Training camp for the Bills has opened, and soon the other three AFC East teams will all be in camp. With that in mind, it’s time to measure where the Bills rank against their divisional foes by position.
First we look at the offensive positions. Keep in mind that these rankings are subjective to opinion and measured based off depth and performance.
1.) New England Patriots- As long as Tom Brady stands in the pocket the Patriots will always be the cream of the crop here. From a depth perspective, Ryan Mallett holds the backup role. He is an intriguing passer that is about to be a free agent after this season, which is why the Patriots went out and drafted Jimmy Garoppolo.
2.) Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill did well in his second year as he made some improvements. He still has to increase his downfield accuracy, but Dolphin fans think that the signings along the offensive line will help with that. Matt Moore is about as average of a quarterback you can get. He’ll keep teams in games, but won’t wow anyone.
3.) New York Jets- This is a coin flip between the Jets and Bills. From the tape EJ Manuel is farther along than Geno Smith, but I give the Jets the edge because of Mike Vick. Vick has won wherever he has gone. Though he has never put back-to-back strong seasons together Vick could allow the Jets to leap frog everyone in the division.
4.) Buffalo Bills- EJ Manuel has to improve; it’s that simple. Manuel has to get his completion percentage around 64% for the Bills to be in the playoff hunt. If he can do that, and play a full 16 game schedule, then the Bills immediately move up to number two on this ranking. Lewis is good as a backup just as Matt Moore is for the Dolphins, but he still doesn’t touch Mike Vick.
1.) New England Patriots- The line allowed Tom Brady to be sacked 40 times, but the left side being held down by Nate Solder and Logan Mankins is basically a brick wall. The unit returns as a whole so there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off in production. The Patriots have holes up the middle and on the right side, but they keep producing a great run game.
2.) New York Jets- The duo of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson is slightly ahead of the Bills combo of Eric Wood and Cordy Glenn, but the other pieces like Willie Colon and now Breno Giacomini puts the unit second. Yes, they allowed Geno Smith to be sacked 43 times, but a good portion of those were due to Smith’s failure to get the ball out.
3.) Buffalo Bills- Wood and Glenn make this unit good, but the addition of Cyrus Kouandjio can make this unit one of the best, not just divisionally, but in the NFL. The guards, though upgraded, still remain a trouble spot. Chris Williams was signed in free agency, and there is some shuffling of depth players to try to plug those other holes, but there are still question marks.
4.) Miami Dolphins- No one in the division, let alone the NFL, allowed more than the 58 sacks the Dolphins did a year ago. News came out yesterday that center Mike Pouncey could miss the first eight weeks of the season, so that hurts as well. The Dolphins did make some signings to try to fix the issue. Can Branden Albert or an over drafted Ja’Wuan Jones fix the tackle positions and make up an 18 sack difference? I’m guessing no. It doesn’t help that the rushing attack finished 26th in the league in 2013.
1.) New England Patriots- It’s all about Gronk. If Rob Gronkowski is healthy then the Patriots offense works on a different level; without him it suffers. Behind Gronkowski are some serviceable backups, which would knock this unit to the bottom of the pack if they stood alone.
2.) Miami Dolphins-Charles Clay is possibly the second most athletic tight end in the division. Michael Egnew has not lived up to his billing, but could be effective, and Arthur Lynch is an intriguing wild card. From a depth standpoint no one has more than the Fins.
3.) Buffalo Bills- Scott Chandler is solid, Tony Moeaki could surprise if healthy, and Lee Smith blocks. Chris Gragg is a bit of an unknown, but the straight-line speed is there. Buffalo doesn’t have a player that does every needed skill at a high level. Moeaki, if he returns to his Kansas City form, could be a steal. Otherwise the unit has good depth, just no true playmaker.
4.) New York Jets- It comes down to rookie Jace Amaro and really not much else. The team is built for ground and pound, but Amaro is the closest aerial weapon they have at the position.
1.) Buffalo Bills- The Bills have done quite well the past two years stockpiling talented wide outs. Sammy Watkins, the emerging Robert Woods, speedster Marquise Goodwin and Mike Williams could represent a four headed pass catching monster. The only reason this unit may not perform up to its ability is because of the quarterback play.
2.) Miami Dolphins- Burner Mike Wallace underperformed in his first season with Miami, but still is a threat. Brian Hartline is a great complementary receiver and Jarvis Landry can help as a rookie. It’s a good top duo with depth questions.
3.) New England Patriots- The Patriots have two excellent slot receivers in Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. It works for the Patriots, but this isn’t the passing attack like 2009 when Brady had Randy Moss and Wes Welker catching passes. If Kenbrell Thompkins can step forward it will help, and Brandon LaFell may be a sleeper. The Patriots also have Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson and Jeremy Gallon, but this isn’t a unit that will keep cornerbacks up at night.
4.) New York Jets- The Jets signed Eric Decker in free agency and then pretty much stopped trying to improve the 31st ranked passing attack. Decker was great as a second or third option in Denver, but isn’t a number one. Stephen Hill is a dropped pass from being released and it seems Jeremy Kerley is an average receiver. The Jets didn’t do much to help their quarterback and are clearly lacking in the offensive firepower department.
1.) Buffalo Bills- The Bills finished second in rushing last year and that was with an injured C.J. Spiller. The Bills may have the best cast of offensive playmakers in the division. With the Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon additions, the Bills have every type of back needed. Spiller is the air back, Jackson a blocking/catching back who can get tough yards between the tackles, Brown an explosive between the tackles runner, and Dixon a straight-line goal line back. Besides the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, no one has more depth than these four horsemen.
2.) New England Patriots- Over the past three seasons the Patriots have transitioned to a ground game juggernaut. Their only downfall has been their running backs inability to hold onto the ball. Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen and rookie James White will try to keep the unit in the top ten in rushing for a third straight season.
3.) New York Jets- The Jets finished with the 6th most rushing yards last season despite not having a runner go over 1,000 yards. Add Chris Johnson to the mix and they could improve even more. Chris Ivory still remains as a great second back, but the success of the unit will depend on Johnson. Is he the straight-line speedster from his first couple of seasons or the Tennessee two-stepper he has become the past two seasons?
4.) Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins had the 29th most rushing attempts in the NFL and produced the 26th most yards in 2013. They return the same crew plus Knowshon Moreno. You would think the line improvements and Moreno would help, but compared to the other teams in the division they are still far behind. Moreno did well in the Denver offense, but it took him up until last year to fully put it together. The Dolphins are going to live and die by their aerial attack, so they finish at the bottom the pile.
Overall Rankings (by average position):
1.) New England Patriots
2.) Buffalo Bills
3.) Miami Dolphins
4.) New York Jets