NFL Training Camp Primer: AFC East
Is the Patriot's grip on the AFC East over?
Findbet will be taking a look at the big questions coming out of each NFL training camp this summer. Let's take a look at the headlines coming out of the AFC East as training camps begin to pick up.
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The Bills are poised to challenge the Patriots' stranglehold on the division entering the 2020 season. They finished last year with a 10-6 record and were eliminated in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs in a wild game against the Houston Texans. They return 10 of 11 starters on a Top 3 defense, while also making a major upgrade on offense by trading for former Vikings' Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs. The addition of Diggs should give defenses fits as well as open things up even more for John Brown and Cole Beasley. The big key for Buffalo will be Josh Allen's progression in his third year. If he continues to mature and improve his deep ball accuracy, the Bills will be a very tough team to beat.
Our prediction: 11-5 (Division Champion)
New England Patriots:
2020 will be only the 2nd year since in almost two decades that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won't be together on a football field. We finally will be able to see a true test of Belichick's coaching acumen. Multiple New England players have opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, and Tom Brady has moved on to Tampa Bay, along with Rob Gronkowski. Jared Stidham was tabbed to be the opening day starter until Cam Newton was signed to a 1 year deal. They will compete for the starting job in training camp. All indications point to Newton winning that job if his shoulder is healthy. The real question will be how the Patriots offense will perform without Brady. Can Belichick and Josh McDaniels put together an offense suited for Newton? Or will the Patriots experience a losing season for the first time in almost 20 years?
Our prediction: 8-8
The Dolphins cleared cap and acquired draft capital throughout the 2019 season, and they put it to use by making some big signings for 2020. They went out and signed Byron Jones to a massive $82.5 million deal to pair with Xavien Howard's $76.5 million deal. They have the most money invested in their top 2 cornerbacks in the entire NFL. They also signed DE Shaq Lawson away from Buffalo, LB Kyle Van Noy from New England and traded for 49ers RB Matt Brieda. The Dolphins then took QB Tua Tagovailoa with the 3rd pick in the NFL draft, and solidified their offensive line by taking OT Austin Jackson with the 18th pick.
In a normal off season, the Dolphins would be right in the conversation as a dark horse to take over the division, but with not OTAs, and a training camp that has no preseason games, the Dolphins are a team that may start the season slow, but get better as each week progresses. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the year as the starter, but Tua will most likely be the starter by the season's mid point. The Dolphins have a bright future, but 2020 will be a sampling of what the future holds for this franchise.
Our prediction: 6-10
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New York Jets
The Jets are in a bad place. They just traded away their franchise safety, Jamal Adams, to the Seahawks for two (most likely low) first round picks and safety Bradley McDougald. They have a coach in Adam Gase who can't seem to play to his young quarterback's strengths, and a defense that has holes after COVID-19 opt outs and free agents. The Jets signed Breshard Perriman to a 1 year deal to take over for Robby Anderson, and they also signed Frank Gore to back up Le'Veon Bell. The drafted a potential star WR in Denzel Mims, but rookie WRs take time to develop in the NFL, so his 2020 impact may not be as much as they want.
Looking at the defensive side of the ball, the Jets' star LB, CJ Mosley, opted out of 2020 due to COVID-19, and they no longer have Leonard Williams on the interior of the defensive line. Sam Darnold has been a bit of a disappointment as well coming into his third year. When you look at their schedule, which takes brutal runs through the AFC and NFC west divisions, it's hard to see the Jets having a successful 2020 campaign.
Our prediction: 4-12