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AFC EAST PREDICTIONS
2006 NEW YORK JETS PREVIEW
The Jets have relied on quarterback Chad Penningtonís balky shoulder for much of their success. The problem is that he hasnít been healthy for the last three years and he is still not 100% now.
Unfortunately, the other quarterback options of Patrick Ramsey and rookie Kellen Clemens do not inspire much confidence for 2006.
The wide receiver tandem of Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins are good but not great, and they need a quarterback with a strong arm to maximize their abilities. Even when Pennington is healthy, his arm is below average.
The running game is looking at a declining Curtis Martin and an offensive line that will start two rookies in tackle DíBrickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold. That will put even more pressure on whoever is playing quarterback.
The Jetsí defense was 5th in the AFC in yards allowed last year, but 12th in points allowed. The team traded defensive end, John Abraham to Atlanta for a first round pick, and now New York will switch over to the 3-4 defense without their premier pass rusher.
One player who should do well in the new system is Dewayne Robertson as he is a good fit at the nose tackle position. Middle linebacker, Jonathan Vilma may struggle however, as he will be forced to take on more blockers and have less room to run fee.
The secondary lost cornerback Ty Law who had a bunch of interceptions, but also a lot of penalties. Andre Dyson and Ray Mickens are two candidates to fill his job as well as last yearís second round pick, Justin Miller.
The Jets felt that Coach Eric Mangini was the best candidate to replace Herm Edwards for two reasons. One is that he is a young, bright defensive mind. Two, he knows the ins and outs of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots juggernaut.
Mangini will install the same base 3-4 defense that the Patriots employ. That will take time to adjust to as well as find the right players to fit into the system. The 35 year-old Mangini also has to prove that he has the personality to be a successful head coach in the NFL.
This is going to be a tough year overall for New York, as both the offense and defense are below average units. A 5-11 record is the most likely scenario.
2006 MIAMI DOLPHINS PREVIEW
You donít need to be Phil Simms to realize that much of Miamiís fortunes rest on the knee of Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper comes over from Minnesota via a trade and he must adjust to a new team as well as fully recover from his serious knee surgery. Reports are that he will be ready to start the season, but those could be optimistic at this point.
Culpepper and/or backup Joey Harrington have some good receiver and tight end weapons to throw to. The offensive line is only average at this point as they continue to improve.
The running game is anchored by second year player Ronnie Brown now that Ricky Williams has decided to become a professional pot smoker. There is not much depth behind Brown and he must be extremely durable.
Defensively, the front seven is chalk full of veterans like Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and Kevin Carter who understand Coach Nick Sabanís complicated defense. These guys might be starting the downside of their careers, but they have a few more good years left until Miami is able to work in some of their younger players.
The secondary is the area that really needed some upgrading in the off-season, and that is exactly what they did. Will Allen was signed from the New York Giants and he will start at one cornerback position. Second year player, Travis Daniels is at the other corner slot.
First round pick, Jason Allen can also play cornerback, but he is more likely to start at safety. The other safety spot is up for grabs. Overall, Miami was in the middle of the pack of the AFC last year in both yards and points allowed. How this new look secondary comes together will determine if significant improvement can be made.
In Sabanís first year with Miami in 2005, the team went 3-7 before winning their last six games of the year. A closer look at those wins show that five of them were pretty easy including the last game at New England when the Patriots benched most of their starters.
That is not to take away from Sabanís coaching prowess. He is building a tough, disciplined team in his image, and they are clearly on the way up. Miami will be a much better team this year, though the record will only show a modest improvement at 10-6. That will be good enough to be in the thick of the Wild Card race.
2006 BUFFALO BILLS PREVIEW
When examining Buffalo, the first place you have to look is the burgeoning quarterback controversy.
Kelly Holcomb is penciled in as the starter heading into camp, but J.P. Losman and Craig Nall can not be ruled out. Losman was a former first round pick in 2004, but that was by the prior regime, and this new group will play whoever they think will win the most games in 2006.
Running back Willis McGahee has had a questionable attitude in the past, but he is still one of the better backs in the NFL. The offensive line is continuing in a transition mode, and McGahee wonít be happy for long if he continually gets hit behind the line of scrimmage.
The wide receiver group has a very good player in Lee Evans if someone can get him the ball. The number two job is up in the air with Peerless Price leading an unexciting group of contenders.
The Buffalo run defense was one of the worst in the AFC last year as they missed run stuffer Pat Williams and Sam Adams had a poor year. Adams is now with Cincinnati.
This year, the new coaching staff will employ a more attacking 4-3 defense that relies on speed and quickness. There is talent at defensive end with Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel and Larry Tripplett was signed to play defensive tackle.
The linebacker position gets a boost with the return of Takeo Spikes from a torn Achilles. We will have to see though if he has the same explosiveness as before the injury. There is a good chance that Angelo Crowell moves over to start on the strong side with London Fletcher still manning the middle.
The secondary looks promising with Nate Clements and Terrence McGee at the corners, although Clements is still looking for his long term deal. First round pick, Donte Whitner was a surprise selection, but if he can step in and start at strong safety, then the critics will be silenced.
After a 5-11 season last year, the Bills cleaned house by getting rid of general manager Tom Donahoe and Coach Mike Mularkey. In comes 80 year-old Marv Levy as General Manager and defensive minded, Dick Jauron as head coach.
Jauron will eventually improve the teamís defense, but it will take time to adjust to their new philosophy. Offensively, this team does not scare anyone, and they must get a reliable number one quarterback and not rely on a committee approach. Another 5-11 record is a good possibility.