AFC East Defensive Changes


Buffalo Bills 

2014 Rank - Pass: 2nd; Run: 10th

Rex Ryan inherits one of the most fearsome defensive units in the NFL.

Rex Ryan inherits one of the most fearsome defensive units in the NFL.

Key Losses:
S Da’Norris Searcy (+8.6)
LB Kiko Alonso (+7.5 in 2013)

Key Additions:
None

Notes:

  • This defensive unit was a beast in 2014. The Bills’ stacked defensive line absolutely mauled opposing pass protection, leading to a league-leading 54 sacks. 
  • In week 14, they held Peyton Manning to 173 yards passing, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, and just 2 fantasy points in his worst game of the year. Then, the very next week, they did the same to Aaron Rodgers who managed just 185 yards passing, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, and 5 fantasy points. Incredibly impressive. 
  • While the Bills spent most of free agency addressing the offense, the core of the defense remains mostly in tact. 
  • New head coach Rex Ryan, who is known for being a defensive-minded coach, may have a positive impact. 
  • The Bills lose LB Kiko Alonso in a trade but, while Alonso was quite good in his rookie year in 2013, he missed all of last year with a torn ACL. The Bills showed that they don’t need him and should continue to be a forced to be reckoned with. 

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Unfavorable; Run; Unfavorable

This defense was so good that even the loss of a couple players, even decent ones, shouldn’t stop them from being a fearsome matchup against both the run and pass. 


Miami Dolphins

2014 Rank - Pass: 11th; Run: 15th

The Dolphins invested heavily in the defense by making the dominant Suh the highest paid non-QB in the NFL. 

The Dolphins invested heavily in the defense by making the dominant Suh the highest paid non-QB in the NFL. 

Key Losses:
DT Jared Odrick (+9.0)
DT Randy Starks (-1.1)
CB Cortland Finnegan (-4.4)
CB Jimmy Wilson (-7.4)
LB Dannell Ellerbe (-13.5 in 2013)

Key Additions:
DT Ndamukong Suh (+31.4)
CB Brice McCain (-3.8)
DT Jordan Phillips (Round 2, Pick 20)

Notes:

  • Thanks, in part, to the superb coverage of CB Brent Grimes and pass rush of DE Cameron Wake, the Dolphins were above average against the pass in 2014. 
  • While losing DTs Jared Odrick and Randy Starks put a substantial hole in the D-line, the acquisition of DT Ndamukong Suh more than makes up for the both of them and second round pick DT Jordan Phillips has potential.  
  • LB Dannell Ellerbe played all of 18 snaps in 2014 before being placed on IR. He has under-performed and disappointed in his time as a Dolphin and was traded to the Saints this off-season. 
  • On August 25th, SS Louis Delmas (-0.2) was placed on season-ending IR.

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Unfavorable; Run; Unfavorable

It’s all about Suh. The highest-paid non-QB in the league elevates this defense from being merely average to being one of the better defenses in the league.  


New York Jets

2014 Rank - Pass: 30th; Run: 6th

Revis Island returns to New York. 

Revis Island returns to New York. 

Key Losses:
None

Key Additions:
CB Darrelle Revis (+19.6)
CB Antonio Cromartie (-1.9)
S Marcus Gilchrist (-5.5)
CB Buster Skrine (-6.3)
DE Leonard Williams (Round 1, Pick 6)

Notes:

  • The Jets spent a total of 127 million dollars on cornerback contracts this off-season. The new secondary features the return of the league’s best CB, Darrelle Revis, along with an adequate supporting cast consisting of CB Antonio Cromartie, CB Buster Skrine, and SS Marcus Gilchrist. 
  • Former ninth overall pick in 2013, CB Dee Milliner also returns from last year’s season-ending Achilles tendon tear to round out a group that is impressively deep.  
  • Meanwhile, the Jets add DE Leonard Williams (considered by many to be the best player in the draft) to an already stout defensive line featuring DE Muhammad Wilkerson (+33.7) and DE Sheldon Richardson (+39.9). Look for this unit to dominate in 2015. 
  • On July 2, DE Sheldon Richardson was suspended by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy. Richardson's suspension lasts 4 games. Update: On July 30, Richardson was arrested. It is being reported that he will only be charged with misdemeanors and traffic violations but it is unclear what this will mean for the coming season. 

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Unfavorable; Run; Unfavorable

This off-season, no team has improved more in one area than the Jets have at cornerback. The New York Jets went into 2014 with one of the weakest secondaries and got torched week after week. No longer. The revamped secondary will smother receivers while the monstrous defensive line does its work. The abundance of talent on this defense combined with the defensive acumen of new head coach Todd Bowles pushes this unit into the conversation for best defense in the league. 


New England Patriots

2014 Rank - Pass: 12th; Run: 14th

The Patriots will need someone to fill the shoes of the departed Revis and Browner. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler may be up to the task. 

The Patriots will need someone to fill the shoes of the departed Revis and Browner. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler may be up to the task. 

Key Losses:
DT Vince Wilfork (+8.9)
OLB Akeem Ayers (+1.0)
CB Darrelle Revis (+17.7)
CB Brandon Browner (-5.0)

Key Additions:
DE Jabaal Sheard (+8.2)
CB Tarrell Brown (-4.6)
CB Bradley Fletcher (-8.4)
DT Malcolm Smith (Round 1, Pick 32) 

Notes:

  • The Pats had to make a tough choice between resigning CB Darrelle Revis or FS Devin McCourty. in the end, they went with McCourty. 
  • To make matters worse, the Pats lost not only their #1 CB in Revis, but also their #2 CB Brandon Browner leaving them with possibly the worst cornerback group in the league. 
  • On the D-line, the Patriots mourn the loss of veteran and team leader Vince Wilfork. However, veteran LB Jerod Mayo returns from a torn patellar tendon sustained in Week 6.
  • The strength of this defense is in their linebacker corps: Jerod Mayo (+18.7 in 2012), Jamie Collins (+22.1), and Dont’a Hightower (+27.1).
  • Additionally, the Patriots landed what looks to be a suitable replacement for Wilfork in DT Malcolm Brown, considered one of the steals of the draft falling to the Pats at 32. 
  • Meanwhile, signing Jabaal Sheard in free agency has been hailed as one of the best moves this off=season. 
  • As for the secondary, significant regression is a given but there's no need for excessive panic. The situation seems similar to what the Patriots were dealing with in 2010 when the depth at CB was so dire that they had to use WR Julian Edelman to fill in for them at corner. Belichick doesn’t seem to value the CB position as much and is known for getting the most out of his players. 
  • In addition, free safety Devin McCourty remains to anchor the group as Bradley Fletcher (-8.4), Tarrell Brown (-4.6), Logan Ryan (+0.2), and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler (+2.2) compete to start at corner. CB Bradley Fletcher's struggles in Philadelphia are notorious but if there’s one place that he can redeem himself, it’s in New England. I expect this unit to bend but not break. 

2015 Matchup Projection - Pass: Favorable; Run: Neutral

As expected, the Super Bowl Champs are due for a decline. For most teams, losing players like Revis, Wilfork, and Browner would be devastating. However, I believe in Belichick’s ability to get the most out of players, even those that have disappointed elsewhere (Fletcher), rookies (Brown), and the unknowns (the entire group of cornerbacks). This defense is by no means scary, but neither will it be a cakewalk for opposing offenses.