Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NFL SWOT Analysis: AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Losman (Photo Courtesy of

Strengths: Buffalo’s strength lies within their young talent. Last season Wide Receiver Lee Evans came into his own and was somewhat dominant. Quarterback J.P. Losman had flashes at times, and has plenty of opportunities to grow this season. Rookie Running Back Marshawn Lynch should get the lion’s share of carries this season. Rookie MLB Paul Posluszny will not wait long to take a leadership role on the defense. Safeties Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson have the type of coverage ability to allow their corners to take gambles and make plays. If the front office can keep this young talent together for a 2-3 seasons, they could have something special.

Weaknesses: While the team has young talent, the overall team is not impressive. The offensive line, outside of Jason Peters looks like patchwork. Derrick Dockery, who was the shakiest offensive linemen on the Redskins last year became one of the highest paid offensive linemen when he signed with the Bills. Maybe Jauron saw something in him. Outside of Evans, the talent at WR is either too small or too slow to make a difference. Most outside of Buffalo have no idea who Keith Ellison or Angelo Crowell are. Cornerback Terrence McGee came back down to earth after receiving his contract, and the sad thing is, his counterpart, Kiwaukee Thomas will be picked on mercilessly. The team has a lot to prove, and with some good coaching they might put together a decent season if all the pieces fall in the right place.

Opportunities: Free Safety Ko Simpson was one of the youngest players in the NFL last season. He finds himself in the starting lineup, and he could be a mainstay alongside fellow sophomore Donte Whitner for a long time. Kevin Everett will be given opportunities to be a pass-catching Tight End in this offense. Losman sorely needs a safety-valve receiver.

Threats: Inexperience poses the largest threat to this team. Late leads can be lost. Important drives can fall apart. A drive crippled by penalties. All of these are signs of inexperience. However, these lessons will be valuable in the growth and maturity of their young players. Hopefully, the fans will remain patient.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Nobody is really passing a torch here. Posluszny probably earns the distinction of receiving the torch as the leader of the defense.

Position Battle: Running backs Anthony Thomas and Marshawn Lynch seem headed into a season where they will share carries. Lynch will probably receive more carries, however if he has issues, coaches won’t hesitate to give the ball to the veteran, Thomas.

Rookie Contributor: MLB Posluszny and RB Lynch are the most likely contributors. However, keep an eye on RB Dwayne Wright who put together a decent preseason. He could get some touches late in the season.

Miami Dolphins

Thomas (Photo Courtesy of

Strengths: Once again, the defense will have to carry this team. The heart and soul of the defense returns in the form of MLB Zach Thomas and teammate and brother-in-law DE Jason Taylor. They lead a strong front seven that should excel at attacking the line of scrimmage. Joey Porter needs to get accustomed to the 4-3 defense. He could benefit from having slightly less duties as an OLB than he had in the 3-4. A stronger pass rush could relieve some of the pressure on the corners. Will Allen and Travis Daniels were practically on their own last season. Newly acquired QB Trent Green will have plenty of targets. With the QB issues the team has had since Marino’s departure, Green could be a welcome sight as an accurate veteran who has great moves in the pocket. The receiving corps have a lot of potential after adding the speedy Ted Ginn to current starting WRs Chris Chambers and Marty Booker.

Weaknesses: The offensive line has its fair share of question marks. Guard Chris Liwienski may be the most solid piece of the puzzle. Vernon Carey is back at left tackle, but still needs to prove himself. Rookie Center Samson Satele is the only other lineman worth mentioning. The running game was shaky last year, and seems to be headed to a similar place this year. Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman are in a battle for the number one spot. The safety position is weak. Neither starter will have receivers hearing footsteps, nor will they bring much to the run defense.

Opportunities: Look for DE Matt Roth to have every opportunity to have a breakout performance feeding off the attention received by Jason Taylor, Keith Traylor and Vonnie Holliday. After years of playing in either Bubba Franks’s or Randy McMichael’s shadow, TE David Martin finally gets his shot to start. He is a speedy TE who converted from WR in his rookie year. He could be a field stretcher at the position.

Threats: While Trent Green is considered to have great pocket presence, he played behind one of the best offensive lines of the past couple of decades while with the Chiefs. Behind the current offensive line, his pocket skills could face a great challenge.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Look for DT Keith Traylor to slowly pass the torch to Paul Soliai. They are nearly clones. In fact, Soliai is even larger than Traylor. On the college level, Soliai proved he could take up space and force the run outside. He could replace Traylor late in the season, if the Fins are out of the playoff picture.

Position Battle: Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman are still embroiled in a battle for the starting RB job. They will probably split carries going into the season, but someone should emerge as the lead back. Ronnie Brown should be the one.

Rookie Contributor: The Fins have several. On top of that list is WR Ted Ginn, who could eventually start alongside Chris Chambers. For now, Ginn will man the slot position and return kicks. Both situations will allow him to display his magnificent speed. Satele is already starting at Center. Keep an eye on Lorenzo Booker, who could get some carries as a change of pace back.

New England Patriots

Brady (Photo Courtesy of

Strengths: Many pick the Patriots as the favorite to win the Super Bowl. On paper, they look stronger than ever. All-Pro QB leads an offense that upgraded at WR without losing much else. The WR corps include four new faces in Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington. They should all take pressure off the rest of the offense that carried the team last season. Ben Watson returns and has sole possession of the TE position. Physically, Watson is a poor man’s Vernon Davis. Could this be his year? The offensive line returns intact with a strong set of backups. Running behind that line is Laurence Maroney who, like Watson, now has sole possession of his starting position. He could be in for a huge season. The defense returned almost everyone, and upgraded at a couple of spots. Adalius Thomas steps in to man Vrabel’s old ILB spot, while Vrabel moves outside to upgrade their OLB spot.

Weaknesses: Depth on the defensive line used to be one of the strengths on this team. This is now a challenge, especially with Richard Seymour starting the season on the PUP. While the team did upgrade the WR spot, they filled it with a bunch of misfits. Wes Welker could end up being the most solid member of the group. The cornerback position continues to deliver, but on a skeleton crew. They need to address this eventually. Rookie Brandon Meriweather could end up sliding over from safety to get some playing time there.

Opportunities: The AFC East is possibly the weakest division in the league. The Patriots should have a cake walk this year in their division. They returned most starters from an already elite team. They could roll through and get five to six wins out of the division.

Threats: If Randy Moss chooses to implode again (not sure if Oakland was really an implosion, but he played poorly there), does he take part of the team down with him. There was some talk of him getting cut from the team, as he may not be the top target, which he will definitely complain about. Talent always gets chances in the NFL, but will a team want to touch Moss if he fails in New England?

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Both Laurence Maroney and Ben Watson get the keys to their own starting positions. Corey Dillon and Daniel Graham are no longer around to share the spots. Both look poised to have monster seasons. However, should they prove to be the type of players that thrive on sharing their position, the Patriots could be in trouble.

Position Battle: James Sanders will have to fight hard to hold off Brandon Meriweather at safety all season. Meriweather’s stock rose as teams continued to overlook his actions that prematurely ended his last season of college football at Miami.

Rookie Contributor: Meriweather might be the only rookie that contributes this year. Look for DE Kareem Brown to get looks in the Defensive Line rotation. He is built a lot like Richard Seymour, and could end up being another great pick by the Patriots.

New York Jets

Vilma (Photo Courtesy of

Strengths: The Jets have slowly put together a decent team. QB Chad Pennington has a nice duo of starting WRs backed up by a competent set of reserves. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery have the speed to challenge defenses, and are getting better each game. Justin McCareins and Brad Smith aren’t much of a drop off when called on. Look for the Jets to occasionally go with four-wide sets from time to time. Running Back Thomas Jones comes over from Chicago, where he was the workhorse of the offense. He should have a fine time running behind a deceptively talented offensive line. The Defense, however, is the strength of the team. Inside Linebacker Jon Vilma returns to lead the defense. As great as Vilma is, he still has untapped potential. He has the tools to be the best LB in the NFL. Defensive End Shaun Ellis returns to lead the defensive line where he fills a role much like Richard Seymour on the Patritots. Safety Kerry Rhodes returns after having a monster year. It will be tough for him to live up to the hype he received this offseason.

Weaknesses: Mangini has a defense built similarly to his former team, the Patriots. His weaknesses are similar as well. The defensive line has very little depth and the cornerbacks leave something to be desired. First rounder, Darrelle Revis could be the answer at corner, however the team cannot rely on a rookie to lead them all season.

Opportunities: Dewayne Robertson looked decent last year. If he comes into his own this year, he could make the Jets look good for reaching for him in the 2003 draft. Keeping with the theme of former first rounders coming into their own, Bryan Thomas could be on his way to proving his value as he’ll play a Roosevelt Colvin role and relentlessly rush the passer.

Threats: Several players played above expectations last year. Some say this was the Mangini effect. However, if they play down to a level that was expected before last season things could get ugly, especially on defense. Vilma and fellow inside backer Eric Barton must hold things together lead this defense much like Bruschi and Vrabel are the glue in New England.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Finally, I am throwing a curveball. If Pennington falters, and the team gets behind in the standings early, he could be handing the torch over to Kellen Clemens. The team seems very high on Clemens and could be itching to give him a shot. Clemens may not be as accurate as Pennington, but he does have a nice deep ball.

Position Battle: Free safeties Erik Coleman and Eric Smith could end up rotating, however someone has to be consistent enough to make all of the calls in the secondary. Coleman looks like he has the upper hand, however Smith has more potential, and brings a ton more to the table when it comes to measurables.

Rookie Contributor: Cornerback Darrelle Revis is the only rookie that will get playing time, unless the team tanks early. If he fulfills his potential, Revis could be the shutdown corner the Jets need to take their defense to the next level.


Paymon said...

I have a feeling that by mid-season, the Bills may become the trendy fantasy defense pickup. Like you, I've got worries about the new offensive line.

Will John Beck see any action for the Dolphins? If so, when?

Chris Clement said...

Armin is the expert, but I believe Beck isn't in until the season is completely lost.

So let's take a look at the Phins opening schedule:
@Wash (I'd take the Skins)
Dallas (Another potential L)
@ NYJ (Jets have owned them recently)

If they're 0-3, they stare at their best stretch of opponents with Oakland, Houston, and Cleveland.

Cleo Lemon gets a look first; believe me, they see something in him. Even if the preseason "race" was fake.

The Bills are the trendy pick for tons of reasons; especially if that defense gels by mid-season and they get through an early tough stretch of games.

Let's hope they don't!

Armin said...

The Bills defense could be a trendy fantasy pickup. I'll give them a stong look next season after Whitner and Simpson have another year under their belts at safety. Great Fantasy Defenses usually have a productive safety combo (more often than not, there are some exceptions to the rule). A defense that can force things to the outside is a defense that can shut opponents down. Whitner and Simpson could bring that to the table in the secondary.

The Fins seem to think they have a shot at the playoffs. If that goes down the drain early (I agree with Clement's predictions for the first three games), Lemon will be the man. I like Cleo Lemon. I think he should have been the starter this season rather than the team trading for Green. Beck probably won't see the field, unless Lemon proves to be a dud.

I'm interested in the Jets. If they can keep the spotlight off of them long enough, they could surprise. Revis's performance will be key.