I’ve resisted commenting on the goings on (or lack of goings ons… cough Dolphins) around the rest of the AFC East until now but it seems like a good point to review the moves made thus far by the Patriots main opposition, and by that I mean Bills and Jets since I have no idea what the Dolphins are doing.
The road to the playoffs goes through the division, and the Patriots have won the division nine of the last eleven years. So what have the Jets and Bills been doing to close the gap?
Let’s start with the Bills. By now everyone knows they’ve signed the big fish Mario Williams, adding him to a defensive line with Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams. Then they added Mark Anderson as the other bookend.
I have mixed feeling about Anderson. He’s like that guy you let stay in your castle and he’s a valued warrior in a couple battles, then the next thing you know he’s taking a buttload of money to go fight for one of your direct rivals. (I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately if you can’t tell). So whatever Mark Anderson, you got paid and that’s fine. Just keep any celebrating you do at the Pats expense to a subdued minimum. You owe us.
On paper, and with a pending 10th overall draft pick, the Bills look formidable. Seems like they’ve seen what the Giants have been able to do to the Patriots and are trying to replicate it, to their credit.
The problem however is the same problem they had last year, and that is lack of depth. The Bills were off to a great start until the injury bug hit them, and then they finished 6-10.
The Patriots off-season has illustrated yet again why they value the middle of their roster as much as the top, and there has yet to be an injury, no matter how major that the Patriots haven’t overcome in the last decade.
So the question is, can the Bills stay healthy? If they’re the rare team that escapes the injury bug they should surely challenge the Patriots. If they can’t keep Anderson, Dareus, K. and M. Williams on the field it could be lights out just like it was last year. And by lights out I mean Sean Merriman who hasn’t quite turned all the lights out since 2007.
I like Ryan Fitzpatrick but it’s all going to have to line up perfectly for him. If the Bills defense stays healthy they should be able to keep Fitzpatrick in a good position. If they don’t, and Fitz is forced to play from behind or “keep up” he will struggle.
The other question is can Fred Jackson continue the kind of dominant performance he turned in last year before getting hurt. He’s a huge key to everything they do on offense and they need a full year from him.
I expect the Bills to get off to a good start, how long they stay on that course will directly relate to how healthy they stay. But for the first time in a long time the Bills games will be ones that Patriots fans circle before the season.
And then there’s the Jets.
Look, I’m a Patriots fan. My general feeling toward our main rivals is well known. But all bias aside, I don’t know WTF the Jets are doing.
If you’re not building your team to specifically take down the Patriots what are you doing? The Jets holes are well documented. Safety, Right Tackle, and Pass Rush are three major needs for them, and what have they done to address any of them? Took a gamble on Laron Landry and signed Tim Tebow.
If Landry is healthy it’s a good move. They absolutely needed someone to help deal with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez because Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard were not getting it done in 2011. Landry could be an answer there.
But the Tebow move does nothing to attack a Patriots weakness (they shut him down twice last year) and it also undermines the quarterback you just extended. We all know Jets fans. Does anyone doubt there will be chants for Tebow, even just mockingly, at the first mistake Mark Sanchez makes? Tebow is another whole sideshow for a circus that has been full of sideshows over the past couple seasons.
To be honest I like being a Patriots fan even more when the Jets are making moves that concern me. Moves that make me think this could be the year they actually win the AFC East. But I’ve seen none of those kind of moves this off-season.
It’s seeming more and more like the only real talent on their roster was either brought in by Mangini or with Rex from Baltimore. Is there a single elite player that’s been added by the Rex Ryan regime? I can list off quite a few Patriots that have been added since 2009 that are impact players, who are on their way to elite if not there already. The Jets cupboards are starting to run bare and I’m not sure where the plan is to restock and build a team that can beat the Patriots.
Not that I’m complaining about it, but come on Jets. The NFL is better when you’re a tough ground and pound team, not a bunch of attention-seeking, contract-misreading, buffoons with no real plan to get back to those AFC Championship games you lost two of.
The Bills sure look like they’ll be ready to give the Pats a run for their money, at least in the early part of the season. While the Jets seem like they’re still trying to figure out what they’re doing. The Jets should have huge concerns about the Bills, especially with the pass rushers they’ve added. The Jets offensive line needs to be a lot better this season or it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.
I’ll write something about the Dolphins when we know who their quarterback is. Until then, they don’t concern me.