Authored by Dan Maltzman - 10th August, 2005 - 2:25 am
The winner of the Super Bowl has come from the AFC East three out of the last four seasons. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Jets and Bills, the winner has been the Patriots. Can they three-peat?
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New England Patriots
Notable Additions: Tim Dwight (WR), Chad Brown (LB), David Terrell (WR), Monty Beisel (LB), Chad Scott (CB), Doug Flutie (QB), Antuan Edwards (FS), Chad Morton (RB/KR).
Notable Losses: Ted Johnson (Retired), Ty Law (NYJ), Roman Phifer (FA) Joe Andruzzi (CLE), Adrian Klemm (GB), David Patten (WAS), Jim Miller (NYG). Charlie Weis (Off. Coord), Romeo Crennel (Def. Coord)
Rookies: 1. (32) Logan Mankins, 3. (84) Ellis Hobbs III, 3. (100) Nick Kaczur, 4. (133) James Sanders, 5. (170) Ryan Claridge, 7. (230) Matt Cassel, 7. (255) Andy Stokes.
What to Watch for in 2005:
There is no beating around the bush with the Patriots. And it should come as no surprise that one of their main problems is at inside linebacker. Looking at this portion of the Pat?s depth chart these days is like looking into the Bermuda Triangle of ILB?s. Ted Johnson, gone. Tedy Bruschi placed on IR. This void left behind has thrust the spotlight upon two emerging linebackers, Monty Beisel and Chad Brown. For these two to take over Bruschi/Johnson?s respective positions is no small task. It could be likened to an understudy?s first time on stage replacing the big star. So look for the new duo to struggle early and for Belichick?s no-nonsense 3-4 defense to be constantly switching LB?s. Belichick will be sending out tandems of backers with Izzo, Don Davis, rookie Ryan Claridge, and possibly Dan Klecko picking up the slack. Division rivals will also see this as an opportunity to attack the Bruschi-less inside with a full-fledged middle-rushing barrage (I.e. Dolphins with Ricky, Jets with Martin, your classic ?bang it home backs?).
While the attention may be on the linebackers. The real focus of intensity will be upon Richard Seymour. The big tackle got his wish and received his coveted pay-raise. Now, with that in the bag, it is time for him to put up or shut up. Seymour?s health and sack total, which has declined, will be the deciding factor on his worthiness of another contract extension. Look for Seymour to thrive under the pressure, retain his superstar status, pro-bowler status, and possibly stash Defensive MVP under his belt this season.
Best Story Out of Camp:
?Flutie takes the snap, drops straight back throws up a prayer?.touchdown Boston College!? Okay so maybe that was twenty years ago and Flutie is now 43, but tell that to any New England Patriot fan and they?ll say, ?Who cares it?s Doug Flutie and the Pat?s!?. So how could this not be the best story? Forget Seymour coming to camp, this guy #7 is a New England boy through and through. Now not only is he back to where it all started, he?s going to back up one of the best in the game. Flutie is the best story because everyday at camp he plays and acts not like a 43-year-old vet, but a 43-year-old rookie. He loves the game, he puts his heart into the game, he does great things for the NFL, and he is getting repaid with this opportunity to play once again for the Patriots. If the Pat?s were a dismal team, Flutie?s signing would have packed the seats in Gillette Stadium. When news broke about his signing, kids everywhere were in their backyards throwing Hail Mary?s not from Flutie to Phelan but from Flutie to Branch. Hey, it?s possible.
Training Camp Positives: Super Bowl Champions, a big WR for Tom (Terrell), emergence of Deion Branch, Seymour is back, 2 home games in winter against 2 summer weather teams (MIA and TB).
Training Camp Negatives: The Terrible Teddies are out, end last year with T.O. and start this year with Moss, Dude, where?s my coordinators? (Crennel and Weis)
If the Patriots can solve the inside linebacker situation and can move on without the two big coordinators, then look for the Patriots to start strong and as usual end strong.
13 ? 3. 1st AFC East
Notable Additions: Vonnie Holliday (DE), Donnie Spragan (LB), Stockar McDougle (OT), Tebucky Jones (FS), Mario Edwards (CB), Lance Shulters (CB), Alonzo Ephraim (C), Frank Middleton (OG), Keith Traylor (DT), AJ Feeley (QB), Kevin Carter (DE), Nick Saban (Head Coach).
Notable Losses: Jay Fiedler (NYJ), Tim Bowens (FA), Arturo Freeman (GB), Morlon Greenwood (HOU), Rob Konrad (OAK), Patrick Surtain (KC), Sammy Knight (CB), Shawn Wooden (FA).
Rookies: 1. (2) Ronnie Brown, 2. (46) Matt Roth, 3. (70) Channing Crowder, 4. (104) Travis Daniels, 5. (162) Anthony Alabi, 7. (216) Kevin Vickerson.
What to Watch for in 2005:
Enter Nick Saban. Re-Enter Ricky Williams. Exit Demons? This year more than any other, could be the year that the Dolphins turn it around and heavily compete. There is a buzz around Dolphin?s camp. With Ricky returning and Saban bringing his own style/excitement 2005 could be an interesting season for the fish. Based on the fresh faces, look for the defense to be amped and rearing to go. The Fin?s got a facelift at cornerback, Shulters and Edwards will pack a punch this season and help the fans forget about Surtain. Look for Saban to reverse the 4 ? 12 record, with confusing defensive schemes (See Belichick playbook) and a barrage of rushing attacks.
Key Position Battle:
What a coincidence, the Dolphins have a battle for the starting QB job. The three vying for the coveted spot are A.J Feeley, Gus Frerrote and Sage Rosenfels. The telling tale that this is a heated battle, on the Dolphins main depth chart (www.miamdolphins.com) there are two QB?s listed as starters: Feeley/Frerrote. The two quarterbacks will undergo a rigorous camp, in which whomever comes out on top will be closely analyzed and replaced by the other on any sign of failure. Because the Dolphins surrendered a second-rounder to get Feeley, I would suspect, barring a horrendous camp, that he would be named the Dolphin?s starter. This battle will prove a good one for the Fin?s, with Frerrote serving as mentor to the younger Feeley.
When a prodigal running back returns, and you already have your new 1st rounder ready to go, what do you do? Ronnie Brown is ready to start rushing, there?s just one small problem, apparently so is Ricky Williams. This will be the biggest roadblock for Nick Saban in his rookie year as head coach. If you give Ricky more playing time than Ronnie, your first round cash was a waste. Give more playing time to Ronnie, Ricky will complain, (don?t tell me Ricky is a team player, after he abandoned ship) and eventually a trade will erupt. The best option would be to trade Ricky for some more picks or if necessary a solid quarterback. But we all know what will happen, Ricky will play for 4 weeks, get hurt and sit out a game, thus Ronnie Brown will emerge, be idolized and Williams will be ousted out of South Beach faster than William Perry (?The Fridge?) was that day he wore a thong.
Training Camp Positives: Ricky?s back! Saban the Savior? David Boston may play a game in a Dolphin uniform. A good corps group of veteran FA?s ready to play, ready to contribute.
Training Camp Negatives: Ricky?s back! Ronnie?s hold ? out. Once again the starting QB is unclear at camp. Saban makes a rookie cry (Manuel Wright). Depth at offensive guard may cause problems.
The Dolphins have some key issues with certain players and positional dilemmas, however with the personnel they have and the front office, which represents them; the Dolphins should be able to regain their status in the AFC East. Let?s just hope Ricky doesn?t go on vacation to Amsterdam.
10 ? 6. 2nd AFC East
New York Jets
Notable Additions: Ty Law (CB), Jay Fiedler (QB), Derrick Blaylock (RB), Doug Jolley (TE), Laveranues Coles (WR), Micah Knorr (P).
Notable Losses: Anthony Becht (TB), Santana Moss (WAS), Doug Brien (CHI), Sam Cowart (MIN), Jason Ferguson (DAL), LaMont Jordan (OAK), Kareem McKenzie (NYG), Reggie Tounge (FA), Josh Evans (FA), Toby Gowin (ATL), Ray Mickens (FA).
Rookies: 2. (47) Mike Nugent, 2. (57) Justin Miller, 3. (88) Sione Pouha, 4. (123) Kerry Rhodes, 5. (161) Andre Maddox, 6. (182) Cedric Houston, 6. (198) Joel Dreessen, 7. (240) Harry Williams.
What to Watch for in 2005:
The biggest signing the Jets made this off-season came late, and it came with a bang. The Jets signed free agent cornerback Ty Law to a multi-year deal. The signing will make others in the division cringe and maybe even change their training camp drills. Ty really did save the Jet?s less than impressive off-season, but will he save their on-season? In 2005 look for Ty Law to come in and make an immediate impact on and off the field, for the extremely young and unproven Jets secondary. Kids like Pete Hunter and David Barret will learn plenty from the vet. Keeping with the defensive theme, look for Dewayne Robertson to come up huge in Herman Edwards?s 3-4 schemes?. Don?t sleep on Eric Barton either, could be the Jets Def. MVP. On the offensive side of things, Pennington looks to be back in full form, so no need to buyout those Jay Fielder jerseys just yet. Look for Pennington to struggle however, Coles will fade quickly in the season and with no other receivers stepping up, Chad will get the brunt of the New York boo?s. Lastly the unsung hero of the Jets, Curtis Martin, is at that point in his career (11th season) where this season could be the last hurrah and look for him to push not only himself to the limit, but his team as well.
Notable Additions: Kelly Holcomb (QB), Shane Matthews (QB), ReShard Lee (RB).
Notable Losses: Travis Henry (TEN), Drew Bledsoe (DAL), Jonas Jennings (SF), Pierson Prioleau (WAS), Izell Reese (DAL), Pat Williams (MIN).
Rookies: 2. (55) Roscoe Parrish, 3. (86) Kevin Everett, 4. (122) Raymond ?Duke? Preston, 5. (156) Eric King, 6. (197) Justin Geisinger, 7. (236) Lionel Gates.
What to Watch for in 2005:
This off-season the Bills decided to remain fairly quiet on the free-agent signing front, while they lost key starters. That strategy may not have been the smartest. With that in mind, it seems the Bills front office is confident with the inexperienced offensive linemen, a shaky receiving corps, no proven RB backups for McGahee and a lack of depth at the def. Line/linebacker positions. Look for Mike Mularkey to lose whatever hair he has left, due to the upcoming unproductiveness of his bench players. Keep an eye on the fact that J.P. Losman, the new Bills starter, is taller than most of his receivers. This height advantage could prove troublesome and without the wisdom of a proven veteran quarterback (sorry Holcomb), look for Losman to struggle early and often. With the all the offensive disparities, the ferocious Bills defense could be a bright spot this season. Look for Jerry Gray (Def Coord.) to continue the trend from last year with a multitude of blitzes, causing a multitude of sacks and interceptions.
Meet the New Guy Behind Center:
His name is J.P. Losman and here are his career statistics: 3/5, 32 yards, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost, 1 sack. Okay, maybe that?s not the most accurate way of gauging his experience, but lets not kid ourselves here, Losman is not ready to play and nowhere ready to lead the young Bills offense. Losman also has so many odds against him, he?s replacing Drew Bledsoe, the last Tulane QB was Buddy Brister, Losman?s receivers aren?t exactly the best, and his offensive line, which includes former XFL players, may get Losman annihilated. But there are intangibles Losman has that cannot be overlooked. As seen in the GB camp scrimmage, Losman can scramble, he plays with heart and he idolizes Brett Farve. As the clich? states, ?only time will tell? and Losman does have plenty of time.
What you talkin? bout Willis? :
Things really have come full circle for Willis McGahee. Since Drew Rosenhaus predicted a first round selection and a healthy McGahee, the back has been making huge strides in the NFL. So much so that the Bills rid themselves of Travis Henry and put all their hopes on McGahee?s back. McGahee has gone from receiving pity for his injury to receiving praise for his performance. If McGahee can stay healthy in 05? the Bills look ready to build their franchise around him. Like Losman however, Willis will encounter some early difficulty with the inexperienced offensive line. Another point to take not of is the Bill?s backups at the RB position aren?t exactly breath taking, so McGahee will need to stay healthy if the Bills want to think about competing in the AFC East. The pressure never got to McGahee at his draft, nor did it get to him last season, I expect big things out of this kid and his story of recovery and triumph is an underdog tale of inspiration.
Training Camp Positives: Losman is learning and improving. Defensive starters will keep the Bills in most close games. Emergence of McGahee. The team is chock full of sleepers: Sam Aiken, Lee Evans, Chris Kelsay and Coy Wire.
Training Camp Negatives: Inexperience on both sides of the ball. A tough schedule for a young team. Other teams in the AFC East have more established rosters. Lack of prominent backups will be Bills Achilles heel. Pressure to repeat 2004 record will overwhelm coaches and players.
The Bills situation is similar to the Jet?s, however the Bills have less proven starters and this season will be more of a learning experience for the players than a winning experience. The Bills have the right players to go on a couple of small winning streaks during the season. Assuming injuries, the Bills will be inconsistent throughout the year. If the young players take everything in stride, and enhance their NFL knowledge, this could be a dangerous team in 06?.
5 ? 11 4th AFC East