how to get more production from 2013 No. 3  overall pick Dion Jordan.” …

 

“The linebackers were over-paid, under-produced and have now been re-shuffled into different roles under DC Kevin Coyle.” …

 

“Brent Grimes stayed off the market, but one of their young corners has to come through opposite of him, because Cortland Finnegan is not a long-term answer.” …

 

“The safeties are ordinary, so the pass rush is vital for them to hold up.” …

 

“Rebuilding both the OL and DL is tough to do in one offseason.” …

 

“This team can be competitive again, but I just don’t see enough blue-chip talent across the board to think they make the playoffs in 2014.” …

 

New England Patriots

 

“As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are paired together, the Patriots will always be the front-runners of the AFC East. Through the Patriots’ most savvy draft picks to their worst personnel choices, this duo seems to be able to overcome most any set of circumstances.” …

 

“As long as Brady can get ample time and avoid too many pocket hits, he can still carve people up from the pocket. No QB in the league plays with as much poise and confidence as Brady.” …

 

“There were growing pains with rookie WRs Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, but both made key plays in 2013, and Julian Edelman emerged to catch 100-plus passes after stepping in for the departed Wes Welker.” …

 

“Danny Amendola is quite capable, however, his injury history showed up again in ’13, when he missed four games.” ...

 

“New England thinks that newly acquired WR Brandon LaFell (from the Panthers) has yet to reach his potential and can do so in their system.” …

 

“The one-two punch of Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen gives them great versatility on offense because both players can do multiple jobs. Brandon Bolden is likely to be the inside run replacement for LaGarrette Blount who ended up in Pittsburgh.” …

 

“The Pats need a counterpart to Rob Gronkowski at tight end and would love to see D.J. Williams come through as a potential pass-catcher. In the meantime, Michael Hoomanawanui is consistent and gives NE a viable end-of-line blocker.” …

 

“Barring injury, the OL can get the job done with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer (coming back from injury) manning the tackle spots and Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connelly on the inside.” …

 

“On defense, Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia run a hybrid scheme that allows them to exploit the rush/drop skills of Jamie Collins and Rob Ninkovich.” …

 

“New England should get a big boost up the middle of their D with the return of Vince Wilfork (coming back from Achilles rupture) and Jerod Mayo, a team leader and their most productive defender.” …

 

“It remains to be seen what they can get out of first-round choice Dominique Easley who suffered torn ACLs in both knees at Florida.” …

 

“They made a huge splash in free agency with the addition of Darrelle Revis. Because of his man-to-man skills, expect more pressure calls up front and more safety help to Alfonzo Dennard in the back end.” …

 

“Their offense will carry the load again in 2014, but with Revis on board and Mayo and Collins maximizing their talents at the linebacker level, there is a confidence in Foxboro that the Pats have enough pieces in place to go win the Super Bowl.” …

 

New York Jets

 

“The media is way off when it comes to the relationship between GM John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan. They have quietly found compromise on a number of issues and actually work well together. Now, that doesn’t mean that there is no pressure on Rex, but this team finished 8-8 after many pundits felt they were one of the worst outfits in the entire league during preseason.” …

 

“Everyone with the Jets has a ton riding on Geno Smith, but he really needs a lot of help when it comes to their tight ends and receivers.” …

 

“Michael Vick was signed to push Smith and even take over if he struggles again in camp or down the stretch, but he has played 16 games one time in his career.” …

 

“Eric Decker was signed from Denver and he will be an upgrade, but he is only a No. 2 in reality. Stephen Hill is one-dimensional and will never be a complete receiver, while Jeremy Kerley will flash a play, but he is difficult for a QB to find in traffic.” …

 

“The offensive line is a strength and, if they can stay healthy, maybe this team will be able to run the football better in 2014. Breno Giacomini comes from Seattle and replaces Austin Howard at RT with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold still being in the top third of the league at their positions.” ...

 

“Chris Johnson was cut from the Titans and the Jets are hoping he has something left in the tank to go along with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.” …

 

“The defensive line may be the most dominant in the NFL with Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson being legit forces in their front seven. NT Damon Harrison is one of the most underrated defensive lineman in the AFC.” …

 

“The biggest issue is the Jets’ lack of pressure from the outside. Quinton Coples is out of position as a hybrid OLB/DE and Calvin Pace is a middle-of-the-pack edge rusher.” …

 

“David Harris has been a consummate pro during his career, but Demario Davis has emerged as the best LB on the roster, he is fast to the football and explosive when he gets there.” …

 

“The Jets have lost Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie over the past two offseasons, so they are banking heavily on Dee Milliner to live up to his No. 9 overall draft status from 2013. Dimitri Patterson was inked from Miami because Kyle Wilson has been so disappointing in his career.” …

 

“They added hard-hitting Calvin Pryor from Louisville in the draft, but in some ways, they now have four strong safety-types in the back end and that’s not good in this era of ‘space’ football. Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen are better coming up than going back and Jaiquawn Jarrett is the same way.” …

 

“Rex Ryan didn’t get enough credit for getting this group to 8-8, because it is truly amazing they won that many games.” …

 

“If Geno Smith responds in his second year with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and some new additions, expect the Jets to battle for second in the division and a playoff berth.” …

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