One burning question for each AFC East team

New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Sam Darnold, Tua Tagaviola, Cam Newton

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?

Buffalo Bills

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.

Miami Dolphins

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


New York Jets: Three new Patriots to fear more than Cam Newton

Cam Newton certainly complicates matters for the New York Jets’ AFC East chances, but he’s far from their only new problem.

Cam Newton cast his shadow over the AFC East and announced six more years of New England Patriot dominance.

Fans of the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins sang of liberation after Tom Brady announced his departure from Foxboro for the warmer fields of Tampa Bay. After passing on a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft and signing only career journeyman Brian Hoyer on the throwers’ market, the assumed successor to the Brady throne was Jarrett Stidham, he of a 2019 fourth-round selection whose third NFL pass was taken back by Jamal Adams for.a touchdown. The arrival of Newton seemed to restore the Patriots to their former glory without even suffering a single instance of on-field regression.

But the fact remains…just because Brady left doesn’t mean the glory ever did.

It’d be foolhardy for even Brady’s biggest detractor to call him a bad quarterback, but there’s no denying that the six-time Super Bowl champion’s 2019 ledger wasn’t what football surveyors were accustomed to. Brady posted a passer rating under 90 in 10 games last season (in comparison, he had only 10 such games in 2017-18 combined), and the Patriots still managed to go 6-4 in such events. Even during New England’s most recent Super Bowl run, Brady had a combined 74.6 rating in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIII.

It’s undeniable that Newton does make the Patriots a better team. This is, after all, a dual-threat not far removed from a legendary MVP campaign. Time will tell if he can fully recover from injuries that limited him to two games last season, but if you have to replace arguably the greatest quarterback in football history, you can do far worse than Cam Newton.

But, as New England’s recent track record proves, success wasn’t determined by a single name. Whoever the new quarterback was, be it Newton, Stidham, or some third party, he was going to walk into a strong situation where he would work with veteran receivers (Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, first-round project N’Keal Harry), a multi-faceted run game (James White, Sony Michel), and a strong, tenured defense and offensive line…and a Bill Belichick in a pear tree.

In fact, there are other New England newcomers that should warn the Jets and their East brethren that their Patriot problems were still active long before Newton’s arrival…

S/PR Kyle Dugger

The Patriots’ never-ending dynasty has been kept running by countless diamonds in the draft’s rough. No school is exempt from examination from Belichick’s relentless scouts, not even tiny Lenoir-Rhyne University football. The Division II program yielded New England’s first pick in Dugger (37th overall), who shot up the draft board after a strong showing at Senior Bowl week. New England was already relatively set in the secondary (Devin McCourty was re-signed) so the scariest part about Dugger is that he’s a potential force to be reckoned with down the road. Scouts have praised his size and speed, and he’ll have an elite group of mentors working with him (Stephon Gilmore, Patrick Chung, Devin and his brother Jason). More immediately, Dugger can make in the return game, serving as the primary punt man with the Bears.

S Adrian Phillips

Further depth was added in the form of Phillips, the ex-San Diego/Los Angeles Charger. A safety who has made a name for himself as a strong special teams defender, Phillips is coming off a lost 2019, limited to seven games after suffering a broken arm in Week 2. It overshadowed a breakthrough year in which he earned a career-best 94 tackles (an NFL-best 17 coming on special teams) and nine pass breakups. For his efforts, Phillips was named to his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams. Quarterbacks also posted a mere 44.8 passer rating when throwing into his area. Defensive upgrades seem redundant for the Patriots, but, Brady or no Brady, they seem to be operating on a time-honored axiom that should be obvious: can’t win if you can’t score.

LB Josh Uche

The Jets spent a good portion of the 2020 offseason upgrading their offensive line, which makes all too much sense when you look back on what Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell had to deal with last year. New England earned 6 of their 47 sacks (second-best in the AFC) in the pair of matchups against the Jets, and while Darnold was the victim of only one, as Luke Falk was the unfortunate soul who started the original game, the relentless pass rush had him infamously “seeing ghosts”. One could see the Patriots losing a defensive edge with their sack leaders Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy respectively leaving for Detroit and Miami, but the Patriots restocked by taking Uche out of Michigan. Reuniting him with fellow former Ann Arbor resident Chase Winovich, Uche can fill the roles the absconders left behind. His speed was particularly impressive, breaking into backfields for 14.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Uche’s arrival ensures that the numerous newcomers on the Jets’ frontline will still have a lot to deal with, as will the new mobile franchise quarterbacks in Buffalo (Josh Allen) and Miami (Tua Tagovailoa).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Cam Newton and the Patriots: How it affects the New York Jets

Taking down the New England Patriots was always going to be a chore for the New York Jets. How does Cam Newton affect those plans?

For the New York Jets, the evil emitting from Foxboro never vanished…it simply evolved.

The autumn of Jarrett Stidham has instead given way to the summer of Cam Newton, as the eternal defending AFC East champion New England Patriots added the former NFL MVP to their roster on Sunday. Newton’s departure from Charlotte has now given rise to renewed hope for the Patriots, who are, of course, looking to replace the Tampa-bound Tom Brady. 

Of course, every New England matter, especially one this major in this period of transition, has ripple effects throughout the east coast, particularly in the New York area, where the Patriots’ green rivals reside. How does Newton’s northeast arrival affect the metropolitan area? ESM investigates…

An Elite Pass Rush Is More Important Than Ever

The halls of One Jets Drive and the Sunday parking lots of MetLife Stadium are graced with the likenesses of New York backfield invaders of yesteryear. Lately, however, the modern Jets haven’t been making Mark Gastineau, Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Mo Lewis, and company proud with their sack exploits.

Since 2016, the Jets rank 29th in the NFL in sacks and have been haunted by rushing quarterbacks. In that span, only three Jets (Jordan Jenkins, Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams) have accumulated at least 10 quarterback takedowns. It has been enough of a challenge facing off against Josh Allen twice a year, for example, (the Buffalo Bills are 11-3 when Allen scores at least one rushing touchdown) and now they must deal with another multi-faceted threat in Newton, who brings a sense of mobility that Brady never had.

As has been the case with many running quarterbacks, Newton can be neutralized with a relentless rush. Carolina was 3-11 when Newton was sacked at least five times, which includes the merciless onslaught he saw from Von Miller and the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Rare as it was, Brady (who has been sacked 5+ times on only 10 occasions in a nearly two-decade career) wasn’t immune from pressure-induced yips. Both the Jets and Giants played the trope to perfection in their respective victories in the 2011 AFC divisional playoffs and the Super Bowl XLII. To cap it off, New England’s new quarterback, be it Newton, Stidham, or otherwise, is walking into a decent situation on the offensive line regardless. The Patriots have built a solid foundation in front of their thrower. Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason bring a combined dozen years of experience to the right side, while All-Pro left man Joe Thuney was franchise tagged. In contrast, it’s very possible Sam Darnold could start Week 1 without a single starting blocker leftover from his rookie season in 2018.

Blocking exploits were understandably the Jets’ top priority on the free agent wire this offseason but they addressed the rush with the very affordable re-signing of Jenkins (1-year, $3.75 million) and will also welcome back fellow linebackers C.J. Mosley and Blake Cashman from injury. Another offseason addition was Baltimore transplant Patrick Onwuasor, who is set to bolster the interior pass rush, as was third-round draft pick Jabari Zuniga, who continues New York’s youth revolution on the offensive line (joining second-year men Quinnen Williams and Kyle Phillips). Battling Brady was bad enough, but if Newton recaptures the electrifying brand of multi-talented football that made him a superstar, the Jets’ New England nightmare could be extended by another year and possibly beyond.

New York Giants, Bill Belichick
Jan 4, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches the game against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

There’s Definitely a Chance to Instill Major Worry in the Patriots

In the grand scheme of things, how much does Newton truly change the Patriots? As we mentioned after Brady’s departure in March, they still had a strong supporting cast to surround whatever poor soul had the unenviable position of walking in Tom Brady’s footsteps. There’s a strong rushing attack left behind in the form of Sony Michel and James White. Even when Brady was starting to show signs of age last season, the defense assured that things remained one-sided (the Jets found this out the hard way in a 33-0 Monday night shellacking last fall that saw Brady post a pedestrian 80.7 passer rating). Newton or no Newton, counting the Patriots before a single 2020 game was played was foolhardy at best.

Still, it’s fair to say there’s lingering doubt in the New England camp if and when the 2020 campaign commences.

While he’s undoubtedly an upgrade over Stidham, there’s no denying that Newton isn’t at the form we saw in his 2015 MVP season. Things probably never should’ve reached “is Kyle Allen a franchise QB” levels in Carolina, but time will tell if Newton can regain his game-changing form.

Every team in the NFL should have an unwritten rule that dictates that they should have a quarterback on their roster that they see as their start in three years. Stidham was a major question mark, but Newton’s impressive resume can at least put the Patriots in a more comfortable spot. The 2020 season is almost one of no consequence to the Patriots. They’re still relatively decent on paper, they’ve accomplished more in the last two decades than some franchises earn in their entire existence, and expectations are lowered with the emerging powerhouse developing in Kansas City. A Cam Newton with nothing to lose, especially one blessed with relative youth at 31, could spell doom for anyone looking to take New England’s crown of NFL dominance.

Having said that, this makes the Jets’ 2020 matchups with New England all the more crucial. Wins must come to knock New England off their perch. Strong performances can not only give the Patriots second thoughts about their current plan of turning over the future Newton or the unproven day-three pick whose NFL impact to date is an Adams pick-six. Any doubt the Jets can plant into the brains of a team that viewed their AFC East slate, including the yearly visit to East Rutherford, as a Sunday drive is good doubt from a metropolitan standpoint.

The Outlook

In the grand scheme of the things, the Jets’ task of a divisional coup doesn’t change drastically because of Newton. That’s not a slight on Newton at all; even if he’s not at 2015 levels, his signing was long overdue and if he’s going to get his career back on track, New England is perhaps the best place to do it.

Looking at the New England dynasty from a wider perspective, the Patriots have been able to be a continuous force in the NFL because they take care of business against divisional foes and reinforcements rising to take the place of a fallen comrade. Newton undoubtedly makes the task of rising up a bit harder, but the Jets’ primary concerns should rely on shutting down Newton’s support staff, one that has already dealt with years of Bill Belichick training.

The best move New York can make when it comes to Newton is upping their pressure and making him as uncomfortable as possible, creating feelings that can leave both an immediate and long-term impact on New England moving forward. Should all go according to NFL plan, the Jets will get those opportunities on November 9 and January 3.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags


New England Patriots Sign QB Cam Newton

The New England Patriots have signed former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton, per Adam Schefter. Newton and the Patriots agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden deal worth up to $7.5 million. According to Ian Rapoport, this deal “has been in the works.”

Cam Newton is 31 years old and ready for a new beginning. The former first-overall draft pick spent the last nine years as a member of the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers released Newton in March after he missed the majority of the 2019 NFL season with a shoulder injury.

Cam Newton acknowledged the news on his Instagram Story Sunday night:











For the New England Patriots, this signing is a huge victory. If Cam Newton returns to form in 2020, the Patriots could once again make the playoffs, despite the departure of all-time great quarterback Tom Brady this offseason. Cam Newton was playing at a high level prior to his injury in 2018. If the former Panthers quarterback is fully healthy in 2020, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will look to continue their dominance over the AFC East.

However, Cam Newton might not be a long-term solution for the Patriots at quarterback. If Newton plays well in 2020 and leaves New England in the 2021 free agency period, the Patriots could get back a compensatory 2022 third-round pick. This is even more crucial now that the Patriots’ 2021 third-round pick has been stripped away as punishment for the team’s videotape violation. But at only 31 years old, there is always a chance Cam Newton earns a second, long-term contract with the team next offseason.


Report: New York Jets signing veteran corner Logan Ryan to prove it deal

New York Jets, Logan Ryan, Tennessee Titans

Throughout this offseason, New York Jets GM Joe Douglas has been very active in signing players to prove it deals to attempt to fill critical needs. He’s also been very aggressive in trying to fill one of the Jets’ biggest voids. Last season the Jets’ cornerback group was one of the worst in football. With minimal depth and no proven entities, the Jets had to upgrade the position this the offseason.

They released Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, two bad signings from the old regime, and added Pierre Desir on a one year deal. They also brought back Brian Poole on a one year deal as well. The Jets still have Bless Austin, Nate Hairston, and Arthur Maulet, but they looked to upgrade the position in the draft.

The Jets then came out of the draft with two more new corners—Bryce Hall from Virginia and 23-year-old former second-rounder from the Colts, Quincy Wilson. Although there were reports before the draft of the Jets’ interest in CB Logan Ryan, it seemed as though the team was comfortable with their corners. Well, apparently they were not. The New York Jets have reportedly signed Logan Ryan to a one year deal per Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News.

Who is Logan Ryan?

As we’ve covered extensively here at ESM, Logan Ryan is a reliable veteran coming off a very successful season. Ryan is a hometown kid who attended Rutgers University. After a solid career there, Ryan was drafted in the 3rd Round of 2013 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. When Ryan debuted, he immediately carved himself a role with the Pats. Ryan was an excellent corner with them until he left in 2016.

He then joined the Titans, where he’s been coached by Mike Vrabel. He comes from a very good coaching tree, and he’s got a championship pedigree with two rings under his belt. Ryan is also 29 years old; he’s still got a few years of good football left. After remaining unsigned for the first two months or so of free agency, he now goes to a team in need of a reliable lead corner.

How Will Ryan Fit?

Logan Ryan is coming off a season where he had 113 tackles, 4 INTs, and 4 TFLs. In one of the best years of his career, he also picked off his former teammate, Tom Brady, in what was ultimately the last play of Brady’s time in New England. Now the former Patriot is coming home to the Jets.

Ryan will be tasked with leading a young cornerback group while also trying to perform well to earn himself a long term deal. What better coach to have with that pressure then one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, Gregg Williams. The opportunity to play under Gregg has been a critical reason that players like Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins took such cheap deals to return to the Jets and is likely a reason Logan Ryan is coming to Gang Green. Williams gets the best out of his players, and he will try to do that with a veteran player who’s had a lot of success.

Even if this move bombs, the Jets have loads of young talent in the secondary that need mentorship. Bryce Hall and Bless Austin could both benefit from learning behind an experienced player, and even Quincy Wilson and Pierre Desir could pick up a thing or two from Ryan. Overall, the Jets have solidified their secondary for the upcoming season and formulated serious competition for the starting roles.

If there is anything you can pull from this offseason, it’s that Joe Douglas likes two things, leadership and establishing competition. By adding a talented player like Logan Ryan, he did just that. 

NFL Draft: New York Jets deal final day two pick to New England

The New York Jets earned three picks from the New England Patriots, in exchange for a pick they previously wrangled from Seattle.

The New York Jets ended the second day of the 2020 NFL Draft with a little bit of history.

For the second time in their respective timelines, the Jets engaged in a trade with the New England Patriots. New York sent over the 101st over pick, the 37th selection in Friday’s third round proceedings. The yield was a pair of choices in Saturday’s fourth round (Nos. 125 and 129), as well as a sixth-round pick in 2021.

New England subsequently used the pick on the latter of back-to-back tight ends, Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene. They previously chose Devin Asiasi out of UCLA with the 91st pick.

Though trades between the AFC East rivals are indeed rare, this is the second deal they’ve made over the past seven months. In September, the Jets ironically sent over a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for receiver Demaryius Thomas.

The Jets now own six selections over the final four rounds of the virtual draft, which will finish up on Saturday (12:00 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). In addition to the newly acquired Patriots picks, they own their bestowed slots in the fourth (No. 120), fifth (158th), and sixth rounds (191st) and a sixth-round choice from Kansas City (via the 2019 Darron Lee trade). Their seventh-round pick was sent to Baltimore in a trade for offensive lineman Alex Lewis made late last offseason.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets’ New England nightmare isn’t over just yet

Tom Brady’s AFC East departure may be cause for celebration, but the New York Jets’ yearly set with New England only gets marginally easier.

In September 2001, the New York Jets inadvertently unleashed the Tom Brady nightmare on the NFL when a Mo Lewis hit knocked Drew Bledsoe out of their Week 2 showdown.

Nearly two decades later, it’s apparently over. Like many in the near-retirement community, Brady, 42, is headed to Florida courtesy of a two-year, $50 million deal bestowed to him by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Uprooted from New England will be Brady’s six Super Bowl titles, three MVP awards, five All-Pro nominations and a 30-8 record against the Jets.

Needless to say, the response from a metropolitan area desperate for good news is perhaps comparable to the galaxy-wide celebration after the fall of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi‘s closing act. Social distancing and quarantining might be the only thing stopping a parade down the Canyon of Heroes bidding Brady farewell. Brady is now the NFC’s problem. Sure, Tampa Bay visits East Rutherford in 2021 but that’s an extremely tolerable substitute for the yearly couple.

It thus feels like the Patriots’ day of reckoning has finally come. Two decades of torture, perhaps straight-up bullying, will finally come back to bite them. Long have fans of the Jets, and probably every football fan outside of the New England area, waited to see the departure of Brady plummet the Patriots back to the dark times: the days of Pat Patriot on their helmets, the days where 8-8 was considered Patriot progress. The will of Foxboro patrons could well be tested in the coming months. Brady did leave New England with no concrete succession plan in place. Their current savior under center is slated to be Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round pick whose already minuscule playing time was dramatically slashed when Jamal Adams victimized him for a pick-six in the meaningless stages of yet another Jets defeat.

But, if Jets fans are smart, they won’t crack open the Brady-induced bubbly just yet.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ. – OCTOBER 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots meets up with Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets after the Patriots beat the Jets 33-0 at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

For one thing, the Jets really can’t gloat about anything until they gain some sustainable success against the Patriots. The series, of course, has been ridiculously one-sided since that fateful September late afternoon and, even in Brady’s declining years, things weren’t shifting in the Jets’ favor.

There’s no denying that Brady at his worst is better than many quarterbacks at their best. He’s undoubtedly in a position to make the Buccaneers better. But there was no denying that the past few years saw Brady lose a step or two. In Brady’s last eight matchups against the Jets, his passer rating dipped under 90 on four separate occasions. New England won each of those games by an average of two touchdowns, including a 33-0 shellacking in a Monday night game back in October.

In fact, even when the Jets managed to keep Brady in relative check, victory isn’t guaranteed. When Brady posted a passer rating under 90, the Patriots were nonetheless 10-7 in games against the Jets.

It should be obvious by this point that the Patriots are the Patriots…not the Bradys. They’ve built their dynasty by a team effort, not by any one individual effort. Nobodies, spare parts left for football dead by other squads, have risen to play crucial roles in New England victories. Sure, the on-field brilliance of Brady has served as a jolt to several of these resurrected careers, but no amount of offensive prowess could explain what the defense has done.

Last season, no team allowed fewer points, first downs, or yards than the Patriots. Opponents converted only an astonishing 24 percent of their third downs against them. Their 25 interceptions were five more than their closest competitor (Pittsburgh). This is a fearsome unit that has lost some crucial pieces, but they still retain vital weapons like both McCourty brothers (Jason and Devin, the latter of whom inked a two-year deal).

September’s visit to Gillette Stadium, for example, saw the Jets score their first touchdown in defeat when they jumped on a muffed New England punt in the end zone. It was their first touchdown scored in Massachusetts in nearly four calendar years. You can’t pin that one on Tom Brady.

Fellow secondary hawks like Stephon Gilmore and Patrick Chung will likewise be back, as will experienced pass rushers like Dont’a Hightower, Adam Butler, and Chase Winovich. Such firepower is enough to keep any quarterback on edge, much less one vying to be the face of the franchise.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 21: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots in action against Le’Veon Bell #26 of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Patriots defeated the Jets 33-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Whoever succeeds Brady on offense, be it Stidham, be it a veteran free agent, be it a rookie from the upcoming draft, has been set up in a relatively pleasant situation. Protection will be available from an experienced line that let up only 28 sacks last season. The Patriots even denied the Jets a chance to let one of those men block for Darnold, franchise tagging All-Pro guard Joe Thuney. New England has routinely gotten by with a strong rushing attack, and the current edition is no exception. Sony Michel is the lead back, complimented by dual-threat James White and the powerful Rex Burkhead. An arsenal of receivers both experienced and young will be available to the new thrower. Julian Edelman leads the way, while the Patriots worked their way into first-round receiver N’Keal Harry with last year’s 32nd pick. Phillip Dorsett could leave via free agency, but reliable reserves are on hand via Mohamed Sanu and incoming free agent Damiere Byrd.

Of course, the whole thing revolves around the constant of Bill Belichick. The famous scowler was there before Brady and he’ll obviously be around afterward. His mind games and expertise will still be around to haunt the Jets. Enough has been said about his relatively fruitless days at the helm of the Cleveland Browns, but remember that this is a guy that won 11 games with a full season of Matt Cassel at quarterback.

The departure of Brady does indeed present the Jets with an opportunity. It apparently took his leaving to finally convince the Jets to fix their long-lingering blocking problems, problems addressed by the arrival of up-and-comers George Fant and Connor McGovern. Fellow divisional foes Buffalo and Miami have also used the offseason funds afforded to them to improve. The Dolphins, in fact, plucked linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts from the Patriots’ lineup.

There’s little argument to the idea that the Jets have gotten better over the past few days, especially on paper. Their backfield saviors of Darnold and Le’Veon Bell have the potential to move freely with improved blocking. They’ve maintained secondary depth with the re-signings of Brain Poole and Arthur Maulet. Is it enough to finally deal a fatal blow to this monster? We’ll see in September.

It’s time to work on the field. The Jets have finally been granted a silent wish in the form of Brady leaving. Time will only tell they’ll wake up soon or if a new, scarier nightmare has only just begun.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Kyle Van Noy Should Be A Top FA Target

The New York Giants will be looking to fix their defense in the 2020 offseason. Free agency is right around the corner, and there has been lots of talk about the Giants making runs at the biggest names on the open market. However, fans need to temper their expectations. The Giants have significant money to spend, but it would be reckless to blow it all in one offseason.

The Giants will need to look at lesser expensive options as well as the stars that will be available. One name that the Giants should be linked to is linebacker/edge rusher Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy is an impending free agent that could be an immense upgrade at a position of need for the Giants’ defense.

Ties To The New Head Coach

Kyle Van Noy has spent his last three and a half seasons playing for the New England Patriots. The seven-year NFL veteran had a good relationship with Joe Judge, the Giants’ new head coach. Judge was with New England since 2012. 

When Van Noy learned of Judge’s promotion as New York’s new head coach, he was excited for his former special teams coordinator. While appearing on “The Pat McAfee Show” this offseason, Kyle described Joe Judge as a “ball of energy” and a “really, really good coach” that loves football. At the end of his discussion about Joe Judge, Kyle Van Noy exclaimed: “Go, Giants!”

Of course, Van Noy is probably just showing support for his former coach. But, being that he is an impending free agent, Kyle Van Noy could have been hinting at a desire to reunite with Joe Judge in New York. If that is what Van Noy wants, the Giants should be on board and should pursue him in free agency.

A Solid Pass-Rusher And An Elite Run-Defender

When looking at Kyle Van Noy’s career stats, it is noticeable that he has only 17.5 career sacks in seven seasons. However, there is more to the story. Van Noy played off-ball linebacker for most of his career. He has always been a dominant run-defender but has not been used much as a primary pass-rusher.

Granted, New England still sent Van Noy on many blitzes, and he was highly efficient. As an off-ball linebacker in 2018, Kyle Van Noy totaled 275 pass-rush snaps in the regular season and racked up 36 pressures (Pro Football Focus).

That changed this season when Kyle Van Noy changed positions. In New England’s 2019 defense, Kyle Van Noy was moved to edge rusher. In this role, Van Noy totaled 60 pressures, 6.5 sacks, and a pressure rate of 13.8%, which ranked 26th best at his position (Pro Football Focus).

Though he is a great pass-rusher, Kyle Van Noy is an elite run defender. He earned an 85.4 run-defense grade on Pro Football Focus, an elite grade that ranked top-five at his position. He also totaled 56 combined tackles and 7 tackles for loss in 2019 as an edge rusher. As an off-ball linebacker in 2018, Kyle Van Noy racked up 92 combined tackles.

Multi-Positional Versatility

Kyle Van Noy, as mentioned previously, is a former off-ball linebacker. However, in 2019, he switched positions and became an edge rusher. As a full-time edge rusher in 2019, Kyle had maybe the best season of his career. The Giants could sign him to play either position or both, but wherever he plays, he would be one of the most impactful players on the defense.

Van Noy’s versatility lines up with head coach Joe Judge’s vision. Judge made it clear that he prioritizes “personnel versatility” in his introductory press conference:

…I’ve prepared myself for was leading into every draft I studied every player in the draft as a player and an athlete. I didn’t look at them as a receiver, I didn’t look at them as a tight end, I didn’t look at them as a linebacker… I’m used to looking at things from a big picture perspective on players in terms of what they bring to the team as a whole… I want to know what kind of athlete this man is and how we can use his toolset to our advantage. – Joe Judge, during his introductory press conference.

A Manageable Contract

Kyle Van Noy would bring upgraded pass-rushing and run-defending abilities to the Giants’ defense. His experience playing multiple positions at a high level makes him a reliable, versatile option for the Giants to pursue in the 2020 offseason. Additionally, Van Noy would cost a fraction of the price of the biggest pass-rushers in free agency (such as Ngakoue and Clowney). Players like that are in line for nearly $20 million, but Kyle Van Noy’s contract is projected to be three years, $31.5 million ($15 million guaranteed).

New York Jets: Predictions Jets vs Patriots Week 7

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

The spotlight will be on the New York Jets this week as they’ll take on their archrival, the New England Patriots. Fresh off their first win the Jets will be coming into this game with some momentum and a chip on their shoulder. The Jets will be looking to have their revenge after the team’s first meeting with the Patriots back in week 3 where they lost 30-14 in Foxboro.

New England Patriots

The Patriots are one of the last two teams that are undefeated this season and have done so by forcing opponents to lose the turnover battle. The Patriots defense this season has been nothing short of excellent and will try to continue their excellence against a young Jets offense. The key for the Patriots to win this game will be the ability to tire out the Jets defense. If the Patriots can establish the run game with Sony Michel and stretch the field sideline to sideline, they’ll be able to bully the Jets defense in the fourth quarter.

New York Jets

The New York Jets are hot right now after getting their first win off the playoff-contending Dallas Cowboys. The Jets looked like a completely different team last week with Sam Darnold back and they’ll look to continue their success against the Patriots on Monday night. Sam Darnold has rejuvenated the Jets offense and he will be put to the ultimate test against a Patriots defense who have dominated every opponent they faced this season. If the Jets want to win this game, they’ll have to control the time of possession and spread the ball around to everyone on the field. If Sam Darnold can force the Patriots defense to play zone coverage, he’ll find much more success and open passing lanes.


This game is going to be a great one considering what the Jets have on the line. If the Jets can win, they’ll cruise through the next few weeks facing teams like the Dolphins and the Redskins. I believe this game will come down to the fourth quarter. The Patriots are most likely going to take this game but don’t be surprised to see the Jets put up a fight. If the Jets offense can stay aggressive, I think they’ll have a chance but if they come out flat then they’ll we’ll see a repeat of week 3. This game is going to be a 28-20 slugfest where the Jets will have a chance to win on the final drive of the game.

New York Jets: Sam Darnold is getting a monster playmaker back

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

The New York Jets offense hasn’t been the same without second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, considering his first game back he managed to overcome a tough Dallas Cowboys team. Beating Dallas on Jerry Jones’ birthday is like celebrating Christmas twice, ask Giants fans.

With the Jets gearing up to face off against a stout New England Patriots team on Monday night, they’re also preparing to welcome back one of their best offensive weapons, tight end, Chris Herndon.

Darnold salivated over the idea of gaining back his security blanket, stating:

“Right now we’re just missing Chris, once all the guys are back together, I think we’re unstoppable as an offense or we can be,” Darnold said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s up to us how we execute or how well we go out there and play.

“It’s really up to us how many points we score, I think. I think we’re capable of scoring so many points. Our offensive line, too, they played well the last game, with the way we’ve been running the ball and the way they’ve been protecting, I think sky’s the limit for us.”

Darnold sliced the Cowboys defense for 338 yards on 23 completions and two touchdowns. The Patriots defense is an entirely different beast, though, as they allowed their first passing touchdown of the season last week against the Giants. Yes, you heard that right, their FIRST passing touchdown of the season.

The Jets undoubtedly have the talent to tack on the second and third, but it comes down to Darnold and if he can carry the momentum into Monday night.

What have the New York Jets been missing in Herndon?

The top tight end for the Jets amassed 502 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 over 12 games started. He’s not only a red-zone target for Darnold, but it was only his rookie season, and working out the kinks in his game was a priority. Going into his sophomore campaign with experience and chemistry with Darnold should make him a deadly option moving forward.