We all know what the Bills have done this offseason, including the draft. We still know that there are important things to do (Who is starting at QB? What's going on with Jairus Byrd?, etc.). I'm not going to completely cover our own team, although I think we have gotten better. I believe our defense has a coordinator that can coordinate and a head coach who can motivate as a leader rather than a friend and a quarterback who may get us back to being one of the elite teams in the NFL maybe not this year, but in the near future. I also am confident that Kevin Kolb will be a better QB than Ryan Fitzpatrick as long as he stays healthy. The potential is there right in our faces. We just have to develop it...which is so much easier said than done. I will cover what our opponents have done so far this offseason and essentially compare it to the previous year. I just don't buy that the New England Patriots are without a doubt going to win the AFC East.
These are general highlights. I haven't covered every single move each team has made, just the ones I find that are most significant.
Then: Had an elite offense with Tom Brady, Gronk, Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd. Their defense was in the bottom tier ranking (using total yards per game as the statistic). One could argue that using points/game is a better statistic to use. Still, they aren't that great. However, I prefer to use total yards/game. They ranked 31st in the 2011 season.
Now: All of them except Brady and Gronk (although with a serious injury history) are gone. Their defense still is quite mediocre. It's slightly better, but still not that great. They ranked 25th i the 2011 season. Also, Brady is yet another year older (36 at the start of the regular season) and will have to establish chemistry with his new primary receivers quickly.
Then: Had a terrible GM in Tannenbaum. Started mediocre RB Shonn Greene. Had a good offensive line. Their primary receivers were Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, and Dustin Keller...not too bad at all. They had an overall elite defense.
Now: Have a more budget-minded GM in Idzik. Still have Mark Sanchez as likely Day 1 starter, but have a possible franchise QB in Geno Smith. They now have Chris Ivory as starting RB and he has potential since he doesn't have much wear-and-tear in the rotational RB style in New Orleans. They still have a good offensive line even though the starting line is a bit different. They're going to be relying on Holmes coming back to his normal (unlikely happening) and young WRs Kerley (had a pretty good year - 56/827/2) and Hill (had a poor rookie year except when he played the Bills). Their defensive line has gotten better with Coples and Wilkerson growing. However, they lost their star CB Revis and will have to rely on the inconsistent Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson and a rookie Dee Milliner. Their safeties positions are rather weaker than last year. The philosophy for the team has changed under Idzik. They've gone from a win-now mode to a more balanced, long-term success mode. But, this year will not be one where the Jets are expected to make a run for the playoffs. And that doesn't bode well for Rex Ryan who is on the hot seat this season.
What's changed?: They have become a much better team...on paper. It'll take at least a few games for the team to gel together. Their biggest free agent signing was Mike Wallace. Many argue that although he is a one-trick-pony, his one trick (speed) is deadly good. However, I believe that the Dolphins overpaid for a 1b receiver. They have re-signed breakout WR Brian Hartline. He had a great year despite his low TDs number. He was more of the guy who would stretch the field rather than score in the endzone. The Dolphins also picked up WR Brandon Gibson. They are likely better off with Gibson rather than Bess, who went to Cleveland. He had a decent year last year (51-691-5). Their offense got another boost with the signing of Dustin Keller. He is a pretty good TE and is quite reliable (he had Mark Sanchez as a QB and still had a productive career as a NY Jet). Their defensive line was their strongest unit. It only got stronger with the drafting of Dion Jordan. He is really athletic and has potential to be Defensive Rookie of the Year. This offseason, they re-signed key defensive lineman Randy Starks via the one-year franchise tag. They also signed LBs Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe who were considered top tier free agent LBs. To add to their spending spree, they signed CB Brent Grimes who is coming off an injury which is why they got him for a 1-year contract. He will be 30 years old at the start of the season, but he's good for one more multi-year contract if he plays to his high expectations. After this insane spending spree, I believe they have the best roster to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East division.
Like I said before, I'm not going to cover them like I did the other teams. I do have some things I do want to say, however. I hope that when Kolb throws his first interception this year, Bills fans will not be calling for E.J. Manuel. Of course some will. But, I sincerely hope that we can let Manuel actually Earn the starting role through his skills. I trust our coaches and our scouting team on E.J. Manuel.
And I'm most happiest that I do not have to mention the lease as an immediate goal, but rather a signing of a player of whom we can afford and hasn't signaled that he wants to leave.