Part three of the NFL biggest questions series. I covered the AFC North and the AFC South. In this installment we'll be covering the AFC East. This division has been dominated by the New England Patriots for most of the past two decades, with the other three teams being pretty mediocre, with the exception being the New York Jets in 2009-2010, when they reached back to back AFC Championship games, losing both. It is likely to be the same situation this season, with New England likely to dominate the division again. However, the Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills all have young, talented rosters led by young quarterbacks looking to break out. With all that being said, let's get right into it.
Buffalo Bills: How Good Will Offense be with New Weapons?
Statistically, the Buffalo Bills were one of the worst offensive teams in the league They had outlier performances, including a massive week 3 upset of the Minnesota Vikings and a high scoring season finale against the Miami Dolphins. Other than that, their offense was pretty mediocre. Josh Allen showed flashes of being a star, not only running but also throwing. However, due to lack of depth at receiver, those plays were very hard to come by. They needed to make moves to help out Josh Allen, and that's exactly what they did.
They signed a brand new receiving corps, headed by speedster John Brown, who gives Buffalo a deep threat that can frequently burn man to man coverage. The Bills also added former Dallas Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley, who possesses some of the best hands we have in today's game. He will help out Allen immensely in the short and intermediate game. In addition, they also added former Cincinnati Bengals Tight End Tyler Kroft. Kroft was sparingly used over his four seasons with the Bengals. He did perform well in 2017 though, catching seven touchdown passes. Can these guys help Allen develop, as well as make the offense a more threatening unit?
Miami Dolphins: Who Starts at Quarterback Week One?
The Miami Dolphins finally traded away Ryan Tannehill this offseason. Tannehill struggled for a majority of his tenure with the Dolphins, but did lead the team to a wild card berth in 2015. Without a reliable starter to put out there, Miami went out and signed journeyman starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Let's face it, Fitzpatrick will either go out there and shred, and throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, or put up a stinker and throw for less than 200 yards and three picks. He's a great guy to have on your roster, and can even win you a few ball games, but he probably won't be able to do it for a full season.
When the Arizona Cardinals selected Kyler Murray first overall, everyone knew Josh Rosen's time was coming to a close. A few teams were interested, but Miami jumped on the opportunity to acquire the former tenth overall pick. So they did. They sent a 2019 second round pick, as well as a 2020 fifth round pick to the Cardinals to get Rosen. Rosen was awful his rookie season. Part of it was bad play by him, but not all of it is his fault. A mid year switch of offensive coordinators also threw him off.
It will be interesting to see who gets the job out of camp. I truly believe that it's a toss up at this point. If one guy out does the other during the preseason, he will take the field as the starting quarterback. Time will tell if that person is Fitzpatrick, the savvy veteran looking for some more Fitzmagic, or Rosen, the brilliant youngster looking for a breakthrough second year.
New England Patriots: Will Rob Gronkowski Come Out of Retirement Mid Season?
It didn't come as a shock to many when Rob Gronkowski decided to hang up his cleats this offseason. He's one of the greatest tight ends of all time, and didn't really have much to prove to anyone. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be a first ballot hall of Famer with the accolades he was able to rack up over his career. Side bar here, but the way Gronk retired was pretty awesome. An instagram post that probably took him about three weeks to craft. But that's the Gronk way, and I'm not going to question him at all.
Now, onto the New England Patriots, who will dearly miss the legend. Not only was he a major part in the passing game, he was fantastic as a run blocker. Tom Brady loses his key security blanket. But will he actually? There have been reports that Brady threw to Gronk at some point during the offseason. Teammates are hinting that he still has some interest in coming back. If the Patriots struggle out of the gate, could Gronk potentially come out of retirement and make a comeback? That's what Jason Witten did after spending a year in the Monday Night Football booth(By the way, that was a terrible crew. No chemistry between Booger and Witten). I wouldn't be surprised if Bill Belichick made a midseason call to him to try and convince him to put on the pads one more time.
New York Jets: Can Le'veon Bell Get Back to All-Pro Form?
Le'Veon Bell was the talk of the league for almost all of last season. Everyone wondered if and when Bell would make his return, after him and the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't come to an agreement on a contract. He was the talk of free agency, and was linked to multiple different teams. Ultimately, he decided to sign with the New York Jets, a young team looking to make some noise this year.
There's no question, when Bell was on the field, he was one of the best running backs in the league. Not only is he a great runner who runs with patience and ferocity, he also is a huge threat in the passing game, and would often line up on the outside or even in the slot. However, he did take a full year off of football. Will he be able to regain the form that he was at when he was with the Steelers. Or will he be a dud, and make the Jets regret paying him that much money.