One Need for Every NFL Team: AFC East Edition
The regular season is fast approaching for football, and I cannot wait to see what the NFL has in store for us this year. While most of the rosters are set to go for when training camp gets underway, each NFL team still has one (or two) needs that could be filled heading into the start of the season. Over the next few weeks, I will cover each division to give an in-depth look at what all 32 NFL teams still need, starting with the AFC East.
Buffalo Bills: Right Tackle
The Bills made several moves this offseason to push themselves over the championship hump. Signing two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller to help the pass-rush that had no player with over five sacks last season. Buffalo also spent their first-round pick on defense, drafting corner Kaiir Elam out of Florida after Levi Wallace left in free agency.
The Bills also added to the offense in guard Roger Saffold III from the Titans, wide receiver Jamison Crowder from the Jets and they picked up running back James Cook (brother of star running back Dalvin Cook) in hopes to take some of the pressure of star QB Josh Allen and All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
While the Bills were busy this offseason there is still one area, I could see they could improve and that would be right tackle. While 2021 third round pick Spencer Brown played decently well last year, giving up just one sack and playing 78% of the offensive snaps last season, he did have eight penalties which was tied for 10th among offensive linemen. There are some good tackles still available in free agency right now such as Duane Brown, Eric Fisher, and Reilly Reiff. While Brown and Fisher played left tackle last season, Fisher has spent some time at right tackle while he was with the Chiefs, and I think Brown has the skill set to play right tackle. If the Bills want someone with more recent right tackle experience, Reiff played right tackle in 12 games for the Bengals last season and according to Pro Football Focus, Reiff had a 96.8 pass blocking efficiency rating, allowing 21 total pressures and four sacks. If the Bills can continue to beef up their offensive line, Buffalo will have a chance to hoist their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
Miami Dolphins: Offensive and Defensive Line Depth or Strong Safety
The Dolphins were one of the most active teams in the offseason. The Dolphins let go of Brian Flores and replaced him with Mike McDaniel at head coach. Once McDaniel was in place, the Dolphins went to work on improving a roster that went 9-8 after starting 1-7.
The Dolphins beefed up the offensive line by adding Terron Armstead from the Saints and Connor Williams from the Cowboys via free agency. The Dolphins also added three new running backs to the roster in Raheem Mostert, who followed McDaniel from the 49ers, Chase Edmonds from the Cardinals and Sony Michel from the Rams while still holding onto Myles Gaskin.
While these were all transformative moves for the Dolphins, the biggest move of the offseason for them (maybe in the entire league) was them sending five draft picks over the Kansas City Chiefs for star wide receiver Tyreek Hill and gave him a four-year 120-million-dollar extension to make him the highest paid wide receiver in the league.
Miami did improve the roster, but there are still areas for improvement. I listed three items here because I feel that all three of these needs are around the same importance. Behind Armstead on the O-Line and behind Christian Wilkins on the D-Line the Dolphins are extremely thin, so adding players who can stay healthy to back these players up will be key. I also threw strong safety in here because while Eric Rowe was solid last year, forcing the most fumbles in his entire career. He was picked on in coverage quite a bit as according to Pro Football Focus, Rowe gave up 48 receptions which was tied for second among qualifying safeties. Using Rowe as more of a box safety or sub-linebacker will probably be best moving forward for the 29-year-old safety, so the Dolphins should look to replace him after this season.
New England Patriots: Cornerback
You all knew this was going to be the number one need for New England. After J.C. Jackson and the Pats couldn’t reach an extension, Jackson went from east to west to join the Los Angeles Chargers. The current corners for the Patriots are a resurgent Jalen Mills ,who was freed from Philadelphia after the 2020 season, and Super Bowl 49 hero Malcolm Butler, who is now 32 years old. The Patriots do also have Johnathan Jones returning from last year and signed Terrance Mitchell away from the Houston Texans.
It will be a corner by committee effort for New England as they don’t have that true number one corner anymore. It will be struggle for New England’s secondary as they will have to go up against Josh Allen (twice), Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Derek Carr, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins this season (6 of those games coming in the second half of the season).
New York Jets: Middle and Outside Linebackers
The Jets did a lot this off-season to support second year quarterback Zach Wilson and rightfully so. They signed guard Laken Tomlinson away from San Francisco, tight ends C.J. Uzomah (Bengals) and Tyler Conklin (Vikings) to give Wilson a few security blankets. In the draft, they went out and got corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson, defensive end Jermaine Johnson and running back Breece Hall with their first four draft picks.
The Jets also added corner D.J. Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead to help a defense that came in last place in total defense, which included 30th in passing defense, 29th in rushing defense and only had seven interceptions all of last year, which came second to last in the league behind the Raiders. The secondary should be better, but the linebackers are still an area of concern for Gang Green. It’s a solid group, as C.J. Mosley had his first healthy season in the big apple, recoding 103 solo tackles to go along with two sacks and two forced fumbles. Outside linebackers Hamsah Nasirildeen and Quincy Williams will have to improve as Pro Football Focus gave them grades of 27.5 and 44.2 respectively. The Jets should be an improved team from a year ago, but the players will still have to hit the field to prove it.