Four Downs: AFC East

Four Downs: AFC East
Four Downs: AFC East
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Andrew Healy

In a series of articles over the next few days, Football Outsiders will be looking division-by-division at the biggest hole left on each team's roster after free agency and the 2015 NFL draft.

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Quarterback

In five seasons with the Jets, Rex Ryan never had a quarterback who ranked higher than 28th according to Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings. Now he comes to a team with a third-year quarterback, EJ Manuel, who ranked 37th and 38thin his first two seasons, and a veteran quarterback, Matt Cassel, who has been just as bad in four of his last six seasons. However much Ryan is to blame for Mark Sanchez's failure to develop in New York, he has even less to work with in Buffalo.

Ryan's Bills mirror recent Buffalo teams, just in a more exaggerated way. During the Bills' 15-year playoff drought, they have had many good defenses. Seven times, they have had a top-ten defense by DVOA. Never during that stretch have they had a top-ten offense, and their quarterbacks have been the worst in the NFL. Since 2001, the Bills have had no quarterback rank better than 20th in DVOA.

In 2014, the Bills' quarterback weakness kept the league's second-best defense (by DVOA) out of the playoffs. This year, the Bills actually have an even bigger hole at quarterback. For most of 2014, the Bills started a quarterback, Kyle Orton, who was on average the 22nd-best quarterback in the NFL by DVOA over his last five seasons with at least 100 attempts. By comparison, Matt Cassel has been the 30th-best quarterback over his last five qualifying seasons, and Manuel has been even worse so far in his short career. The Bills' quarterback crevasse gives the rest of the team little margin for error in 2015.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: The Bills signed two offensive tackles in the UDFA market: Tyson Chandler of North Carolina State and Jermaine Barton of Illinois State. While neither made's list of the top 15 undrafted tackles, both Chandler (6-foot-6, 331 pounds) and Barton (6-foot-7, 332 pounds) are huge guys who will have a chance to make a team that was weak on the edges in 2014. The Bills ranked dead last in adjusted line yards both around left end and right end.

The Bills' weakness on outside runs could not mesh less well with their expensive new running back. LeSean McCoy had 143 runs outside the tackles last season, 26 more than any other runner. For McCoy to find the room he needs to run outside, the Bills will need a surprise breakout season from Chandler or Barton, or more likely from one of their other unproven tackles.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Cornerback

Top corner Brent Grimes may already be in decline. In 2013, Miami ranked seventh in the NFL against opponents' top receivers. Last season, Miami fell to 21st in that category as part of the Dolphins' second-half defensive swoon. Improvement in 2015 is unlikely. Grimes will turn 32 in July, an age past which very few corners sustain a high level of play. It is certainly in play for Grimes to have his falling-off-a-cliff season. It happens somewhere around his age for almost every cornerback not named Darrell Green. While the Dolphins have been in decent shape at the top corner position with Grimes in recent seasons, they may be in trouble as early as this season.

Of even greater concern for the Dolphins is depth at corner. Getting little from 2013 second-rounder Jamar Taylor and 2014 fourth-rounder Walt Aikens, the Dolphins ranked 30th in the league last year against opponents' third, fourth, and fifth wideouts. Entering the offseason with just Grimes, Taylor, and Aikens on the cornerback depth chart, Miami has taken two paths to try to address their weaknesses. First, they dipped at the low end of the free agent market, signing Brice McCain and Zack Bowman. Neither player is particularly young (McCain is 28, Bowman 30), and neither has provided much value above replacement level (about three or four Approximate Value for a veteran, per Pro Football Reference) in recent years. In the draft, they waited until the fifth round to add two corners, Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett. While they have now cornered the market for McCains in the NFL (with linebacker Chris, the Dolphins currently have every McCain to play since 1950), the Dolphins have not filled their hole at corner so much as papered it over by acquiring low-level veterans and mid-round picks. After addressing their receiver weakness with the smart trade for Kenny Stills, the Dolphins might have been better off using their first-round pick to address their hole at corner. Instead, Miami's pass defense will depend on Grimes holding up for another year and a breakout from one of their unproven players.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Celebrated coming out of high school, defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy never even started a full season at UCLA. But with the limited supply of athletic 330-pound run-stoppers, McCarthy may find room on the Dolphins roster if he can stay healthy. Miami also picked up four receivers in the UDFA market, with Christion Jones of Alabama perhaps the best prospect given the Dolphins' increased emphasis on short passing. In addition to creating separation on short routes, Jones may be able to contribute as a kick returner.

Also on special teams, kicker Andrew Franks would seem to have a real shot to be the first-ever NFL player from RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Engineers, but of course you knew that). Incumbent Caleb Sturgis was part of a Miami special-teams unit that ranked last overall by DVOA, next-to-last on field goals, and last on kickoffs.

New England Patriots

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Cornerback

After losing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency, the Patriots appeared likely to take a corner early in the draft. Instead, perhaps scared off by the ghosts of Ras-I Dowling and Terrence Wheatley, Bill Belichick waited until the seventh round to draft a corner. The Patriots now have Bradley Fletcher, signed from the Eagles in free agency, as their No. 1 cornerback.

If all you know of Fletcher are 2014 lowlights like this and this, then this sounds like an untenable situation. It's not quite as bad as it seems. No cornerback in football gets a bigger boost in his numbers when we account for the opposing receivers he had to face. If we adjust for Fletcher's schedule -- including five games lining up across from Dez Bryant (fifth in receiving DVOA), DeSean Jackson (sixth), and Jordy Nelson (eighth) -- Fletcher actually ranked 36th in adjusted success rate, making Fletcher an above-average corner. He is also an excellent value at the price the Patriots paid for him.

The fact that Fletcher is underrated and came at a bargain rate would make him an excellent No. 2 corner. He's still not a desirable option as your team's top corner. Even adjusting for opposition, the Eagles were still just 24th against opponents' top wideouts in 2014. Perhaps the only other potential choice on the roster is Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, and then only because his small sample size as a rookie leaves his ceiling undefined. Barring a midseason trade like the one that brought Aqib Talib to Foxboro in 2012, the Patriots will most likely have to scheme around the lack of a true top cover corner.

[ad placeholder 3]

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: It worked so well in 2014 that the Patriots again signed an undrafted cornerback who played at a school with Alabama in its name. At 6-foot-3, Jimmy Jean (out of Alabama-Birmingham) is 5 inches taller than 2014 UDFA signee Malcolm Butler (out of West Alabama). Jean may need to add some bulk (he is listed at 180 pounds in some places but 200 in others), but he will bring high-upside athleticism, as did Butler. And with his name, we can root for him to see the field just for the chance of Jim Nantz saying "Jimmy Jean has that receiver wrapped up like a pig in a blanket." A bit larger than Jean is the 6-foot-2, 217-pound safety/linebacker hybrid Brandon King out of Auburn.

The Patriots also signed Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner with plans to convert him to receiver, but they have already cut Gardner before we even got to June.

New York Jets

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Quarterback

All the improvements that the Jets have made this offseason are window dressing until they find a quarterback. Even after just two seasons, the chances that Geno Smith is the guy are small. In those seasons, Smith ranked 40th and 31st, respectively, in DVOA. Over the last 25 years, here are the ten quarterbacks whose DVOA ratings in their first two seasons with at least 100 attempts came closest to Smith's numbers.

Quarterbacks Most Similar to Geno Smith by DVOA in First Two Years, 1989-2014
Player Years Y1 DVOA Y1 Rank Y2 DVOA Y2 Rank
Geno Smith 2013-2014 -23.6% 40 -12.5% 31
Kyle Boller 2003-2004 -26.0% 41 -14.6% 28
Jake Locker 2012-2013* -23.6% 32 -5.7% 22
Tim Couch 1999-2000 -28.4% 44 -15.1% 34
Rick Mirer 1993-1994 -15.7% 33 -12.5% 34
Joey Harrington 2002-2003 -20.9% 42 -18.2% 39
Trent Dilfer 1994-1995 -31.0% 38 -11.3% 34
Charlie Frye 2005-2006 -21.4% 36 -18.9% 37
Billy Joe Tolliver 1989-1990 -21.4% 36 -5.9% 21
Steve Walsh 1989-1990 -20.6% 35 -5.9% 22
Jake Plummer 1997-1998 -17.7% 38 -8.4% 29
Locker was a rookie in 2011; these are his first two seasons with 100 attempts.

While these and most examples of similar quarterbacks do not look good, a couple of counterexamples might inspire Jets fans. Troy Aikman struggled his first two seasons even more than Smith, and if we look back before DVOA ratings (which start in 1989), so did Terry Bradshaw. Unlike Smith, however, scouts saw enough potential in Aikman and Bradshaw to make each of them the No. 1 overall pick. Lacking that pedigree, Smith's early career struggles have been bad enough to make him a very poor bet to break out. Ryan Fitzpatrick does not exactly fill the Jets' hole at quarterback, but he is likely to be the better short-term option.

[ad placeholder 4]

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: If fourth-round draft pick Bryce Petty projects poorly as an NFL quarterback, undrafted free agent Jake Heaps is close to the ultimate no-hope prospect. The former high school standout's rating ranked 123rd out of 127 Division I qualifiers in Heaps' last season as a starter. More hopeful were the Jets' pickups of athletic South Alabama tight end Wes Saxton, Jr., and Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones, who might have been the best undrafted free agents at their respective positions. Saxton is a raw prospect with good speed (4.65 40 at the combine) for a player of his size (6-foot-3, 248 pounds). Jones would have gone higher in a different era when physical run-stopping linebackers were more in demand.

Portions of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider.


67 comments, Last at 26 May 2015, 8:17pm

#1 by Tim F. // May 20, 2015 - 7:58pm

The Dolphins have, across from Grimes, Will Davis (he got injured in week 11) and Jamar Taylor (who mostly stayed healthy until even later in the season but who couldn't beat out Davis for the majority of the season — mostly because of injuries in training camp, early in the season). I liked what I was seeing from Taylor late (against Denver, Buffalo, Detroit), after being full-time for a few games. Both need to get better and stay healthy but not as dire as mentioned. Sammy Seamster is likely the next backup CB ahead of Zack Bowman.

Brice McCain will replace Jimmy Wilson as nickle/dime.

Walt Aiken is primarily a safety who subbed in only when Will Davis and Jamar Taylor were injured. Aiken, Cedric Thompson, and Michael Thomas offer some safety, CB, nickle/dime flexibility.

Lippett seems like a great prospect who might have the athletic and mental skills to quickly adapt from WR to full-time corner.

if the young guys can stay healthy, LB may be a weaker position and is an area where they have some promising young UDFAs.

Points: 0

#2 by mehllageman56 // May 20, 2015 - 11:53pm

Agree with you on Lippett, I liked him a lot at Michigan State, but it will take an adjustment period for him to play corner. If the Dolphins were smart, WR would still be in play for him.

I wonder how much the #1 receiver stats are effected by the second Jets game. Decker (and Geno) torched them for 200 yards, but Grimes barely covered him. Instead, it was Cortland Finnegan who was roasted, and he's now out of the league. It wouldn't surprise me if the Pats had more issues in the secondary than the Dolphins this year.

I'm still holding out hope for Geno, but I cannot disagree with your pessimism, but only mention that he still had a relatively high projection in the new version of the LCF. Perhaps he does better in a spread system this year. I'll admit I'm a little concerned that Gailey already called off the quarterback competition, at least according to the NY tabloids.

Points: 0

#4 by Noahrk // May 21, 2015 - 10:47am

Agree with you about Taylor, there's hope he or Davis can take the next step. But Grimes is certainly a concern and if he plummets all bets are off.

I don't see Lippett playing WR simply because there is no room there for more players, barring injury. It'll likely have to CB or bust for him.

I'm not crazy about the CB situation but all in all I don't understand why guard and linebacker aren't their biggest hole. Who's going to play MLB? By all accounts Misi is much better suited to the outside. And at this moment Tannehill-bane Dalls Thomas is penciled in as a starter at guard with a second-year player who didn't play a down last year at the other spot. Granted, Thomas did most of his damage at tackle, where he had no business playing, but still.

Who, me?

Points: 0

#6 by James-London // May 21, 2015 - 11:47am

Guard scares me. Unless that line improves significantly, Miami are going to be watching their $96M QB get pounded to mush. The word is that Branden Albert is going to be ready for the season opener, but there has to be a doubt about how effective he'll be early. Combine that with the void at both guard positions and I'm more concerned about the line than the secondary, and it's not like Miami have Seattle calibre players there.

There's a lot of optimism about Miami at present, but outside the passing game and the D line I don't know that's there a huge amount to like.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

Points: 0

#8 by Noahrk // May 21, 2015 - 11:57am

Agreed on all counts, and the worst part is the Dolphins play in the worst division to have inside line issues. It's terrifying.

Who, me?

Points: 0

#31 by Andrew Healy // May 21, 2015 - 4:23pm

I agree on the concerns at guard (although they'll probably be anticipating that Douglas will play) and linebacker. CB is a more important position now. And they may be high variance there (i.e. some potential ways for things to work out), but there is real potential for a dumpster fire at a crucial position.

Points: 0

#38 by Noahrk // May 21, 2015 - 7:51pm

Yes, it's clearly an area of concern.

Who, me?

Points: 0

#7 by johonny // May 21, 2015 - 11:57am

I agree. I think Miami's big weakness is Linebacker. They have a second year starter on one side, a middle linebacker that is playing out of position, and a hole. I think right now they plan to have a first year starter in that spot. Their best prospect is more of a speed rushing specialist rather than a coverage run stopper. Their former number 1 pick that might have moved to linebacker is done for the year and probably his career in Miami. It looks bleak at the moment to me. An injury or two could really reduce Miami's linebacker corps to street free agents in a hurry. Compared to that their defensive backs appear to have a chance to have one decent guy in Grimes and several 3rd year players who could step up (3rd year is typically the year defensive backs become solid starters) and if they fail they have stopgap veterans to give them league average coverage. Theirs nothing like that at linebacker.

Points: 0

#3 by Led // May 21, 2015 - 10:17am

"Unlike Smith, however, scouts saw enough potential in Aikman and Bradshaw to make each of them the No. 1 overall pick."

I take no issue in general with having extreme doubts about Smith's ability to be any good (I share them), but that's not a very good reason in my opinion. Tim Couch was also first overall. I suspect that after two years in NFL, where a dude was drafted has very little predictive value compared to the guy's actual NFL performance. Unfortunately, it's sufficient to say that guys as bad as Smith for two years rarely turn out to be good. Ugh. I never really bought into the "Rex ruins QBs" theory, but Jets fans have to hope its true.

Points: 0

#50 by turbohappy // May 22, 2015 - 10:33am

I mostly agree. The only thing I see is that teams tend to give the number 1 overall pick a few more chances before giving up on them which could make all the difference for a late bloomer.

Points: 0

#5 by Karl Cuba // May 21, 2015 - 10:58am

Has FO published adjusted success rate? It sounds interesting.

Points: 0

#20 by Vincent Verhei // May 21, 2015 - 3:26pm

We haven't gotten to it this year yet, but we have run them in the past. Here are the results from 2013:

These are also in the Almanac every year (2015 edition coming in July!) and Premium subscribers can see them on each player's page.

Points: 0

#28 by Andrew Healy // May 21, 2015 - 4:09pm

This year's articles on the CB charting stats will be coming soon, too.

Points: 0

#9 by johonny // May 21, 2015 - 12:10pm

I think my biggest complaint was that the AFCeast had become both redundant and boring over the past decade. I was calling for something, anything to happen to make the division not feel like a long hopeless march toward the eventual Patriots division crown. This off season Miami, New York, and the Bills did their best to at least shake things up. Miami spent money like crazy (but its debatable if their moves were all crazy), the Jets decided to have wide receivers for a change, and the Bills signed a coach with a personality. I have no idea if long term the division is going to actually become competitive again, but you can't say the off season was dreadful and hopeless. Oh and the Pats made some news too... Does any of this matter? The schedule looks favorable for at least one of the Bills, Jets, or Dolphins to finally return to the playoffs this season. Is that enough to stoke divisional fires? I don't know. If these teams all miss out on the play offs again this season, as fans we might as well break up the division or moved on to other sports.

Points: 0

#10 by PirateFreedom // May 21, 2015 - 12:30pm

Brady is 37, Check Andrew Luck's birth certificate before you give up and move to the AFC south.

Points: 0

#16 by mehllageman56 // May 21, 2015 - 1:17pm

It's worse than that, he'll be 38 by the time the season starts.

Points: 0

#23 by johonny // May 21, 2015 - 3:34pm

Blowing up the NFC west turned out to be a boon to the Saints, Rams, and Falcons. I'm not sure why people are convinced the Patriots will be done without Brady. Shula won without a great QB. The fact is the division has had highly questionable runs of management in New York, Buffalo, and Miami since the mid/late-nineties. Unless the new management in these three places has really improved then I don't think the Patriots will just sink to also-rans without Brady.

Points: 0

#14 by mehllageman56 // May 21, 2015 - 1:14pm

Given the schedules, it's almost a lock one of the other teams makes the playoffs. The last two years whichever AFC division played the AFC South sent three teams to the playoffs.

Points: 0

#21 by johonny // May 21, 2015 - 3:30pm

Exactly, if not this year then... give up :)

Points: 0

#22 by mehllageman56 // May 21, 2015 - 3:34pm

Yeah, because Brady will be a formidable 39 next year. Come on.

Points: 0

#24 by johonny // May 21, 2015 - 3:39pm

See post 23. The three AFC east teams need better track records in management more than the Patriots need Brady. Without Brady the Pats will still win this division a lot unless upper management in the other three cities really has changed. What's exciting is perhaps this off season with debatable good moves by all three franchises maybe times are changing.

Points: 0

#32 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 5:25pm

Except, the one year they didn't have Brady, despite having their best offense ever entirely still in place, they failed to win the division or make the playoffs. We all know if it was close, but it's a fact that they only season they didn't have Brady is the only season in over a decade that they haven't won the division. It's not unreasonable to expect "the Gronk and Edelman with no QB show" will have less success than "the Greatest Offense of All Time only with no QB show."

Points: 0

#49 by SandyRiver // May 22, 2015 - 8:59am

It's true they missed the PS that year, but how many other 11-win teams have done the same since the current playoff system was begun? One? Also, they were thrust into the no-Brady situation by an injury, so had little time to adjust. Cassel was a whole lot better in the 2nd half of the season than the 1st.

More to the point, I think, is whether the management of the other three AFC East teams will be good enough to produce a 10- or 11-win team like happened in 2008. Belichick w/o Brady is still likely to produce a contender, if not the perennial playoff team of recent years. Were the Pats to lose both, I think the fall from grace would be a lot steeper.

Points: 0

#51 by mehllageman56 // May 22, 2015 - 12:39pm

The main thing to think about here, is comparing the Patriots organization to other teams around the league, to figure out why they have had such a great run. The only other team to have had their run of division titles in the last 15 years is the Indianapolis Colts, who had Peyton Manning, one terrible year, and then lucked into Luck. The Colts have missed the playoffs once since they went to the South division, and did not win the division 4 times. The Ravens, a better run team, have won their division only 4 times in the same time span. Having a Hall of Fame quarterback can make the difference between dominating your division and just being good enough to make the playoffs 3 out of 4 years.

By the way, Don Shula did keep the Dolphins as a contender after Griese retired, but they weren't winning the division every year; the Colts and Pats took turns in the late 70s, the Dolphins had another run with Marino in the early to mid 80s (although the Pats won the division in 86), and then the Bills took over in the late 80s and early 90s. Shula was able to keep his team a contender without a star quarterback, but he wasn't able to consistently win the division without one. Perhaps the Pats fans think they've struck gold again with Garappolo, but I'll defer to Matt Waldman on him. Personally, I think his ceiling is Danny White, which may be good enough for division titles but nothing for other AFC contenders to be scared of.

Points: 0

#58 by Purds // May 24, 2015 - 8:47am

To push the analogy between the Pats and the Colts even further, you should note that not only do those two teams have great QBs (I am not ready yet to make Luck a HoFer!), but no one else in their division has had an even better-than-average QB for years. Some years, I ask local Pat fans here to quickly name the QBs in the rest of the AFC East, and they can't do it. I know some years I can't do it for the AFC South (I am a Colt fan).

Both have had the great fortune to have great QBs (HoFers until now for Indy), but they have also had the great fortune to play teams who have been playing musical chairs with the QB position. I mean, who is the best QB in those two divisions outside of NE and Indy over the last decade plus?

Points: 0

#59 by mehllageman56 // May 24, 2015 - 12:52pm

Pennington in the AFC East, and Steve McNair in the AFC South. Pennington couldn't stay healthy, but he did win the division twice.

Points: 0

#63 by Bobman // May 26, 2015 - 2:29am

That's interesting... I wonder how common that is that a dominant team with a dominant QB really has no analogous competition within its division. (probably too few great QBs to go around. How many seasons did Kelly and Marino overlap?)

The Pats are a very complete team, but the Colts were clearly "Manning and a bunch of good guys" for so long, and now are clearly Luck-oriented, while the AFCS seemed to be a defensive-focused division. I am thinking of Fisher's Titans and Del Rio's Jags for years, maybe a decade. Texans seemed more balanced, but generally underpowered everywhere.
The Titans and Jags had enormous DTs, savage LBs, good run games and semi-competent QBs for the most part--in short, teams designed to beat the Mannings by controlling the clock, playing keep-away, and slowing down the Colts O. (Princeton vs Georgetown in the 1985 NCAAs) It seems that they were built to feed into your observation: NOT to compete QB to QB but to slow down the game, control the ball, keep it close, etc. So maybe that lack of elite QB competition is by design.

When McNair had a great year (And Leftwich had a decent one) the other teams made the playoffs. When Edge or Manning was injured, the Titans/Texans won the division. But as long as the dominant QB was present, there was not much the others could do.

Leftwich and Garrard had a few decent seasons, and McNair, and Schaub (who went from hero to bum like flipping a light switch). They certainly weren't consistent, but who HAS been as consistent as Manning and Brady for over a decade?

So if it was by design, I guess the answer might be that it's a flawed design. It's better to load up on O and try to take on these teams at full offensive throttle. Maybe.

The "run it all the time and then some more" approach sometimes worked against Indy (most notably in their SB season) but the infamous Monday Nighter against the Fins proved that Manning only needed 15 minutes of possession to win. Four on-side kicks didn't work for the Titans, but a swarming, battering DL did work for the Giants against the Pats....

Points: 0

#65 by chemical burn // May 26, 2015 - 1:20pm

Um, Kelly and Marino were famously taken in the same draft (Elway was also a first round pick that year) and played their entire careers for the same teams, so... quite a bit of overlap? Kelly went to the USFL first, but I'm not sure for how long the overlap was, but Marino retired in 1999 and Kelly in 1996 (they were both drafted in 1983.)

But I thinks far as quality of competition is concerned, I don't think the issue is even another great QB (which you're right is too rare a resource for other great teams to have come up against regularly) but comparing what the Pats have faced for nearly 15 years versus the Steelers having another consistent Superbowl competitor and winner in their division as well as a frequently playoff bound Bengals team or the late 80's/early 90's NFC East, where you had 3 recent Superbowl winners fighting it out with arguably greatest defense ever and only a single Bills/Jets-esque scrub for them to beat up on.

If making the post-season is half off the fight (and it is) and you divisional competition is a handful of teams that would never be in any danger of winning a Superbowl under any circumstances, then you've got an edge that the Ravens will never get as they fight their way through the division every year...

Points: 0

#67 by mehllageman56 // May 26, 2015 - 8:17pm

Most of the quarterbacks drafted in 1983 went to the AFC East. Even Elway was drafted by the Colts (he just wouldn't go there, so they traded him), Eason to New England and O'Brien to the Jets. Eason upset Marino's Dolphins on the way to getting his career killed by the 85 Bears, and the Jets actually went to the playoffs three times with O'Brien. Of course, Kelly eventually had a lot of success against the rest of the division after 87. So the playing field was a little more level then in the AFC East, at least as quarterbacking went.

Points: 0

#30 by Andrew Healy // May 21, 2015 - 4:15pm

Good point, but these things do change in a hurry (see NFC West). I think there's a good chance Mariota will turn around Tennessee pretty quickly. Still seems likely AFC South is close to the worst division, but some improvement is likely.

Points: 0

#11 by tjb // May 21, 2015 - 12:41pm

The Bills tackle situation really isn't that dire - Cordy Glenn is a legitimately good left tackle who had a bad year in 2014 after an unspecified long term illness kept him out of any sort of offseason training until late August and Seantrel Henderson did ok for a 7th round rookie. The problems running around the ends had more to do with CJ Spiller being injured for most of the year, leaving a 63 year old Fred Jackson and the glacial Boobie Dixon to run the football. Terrible play design for the edge runs didn't exactly help, either. Anyways, assuming Glenn can get back to form and Henderson progresses, OT really isn't a huge problem. Guard, on the other hand... yikes, that's a problem.

Points: 0

#15 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 1:15pm

That's interesting about Glenn, I hadn't heard a word about it. I love McCoy and Rex, so I've been kinda keeping an eye on the Bills and all you hear is about how the o-line is a disaster. Good to know that at least the tackles might be ok...

Points: 0

#35 by Mike B. In Va // May 21, 2015 - 5:47pm

Actually, for Roman's system, I think they'll be OK at guard. Glenn's return from Mono (rumor has it) last year was probably too early, and the gaping hole at right guard as been filled by a reasonable professional. Miller looks like he may be the answer at left guard, so if Henderson can step up, the line will probably be OK.

...which leaves a bit of a QB problem, unfortunately.

Points: 0

#12 by Paul4567 // May 21, 2015 - 12:48pm

Without a #1 corner, I hope the Patriots figure out a way to take the air out of opposing offenses.

They'll have to put pressure on the QBs for certain.

Points: 0

#13 by Led // May 21, 2015 - 1:09pm

Giving the Pats the needle for their secondary woes.

Points: 0

#19 by Kevin from Philly // May 21, 2015 - 2:59pm

Careful, these comments are gonna leave Patriots fans psssssssst off.

Points: 0

#61 by ntai // May 24, 2015 - 9:39pm

As a Patriots fan, it was nice to have Revis and Browner last year. It would be nice to have air tight secondary, and BB letting them all out is pretty frustrating.

We need to pump in more to make it firmer.

Points: 0

#62 by mehllageman56 // May 25, 2015 - 7:27pm

Be careful with that, Geno has a strong arm and sails the ball a lot, it might just make him more accurate.

Points: 0

#17 by alan frankel // May 21, 2015 - 2:52pm

That list for geno is pretty damning and with the improvements to the jets receiving core he has no scapegoats to fall back on gotta wonder wats wrong with the jets on an organizational level ; they simply don't know when to give up on failed projects and its kept them at a mediocre and frustrating level for years

Points: 0

#26 by mehllageman56 // May 21, 2015 - 3:44pm

Yeah, it's their horrible organization that prevented them from tanking all the way last year. It's hard to give up on failed projects when all the other options are terrible too. There really aren't many good qbs coming into the league right now; the college systems don't prepare them well. When FO's new qb projection system is claiming that Mariota is the best prospect in the last three drafts, it's not good.

Points: 0

#29 by Travis // May 21, 2015 - 4:12pm

Yeah, it's their horrible organization that prevented them from tanking all the way last year.

How else do you explain the Harvin trade?

Points: 0

#33 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 5:31pm

They have displayed a total inability to evaluate offensive talent, so it's impossible to say what the Harvin trade meant to them. They likely thought they were getting a difference maker and not a nearly useless gimmick player. Which is a failure of talent evaluation. Hard to say though - they might have just been trying to save their jobs by making a "big move."

What are you arguing?

Points: 0

#36 by Travis // May 21, 2015 - 7:28pm

That the Harvin trade can only be explained by a front office that's horrible in all aspects, including tanking. Consider:

1. The Jets were 1-6 with a near-zero chance of making the playoffs;
2. The only positive part of the Jets' failure to construct a suitable roster going into 2014 was that they left themselves around $20 million in cap room that could be rolled over into 2015. They blew $6.5 million of that to pay Harvin in a lost season;
3. They traded a 2015 draft pick, not someone off the current roster;
4. Harvin might have contributed to one or two wins and hurt their draft position.

Points: 0

#37 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 7:32pm

Well, since is Harvin is, was, and will forever be terrible, bringing him on to help tank without looking like you're trying to tank actually makes the most sense. Still, just a horrible move from any perspective.

Also, trying to tank at all is a terrible strategy - it definitely doesn't work in football where a single game can move you 4 spots and the Sixers are showing it is a pathetically awful strategy even in a sport where it might conceivably make sense. So, I hope they weren't so stupid as to try to tank. I don't think any GM is that dumb...

Points: 0

#40 by Travis // May 21, 2015 - 7:59pm

Harvin's not very efficient player, but the possibility existed that he'd break a couple long scores that could turn a loss into a win.

There are levels of tanking for draft picks - Sixers-type tanking even before the season starts might be the worst thing in sports (and is only really possible in leagues with revenue sharing). Intentionally losing's also unacceptable. Things like Mark Madsen shooting 3's in overtime or the Heat playing no regulars and a one-man bench in Game 82, while amusing, are borderline at best.

Not making a costly trade that can only marginally help midway through a lost season while hurting future seasons? I'm OK with that kind of tanking.

Points: 0

#41 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 8:02pm

I also think it just don't work. Everyone points to the Colts and Andrew Luck, but that was such a freak occurrence, it has about as much chance of repeating as drafting Tom Brady in the 6th round. In basketball a single player really can turn you into a championship contender in the way it can't in football (call me when the Colts don't lose a playoff game by five TD's), so there would be even less excuse for trying to ruin a season, especially when you're less than halfway through and anything still can happen. We've fairly frequently seen teams appear dead in the water only to sneak into the playoffs and win it all. The Jets only a few seasons ago looked eliminated only to come to the brink of SB berth...

Points: 0

#42 by Travis // May 21, 2015 - 8:32pm

Tanking certainly doesn't guarantee anything, but wouldn't you rather have a shot at drafting the top quarterback (and there had been a consensus 2015 #1 for the previous twelve months) than be stuck with Geno Smith and journeyman backups?

We've fairly frequently seen teams appear dead in the water only to sneak into the playoffs and win it all.

The 2014 Jets, circa Week 7, had Geno Smith at QB and the worst set of cornerbacks I have ever seen. That team wasn't coming back from 1-6 unless every game was played during a hurricane.

Points: 0

#43 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 10:09pm

If the Top QB is Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell or Alex Smith? I'll keep Geno, thanks.

(Also, it's not true that Winston has been the consensus for a year - Mariota had the edge for several months, at least for some time after Oregon dismantled FSU and Winston looked hapless in the loss.)

Jets had lost close, competitive games to some of the best teams in the league, including New England, Denver, Green Bay and Detroit. They didn't need to prove they could compete with the best teams because they had been competitive - the Steelers upset shouldn't have shocked anyone who was paying attention. You're right them playing meaningful post-season football was extremely unlikely, but their 1-6 record was very different than the stink bombs being farted out in Nashville and Tampa.

Points: 0

#44 by Travis // May 21, 2015 - 11:08pm

The FSU-Oregon game took place two months after the Harvin trade.

Points: 0

#45 by chemical burn // May 22, 2015 - 12:53am

Had Winston been the consensus #1 before then? I really don't remember. Anyhoo, the point is, I've seen plenty of "consensus #1 QB's" turn out to be utter garbage. And there was less consensus on Winston than a lot of guys. If you're arguing it's obvious they should have tanked for for him and not attempted to improve their team or win games, I can't agree with that even slightly. There's a healthy chance Winston is a disaster in the pro's from about 3 different angles and that's not a controversial opinion. In football, contenders aren't built on the back of single player - if they thought Harvin could help them win, they were right to get him. The criticism is more accurately: what kind of front office couldn't see what a waste of resources Harvin is?

Points: 0

#39 by Noahrk // May 21, 2015 - 7:56pm

They were simply trying to save their jobs. Failed, too, but clearly aiming for that.

Who, me?

Points: 0

#46 by mehllageman56 // May 22, 2015 - 2:54am

While you are correct that the Harvin move was atrocious, almost as bad as not drafting Matavis Bryant in the fourth round, not re-signing Revis or any other competent cornerback in the offseason, and not trying to sign DeSean Jackson, you cannot blame anyone but Idzik for that. The only person you can possibly blame that is still in the organization is Woody Johnson; he could have put his foot down to stop it, but he would have been telling both Idzik and Ryan that they were already lame ducks. It seems to me that Maccagnan, and Tannenbaum for that matter, are much more competent than Idzik.

Now to your point about tanking, well, the only way the Jets could have gotten Mariota or Winston this offseason is to have lost out down the stretch. Well, Rex wasn't going to tank, and the players weren't going to either. I might add that the Titans almost stole a victory from the Jets near the end of the season; it became a hard fought game once Casey decided to shove Geno and a fight broke out. So it's not like the Titans were tanking either. Short of Johnson benching everyone like Lovie did in Tampa that last game, it wasn't going to happen, and saying that proves the organization is incompetent is absurd, especially the only people left in the organization from those last four games are the owner and a couple of ballboys.

Points: 0

#47 by mehllageman56 // May 22, 2015 - 3:05am

The other thing about Harvin; he only really helped them in their losses. He was huge in the Vikings game, which they lost in overtime, but only had 23 yards receiving against the Steelers, another 30 or so rushing against them. Then ten yards total offense against Tennessee, and he didn't even play the second Dolphins game. The guy really didn't cost them a higher draft pick, the occasional good games by Vick and Geno did.

Points: 0

#48 by Travis // May 22, 2015 - 7:46am

1. I don't blame anyone but Idzik for the half-assed roster building going into 2014 or the Harvin trade.

2. I have no reason to think anyone in the 2015 Jets front office below the owner level is incompetent.

3. I don't think the 2014 Jets should have tanked on the player or coaching levels. My favorite moment from last season might have been Richardson sprinting after Jarius Wright on the final play of the Vikings game.

Points: 0

#52 by mehllageman56 // May 22, 2015 - 12:42pm

As much as I am a Jets fan, I loved that game simply because I liked Bridgewater going into the league. That game reminded me of Teddy's first game at Louisville, against Geno and West Virginia, another shootout that Bridgewater won.

Points: 0

#53 by chemical burn // May 22, 2015 - 12:44pm

2. Watch some tape of the Todd Bowles coached Eagles defense in 2012. It might change your opinions on his potential competence. Certainly, there's some room for real worry there.

Points: 0

#54 by Travis // May 22, 2015 - 1:03pm

If the Jets line up in the wide nine as a base defense next year I'll start to worry.

Points: 0

#56 by chemical burn // May 22, 2015 - 7:09pm

They dropped the 9 wide when he took over.

Points: 0

#57 by mehllageman56 // May 22, 2015 - 7:44pm

He did better with 3-4 personnel than the Eagles wide 9 guys. If he goes wide 9 with Coples and that relic from the Permian, Pace, than yeah, you're right.

Points: 0

#55 by mehllageman56 // May 22, 2015 - 4:52pm

I understand your point, and I haven't watched that tape, but what he did with the Cardinals defense the last two years was pretty damn good. He also went 3-1 as an interim head coach. I kind of trust those more than his span running the Eagles defense when he was thrown into it halfway through the season.

As far as whether the Jets organization is competent now, I would argue that Maccagnan is a massive improvement over Idzik, who proved that general managers can totally destroy a competent coaching staff on their own. Before Idzik, the Jets were a competent organization and nowhere near the trainwreck that the Bills and Dolphins have been, even if they made some poor moves, (Gholston, Sanchez restructure). You don't get to the conference championship game two years in a row by being complete idiots. Not saying they were near as good as New England, just that they weren't as bad as people on this site often believe.

Points: 0

#60 by chemical burn // May 24, 2015 - 1:02pm

Yeah, I think there's a strong chance he'll be good - my only point is: don't assume competence when there's already an example of massive incompetence on display on his resume. And the pass defense under his 8-game stretch of leadership has to be among the worst in DVOA history - they went from something like 8th in the league, the 32nd by a comfortable margin. Anyhoo, I think he's the best coaching hire of the off-season, so certainly his presence (even if he doesn't work out) is evidence of front office competence on the Jets' part...

Points: 0

#18 by alan frankel // May 21, 2015 - 2:57pm

Interesting comparison for the jets Brett farve plays better in half a season than geno has ever played and they cut Brett loose after he was clearly injured in the 2nd half with a non-career threatening injury. But the let geno and mark Sanchez last thru 6 mediocre seasons b4 trying to replace them kinda odd

Points: 0

#25 by mehllageman56 // May 21, 2015 - 3:40pm

Farve pulled the same off season stuff that he did his last years at Green Bay; he didn't want to come back to the cold in New York, he wanted to be in Minnesota. Given how the 2009 season worked out, I'm not sure if either team could have done much better. The thing is, the Jets had no real options other than Fitzpatrick this year, and he's hurt right now. Obviously the Jets tried to move on from Sanchez, they drafted Geno. The only guy you could gripe they should have taken in the meantime was Bridgewater last year, or Wilson, and the entire league passed on those guys. Maybe Foles too, but I don't know how he would have done under Rex.

Points: 0

#27 by Travis // May 21, 2015 - 3:58pm

Also don't forget that the Jets tried to sign Peyton Manning during the 2011-12 offseason. The problem was that, after he showed no interest, the Jets gave Sanchez an extension with $20m of guaranteed money as some sort of reconciliation.

Points: 0

#34 by chemical burn // May 21, 2015 - 5:33pm

Yeah, Favre forced his way out of town every bit as much as he was let go. He pulled the same crap in 3 places (GB, NY and Minnesota) so there's plenty of evidence of who the bad actor was there. The NYJ management has gotten a lot wrong, but their handling of a moody, erratic, old, frequently injured QB who didn't want to play for them anymore doesn't rank on that list of wrongs.

I also am extremely dubious how Bridgewater, Wilson or Foles would've performed under Rex - all three are very raw talents and with the exception of Bridgewater (who hasn't been particularly good so far - just showed some promise) those QB's appear to have had their succes influenced by coaching. Wilson by having a great coach in Carroll with the guts to give him the starting job over their high-priced FA acquisition and Foles by Kelly's system (or Reid's tutelage, depending on how you feel about Kelly's abysmal track record with QB's apart from Foles.)

Points: 0

#64 by Thomas_beardown // May 26, 2015 - 10:57am

Favre might be a lot of things, but this has to be the first time I've ever heard him described as "frequently injured".

Points: 0

#66 by Mugsy // May 26, 2015 - 4:12pm

I have seen Trent Dilfer win a Super Bowl. I've seen Mark Sanchez beat Tom Brady, on the road -in the play-offs! I have no reason to believe that Geno can't win - he just needs a little support. Maybe Marshall can help him out - (he might be the best receiver the Jets have had since Al Toon) ... Stranger things have happened

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Andrew
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Andrew Healy. Use promo code WRITERS to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Andrew.