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AFC East Roundup: Mulligans

Were there realistic changes to make toward a better finish?

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Offseason work has begun around the AFC East, where a promising start to the 2022 season for all four teams eventually led to early playoff exits for the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. While the New York Jets and New England Patriots were unable to make the playoffs, both teams’ fan bases found reason for optimism during much of the season, as the chance for postseason play remained true late into the year.

Every NFL team has high hopes heading into their season, but sometimes plans are derailed due to injury or circumstance. With a focus on the AFC East, let’s discuss one thing each of the four teams wishes it could have changed in an effort to turn their season for the better.

Buffalo Bills: Offensive Line

There were a lot of expectations heaped on the Bills throughout the season, being billed early and often as the Super Bowl favorites. As the season went on, one of Buffalo’s weaknesses started to become more clear — that being the play of the offensive line. Often, quarterback Josh Allen was running for his life, and the 33 sacks he took in the regular season were a testament to his athletic ability. Things got worse during their postseason run, with the line being further exposed. Against Miami, Allen was sacked seven times. Then against the Cincinnati Bengals, he was pressured all game long, with hardly any time to throw the football. If Buffalo wants to make that final push towards success, they need to overhaul the offensive line so that they can produce a more robust running game and stop asking Allen to be Superman.

Miami Dolphins: Bradley Chubb trade

At the trade deadline, Miami knew they had a team that could make a serious run in the postseason. With this mindset, the team went all in on obtaining star pass rusher Bradley Chubb from the Denver Broncos. For the Dolphins, Chubb represented a dominant rusher capable of bringing down the likes of Allen and Patrick Mahomes. The cost was a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and a player. For the second half of the season, Chubb didn’t live up to expectations. He had one sack in the month of December, as Miami lost all four pivotal games before sneaking into the playoffs by beating the Jets. Then in the playoffs against the Bills, Chubb only had one tackle and a sack. Miami is counting on Chubb regaining his form for next season.

New England Patriots: Not hiring an Offensive Coordinator

Anyone who watched a Patriots game this season knew that the offense was struggling. With the team foregoing the hiring of an offensive coordinator, it was mainly Matt Patricia calling the plays, with a little input from Joe Judge. Keep in mind that Patricia’s background is on defense, and Judge’s as a special teams coach before joining the New York Giants as their head coach. The results were an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards, and average in scoring at 21 points per game. A stellar defense kept the team in a lot of games during the season, but they often could not overcome the lack of production on offense. It was a rough sophomore season for quarterback Mac Jones, who was looking to improve after a great rookie season. New England has already rectified this call by hiring Bill O’Brien to run their offense for the 2023 season.

New York Jets: Breece Hall’s ACL tear

It’s easy to say that the biggest regret for the Jets this season was Zach Wilson, but let’s go in a different direction, and discuss the impact of losing Breece Hall to injury during the season. Through seven games, the rookie had amassed 681 yards and five touchdowns on 99 touches. The Jets were also on a roll with a 5-2 record. Then the wheels fell off, with New York finishing 2-8 the rest of the way. Without a dominant running game to take the pressure off of the quarterback, it was all downhill for the Jets’ offense, as the franchise missed the playoffs for the 12th straight year.