Behind Enemy Lines: AFC East Preseason Roundup
Tired and frustrated of having to go to a completely different site for your general NFL news? Wish you could read up on other teams right here at the Deep End Miami? Neither do I. But the powers that be have decided that you the audience would like to know what might be happening outside Miami, and so I will do my best to show you what’s going on in the rest of the NFL. Or at least the AFC East, because I’m only one man and I actually have a social life.*
*I don’t actually have a social life
New England Patriots:
Let’s start it off with the reigning champs. Brady’s performance in his two drives against the Packers’ defense was less than stellar, but given the absence of Julian Edleman and Rob Gronkowski, the result is expected. The offensive line was the most impressive positional group of the night. Early on, impressive blocking helped Jonas Gray on his way to a 55 yard touchdown.
Speaking of the one hit wonder, Gray had a less than stellar night outside of his long run, averaging only 3.17 yards per carry. Barring anything spectacular on Gray’s part, expect LeGarrete Blount to take over early down reps once he comes back from suspension. James White seems slated to take over Shane Vereen’s role as the passing back, receiving something from Belichick that the trained ear might interpret as “praise.” He lacks Vereen’s pass blocking ability, but don’t surprised if he ends up giving defensive coordinators fits this coming season.
But the most intriguing story of the night was that of Jimmy Garoppolo. Still slated to start the first four games of the season (for now…), all eyes were on Garoppolo to see how he has developed since last season. The game was a mixed bag for the young QB. While he failed to impress against a Packers scrub defense, he played behind a shaky O-line at best and was working with less than stellar receivers. Still, he showed impressive accuracy on his short and medium passes, and displayed poise in the pocket while going through his reads. The most concerning issue is his deep ball. He showed a lack of arm strength on a few occasions, especially when he under-threw Josh Boyce on a play that would otherwise have been a touchdown.
And let’s all take share a moment of silence as our way of thanking Mr. Gronkowski for what has been a spectacular Summer of Gronk. What did people even do to occupy themselves in the offseason before Gronk? Follow the escapades of Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims?
*Cough* moving on.
New York Jets:
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get into the actual analysis. Geno Smith’s incident (see above paragraph for my take) is a major setback for a Jets team that already had a shaky quarterback situation. Ryan Fitzpatrick as your starter is never an ideal situation, just ask the Texans. Reports coming out of “The Forsaken Lands” said that Geno Smith had improved this offseason, and he did perform (Dolphins fans avert your eyes) rather well towards the end of the season. The Jets are apparently signing journeyman QB Matt Flynn, but he’s likely valued more for the time he spent learning the Patriots playbook than he is as a potential starter. And while the Jets receiving core has some modicum of talent this year, it won’t mean anything if there’s no one who can get them the ball.
At the end of the day, this whole situation is so laughably “Jets” that no one should be surprised. I like Todd Bowles as a coach, I really do, but it’s clear now that Belichick put a 10,000 year curse on the Jets when he left. At the end of the day, as stacked as that defense is, you need to score points to win games. And I cannot believe I’m typing this, but losing Smith makes scoring points that much harder.
However, there is one more situation that is more “Jets” than a quarterback being knocked out for an extended period of time by his own teammate. Luckily we have provided it here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
Sigh. I kinda feel bad for E.J. Manuel. He had to be ecstatic when he was drafted in the first round, a decision analysts labeled “questionable”. Three years later, and it’s safe to say that the Manuel experiment is over in Buffalo. After an impressive preseason game, Tyrod Taylor is competing with stopgap-QB Matt Cassel for the starting position. Reports say Cassel and Taylor are splitting first team reps, with Manuel working exclusively with the third string. Rex Ryan was not part of the regime that drafted the failing QB, and seems to have no issue moving onto to other options.
Tyrod Taylor was exciting, if not downright impressive against the Panthers. If he can perform well against the Browns on Thursday, he’ll likely get the starting nod from Rex Ryan who needs an answer at QB and needs it fast.
The LeSean McCoy injury is a major setback for an already struggling Bills offense. Reports say that he will be ready for week one, but McCoy is clearly gaining a reputation as an injury prone back. For someone who put up less than stellar numbers last year with the eagles, a nagging hamstring injury could bring those numbers down even further. Fred Jackson is a capable relief back, but… how do I phrase this… he’s old as [expletive].
At the end of the day, Buffalo looks like it’ll be in the cellar of a highly competitive AFC East. While their front seven is one of the scarier units in the AFC, they can’t compete with the Jets’ secondary, and it’s doubtful that Tyrod Taylor or Matt Cassel is going to provide the same level of QB stability as Ryan Tannehill does for the Miami Dolphins.