Entering the regular season, there's one common denominator among the AFC East -- questions on the offensive line. The New York Jets will be starting Wayne Hunter's replacement in Austin Howard at right tackle, the New England Patriots need second-year tackle and first-year starter Nate Solder to pick up his game on the blindside, and the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have rookies starting at tackle in Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin, respectively.
Getting each of those players up to speed was emphasized throughout the preseason, though each team had a lot of other things going on during their August exhibition campaigns. Here are a few other team-by-team notes for the AFC East's preseason:
New York Jets
Gang Green scored just one touchdown the entire preseason -- a short strike from third-string quarterback Greg McElroy to recently-cut rookie Terrance Ganaway. While the national media and general NFL fan base have jumped all over the Jets, everyone needs to remember that preseason doesn't count. The Jets ran a very vanilla offense, were missing their biggest playmaker in Santonio Holmes for all but a quarter and didn't use a drop of Wildcat, which will likely be a big aspect of the Jets' offense at the goal line and in short-yardage, must-have first down situations.
Defensively, the Jets looked really, really good all over the field. The influx of young talent and the trimming down of guys like Bart Scott translated into a big increase in team speed.
New England Patriots
The Patriots didn't give quarterback Tom Brady a whole lot of work this preseason, and for good reason. New England's offensive front could not protect Brady, and the last thing the Patriots need is for arguably the best signal-caller in the league to go down to injury in a meaningless game that he really does't need work in. The team still needs to shore up that issue for the regular season, though.
Rookie Chandler Jones, a defensive end, had an impressive preseason and should be a force for New England both in the pass rush and against the run. The Patriots' secondary still got carved up at times in the preseason, but for the most part, the defense as a whole looked much-improved.
Buffalo's preseason went as expected -- there were some very positive signs defensively, but the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense remains questionable. The Bills' defensive line, particularly Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, was impressive, and Mario Williams and Mark Anderson on the outside will be impact players. But Buffalo's secondary might be in a little trouble early on, particularly at cornerback.
Rookie Stephon Gilmore needs to get up to speed fast, and second-year corner Aaron Williams, who will start on the other side, isn't too far ahead of Gilmore in the development curve.
Fitzpatrick didn't really do anything impressive until the team's scoring drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third game. The development of his receiving corps will certainly be something to watch, as Stevie Johnson tries to continue to separate himself as a true No. 1 and speedy rookie T.J. Graham, the team's leading receiver in the preseason, hopes to take over as the clear-cut No. 2.
The Dolphins had an extremely rough preseason. They were uninspiring both offensively and defensively, and they unloaded talent (trading Vonte Davis) while putting rookies in position to contribute immediately. Miami was pushed around on both the offensive and defensive lines, though the offensive front improved as the preseason went on.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked decent considering his receiving corps -- which maybe ranks as the worst in the league -- didn't give him much help. Reggie Bush wants to lead the league in rushing, and it'd be nice for Tannehill if the Dolphins catered their offense a little more to the running side to help Tannehill out and establish some toughness up front. However, New head coach Joe Philbin will likely run his up-tempo, West Coast offense in its entirety this season so Tannehill can take his lumps and hopefully develop into the guy of the future.
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