The NFL Draft is over, and a lot of experts are dissecting every team’s draft and what they did well, did not do, etc. I will look at the AFC East as a whole and how every team has done the whole off-season, not just the draft. This division is turning out to be one of the best divisions on paper, and I think it is one of the best. You can probably make a case for three teams to win this division, which could not be said in the last few years. 

The Buffalo Bills have been the division champs for three straight years, and they are the favorites again to take the division, as they should be, until someone knocks them off the throne. The Bills were 13-3 last year and beat the Miami Dolphins in the wild card round but were bounced in the second round of the playoffs to the Cincinnati Bengals, and that game wasn’t close. As good as the Bills’ record was, there were flaws in their game. On offense, they don’t run the ball very well. That could change this year with the additions of Damien Harris and Latavious Murray to go with James Cook. The problem is the Bills don’t commit to the run as much as they should to take pressure off quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills may have ranked in the top 10 in rushing, but that is very misleading, especially when Allen runs the ball as much, and sooner or later, he’s going to take a hit and get hurt that happens no matter how big or strong you are at the quarterback position. The Bills’ offensive line was also an issue last year, as evidenced in the playoff games giving up seven sacks to the Dolphins and 4 to the Bengals but gave up even more pressures; that’s why they signed Connor McGovern in free agency and drafted O’Cyrus Torrence in the 2nd round. That should help the inside of the line, but they also have issues at offensive tackle. The Bills receivers were inconsistent last year outside of Stefon Diggs as Gabriel Davis took a step back last year. The Bills drafted Daulton Kincaid in the first round and should help, but the Bills on offense must do more to take pressure off Allen because they rely too much on him. 

Miami Dolphins Post-Draft Recap

The Defense is having a change this year. Leslie Frazier is “taking a year off,” and now head coach Sean McDermott is going to call the defensive plays. I put quotes for Frazier because I don’t think he’s taking a year off. After the Bills’ season ended, he waited about a month and a half to announce he was taking a year; I don’t think so. In fact, I believe he was scapegoated. The Bills ranked in the top in the league in the regular season, but in the postseason the last few years, the defense was one of the many reasons they got bounced. Frazier deserves a lot of credit for the success, but McDermott is a defensive-minded coach and should also get the blame because he must have a say in the defense. The Bills lost Tremaine Edmunds and didn’t really replace him. They get back Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who were both hurt last year but are older, and the Bills needed some youth. The Bills have invested a lot in the defensive front. I believe that the unit is overrated. They don’t consistently rush the passer, and if they go up against a team that likes to run the ball, they don’t stop it well. Ed Oliver hasn’t lived up to his top-10 pick status, and their other players, AJ Epenensa, Greg Rousseau, and Carlos Basham, haven’t rushed the passer as well. They do have Von Miller, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and is in his mid 30’s. The Bills’ defense looks good in the regular season, but this division hasn’t had good offensive teams the previous season, so that helps them in their defensive stats. The Bills are still talented, but their window is closing with this group. 

The New York Jets made the biggest splash in the division by trading for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Jets were in the playoff hunt last year, but bad quarterback play cost them. Can Rodgers be the difference? He has good skilled players in Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and others. However, their offensive line has question marks, especially at the tackle position. They didn’t get anyone in free agency, and they didn’t really draft anyone. Protecting Rodgers on the edge is going to be a concern. Rodgers is mobile, but he’s 39 years old. Mehki Becton hasn’t been on the field much because of injury, and Duane Brown is old. If the Jets can’t shore that up, it will catch up to them at some point. The Jets have an outstanding defense led by Sauce Gardener and Quinton Williams. The Jets’ defense is for real, and with better quarterback play, some people feel they are a Super Bowl contender with Rodgers. I would personally pump the breaks on that. As good as Rodgers is, he had a down year last year. Sure, he had a young supporting cast, but he wasn’t exactly the best teammate as he was moppy on the field, and it didn’t help that he didn’t show up for the off-season workouts to work with them. This move has a chance to be great for the Jets, but it could blow up in their faces just as easily. 

The New England Patriots enter a critical year under Bill Belichick. There seems to be growing pressure from owner Bob Kraft because the Patriots, since Tom Brady left, haven’t won a playoff game, and last year looked lost. Belichick had a co-offensive coordinator in Bozo the Clown and his twin Brother; I meant Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. However, the offense with those two looked like a clown show last year, so Belichick hired Bill O’Brien. At least they will have some structure on offense. The problem is Matt Jones totally regressed last year, and you can blame coaching on that, but it’s a pivotal year for him. The Patriots didn’t make any upgrades on offense, so that’s a concern. The defense is always going to be strong, and they got strong the secondary by drafting Christian Gonzalez in the first round, a 6’2″ physical cornerback that fits the profile of Belichick. They still have Matt Judon and Christian Barrone, but at the end of the day, the offense is going to have to hold up and not let the defense carry the team. Belichick was very stubborn, bringing in players on offense with Tom Brady, and it goes to show how great Brady was. However, Brady is gone, and now it’s fair to wonder how great Bill Belichick is as a coach. People say we shouldn’t underestimate the Patriots, but why should I give the Patriots the benefit of the doubt when they have been a joke on offense since Brady left? Sure, they had one playoff appearance but got embarrassed by the Bills in the process, and they haven’t recovered from that. The Patriots will have a strong defense, but the offense will have to show up and not be the team’s dead weight. 

CBS: Full Breakdown Of The Dolphins 2023 NFL Draft

 Then there’s the Dolphins, who are returning most of their team that made the playoffs last year. The biggest change they made was on defense, firing Josh Boyer for Vic Fangio, who is considered one of the best defensive minds in football. Fangio is tasked with taking this defense to the next level and unleashing some of its untapped potential. The Dolphins made a big splash by trading for Jalen Ramsey, and they surprised a lot of people by drafting a cornerback in the second round in Cam Smith. Injuries in the secondary decimated the Dolphins, and they added depth. The question is will Fangio be able to unlock the potential of this defense? Do they have enough at the linebacker position? Will Jalen Phillips take another big step? On offense, the Dolphins return Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who formed the best passing combination in the league with 3,000 yards receiving combined. The question comes down to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and if he can stay healthy as he missed games last year with a concussion, including the playoff game against the Bills. His health is the biggest question mark on this team. People like the Dolphins, but everyone has paused their enthusiasm because of his health. It’s a fair argument, but when he was on the field last year, he was in the MVP conversation the last month of the season. The Dolphins must find a way to run the football more. Mike McDaniel brought a good offensive structure to the Dolphins for the first time in years, and they had a high-scoring offense. The problem is he didn’t commit to the running game last year, which cost the team. He came from the San Franscisco 49ers and was their running game coordinator, but he didn’t translate that on the field. McDaniel, to his credit, took the blame for not calling enough running plays or sticking to the running game. We shall see if he learns from last year. 

The AFC East is turning out to be one of the better divisions in football. The Bills are the defending champs until someone knocks them off. Last year the Dolphins played them three times, and each game was decided by 3 points or less. The Jets played the Bills tough, including winning one, and with Rodgers, one would think it gives them more than a puncher’s chance against them. I like the Dolphins a lot, but like every team, they have questions about their team. Soon we are going to find out if any of these teams can overtake the Bills for the division and if this can become one of the best divisions in football.