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AFC East Roundup: Questions to answer before Week 1

Roster decisions, depth, and chemistry concerns

One week of preseason football remains and, with it, important roster decisions will take place for every NFL team in order to reach the 53-man roster limit by August 30 ahead of Week 1. But to reach some of those decisions, some questions still need to be answered.

Now, some may think these battles won’t have an impact on the season but it’s true that all it takes is for one player to make all the difference on a team in a Super-Bowl-or-bust window. While that’s true of the entire NFL, let’s discuss some of those decisions to be finalized around the AFC East before that deadline.

The Buffalo Bills have several looming decisions to make, but we’ll focus on two positions as it relates to roster cuts. At running back, there’s the battle involving rookie Raheem Blackshear and veteran Duke Johnson. Both of these players have scored multiple touchdowns this preseason. Still, with Singletary, Moss and Cook almost locks to all make the roster there may not be room for either back in Buffalo. With Blackshear, the team may be forced to gamble and try signing (and stashing) him on their practice squad. Then of course there’s the battle for the final receiver spot between Jake Kumerow and Isaiah Hodgins. Both players have produced during the preseason as receivers. But something worthy of mention is that, against the Denver Broncos, both played the same number of special team snaps. This battle may come down to who can provide the most juice on special teams as the two seem neck and neck.

All the questions for the New England Patriots this offseason have been about their lack of an official offensive coordinator. However, sticking to the players, who will step up this season and be the team’s number-one wide receiver? It’s likely that Hunter Henry steps up at tight end as Mac Jones’s favorite target, but what about on the outside? Last season, Jakobi Myers led the way with 866 yards, so perhaps he makes the jump going into his fourth season. Another option could be Nelson Agholor as the over-the-top threat—a role he played with the Las Vegas Raiders. Last year was Agholor’s first season in New England and it was fairly disappointing, so a return to his Raiders form would be welcome.

The New York Jets have perhaps the biggest question to answer ahead of Week 1 of the regular season. After suffering a knee injury in the first preseason game, Zach Wilson’s status is in doubt for the team’s opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Head Coach Robert Saleh hasn’t yet ruled out Wilson, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear Wilson won’t suit up Week 1. It’s always paramount to be on the safe side with a franchise quarterback. If that’s the case, it would leave either Joe Flacco or Mike White to start at QB. White did show some flashes last season in three starts, though it didn’t last. For Flacco, a start would be fitting against his former team with whom he won a Super Bowl. It will certainly be interesting to see how the two split snaps in the Jets’ final preseason game.

The Miami Dolphins brought in WR Tyreek Hill this offseason to help elevate the game of QB Tua Tagovailoa. The idea seems to be that, when paired with Jaylen Waddle, teams will be overmatched and out of sync when trying to defend Miami’s offense. The issue to this point is that Tagovailoa and Hill haven’t spent any time on the field together building in-game chemistry through two preseason affairs. Yes, the QB and WR are building chemistry in practice, but it’s an entirely different situation playing against an opposing team giving 100% on the field. Now to be fair and compare to the Las Vegas Raiders, neither QB Derek Carr or WR Devante Adams have seen preseason reps together either. Maybe for the Dolphins that changes with the final preseason game. But with the amount of pressure on Tua this season, it would better benefit both Miami and Tagovailoa to build on-field chemistry ahead of the regular season.