NFL preview 2012: The AFC East


Ditched by the Broncos, the team he led to the playoffs last season, Tim Tebow was snapped up by the Jets, who plan to use him at the goal line, in special packages and as a No. 2 quarterback. (Tom Uhlman/Associated Press)
September 4, 2012

1

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

The emergence of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez has provided quarterback Tom Brady even more to work with in New England’s high-powered passing game. This season, Brady gets another option in wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, in addition to old reliable Wes Welker.

Who runs the ball remains in flux, although Stevan Ridley is the leading candidate after BenJarvus Green-Ellis left for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The defense finished second to last in the NFL last season, yielding 411.1 yards per game, so it came as no surprise the Patriots used their first six draft picks on defensive players.

ROOKIE TO WATCH: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse, Rd. 1

2

BUFFALO BILLS

Running back Fred Jackson missed six games last season with a leg injury, but removed lingering concerns about his health by looking completely healed in the preseason.

Jackson had been compiling MVP-type statistics before the injury, and he’ll again be the focus of the offense. Wide receiver Steve Johnson also is an offensive contributor with consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 yards.

The Bills gave up the third most points in the league last season, so defense was an area of need heading into the offseason.

Buffalo went a long way in addressing that by signing defensive end Mario Williams.

ROOKIE TO WATCH: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina, Rd. 1

3

NEW YORK JETS

Quarterback Tim Tebow’s arrival on Broadway brought out a media horde for his introductory news conference, but the hype he has generated far exceeds his on-field accomplishments in the NFL.

There’s speculation Tebow will be used in goal-line and Wildcat packages even though Mark Sanchez is the starter. With LaDainian Tomlinson retired, though, the backfield belongs to Shonn Greene.

The Jets finished fifth in total defense last season but fell 10 spots against the run from 2010, when they were third best in that category. Rushing the passer was a significant concern, and the team attempted to address that area in the draft.

ROOKIE TO WATCH: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina, Rd. 1

4

MIAMI DOLPHINS

The rebuilding project under first-year coach Joe Philbin starts with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The No. 8 overall pick beat out Matt Moore and an injured David Garrard for the job.

The Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall in the offseason, and now they’re left with uncertainty at wide receiver. The possible rotation includes Legedu Naanee, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Anthony Armstrong, who was recently released by the Redskins.

Miami’s best hope this season is for the defense to remain stout. Last season the Dolphins allowed the third fewest rushing yards per game (95.6) and were 15th in total defense.

ROOKIE TO WATCH: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M, Rd. 1

More Post previews:

AFC South

AFC North

AFC West

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