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AFC EAST

Feb. 11, 2013
Feb. 11, 2013

Table of Contents
Feb. 11, 2013

GOLF PLUS
THE MAIL
LEADING OFF
2013 SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS
NFL 2013 OFF-SEASON PREVIEW
Departments

AFC EAST

By Text by Don Banks

PROBLEM STAT

This is an article from the Feb. 11, 2013 issue

57 Total sacks, hits and hurries—fourth most in the league—yielded by rookie tackle Jonathan Martin, who played 12 games on the right side, then moved to the left after Jake Long went on IR in Week 12.

SOLUTION

Pay Long, who'll be one of the NFL's most-sought-after unrestricted free agents. The four-time Pro Bowler has given up almost as many sacks in his last two seasons (12½) as he did in his first three (13½), but so what? During that time he has been battling shoulder and arm injuries, and he still ranks among the best at his pivotal position. That will allow Martin to move back to the less demanding right side.

AND THEN?

Reunite coach Joe Philbin with Packers free-agent WR Greg Jennings, a playmaker whom Philbin already trusts.... Save that No. 12 draft pick for a defensive playmaker to replace free-agent tackle Randy Starks—someone like Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson.... Resist the temptation to overpay to keep free-agent RB Reggie Bush; Shonn Green and Stephen Jackson may be available for less money.

PROBLEM STAT

18.4% Catchable passes that WR T.J. Graham dropped. Only the Cardinals' Early Doucet had a higher drop percentage among players targeted at least 25% of the time.

SOLUTION

Look for depth beyond Steve Johnson (whose 79 catches were nearly twice that of any Bills WR) in the draft or free agency. And replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, the deliverer of those balls, with a free-agent vet while drafting a long-term replacement in latter rounds.

AND THEN?

Make it a priority to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jairus Byrd, who at 26 is already one of the NFL's best all-around free safeties.... Put the same emphasis on re-signing LG Andy Levitre to keep Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller running strong.

PROBLEM STAT

65.8% Calvin Pace's pass rushes per passing snaps played, fourth lowest of all 3--4 outside linebackers who rushed the passer at least 300 times.

SOLUTION

If the Jets are serious about addressing an ugly salary-cap situation, they'll cut Pace, 32, who had a six-year low in tackles (35, despite starting every game) and who's had a decline in sacks each of the past three years (three in 2012). They'd be smart to do the same with Bart Scott, 32, who missed a tackle for every 6.6 he attempted in '12, third worst among ILBs.

AND THEN?

Seriously explore trading CB Darrelle Revis, who, if he isn't made the highest-paid defender in the league, will become a distraction.... Draft Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o if he falls to the second round (No. 39).

PROBLEM STAT

11.4% Passing attempts aimed at Wes Welker that went at least 20 yards, 10th lowest of the 82 NFL receivers targeted at least 50 times.

SOLUTION

Welker remains the Patriots' best receiver, but he's an underneath option. New England needs to spend some of its estimated $18 million in cap room on the vertical threat that Tom Brady hasn't had since Randy Moss.

AND THEN?

Re-sign CB Aqib Talib, even if it means franchising him for $10.6 million or so.... Go hard after a pass rusher or two in free agency, with one being a DT who can collapse the pocket.... Sign 34-year-old SS Ed Reed if Baltimore lets him walk, and hope to get two solid seasons out of the future Hall of Famer.

PHOTOKELLEN MICAH/ICON SMI (LONG)PHOTORICK STEWART/GETTY IMAGES (BYRD)PHOTOTOM DIPACE (PACE)PHOTOTOM CROKE/ICON SMI (TALIB)PHOTO