Matt Williamson is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns and spent the last 10 years at ESPN as a scout and co-host of “The Football Today Podcast.”
From the end of the draft until training camp opens is the time of the year for eternal optimism amongst NFL fans. Their favorite team is going to be so much better in the coming season. That club fixed its problems through free agency and in the draft. Their incoming crop of rookies will all work out wonderfully. Injured players from the year before will return better than ever. No one will get hurt in 2017. You get the idea.
Unfortunately, the fact is that this is most likely the best your favorite team’s roster will look all season. Much will happen between now and the Super Bowl, and most of it will be negative. Along those lines, this is a divisional series highlighting the biggest area of concern as we stand right now. Here is the AFC East.
Bills – Tight End
The Bills got some Sammy Watkins insurance with the drafting of Zay Jones, while Andre Holmes is an under-the-radar wide receiver free-agent addition that could surprise. Also in the second round, Buffalo beefed up its offensive line – hopefully at right tackle, but probably at guard – by selecting Dion Dawkins.
The situation long term at quarterback aside, there is one spot on offense that stands out in a negative manner – tight end. Charles Clay isn’t a terrible player, but despite his huge contract he is really a No. 2 tight end in this league rather than a featured guy. Although Clay led the Bills in targets last year, by no means should that be his role going forward.
Dolphins – Guard
It’s hard to fault the Dolphins for addressing each level of their defense from front to back with their first three draft picks. However, by doing so, maybe the biggest hole in their starting lineup, guard, didn’t get the attention it truly needed.
That being said, Isaac Asiata could be a real find in the fifth round. He is a true mauler with the power and bulk this scheme covets from the guard position. Still, Asiata certainly is anything but a sure thing and penciling him as a quality opening-day starter is far too optimistic.
The rest of Miami’s guards are journeymen Jermon Bushrod, Kraig Urbik, Ted Larsen, and Anthony Steen, and with Mike Pouncey’s injury history, the Dolphins’ interior offensive line could quickly become very troublesome. As it stands, Miami has depth at guard, but no one that screams being starting material.
Patriots – None
None? Yes, none. Our apologies to the fans of the other 31 NFL teams, but finding a weakness for New England is extremely difficult to do. This team is loaded. In fact, it is much better now than it was when it came back to defeat the Falcons in the Super Bowl.
Even if Tom Brady were to do go down with an injury, they still have Jimmy Garoppolo and would remain the favorite to win this division. The Patriots didn’t lose Malcolm Butler. In fact, they are now pairing Butler with Stephon Gilmore. New England didn’t have Rob Gronkowski for its Super Bowl run, but he’ll be back this upcoming season. Key veterans like Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Kony Ealy, Rex Burkhead, and Mike Gillislee were thrown into the mix for good measure.
Some might point to the Patriots being a little light on pure pass-rushers, but that isn’t something they covet. They extremely effectively scheme around that “Deficiency.” How did that lack of pass-rush hurt the Champs last year? Oh yeah, they allowed the fewest points in the league and not only added Ealy, but also drafted Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise in the middle rounds. This is the best team in the NFL … and no one’s even remotely close.
Jets – Offensive Line
Quarterback was the easy choice here, but we are going to avoid the low hanging fruit. Plus, let’s at least see what Christian Hackenberg can do in the NFL before we flush his career down the toilet.
The Jets’ roster needs a lot and clearly they concentrated on the safety position first and foremost in the draft, but also secondarily, on pass-catchers.
The big people were not addressed, which leaves the Jets likely offensive line starters from left to right as Ben ljalana, James Carpenter, Wesley Johnson, Brian Winters, and Kelvin Beachum. However, all five players may be liabilities. That’s frightening, and even more so when one considers there’s little depth and no young up-and-comers with upside on the roster to speak of.
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