AFC East team needs

Posted March 01, 2010 @ 1:24 a.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated April 15, 2010 @ 2:50 p.m. ET

First in a series of analyses of team needs, by division.

Buffalo Bills

Quarterbacks: The QB-needy Bills will be searching far and wide for a signalcaller this offseason after Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick both flamed out in 2009. Not only are they likely to take one in the draft, but they could bring in a veteran, as well.

Running backs: If Buffalo opts to part ways with Marshawn Lynch this spring — a distinct possibility after the team discovered last season that Fred Jackson can be a featured back — it likely will look to add depth at this spot.

Receivers: With Terrell Owens gone, the Bills are extremely thin at wideout, with only Lee Evans as a dependable starter. This almost definitely will be a position they attempt to bolster on Draft Day, maybe adding a veteran free agent, too.

Offensive line: With little stability along the O-line in '09, the club will make every effort to bolster the unit this offseason. It would come as no surprise if it used the ninth overall pick on a tackle after its issues there last season, and considering the recent retirement of starting ORT Brad Butler. The signing of former Raider Cornell Green should at least help fill the void on the right side. Andy Levitre and Eric Wood are set at the guard spots.

Defensive line: A 30th-place finish against the run suggests the Bills need D-line help. Given their switch to the 3-4, finding a prototypical nose tackle becomes an instant priority, as does bringing in ends who truly fit the scheme. The team's signing of former Raven Dwan Edwards, who has experience in the 3-4, should help fill one of those holes.

Linebackers: Injuries riddled this group in '09, and while it should be much healthier this season, a move to a 3-4 alignment means a deep collection of linebackers is necessary. Paul Posluszny should be solid inside, and the club's addition of ex-Broncos ILB Andra Davis gives them a proven 3-4 veteran to help lead the unit.

Defensive backs: Even though the secondary had many players hurt last season, the Bills still ranked No. 2 against the pass. They discovered a star in rookie FS Jairus Byrd and also have a stellar group of corners, making this one spot in which they appear set.

Special teams: With top legs in P Brian Moorman and PK Rian Lindell and speedy returners like KR Leodis McKelvin and PR Roscoe Parrish, Buffalo has one of the best special-teams units around.

Summary: Without a doubt, finding a QB who can play immediately is the Bills' most pressing need, but giving him some reliable targets and bolstering both lines are also integral steps if the team hopes to improve under new coach Chan Gailey.


Miami Dolphins

Quarterbacks: Chad Henne will retain his top spot on the depth chart in 2010. Chad Pennington re-signed after testing the free-agent market and he'll join Tyler Thigpen and Pat White as backups.

Running backs: The Dolphins declined Ronnie Brown's contract option for 2010, making him a restricted free agent. They tendered him at a first-round level. Miami's backfield should look very similar to the 2009 version in '10.

Receivers: The Dolphins landed a big-play receiver in Brandon Marshall, which makes wide receiver much less of a need, but Miami still could use a pass-catching tight end. TE Anthony Fasano is a restricted free agent.

Offensive line: This is considered by some to be the strength of the team. Major changes aren't expected at this spot, and while depth is always welcome, Miami is likely to address other areas.

Defensive line: The Dolphins re-signed NT Jason Ferguson, and his backup for most of last season, Paul Soliai, appears to fit best as a rotational player. Ferguson will be suspended for the first eight games of the season, so Miami could still spend a draft pick on a nose tackle.

Linebackers: Two of the key contributors in the OLB rotation last season will likely need to be replaced. The team cut Joey Porter, who turns 33 in March, and Jason Taylor, 35, is an unrestricted free agent. Miami has Cameron Wake waiting in the wings to take on a larger role, but the Dolphins will need to restock at outside 'backer, and they also could address their situation at inside 'backer in the draft or free agency.

Defensive backs: Observers say the Dolphins need a safety with sound coverage skills to mix into the rotation on passing downs. Miami has cut Gibril Wilson and could make a push to sign a safety in free agency.

Special teams: If the Dolphins, as expected, do decide to trade Ted Ginn Jr., they will need to find a replacement for him in the return game. Despite his struggles at receiver, Ginn does make plays on special teams and is always a home run threat.

Summary: The Dolphins are in the market for a new nose tackle, which is a key spot in its 3-4 defense. Outside linebacker and free safety are other needs that ought to be addressed.


New England Patriots

Quarterbacks: Things are clearly strong at the top with Tom Brady. But he turns 33 in early August, is heading into the final year of his deal (although an extension should be worked out) and is coming off several injuries the past two seasons. Brian Hoyer was a nice find as a rookie free agent, but he's not rock solid in his spot. The team could opt to bring in another young project, though it probably will stick with the two-QB format again next season.

Running backs: This is a tricky position to evaluate because there is good depth but no bona fide No. 1 option. The Patriots often have gone with a committee approach here under Bill Belichick, but there is some thinking that the team would like to get a better option here. One reason is because of age with Fred Taylor, 34, and Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk, both 33. Another is because of Laurence Maroney, who has talent but doesn't always play smart or consistently. He's an enigma. A burst of speed might be the direction the team goes here.

Receivers: Suddenly, this position needs help in the form of multiple players. Wes Welker's ACL might cause him to miss the season or be slowed early on. Randy Moss proved he's not a week-in-and-week-out No. 1 option with his effort. And Julian Edelman is not a Welker clone just yet. Beyond them, the depth is shaky with no real top-three options unless Brandon Tate emerges. David Patten is no more than insurance at this point. A high draft pick is not out of the question, though memories of Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson linger. Tight end also stands to improve considering Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker are gone. Even with the addition of Alge Crumpler, a pass catcher and another run blocker would be nice at the position.

Offensive line: It's a position that has some strengths, but enough questions as well to put it in the need category. OLT Matt Light can be iffy at times, and ORT Nick Kaczur struggles badly some days. One of them likely will lose their job to Sebastian Vollmer, but no other tackle on the roster appears starter-quality. Mark LeVoir appears best as a swing backup. ORG Stephen Neal re-signed, but he's 33. It's not clear if his eventual replacement could come from within (Dan Connolly, Rich Ohrnberger, etc.). OLG Logan Mankins is a restricted free agent who wants a long-term deal. Oh, and an eventual replacement for C Dan Koppen would be nice, too.

Defensive line: NT Vince Wilfork has been re-signed, stabilizing an important position. The DE spots are a little lean, with Jarvis Green gone, though ex-Panther Damione Lewis could fit as a penetrating five-technique and an inside rusher when the team uses four-man lines..

Linebackers: The biggest needs are a pass rusher on the outside and help inside. Tully Banta-Cain has been re-signed, but the decision to bring back Derrick Burgess might not happen until after the draft, depending on what they can land there. A young edge rusher makes sense in either the first or second rounds, where the team has four combined picks. And inside, it has become clear that as nice a player as Gary Guyton is, he's just not cut out to take on guards all game. Last year's third-round LB Tyrone McKenzie should help there.

Defensive backs: CB Leigh Bodden, their best cover guy last season, has re-signed. Young CB Darius Butler has promise, but Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley have been disappointing. More help might be needed if Shawn Springs doesn't return. Safety is in decent hands with Brandon Meriweather and either Pat Chung or James Sanders the likely starters, but a rangier coverage player could hit the spot.

Special teams: PK Stephen Gostkowski is a restricted free agent and a year from hitting the open market. The Patriots could be looking to upgrade at punter as Chris Hanson hasn't yet been re-signed. The kickoff-return game took a hit with Ellis Hobbs getting traded before last season, and the Patriots always seek quality punt returners to rotate handling that duty. With Welker and Tate coming off injuries, help could be needed.

Summary: The assumption is that the Patriots will draft with defense in mind again this year, but a closer look reveals that the offensive side of the ball needs some serious tweaking, as well. With two additional second-round picks from trades with the Titans and Jaguars, the Patriots will be well-stocked to make moves via trade, restricted free agency and the draft. Expect the unexpected on Draft Day, though we know they will be power brokers with 12 total picks and four in the first 53 picks.


New York Jets

Quarterbacks: The Jets have four QBs under contract for next season, as RFA Kellen Clemens signed his tender, so there are no changes in the works at this position.

Running backs: The Jets have decided to move on from Thomas Jones, which will allow Shonn Greene to become the featured back. RFA Leon Washington, who is coming off a severe leg injury, signed his tender and the Jets signed LaDainian Tomlinson to help share the workload.

Receivers: The addition of Santonio Holmes bolstered the Jets' receiving corps. They are unlikely to spend a pick on a reciever.

Offensive line: The Jets are going to find young players to replace veterans like Alan Faneca, 33, and Damien Woody, 32, sometime in the not-too-distant future, but there's no sense of urgency to get that done this year. New York's offensive line is one of the best in the league.

Defensive line: The only unrestricted free agent from the starting D-line is DE Marques Douglas.. The Jets could look to get younger at this position in the draft, and they could use more depth.

Linebackers: This is a position of strength for the club, but Rex Ryan is sure to have his eye out for more weapons to plug in at linebacker. Like most positions for the Jets, there isn't a glaring hole that must be addressed here.

Defensive backs: CB Lito Sheppard was due a massive $10 million roster bonus in March, but he has been released. The Jets replaced him with Antonio Cromartie after acquiring him in a trade with the Chargers, filling that void. FS Kerry Rhodes has been traded, so the Jets could look for a replacement in the draft.

Special teams: The Jets already have signed PK Nick Folk and are exploring other options to compete with him. They also might look for a receiver with experience as a returner.

Summary: The Jets have very few major holes that need to be addressed as of this writing. Look for the team to continue adding younger pieces to a veteran defense.


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