By Christian Binder, WSOE Sports
Miami Dolphins (2008 Record: 11-5)
-Key Additions: QB/WR Pat White, DB Vontae Davis, DB Gibril Wilson
-Key Losses: QB John Beck
The Dolphins were everyone’s favorite underdogs last year, coming out of nowhere to win the AFC East under rookie head coach Tony Sparano. Really. They came out of nowhere. In 07-08, the Dolphins nearly became the first team to go 0-16, but they won their regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens to finish 1-15. Enter Bill Parcells as director of football operations, and suddenly this team is good. He filtered a bunch of players from Dallas to Miami, as well as Sparano. They may have well just renamed the team the Miami Cowboys. Parcells has completely revamped this team, but it wasn’t through any huge free agent signings or trades. Parcelss picked up New York Jets castoff Chad Pennington (picture left) after he was shunned for Brett Favre, which was really the biggest change. The wide receiving corps was led by rookie Davone Bess and tight end Anthony Fasano, not exactly two of the biggest names on the market. Plus, with the introduction of the now widely-used “Wildcat” offense, running back Ronnie Brown was able to showcase all of his abilities, including running, receiving, and occasionally passing. The Dolphins come into this season looking a lot like last year’s team, but with the addition of Pat White, a college quarterback, their Wildcat offense looks much different. They now have the ability to have three different players capable of running the Wildcat in Pennington, Brown, and White, who could also be used as a wide receiver or running back. Also, the addition of Gibril Wilson helps shore up the defensive backfield, which should allow the front seven to be a little more liberal in their blitzing.
Buffalo Bills (2008 Record: 7-9)
-Key Additions: WR Terrell Owens, RB Dominic Rhodes, DE Aaron Maybin
-Key Losses: G Derrick Dockery, TE Robert Royal, OT Jason Peters, QB J.P. Losman
The Bills remain a great mystery. They started out red hot last year and for no apparent reason fell apart. It could very possibly be more of the same this year. Obviously the addition of T.O. (pictured right) takes a lot of pressure off of Lee Evans to perform, but T.O. has to prove that he can get along with other players and actually catch half of the balls thrown to him. Dominic Rhodes provides running back depth, which is good since starting running back Marshawn Lynch has been suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. While the additions surrounding QB Trent Edwards are nice, the losses in front of him could be too much for the Bills to handle. Dockery and Peters were both key pieces to that offensive line, and without them, there are some major gaps. Edwards could find himself on his back as much as David Carr did with the Texans. Also, the loss of J.P. Losman to the incoming UFL means that there isn’t a true backup to Edwards. If he gets hurt, the Bills could find themselves in real trouble. Can you say “Michael Vick?”
New England Patriots (2008 Record: 11-5)
-Key Additions: LB Tully Banta-Cain, RB Fred Taylor, TE Chris Baker, WR Greg Lewis, CB Leigh Bodden, CB Shawn Springs, WR Joey Galloway, TE Alex Smith, LB Paris Lenon, S Patrick Chung, QB Andrew Walter, DE Derrick Burgess
-Key Losses: CB Ellis Hobbs, S Rodney Harrison, QB Matt Cassel, QB Matt Gutierrez, LB Mike Vrabel, LB Larry Izzo
The Patriots may be the deepest team in the NFL. They have 4 running backs that started at least one game last year and they added Fred Taylor. The wide receiver corps is made up of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Joey Galloway. They even have three capable tight ends in Benjamin Watson, Chris Baker, and Alex Smith. Their defensive line is made up of Richard Seymour, Derrick Burgess, Ty Warren, and Vince Wilfork, while their linebacking group is composed of Jerod Mayo, Adalius Thomas, Tedy Bruschi, Paris Lenon, and Tully Banta-Cain. On paper, that’s ridiculous. The biggest questions for the patriots this year are: How will Tom Brady’s knee hold up? and How good will the defensive backfield be?
In my opinion, the Patriots were lucky that Matt Cassel was so good last year because if he wasn’t, they would NOT have won 11 games. Should Tom Brady (pictured left) go down again for any length of time, the Patriots will be caught in a bad spot. His backup will presumably be Andrew Walter, who has never proven to be anything good in the NFL. However, Bill Belichik has a propensity for getting good players and players love playing for him, so the Patriots, restocked and reloaded, are looking for a Super Bowl run this season.
New York Jets (2008 Record: 9-7)
-Key Additions: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Lito Sheppard, S Jim Leonhard, K Jay Feely, LB Larry Izzo, LB Bart Scott, RB Shonn Greene, CB Donald Strickland
-Key Losses: QB Brett Favre, DE Kenyon Coleman, DB Abram Elam, QB Brett Ratliff, TE Chris Baker, TE Bubba Franks, K Mike Nugent, WR Laveranues Coles
Well, the “Broadway Brett” experiment was tried and it failed. The Jets missed the playoffs last year despite having a winning record. Exit head coach Eric Mangini, enter Rex Ryan and a whole new mentality. The Jets put together a package on draft day to trade up to the fifth spot in order to grab USC QB Mark Sanchez (pictured to the far right). Although he was only a one-year starter at USC, Sanchez was the most sought-after quarterback behind Matt Stafford of Georgia. The Jets opened camp with a competition between Sanchez and incumbent-by-default Kellen Clemens for the starting quarterback position, which remains undecided. Ryan then proceeded to pluck players off of his defense in Baltimore, getting S Jim Leonhard and LB Bart Scott. CB Lito Sheppard was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in order to provide Darrelle Revis some help at the cornerback position. The Jets also signed special teams sensation Larry Izzo. Ryan has made it quite clear that he plans to win with defense. The number-one receiver for the Jets is Jerricho Cotchery, who has shown flashes of greatness. After him, though, it’s a complete toss-up among five other players. One possible option is veteran wideout Marvin Harrison, who is still without a team amid legal issues. The Jets have the personnel to make a playoff run, but how far can their defense carry them?