Friday, May 3, 2013
Eight in the Box: Next order of business
By James Walker
With the draft in the rearview mirror, what's the most pressing issue on each AFC East team's agenda?
Buffalo Bills: The Bills did a good job in the draft by adding explosive players on offense. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and receivers Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da'Rick Rogers all have the potential to contribute to Buffalo’s offense in the long and short term. Now it's time for the Bills to finalize their linebacker corps, which is very important in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s 3-4 scheme. Buffalo already made several key moves by signing outside linebacker Manny Lawson in free agency and trading for pass-rusher Jerry Hughes. The Bills also drafted second-round inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. Buffalo, which was 31st against the run in 2012, must improve its physicality in the front seven. The Bills could use one more veteran addition at linebacker. They have been in talks with free agent Karlos Dansby, who would be a solid addition. But price is usually the issue.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins filled most of their holes by being aggressive in free agency and the draft. However, Miami's biggest need remains at left tackle. The Dolphins lost four-time Pro Bowler Jake Long to the St. Louis Rams. Miami has one in-house choice: to move starting right tackle and 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin to the left side. It would be risky because Martin had uneven results when he replaced Long late last season after Long went on injured reserve. The options in free agency are limited. Miami has had talks with veteran free-agent left tackles Eric Winston, Tyson Clabo and Winston Justice. Winston is probably the best fit for the Dolphins of the remaining offensive tackles.
New England Patriots: The Patriots have hit the reset button at wide receiver. The reigning AFC East champions let go of both starting receivers – Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd – and veteran backup Deion Branch. New England has an entirely new cast of receivers who must get up to speed with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Players like Danny Amendola, Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins and rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are all competing for roles on the team. With offseason injury concerns to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, it's important that New England's receivers prove they can make significant contributions. The receivers who get acclimated to the offense the fastest are most likely to earn starting roles.
New York Jets: It's time for the Jets to get their quarterbacks entrenched with the offense. Not only is new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg implementing a West Coast scheme this offseason, but the team must prep for a daunting five-way quarterback competition. It's up to Mornhinweg and his offensive coaching staff to accomplish as much as possible during this teaching period in the spring. That way, all five quarterbacks can hit the ground running and compete in the summer. Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms are all present for offseason workouts. Rookie second-round pick Geno Smith will join the rest soon.