Plugging the holes: AFC East


Sean McCormick of Football Outsiders takes a look at the biggest remaining questions for each team in the AFC East in this ESPN.com Insider piece.Insider Here's a snippet of what he thinks of each team:

Buffalo Bills:

There was simply no way the Bills were going to be able to adequately address all their holes in the space of a single offseason, and to their credit, they haven't thrown lots of money around trying to. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't a long-term solution at quarterback -- he may not even be a short-term solution -- but there were no surefire prospects worth burning a top-five draft pick on, and the free agent pickings were slim, particularly if you didn't want to give away the farm for Kevin Kolb. …

The right tackle spot, however, isn't a hole but a canyon, and it doesn't look like Buffalo has done enough to address it. The Bills were 30th in adjusted line yards on runs off right tackle, but that doesn't begin to tell the tale.

Miami Dolphins:

If you were to simply look at the statistics, quarterback would not necessarily be the biggest hole on the Dolphins. Safety Chris Clemons struggled badly getting to the sidelines to provide help over the top and offenses frequently targeted him in isolation in the deep middle of the field; the interior line could use some more help even after Mike Pouncey is inserted into the starting lineup and of course, the special teams were consistently horrific from beginning to end. …

Of course, there are lots of things that statistics don't cover, and it's those things that turned Henne's season from disappointing to catastrophic. Brandon Marshall publicly allied with backup Tyler Thigpen, and took his grievances with Henne to the airwaves, complaining about Henne's refusal to throw him the ball with sufficient frequency. Henne was benched during the season, reclaimed his starting job only because of injuries, and then was injured himself.

New England Patriots:

The hot story out of Providence is that Bill Belichick seems to be abandoning his traditional 3-4 defense in favor of a 4-3, and that the Patriots have primarily been working with 4-3 Under and Over fronts in the first days of training camp. The release of Ty Warren and the trade for Albert Haynesworth could be viewed as additional evidence of a shift, as Warren is a prototypical five-technique while Haynesworth has done his best work in a 4-3 set. The real issue is finding someone who can rush off the edge, whether standing up or from a three-point stance.

New York Jets:

Aside from his foray into the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, general manager Mike Tannenbaum has largely been content to re-sign his players or to extend the contracts of younger stars. The big name was obviously Santonio Holmes, but Tannenbaum also locked up Antonio Cromartie and Eric Smith, extended David Harris another four years, and returned Donald Strickland, who had played for the team in 2009, to replace the departed Drew Coleman. Although maintaining continuity isn't always a good thing -- Carolina's decision to spend vast sums to return the young core of their 2-14 team comes immediately to mind -- the Jets fielded one of the most talented teams in the league last season, and the talent was fairly evenly distributed on both offense and defense.

If the Jets are going to take a step forward, they don't necessarily need to sign a bunch of free agents. What they do need is for Mark Sanchez to take another step forward in his development, and preferably a big step. So how best to ensure that your young quarterback has all the weapons he needs? How about signing a 34-year-old receiver who has been in jail for the past two years?