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Monday, August 27, 2012
AFC East preseason Stock Watch

By James Walker

Dress rehearsal week is officially over in the AFC East. All four teams have completed their third and most important preseason game.

Here is a look at whose stock is rising and falling in the division:

Falling

1. Jets offense: The touchdown drought has now reached three full games and 12 quarters for the New York Jets. New York’s first- and second-team offense put on another shoddy display in Sunday night’s 17-12 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez (123 yards, one interception) played decent football but couldn’t get it done in the red zone. The Jets got inside the 20 three times and settled for field goals. One time in the second quarter, New York’s defense forced a big fumble at Carolina’s 12 yard-line and the Jets went three-and-out and settled for the field goal. Backup quarterback Tim Tebow didn’t do much better in his final preseason game. He went 4-of-14 for 55 yards and an interception. This was New York’s final tune-up for its starters before its big Week 1 showdown with the Buffalo Bills. It appears the Jets’ best chance to win this game is with good defense.

Mario Williams
Buffalo's Mario Williams produced 10.5 sacks last season despite battling a wrist injury.
2. Dolphins receivers: Miami’s pass catchers have had the dropsies since spring workouts. So it’s no surprise that trend is continuing up until two weeks before the regular season. The Dolphins are making rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s job much more difficult by not catching the football. Starting tight end Anthony Fasano had three drops in the first half alone. The fact is Miami simply does not have the receivers and tight ends to run a successful West Coast offense. It’s going to be a rough year trying to score points in Miami.

3. Patriots offensive line: Brady has played in limited snaps, but he is taking a pounding this preseason when he’s under center. Brady took several more shots in New England’s 30-28 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. He was sacked twice and fumbled for the second time this preseason (it was recovered). Injuries have hurt New England’s offensive line, but the players in the lineup need to improve. For example, Marcus Cannon is not the answer at right tackle and New England needs Sebastian Vollmer back ASAP. Brady only has so many big hits left in his 35-year-old body. It is imperative he stays upright and productive this year.

Rising

1. Stevan Ridley, Patriots tailback: The starting running back job appears to be locked up for Ridley, who has been the most consistent Patriots tailback in training camp and the preseason. Ridley is running well and put together another solid effort Friday night against Tampa Bay. Ridley rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. These kind of performances is exactly what the Patriots want out of Ridley, who took advantage of his limited opportunities.

2. Mario Williams, Bills defensive end: Williams showed flashes of why the Bills invested $100 million into him this offseason. He is a defensive game-changer who dominated the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers with two sacks. Buffalo’s defense was energized by Williams and played its best half of football in the preseason. The Bills will need more multi-sack performances from Williams in the regular season.

3. Dolphins’ defense: Miami’s defense was underachieving this preseason, allowing 24 first-quarter points in the first two games. But the Dolphins played closer to the level we saw the past two years against Atlanta. Miami held a good Falcons offense to just three field goals in the first half. The pass rush looked much better with the return of defensive end Cameron Wake (1.5 sacks). The pass defense needs some improvement, but overall it was a solid effort for the strength of Miami’s team.