Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

AFC East Dish - TSN


Recommended Posts

AFC East Dish

A quick look around the AFC East:

Patriot games

In their 2001 Super Bowl season, the Patriots could run the ball effectively, which helped break in an inexperienced Tom Brady and rest an undersized but schematically and technically sound defense.

Antowain Smith, who rushed for 1,157-yards and 12 touchdowns during that championship campaign, was one of the team's biggest keys to success.

Last season, however, Smith showed up to training camp overweight and out of shape, and subsequently accumulated only 982 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He broke the 80-yard mark in only two games.

Coach Bill Belichick kept Smith from practicing in training camp last year until he could pass the preseason conditioning test. Partially as a result, the Patriots went to much more of a spread, which featured an average of 7.7 more passing attempts per game than in 2001.

Even after Belichick publicly challenged him this year, Smith was not in great shape and failed to pass the conditioning test on his first attempt. That led to frustration for the coaching staff and rumors of the front office looking for running back help in free agency.

The Patriots realize that, among other things, they need to run the ball much better to return to form this season. At this point, however, it may be too late to find a good available running back, so Smith's work ethic and dedication between now and Week 1 could be the most important aspect to monitor for Patriots fans.

Miami sweet Miami

The Dolphins looked like the team to beat in the AFC after jumping out to a 5-1 record to start the 2002 season.

But after losing four of their next six games with starting quarterback Jay Fiedler sidelined with a thumb injury, they failed to rediscover their offensive rhythm.

As a result, their defense wore down in the second half of the season as it needed to shoulder too much of the load. The fact that featured players such as end Jason Taylor (260 pounds) and middle linebacker Zach Thomas (235) are undersized magnified that problem.

There is more to the Dolphins' December demise. Fiedler's absence also played a deciding factor, but there has been another consistent last-season thorn in the team's side the past decade.

The Dolphins seem to always face tough road games up north -- particularly at division rival host cities East Rutherford, Buffalo and Foxboro -- in November, December and January.

The Dolphins can't control the weather or their schedule, but they can control their personnel. Outside linebacker Junior Seau and strong safety Sammy Knight were brought in because of their size, veteran leadership and physical styles to help prevent the historic late-season slump.

And more good news is that from Week 11 (Nov. 16) on, the Dolphins play four of their final seven games at home, and one of their road games at Dallas. In all, the only two "cold" games the Dolphins should play in this season are against the Patriots in Week 14 and the Bills in Week 16.

Paying the Bills

The Bills recognized their weaknesses on defense in the offseason and excelled at addressing key positions with the additions of tackle Sam Adams, ends Keith McKenzie and Chris Kelsay (a rookie), outside linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey, safety Izell Reese, and nickel back Dainon Sidney.

These acquisitions should fill the holes on a unit that allowed 24.8 points per game last season. But because so much attention was given to the defense, the offense suffered some with the losses of wide receiver Peerless Price, fullback Larry Centers and tight end Jay Riemersma.

The loss of Price, the team's former No. 2 receiver, will provide the biggest test. The need is crucial for second-year wideout Josh Reed to emerge as a legitimate starter. With Price, Centers and T Riemersma, who combined for 169 receptions in 2002, gone, Drew Bledsoe also isn't likely to get as many one-on-one matchups with top target Eric Moulds.

As a result, Bledsoe must do an even better job of spreading the wealth to Reed, newly acquired No. 3 receiver Bobby Shaw, tight end Mark Campbell and running backs Travis Henry and Olandis Gary.

Jets grounded?

It seems as though the Jets opened the floodgates this offseason and let the tidal water run directly to Washington, D.C. The Jets parted ways with No. 1 receiver Laveranues Coles, starting guard Randy Thomas, and Chad Morton, the league's best young return specialist --- all three became Redskins.

Coupled with Chad Pennington entering his second year as a starter without his favorite target (Coles) from last season, there are reasons for concern.

After adjusting to a new scheme late in 2002, with end John Abraham and outside linebacker Mo Lewis completely healthy, and the addition of rookie tackle Dewayne Robertson, the Jets will be improved on defense. But with so many losses and changes on offense and special teams playing in the NFL's toughest division, it's conceivable that the Jets go from first to worst this season.

Top Five

The AFC East had three out of the four worst run defenses in the conference last season. These additions could turn that around this season:

1. OLB Takeo Spikes, Bills. He has posted more than 100 tackles in all five NFL seasons. A relatively unknown talent because of his tenure with the lowly Bengals, Spikes could have a monster season in Buffalo.

2. OLB Junior Seau, Dolphins. Future Hall of Famer and 12-time Pro Bowler figures to be a big contributor on a defense already loaded with talent.

3. OLB Rosevelt Colvin, Patriots. Colvin registered 10 1/2 sacks in consecutive years for the Bears and will be a perfect fit in Belichick's 3-4 scheme.

4. DT Dewayne Robertson, Jets. Possibly the biggest impact defender in the draft, he will immediately see time in the Jets' three-man wave and is already drawing comparisons to Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp because of his style and hustle.

5. DT Sam Adams, Bills. He will be called upon to play the role of run stopper in the middle of Buffalo's defense. The Bills allowed 132 rushing yards per game last season. Adams should free up Spikes and middle linebacker London Fletcher by attracting double teams up front.

The War Room, a team of football scouts headed by Gary Horton, analyzes NFL and college players, coaches and teams exclusively for the Sporting News.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...