Saturday, July 2, 2022

AFC East burning questions for 2022 season: Will Tua take a leap? Who will handle Pats’ play-calling duties?

While it’s still only May and the start of the 2022 regular season is a few months out, the dust has settled on the NFL’s offseason with the major roster-building mile-markers now in the rearview mirror. As teams now begin their offseason programs with the OTAs and minicamp on the horizon, we can begin looking at the overall rosters and dissect any questions we may still have about them for the upcoming year. 

Below, we do just that as we dive into each team in the AFC East and highlight one burning question that still looms over the organization. As you’ll read, these questions range from very macro, big-picture questions all the way down to the minutia of play-calling duties. 

Bills: Is this the year?

If there was ever going to be a year to hope (expect?) that this could finally be the year that the Buffalo Bills pull off the impossible and win the Super Bowl, this would be it. After all, they are the betting favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year and have a quarterback in Josh Allen that is also the favorite to win league MVP. 

That said, Buffalo’s ability to roll deep into the playoffs and potentially win Super Bowl LVII goes beyond just the quarterback as they have one of the most loaded rosters in the NFL. They were the No. 1 rated defense in DVOA last season and that was largely without All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White, who was limited to 11 games with a torn ACL. Not only will the Bills get him back to inject into their secondary, but they also drafted Florida corner Kaiir Elam in the first round to play opposite of him. On top of bringing back and adding youth to the secondary, the Bills made the surprise splash of signing veteran pass rusher Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million deal in free agency, making what was already considered to be the best defensive unit in the NFL that much better.  

Meanwhile, the offensive side of the ball — headlined by Allen — also improved. They added Jamison Crowder to replace Cole Beasley, tight end O.J. Howard to complement Dawson Knox and drafted running back James Cook in the second round. 

Could the addition of all these pieces to an already established core be the push the Bills need to finally get over the hump? 

Patriots: Who is calling plays on offense?

The departure of Josh McDaniels has left a massive hole in the Patriots offense at a critical juncture with Mac Jones entering his second season in the league. 

While Bill Belichick has held onto coordinator titles in the past, it was clear in those previous situations who the offensive play-caller was. For instance, Bill O’Brien was the de facto offensive coordinator and called the offensive plays in 2009 when McDaniels initially left to be the head coach of the Broncos without actually holding the title. Also, McDaniels called the offensive plays without the OC title in 2005 following the departure of Charlie Weis. Even with the lack of a title, there was a clear elevation within the organization as to who would be taking the reins of the offense. This year? Not so much. 

New England has been reluctant to reveal who in fact will be calling plays for them in 2022, but it does appear to be down to either Matt Patricia or Joe Judge. This offseason, Patricia revealed that he has been working with the offensive line while Judge noted that he was primarily been working with the quarterbacks. Neither has experience calling offensive plays and Patricia is the only one of the two who has any play-calling experience as he was the Patriots DC from 2012-2017. 

When you look at how each of their offenses ran when they were head coaches, it does bring a tremendous amount of concern for what may be ahead. Under Judge, the Giants offense ranked 31st in total yards and points during his two-year stint. Meanwhile, Patricia’s offense as head coach of the Lions from 2018-2020 was in the bottom half of the league in those same categories. 

With that in mind, it is frightful to envision either one ascending to that roll. The one wild card could be Belichick himself calling plays, but one does wonder if that obligation pulls him too far away from helping the overall operation. 

Dolphins: Will Tua Tagovailoa answer the bell?

The spotlight is now officially on Tua Tagovailoa. The Miami Dolphins came into this offseason and surrounded their former first-round quarterback with all the pieces necessary to succeed in 2022. In free agency, they added star left tackle Terron Armstead, inked wideout Cedrick Wilson to a three-year deal, and brought in a new stable of running backs in Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Sony Michel

The biggest move of them all, however, came with the blockbuster trade that landed them former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The duo of Hill and second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle gives Miami two of the fastest pass-catchers in the NFL. 

It also shouldn’t be overlooked that the Dolphins brought in new head coach Mike McDaniel, who was the former offensive coordinator for the 49ers

While all of these additions raise the ceiling for Miami’s offense, they’ll only go as far as Tagovailoa will take them. If he isn’t able to elevate, that could result in the Dolphins making a change at quarterback by this time next year.  

Jets: Will Zach Wilson take a leap in Year 2?

The Jets are currently tied for the second-worst odds in the NFL to win the Super Bowl this season, so expectations aren’t exactly high in East Rutherford. They also have the worst odds to win the AFC East at +2200, are +600 to make the playoffs, and have an O/U win total of 5.5. While 2022 isn’t projected to be the Jets’ year, there is still plenty of optimism about the overall future of the franchise. 

They just went through a wildly successful offseason where they made key additions to an already young core. In free agency, they brought in safety Jordan Whitehead and corner D.J. Reed to help the secondary, and brought in tight end C.J. Uzomah. At the draft, they hit home runs in the first round, taking corner Sauce Gardner, wideout Garrett Wilson, and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson. They also took running back Breece Hall early in the second round. 

That is quite the injection of talent and certainly has New York on the path toward contention. However, the Jets rebuild will only be successful if their No. 2 overall pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, Zach Wilson, lives up to that billing and becomes a true franchise quarterback. Last year, the 22-year-old flashed potential, but it was an underwhelming campaign overall as he finished with a 69.7 passer rating. Wilson taking a leap in 2022 is necessary for the Jets if they want to turn this positive momentum of their rebuild into a legitimate contender. 

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