AFC East 2010 Preview & Predictions
The AFC East is arguably the best division in the NFL, with more than one team usually qualifying for the playoffs.
Some of the storylines for the AFC East in 2010 are how much the Jets and Dolphins have improved and if they are good enough to overtake the owner of the division, the New England Patriots.
All these questions and more answered below. Enjoy.
1. New York Jets
OLB Jason Taylor, ILB Launce Laury, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, FS Brodney Pool, K Nick Folk, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes
OLB Marques Murrell, CB Donald Strickland, K Jay Feely, RB Thomas Jones, FS Kerry Rhodes, CB Lito Sheppard, RB Leon Washington,
CB Kyle Wilson, OT Vlad Ducasse, RB Joe McKnight, FB Joe Conner
2010 Jets Offense
The Jets offense will once again rely upon a strong rushing attack in 2010. They were the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL a year ago, averaging 38 attempts and 172.2 yards per game.
Despite the loss of their 1,400-yard RB Thomas Jones, the Jets will still have a top 5 rushing attack. The main reason is because of their offensive line, which is the best in the NFL.
Starting at Tackle they have D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Damien Woody, at Guard second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse and Brandon Moore, and at Center Nick Mangold.
Their new starting RB Shonn Greene showed us exactly why the Jets traded all of their Day 2 draft picks to get him, as he tore it up late last year.
Greene should be able to exceed Thomas Jones’ 1,402 yards, 12 TDs, and 4.2 YPC, and with the the additions of LT and Joe McKnight, this rushing offense is just as dangerous this year as it was a year ago.
The Jets passing offense was easily their biggest weakness last year.
They ranked 31st in the NFL, averaging only 25 attempts and 149 yards per game. Mark Sanchez wasn’t asked to do much but manage the game as the Jets pounded the ball most of the time on offense.
When asked upon, he was a below-average QB throwing for 2,444 yards, 12 TDs, and 20 INTs.
But it was only his rookie season, and he should improve after 19 games of NFL experience.
Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jericho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller make up a serviceable receiving corp for Sanchez.
With a year under his belt, Sanchez, and the addition of Holmes, should help to improve this passing offense.
2010 Jets Defense
Former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan transformed the Jets defense into the best in the NFL in 2009.
They allowed just 252 yards per game last year, which was 32 yards per game better than the second-place team (Packers). They also allowed just under 15 points per game, which was almost a full point above the second-place team (Cowboys).
They were extremely difficult to pass on, as they allowed only 153.7 passing yards per game last year.
CB Darrelle Revis was the best defender in the NFL last year, allowing 29.4 yards per game and averaging a -39.6% DVOA vs. the opponents' No. 1 WR. The Jets added Antonio Cromartie to start opposite Revis.
They also spent a first-round pick on CB Kyle Wilson from Boise State. Starting at the safety spots will be Jim Leonhard and newly acquired Brodney Pool, who is a very talented FS that will fill in nicely for the departed Kerry Rhodes.
The Jets weren’t as dominant against the run, ranking ninth in the league allowing 98.2 rushing yards per game. The main reason for that was the injury to the Jets' best run stopper, NT Kris Jenkins.
His return should help out the run defense tremendously. Behind him, they have arguably the best inside linebacker tandem in the league in David Harris and Bart Scott.
The only real concern with the Jets defense is their pass rush. They ranked 18th in the league with 32 sacks in 2009, and often had to send tons of blitzers to get a consistent pass rush.
They have a pair of 33-year-old defensive ends in Shaun Ellis and Marques Douglas, who combined for only eight sacks last season.
Their best pass rusher is ROLB Calvin Pace who had 8 sacks a year ago, but starting LOLB Bryan Thomas had just 2. Newly acquired Jason Taylor should take over for Thomas this year.
2007 first-round pick Vernon Gholston has been a major disappointment, and is yet to record a sack in his career. Overall though, the Jets should have the No. 1-rated defense once again in 2010.
12-4. The nucleus of the Jets AFC Championship team returns from last year, along with many off-season additions. The running game and defense will once again lead this team to many victories.
But the Jets were also very conservative with a rookie QB last year, and Sanchez will likely see more attempts this year.
Depending on how much their passing game improves, the Jets are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
2. Miami Dolphins
ILB Karlos Dansby, G Richie Incognito, WR Brandon Marshall, ILB Tim Dobbins
OLB Joey Porter, CB Nate Jones, WR Ted Ginn Jr., ILB Akin Ayodele, FS Girbil Wilson, OLB Jason Taylor
DT Jared Odrick, DE Koa Misi, OT John Jerry, LB AJ Edds, CB Nolan Carrol, SS Reshad Jones, DE Chris McCoy, LB Austin Spitler
2010 Dolphins Offense
The Dolphins found a good QB in Chad Henne last season. Henne threw for 2,878 yards in 14 games, along with 12 TDs and 14 INTs. He finished strong in 2009, throwing for 300 yards in 3 of his final 5 games.
He definitely needs to decrease his interception total, but it was only his first year starting. Compared to Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford, and Josh Freeman, one interception a game is glorious.
Henne’s job also became a lot easier this off-season with the addition of arguably the most talented WR in all of football, Brandon Marshall.
The Dolphins lacked a playmaker on offense last year, and Marshall will certainly fill that void. Davone Bess will start opposite Marshall, with Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillio occupying the slot.
With a year under his belt and the addition of Marshall, Henne should improve this passing offense in 2010.
The Fins had the top run-blocking unit in the NFL last season. Their 4.50 adjusted line yards were the best in the NFL last year. They also had the No. 1 stuffed rank offensive line and the No. 2 power rank.
Heading into his third season, Jake Long is arguably the best LT in the NFL. When healthy, Ronnie Brown is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He rushed for 648 yards and 8 TDs in 9 games last season.
The problem is that Brown is a lock to miss a few games every year. In his absence, Ricky Williams showed why he’s still a great RB with 1,121 yards and 11 TDs on 247 carries.
Overall, the Dolphins ranked fourth in the league with 139.4 rushing yards per game. With a great offensive line and a superb two-headed attack, the Dolphins will have a top 5 running game again in 2010.
2010 Dolphins Defense
The Dolphins defense was one of the main reasons they had a 7-9 season a year ago. They allowed 349 yards per game (22nd in NFL), and 24.4 points per game (25th in NFL).
It was in pass defense that they really struggled, allowing 234.6 passing YPG (25th in NFL).
This is excusable though, because they had an exceptionally young secondary starting two rookie corners in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, and a rookie safety in Chris Clemons for much of the year.
Their other starter in the secondary is SS Yeremiah Bell, who recorded 114 tackles and 3 interceptions last season. Their young secondary should improve in 2010, and they should be much harder to pass on than they were last year.
The Fins recorded 44 sacks last season, which was good for third in the NFL. Both of their DEs, Kendall Langford and Randy Starks, recorded a top 10 pass rushing productivity rating for 3-4 ends.
H owever, both of their starting OLB’s from last season are gone (Porter & Taylor), taking a combined 16 sacks with them. The Fins were able to bolster their pass rush with the selections of Jared Odrick and Koa Misi in the draft.
Once again, getting to the opposing QB shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Miami.
On the other hand, the Dolphins rush defense was 18th in the league in 2009 allowing 114.7 yards per game. Channing Crowder, arguably their best defender and run stopper, battled injuries last season missing 3 games.
He’ll start alongside their newly acquired inside linebacker, Karlos Dansby. Miami also spent their 1st and 2nd round picks on defensive linemen. Their run defense should be vastly improved with these additions.
10-6. The Dolphins lost a ton of close games and blew big leads last year. A large part of that can be attributed to an inexperienced QB and a poor/young defense.
The passing attack and defense should both make improvements because of the addition of Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby.
But it will be the strong rushing attack that will lead the Dolphins to a wildcard berth in 2010.
3. New England Patriots
WR Torry Holt, DT Damione Lewis, TE Alge Crumpler, OLB Marques Murrell, NT Gerard Warren, CB Shawn Springs
DE Jarvis Green, TE Ben Watson, TE Chris Baker, LB Adalius Thomas
CB Devin McCourty, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes, WR Taylor Price, TE Aaron Hernandez, P Zoltan Mesko, OL Ted Larsen, OL Thomas Welch, DE Brandon Deaderick, DT Kade Weston, QB Zac Robinson
2010 Patriots Offense
The Patriots passing offense is one of the most effective in the NFL. In 2009, they averaged 277.2 yards per game on 37 attempts.
It should be noted that Welker’s status for the season is unknown, though. New England also drafted two tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to replace Ben Watson.
The offensive line is also one of the best, ranking second in the NFL in pass protection.
Veterans Matt Light and Logan Mankins protect Brady’s blindside, and do it well. Rookie RT Sebastian Vollmer filled in for Light at LT because of injury, and recorded the fifth best pass blocking productivity rating in the NFL.
RG Stephen Neal was also one of the top 5 guards in pass blocking, ranking fourth.
The Patriots don’t have anyone that can be considered a star RB, but they still managed to run the ball with some success last season, ranking 12th in the NFL with 120 yards per game and 4.1 yards per attempt.
Laurence Maroney led the pack with 757 yards and 9 TDs, but garnered only a 3.9 YPC. Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris chipped in with 335 yards and 319 yards respectively, and Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis each rushed for 4.3 YPC.
The crowded backfield should once again provide a sufficient rushing attack for the Patriots this season.
2010 Patriots Defense
The Patriots defense was their downfall last season. They were above average in defending the pass, ranking 12th in the league with 209.7 passing yards allowed per game.
Darius Butler or first-rounder Devin McCourty will battle it out for the #2 corner position.
Starting on the opposite side is Leigh Bodden, who had an exceptional first season in New England.
Brandon Merriweather occupies the SS position, and is one of the best in the game. At FS is Brandon McGowan, which isn’t great, but he did have a solid 2009 season.
Overall, the Patriots secondary is above average, and clearly isn’t one of the problems for the defense.
The Patriots really struggled to get to the opposing QB last year. They had just 31 sacks in 2009 (23rd in the NFL), and aside from Tully Banta-Cain, no one had more than five sacks.
LDE Ty Warren recorded only one sack, and RE Mike Wright had five. Shawn Crable and Tully Banta-Cain are likely to be the starting outside linebackers.
None of the players listed above can be considered above-average pass rushers, so the Patriots should struggle in this area again in 2010.
Meanwhile, New England ranked 13th in rush defense allowing 110.5 yards per game. NT Vince Wilfork is arguably the best run stopper in the NFL.
The starting inside linebackers will likely be Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton.
Mayo is one of the best ILBs in the league, and Guyton is pretty good as well. The Patriots run defense should be an average unit 2010.
9-7. With the Dolphins and Jets emerging as forces in the AFC East, I think the window has closed for the Patriots. Their defense is an average unit.
On offense, Wes Welker may not make it back in time for the start of the season, and it will probably take him a few weeks to become 100 percent.
And although Brady is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, I don’t think he’ll have enough support to make the playoffs this year.
4. Buffalo Bills
DE Dwan Edwards, ILB Andra Davis, OT Cornell Green
WR Terrell Owens, G Richie Incognito, OT Jonathan Scott, TE Derek Fine, WR Josh Reed
RB CJ Spiller, DT Torrell Troup, DE Alex Carrington, WR Marcus Easley, OT Ed Wang, DE Arthur Moats, DE Danny Batten, QB Levi Brown, OT Kyle Calloway
2010 Bills Offense
The Bills have one of the worst offenses in all of football. They had the 30th-worst passing offense, averaging just 157 yards per game through the air.
Trent Edwards struggled all year long, and the Bills didn't draft any QB to replace him.
His receiving corp. is arguably the worst in the game. Lee Evans, the teams No. 1 wideout, caught 44 passes for 612 yards last season.
Filling in for T.O. on the other side will likely be James Hardy. And the starting TE, Shawn Nelson, caught 17 balls a year ago, although he did battle injury.
The offensive line ranked dead last in the NFL last season in pass protection. They allowed 46 sacks and had a 9.9 percent adjusted sack rate.
The Bills draft was awful, as they decided not to draft an offensive lineman which they desperately needed, until the 5th round.
They also decided against drafting a QB, WR, or TE, all huge needs for this offense. Their passing offense will be in the bottom three of the NFL again in 2010.
They weren’t that good on the ground either, ranking 16th in the NFL with 116.7 YPG. Again, much of the blame should be placed on the offensive line. The group isn’t quite as bad in run blocking, but they are still one of the worst.
Marshawn Lynch had a miserable season in 2009, rushing for 450 yards and 2 TDs on 120 carries (3.8 YPC). Fred Jackson was better; rushing for 1,062 yards and 2 TDs on 237 carries (4.5 YPC). Both backs are pretty good, but the Bills felt the need to draft CJ Spiller.
Spiller is a dynamic RB, but the Bills should have drafted an offensive lineman with the pick. Spiller is expected to receive about 12 carries per game.
If the offensive line provides these backs with some room to run, the Bills running game should improve in 2010.
2010 Bills Defense
The lone bright spot for the Bills last season was their pass defense. They allowed only 184.2 passing yards per game, which was second in the entire NFL.
They also allowed just 14 touchdowns compared to 28 interceptions. Terrence McGee is a solid corner, as is Leodis McKelvin, who starts opposite McGee.
Behind them they have Reggie Corner and Drayton Florence, who both provide great depth at CB.
The Bills are set at safety with Donte Whitner and Jarius Byrd. Whitner is one of the better safeties in the league, but he had some trouble staying healthy last season, missing six games.
Byrd had an unbelievable rookie season, leading all rookies with 9 INTs last season.
This is a very good Bills secondary, and for the second straight season, the Bills should be tough to throw on.
The same cannot be said for their rush defense. It was pretty horrific last year. They were 30th in the NFL in that regard, allowing 156.3 rushing yards per game. They allowed 4.7 YPC, which was 31st in the NFL.
The Bills are going to be transitioning to the 3-4. Newly acquired Andra Davis will play alongside Paul Posluszny as the inside linebackers.
Both players are good run stoppers, and Marcus Stroud will likely be the NT. This switch should improve their run defense.
The Bills pass rush could also improve because of the switch. They had 32 sacks last year, ranking them 18th in the NFL. Even at 32 years old, Aaron Schobel is still one of the better DEs in the league.
Newly acquired Dwan Edwards should start opposite Schobel, while last year’s first-round pick Aaron Maybin will switch to outside linebacker and play opposite Bryan Scott.
2-14. This is not a very good Bills football team. They will not be able to pass the ball this season. Trent Edwards is a below average QB and he doesn’t have much to work with.
Combine that with their offensive line, and this offense is bottom three in the NFL. Teams will also be able to run successfully against the Bills again this season.
Although they can shut down opposing teams’ aerial attacks, their defense is still average at best.
Thanks for reading, and leave any comments or predictions you might have. Next up I will preview the AFC North some time next week.
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