The AFC East has been at the forefront of league news throughout the past couple of months. Tom Brady left New England, Cam Newton replaced him. Miami drafted Alabama standout and injury-riddled Tua Tagovailoa. New York traded Jamal Adams to the Seahawks. Buffalo traded for veteran wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Through all the changes and breaking news, each team still has some questions to be answered. So, let’s address one burning question that remains for each team in the division.
New England Patriots
Question: Which Cam Newton are they getting?
From the moment Cam Newton was drafted by the Panthers in 2011, he was one of the most dynamic players in the league. He led Carolina to a 68-55-1 record as a starter and brought them to the Super Bowl in 2015. Being a true dual-threat quarterback, he totaled 29,041 yards with 182 touchdowns through the air and 4,806 yards with 58 touchdowns on the ground.
However, he has an injury history. He’s coming off a shoulder injury that caused the Panthers to move on from him. No now knows how he’ll play or if he’ll even be a sliver of what he once was. Now, obviously, Cam Newton has been posting videos of himself in the gym and on the field, and he looks good. That doesn’t prove anything. The only way to know for sure is through real game action.
The entire Patriots season is riding on Cam Newton’s health and ability. If he is anywhere near what he once was, they’ll be good. If he’s not, they won’t. So, the question remains, which Cam are they getting?
Question: Can Josh Allen improve as a passer?
Josh Allen has helped turn this Buffalo Bills team into a real playoff team. The third-year quarterback led the Bills to the playoffs last year, before losing to Houston 22-19. His performance in that game is a perfect example of how he needs to improve.
In that game, Allen had 9 carries for 92 yards. That’s a whopping 10.22 yards per attempt. He also threw for 264 yards. However, he didn’t have a touchdown and completed just 24 of 46 passes for a 52.17 completion percentage. That is not ideal for a quarterback that is expected to be the franchise guy.
Yes, he’s helped lead the Bills to a 15-12 record as a starter and a playoff appearance, but it’s not because of just him. He has been helped out by a fantastic defense, as well. Allen can certainly make plays when needed, but most of those big-time plays are made on the ground. He needs to improve as a passer because, frankly, a 56.3 completion percentage through two seasons isn’t going to cut it.
New York Jets
Question: Is Adam Gase the right coach for this team?
I could’ve gone two ways here. I could’ve either focused on Gase or whether or not Sam Darnold is the future of the Jets. Gase seemed like the better question because the Jets haven’t had great luck with coaches, everyone seems to have mixed feelings about Gase and, well, I didn’t want every question to be about a quarterback. So, let’s get to the point.
Adam Gase’s hiring was a somewhat questionable one for many fans because people such as Mike McCarthy were available. McCarthy has been to a Super Bowl, Gase hasn’t even come close. He blew onto the scene when he took over as the head coach of the Dolphins and led them to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. Since then, with the Dolphins and Jets, he’s had three consecutive losing seasons.
His first season as the Jets head coach was off to a dreadful start, but a late-season push led to a 7-9 record. That push may very well have saved his job. Sure, he still might’ve stayed as head coach, but his “leash” would’ve been much shorter. In order for Gase to help his own case, the team needs to at least improve to 8-8. If they finish with another losing record, fans are going to be calling for Adam Gase’s job.
Question: Can Tua Tagovailoa stay healthy?
Okay, time to go back to a quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa was one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football when he was on the field. He replaced Jalen Hurts as the quarterback for Alabama in the second half of the 2017 National Championship. What’d he do? He won the National Championship as a true freshman.
As a sophomore, he led Alabama to another championship appearance but lost to Clemson. Last season, as a junior, he dealt with a massive amount of injuries. He had surgery ankle surgery after a game against Tenessee. Later in the season, he suffered three injuries on one sack. He broke his nose, suffered a concussion and his hip dislocated and fractured the posterior wall. That one instance forced everyone to begin questioning his draft stock and NFL future.
When the Dolphins drafted him fifth overall, they took a big gamble on the collegiate star. If he can fully rebound from the injuries, specifically the hip, he has tremendous upside and may be the best quarterback in the draft, ahead of Joe Burrow. If he can’t stay healthy, the Dolphins’ future plans have to take a new route. All in all, the entire future of this team seems to be resting on Tua’s health at this point.
Photo edit credit: Anthony Rivardo