With the regular season quickly approaching, here are the biggest question marks for the teams in the AFC East.
Can Kenyan Drake be The Back? Every season, it seems the Dolphins bring in another back to be the featured back (last year: Frank Gore). This season, Kalen Ballage, who last season only carried the ball 36 times, will share the backfield with Drake. Watching Drake in the past, he has the potential to a successful featured back.
Are Rosen and Fitzpatrick the answer? The Dolphins traded away their starting quarterback since 2012, Ryan Tannehill, to the Titans in the offseason, only halfway through the big contract he signed in 2015. Josh Rosen, who was the odd man out after one season in Arizona, was dealt to Miami to make room No. 1 pick, Kyler Murray. Miami also signed veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who always seems to find a home. While FitzMagic may win a few games, Rosen didn’t have a good chance in Arizona to fully show what he can do.
Will the veteran receivers help the signal-caller? Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Allen Hurns have plenty of league experience. If they can make the catch on the tough balls, that will definitely help either quarterback.
Will Josh Allen show improvement? One area the team addressed was revamping pretty much the entire offensive line, setting up Allen to have time in the pocket rather than being under siege on nearly every snap. Add that to new receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, and Allen should be equipped to take steps in a positive direction.
Running back by Committee? LeSean McCoy will be sharing a seemingly crowded backfield after Frank Gore and TJ Yeldon were signed this offseason. And the signing of fullback Patrick DiMarco will lead the way for whoever is back there. McCoy has the skills to be “the guy,” but would a team bring in these two guys and draft another back in the third round of the draft (Devin Singletary) if they really saw him as “the guy?” Part of it was probably the uncertainty of a suspension for McCoy at the time.
Can this defense keep them in games? While addressing the offensive needs were priority number one, the defense wasn’t much to write home about last season either. You can see it’s bad when a player retires at halftime. Offseason defensive acquisitions included Lorenzo Alexander, Star Lotulelei, Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, Micah Hyde and No. 19 overall pick, Ed Oliver. The additions will make this side of the ball completely different from a year ago. While they aren’t ready to overtake the Patriots in the division, this should be a pretty good season in Buffalo.
New York Jets
Is that Le’Veon Bell? The biggest addition to this team is the stud running back. After a year of will-he-or-won’t-he, he didn’t. Getting hit play after play may take a toll on his body after not having football contact for a whole season. But Bell is an elusive runner so he should be close to his former All-Pro self.
Will Sam Darnold have a sophomore slump? What we saw out of Darnold last season was more good than bad. A few hair-raising mistakes, but most quarterbacks are good for those occasionally. Bell should keep defenses honest, allowing Darnold time to get the ball out. If he can’t do that, the fan base and the New York media will definitely tell him about it. And on that note…
How will new Jets head coach Adam Gase handle the New York area media? After not having much success in Miami, Gase takes over for a team that, at first glance, has as much talent as his Dolphins had. If things start out slow for the Jets and the questions begin to arise, will he remain cool and calm under the microscope that is New York? While he’s a grown man, we’ve seen men get swallowed up by the pressure there, too.
New England Patriots
Will Father Time ever catch up to Tom Brady? Every year, many naysayers say Brady is too old. But as we see year after year, that just adds to the fuel that keeps him burning. While yes he wasn’t the Brady from years past, he still got another ring to add to his collection.
How much will Rob Gronkowski be missed? A staple of this offense for their Super Bowl runs has retired. It seemed like whenever the team needed that crucial game-ending catch, Gronk was on the receiving end. One less weapon for Brady’s offense, but…
Will Josh Gordon be a part of this team for the entire season? Prior to his most recent suspension, Gordon seemed to fit on this team very well. The chemistry developed between him and Brady was remarkable given their brief time together. He possesses the potential to be one of the best receivers in the league, but that potential has never been achieved because of the numerous substance suspensions. He has made some great plays when he’s been able to play. If he and Julian Edelman can both stay on the field, they can be a perfect one-two punch for the Patriots.
Looking at this division, there doesn’t seem to be enough here to stop another New England Division title.