- Miami and New York brace for what will likely be rough seasons, Buffalo sifts through its surplus of running backs and New England, once again, appears to be stacked ahead of 2019.
2018 team record: 6–10
New players: OL Mitch Morse, WR Cole Beasley, OL Spencer Long, TE Tyler Kroft, CB Kevin Johnson, OL Ty Nsekhe, RB Frank Gore, WR John Brown, WR Andre Roberts, DT Ed Oliver, OL Cody Ford.
Players lost: DT Kyle Williams, G John Miller, TE Charles Clay
In what areas did the team improve? The Bills had the second-worst passing offense in the entire league last season behind Arizona. Plenty of that had to do with Josh Allen playing like the rookie quarterback that he was, but GM Brandon Beane clearly understood the need to strengthen the offensive line and addressed that this offseason. Beane got Morse and Long in free agency (plus LaAdrian Waddle) and then nabbed Ford in the second round of the draft. Allen has never been the most accurate passer, and he struggled mightily in college under pressure. Now he has the protection along with some solid pass-catchers and a stable of running backs behind him.
What areas still need help? The Bills tried to fill the gap at tight end left by Charles Clay by getting Kroft in free agency and Dawson Knox in the draft, but Kroft broke his foot during OTAs and will miss at least three months, likely into the start of the season. That leaves Knox, a third-rounder, and Lee Smith as the early frontrunners for the Week 1 starting gig. It’s an unfortunate turn of events for a team that seemingly had the position covered, and it’s possible the Bills will need reinforcements there once they get into training camp.
Biggest question heading into the regular season: Who’s going to make the cut at running back? The Bills are stacked in the backfield, and it’s possible they’ve spent too many resources on running backs. LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore are obviously going to make the team. The Bills also signed T.J. Yeldon in free agency, then went out and got Devin Singletary in the third round of the draft. It’ll be interesting to see who makes the cut, and after that, how all of these guys get a piece of the pie.
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2018 team record: 7–9
New players: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Josh Rosen, DL Christian Wilkins, CB Eric Rowe, TE Dwayne Allen, OL Michael Deiter
Players lost: DE Robert Quinn, QB Ryan Tannehill, OL Josh Sitton, WR Danny Amendola, LB Cameron Wake, OL Ja’Waun James, RB Frank Gore
In what areas did the team improve? As I’ve written many times this offseason, the Dolphins are destined to tank in 2019. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But Miami has not improved at any position since they last played. The area the team did improve is a more focused direction of the franchise, though. With Adam Gase out, and Chris Grier and Brian Flores in lockstep, the Dolphins have a clear vision of the future. They got a quality young quarterback in Rosen for peanuts and should be bad enough this year to get one of the top-tier QBs in the 2020 draft. Now Miami needs to lose a lot in order for this tank job to be successful.
What areas still need help? Take your pick. Again, this isn’t a good team. It’s probably the worst team, on paper, in the NFL. You could go with pass rush but at least the Dolphins addressed that in a big way by drafting Christian Wilkins in the first round. We’ll go with offensive line here. Miami lost Ja’Waun James in free agency and Josh Sitton retired. The only player brought in was Michael Dieter in the third round of the draft and a few guys along the way in free agency. I don’t know how a quarterback is going to be successful behind this line, and that’s sort of the point in tanking.
Biggest question heading into the regular season: How much losing can one team take? Of course Flores is going to coach to win games. And of course the players are going to play to win. But they’re at a severe disadvantage from a talent perspective in almost every game they’re going to play. That has to weigh on a team’s psyche. That’s why it was important for the Fins not to draft a rookie quarterback in April’s draft, so that he wouldn’t get beaten up—physically and mentally—by all the losing. This isn’t throwing shade at all on tanking. I believe it’s a great thing to do for one year to serve as a hard reset, but it’s going to be very tough on the 53 players this season.
Best tweet of the offseason
New England Patriots
2018 team record: 11–5
New players: DL Michael Bennett, WR N’Keal Harry, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Benjamin Watson, CB Joejuan Williams, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, LB Jamie Collins
Players lost: TE Rob Gronkowski, OL Trent Brown, DE Trey Flowers, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Eric Rowe
In what areas did the team improve? Even with the loss of arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history, the Patriots improved in the pass-catching department. No, they will not replace Gronk with just one person. In fact, I’m not sure Seferian-Jekins and Watson combined will equal Gronk. But New England re-signed Julian Edelman to an extension that should see him retire a Patriot. They grabbed 6' 2" wideout N’Keal Harry in the draft, and he was the best 50/50 receiver in the class. Throw in some production from Demaryius Thomas, and the Pats appear to be more stacked than in recent years.
What areas still need help? Because the Patriots appear to have filled a lot of whatever gaps were created following the Super Bowl victory, we’ll go outside the box here. The team is desperately lacking in NFL coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball. Bill Belichick has lost his defensive coordinator in consecutive years since Matt Patricia and Brian Flores flew the coop. Greg Schiano didn’t get to wear the headset before he bowed out this offseason. Now it appears Belichick will take over play-calling duties like he did in 2010. Bret Bielema and Jared Mayo are the two defensive coaches who could eventually take over, but neither appears ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Biggest question heading into the regular season: Again, there’s no huge question around these six-time Super Bowl champs—at least not on the field. The Pats have Belichick and Tom Brady and the easiest schedule in the league, so they’re going to roll to yet another AFC East title and likely playoff bye. I could say Robert Kraft’s misdemeanor charges for soliciting prostitution in Jupiter, Fla. is the biggest question around the franchise, but I’ll posit something more directly related to the field. This is the last year of Brady’s contract, and there’s no doubt the 41-year-old is going to keep playing for at least two more years and probably more. He’s taken a string of team-friendly deals in recent years, and that likely won’t change with the next one he gets. How many years will he sign up for this time? Will it coincide with the next CBA? How much of the cap will he take up?
Best tweet of the offseason
New York Jets
2018 team record: 4–12
New players: RB Le’Veon Bell, LB C.J. Mosley, WR Jamison Crowder, DL Quinnen Williams, CB Brian Poole, OL Tom Compton, OL Kelechi Osemele
Players lost: CB Buster Skrine, LB Darron Lee, DL Mike Pennel, OL Spencer Long, TE Jordan Leggett, OL James Carpenter
In what areas did the team improve? Without a doubt, the Jets improved at running back. Think what you want about Bell’s contract or his decision to hold out last season. Or about his rap career. Or about him not showing up to OTAs. Or how he always spells you “youu.” Bell may still be the best running back in the game, and sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold desperately needed a complete back to bail him out last season. Darnold will now have Bell as a safety valve in the passing game as well as what Bell obviously brings to the ground game.
What areas still need help? The Jets probably won’t be very good again this season based on their roster, but their biggest area of need is one that’s been in the spotlight the last few weeks. Unlike the Dolphins, the Jets don’t seem to have a cohesive plan of direction. Head coach Adam Gase says he doesn’t want all the power but acts differently. At publish time we still don’t know who the next GM is or how he will fit with Gase. You have a coach who has a running back and linebacker he believes are overpaid. He probably could have gotten more for Lee in the trade and several teams pounced on Leggett when Gase axed him. Who’s really going to be calling the shots in 2019?
Biggest question heading into the regular season: How big of a mess will this be? Again, you have a coach who clearly isn’t wild about the money paid to the best player on offense. Darnold can’t struggle again this year like he did last year. You have to love what the Jets did at receiver in the offseason, and picking Williams third overall was a no-brainer. But everyone in the NFL is pointing and laughing at the Jets right now, and it’s not like Gase has a proven track record of being to land the plane in stormy weather. Somehow this could get worse before it gets better.
Best tweet of the offseason
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