Patriots Look Like AFC East Champs Again

The kick off to the 2006 Football Season is still several months away. It is has been said the Patriots are the "favorite" to win the AFC East. The Patriots clearly have an edge, but let's look at the other teams in the division. In version 1.0 of her blog series, Patriots fan PatriotsChic shares her thoughts on what the future holds for the rivals in the AFC East.

Blog: PatriotsChic v1: 6/03/2006

Miami Dolphins

Miami made eleven (yes eleven!) acquisitions at the beginning of free agency. Although, some of the decisions are confusing to those who follow the team, the Dolphins were the most active players in the market.

The most notable acquisition was quarterback Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota) who is recovering from a severe knee injury suffered last season. The addition of Culpepper had reporters speculating the Dolphins as a possible threat to the Patriots dominance of the division. Culpepper won't be ready to see any action until possibly the middle of November. At that point, his ego may need to be addressed after being a starter for the Vikings to a possible starter for the Dolphins.

Until Culpepper is recovered, Miami has quarterback Joey Harrington (Detroit) at the helm with infamous rookie free agent quarterback Marcus Vick as a potential back up signal caller. Harrington has experience carrying a franchise's hopes but it doesn't mean he is ready to blossom in Miami.

Miami may have made strides signing these free agents, but took a hit or two in the meantime. The departure of safety Tebucky Jones is one, who signed with the Patriots for a second go around.

Miami made a couple of smart choices during the 2006 NFL Draft. The defense needed work and picking two receivers was a curious decision when it wasn't the team's most pressing need. The Dolphins are not going to come together in one season, especially looking at the rookie talent added.

It is doubtful the Dolphins will pose a threat to the Patriots grasp of the division title this season. Dolphins head coach Nick Saban has some work to do on the roster before he can expect the team to make to it to the playoffs.

New York Jets

Next in line for contention for the division crown would be the New York Jets. New head coach Eric Mangini should thank his mentor, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, for giving him the opportunity to attain such a high position (head coach) at a young age (34). It is evident that without being part of the Patriots organization New York would not be Mangini's new home.

New York said goodbye to quarterback Jay Fieldler but welcomed in quarterback Patrick Ramsey (Washington). Ramsey had four unpredictable and inconsistent years with Washington. The Jets caused a stir when defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen (Pittsburgh) was signed, ending a six-year stint with the Steelers. Von Oelhoffen had been a reliable presence, but one player can't carry the entire defense. He is a twelve-year veteran, and signed for three more. At 35, he may not see the end of that contract.

Free agent cornerback Ty Law created a void in the Jets defense when he was released. Law has made a name for himself with the Patriots and in New York. Where Law will end up is unclear, but many Patriots fans hope he will return to New England. Wherever he goes, his departure from New York created another hole in the Jets secondary that needs to be filled.

New York had some intelligent picks on the first day of the Draft, like offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Virginia), who will help solidify the offensive line. Some questioned why line backer Anthony Schlegel (Ohio State) was chosen early when better players, like linebacker James Anderson (Virginia Tech), were still available. Anderson displayed better athleticism and faster speed over Schlegel at the Combine. New York used their 8th pick on tight end Jason Pociask (Wisconsin) rather than choosing defensive tackle Titus Adams (Nebraska) who ended up as their 10th pick. Pociask was expected to be an undrafted rookie free agent. This thought process mystified me. It makes me wonder if this organization knew how to handle the first and second day in the Draft.

It is their thin offensive line that Mangini needs to start rebuilding. Former head coach Herm Edwards was using tight end Doug Jolley as a back up for the quarterback position last year. That is never a good idea. I don't think the Jets are ready to be a competitive team. It is doubtful that the playoffs are in the near future for them, at least not still while needing to give the whole team a face-lift in the talent department.

Buffalo Bills

It is no secret Buffalo has struggled in recent years. Last season Buffalo finished third in the division. The team needs to be deal with building solid depth at the quarterback position, which is currently filled by Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb has nine years of experience, not one of which included a winning record. Will Buffalo be counting on Holcomb who started eight games last year? Will back up quarterback J.P. Losman come out ready in 2006 to become the leader he was drafted to be? Buffalo needs to resolve the problems at this key position or they will have a repeat of the 5-11 record of 2005.

The Bills lost veterans, safety Lawyer Milloy (Atlanta) and receiver Eric Moulds (Houston). Both were leaders of the team, if not verbally, then by example. Free agent receiver, Andre Davis (New England) signed on, but he didn't make a dent with the Patriots. Who is to say that Davis will do much for Buffalo?

Buffalo left those watching their Draft strategy the impression that they've never been through one before. It was apparent that as picks were being made and opportunities for trades slipped through their grasp, this organization was full of inexperience. Out of the nine picks Buffalo made, five were for the defense. It is the Buffalo offense that needs help initially to get things going. With all the experience that former Bills head coach and current General Manager Marv Levy has, the decisions he and the rest of the front office made in the Draft were surprising.

Like the Jets and Dolphins, the Bills do not look like they will be successful any time soon. The defense allowed 24 points or more in 8 of the 11 losses last year. Their decision to Draf defensive players to stop the opposition makes sense, but more importantly, the running game and the quarterback positions need to be addressed. Buffalo's special teams unit is working well in the eyes of some observers. However, the whole organization needs to be rebuilt from the inside to the outside. The hiring of seven new coaches this year shows they are on their way to making the key changes necessary to be competitive. It will take at least another year to rebuild this team before making it into the playoffs.

New England Patriots

The Patriots had some major changes due to free agency. Veterans such as kicker Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis), linebacker Willie McGinest (Cleveland) and receiver David Givens (Tennessee) departed for better opportunities elsewhere. Many fans questioned the decisions of head coach Bill Belichick to allow those veterans to leave.

Some excitement returned for fans after the team drafted kicker Stephen Gostkowski and running back Laurence Maroney. Although free agent kicker Martin Gramatica was already on the roster when the team drafted Goskowski, it is unclear if he is recovered from an injury that kept him out of football last year. Maroney has pressure to help the team's running game after the poor performance last season. The injuries to running back Corey Dillon, and Kevin Faulk were the biggest problems.

It is essential that any team with hopes of making a playoff run remain healthy throughout the entire season. The Patriots are no exception. The difference is, Belichick has a strong backup plan in place for any position affected by losses due to injury. That plan has worked amazingly well in the past, and there is no reason to think that won't be the case this season.

The Patriots have a clear advantage over teams like Miami, New York and Buffalo due to a more balanced offense and defense. It will be at least another season before competition for the AFC East division becomes competitive despite some of the transformations division rivals have already made. The Patriots face some challenging opponents in 2006 like the Indianapolis Colts, but the way it looks now, they will clinch the AFC East title again.

~ Patriots Chic

Patriots Chic is new to Patriots Insider but a long time Pats fan who shares her thoughts on the team via her blog. You can leave messages for Chic or other Pats bloggers in the forums. Patriots Chic's Bio can be found here

Patriots Insider will make Patriots fan blogs available from time to time as part of our fan appreciation effort. If you would like to be considered for publication on Patriots Insider and it's syndication partners, let us know here: or post your blog ( here )


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Blog: PatriotsChic v1: 6/03/2006

Miami Dolphins

Miami made eleven (yes eleven!) acquisitions at the beginning of free agency. Although, some of the decisions are confusing to those who follow the team, the Dolphins were the most active players in the market.

The most notable acquisition was quarterback Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota) who is recovering from a severe knee injury suffered last season. The addition of Culpepper had reporters speculating the Dolphins as a possible threat to the Patriots dominance of the division. Culpepper won't be ready to see any action until possibly the middle of November. At that point, his ego may need to be addressed after being a starter for the Vikings to a possible starter for the Dolphins.

Until Culpepper is recovered, Miami has quarterback Joey Harrington (Detroit) at the helm with infamous rookie free agent quarterback Marcus Vick as a potential back up signal caller. Harrington has experience carrying a franchise's hopes but it doesn't mean he is ready to blossom in Miami.

Miami may have made strides signing these free agents, but took a hit or two in the meantime. The departure of safety Tebucky Jones is one, who signed with the Patriots for a second go around.

Miami made a couple of smart choices during the 2006 NFL Draft. The defense needed work and picking two receivers was a curious decision when it wasn't the team's most pressing need. The Dolphins are not going to come together in one season, especially looking at the rookie talent added.

It is doubtful the Dolphins will pose a threat to the Patriots grasp of the division title this season. Dolphins head coach Nick Saban has some work to do on the roster before he can expect the team to make to it to the playoffs.

New York Jets

Next in line for contention for the division crown would be the New York Jets. New head coach Eric Mangini should thank his mentor, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, for giving him the opportunity to attain such a high position (head coach) at a young age (34). It is evident that without being part of the Patriots organization New York would not be Mangini's new home.

New York said goodbye to quarterback Jay Fieldler but welcomed in quarterback Patrick Ramsey (Washington). Ramsey had four unpredictable and inconsistent years with Washington. The Jets caused a stir when defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen (Pittsburgh) was signed, ending a six-year stint with the Steelers. Von Oelhoffen had been a reliable presence, but one player can't carry the entire defense. He is a twelve-year veteran, and signed for three more. At 35, he may not see the end of that contract.

Free agent cornerback Ty Law created a void in the Jets defense when he was released. Law has made a name for himself with the Patriots and in New York. Where Law will end up is unclear, but many Patriots fans hope he will return to New England. Wherever he goes, his departure from New York created another hole in the Jets secondary that needs to be filled.

New York had some intelligent picks on the first day of the Draft, like offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Virginia), who will help solidify the offensive line. Some questioned why line backer Anthony Schlegel (Ohio State) was chosen early when better players, like linebacker James Anderson (Virginia Tech), were still available. Anderson displayed better athleticism and faster speed over Schlegel at the Combine. New York used their 8th pick on tight end Jason Pociask (Wisconsin) rather than choosing defensive tackle Titus Adams (Nebraska) who ended up as their 10th pick. Pociask was expected to be an undrafted rookie free agent. This thought process mystified me. It makes me wonder if this organization knew how to handle the first and second day in the Draft.

It is their thin offensive line that Mangini needs to start rebuilding. Former head coach Herm Edwards was using tight end Doug Jolley as a back up for the quarterback position last year. That is never a good idea. I don't think the Jets are ready to be a competitive team. It is doubtful that the playoffs are in the near future for them, at least not still while needing to give the whole team a face-lift in the talent department.

Buffalo Bills

It is no secret Buffalo has struggled in recent years. Last season Buffalo finished third in the division. The team needs to be deal with building solid depth at the quarterback position, which is currently filled by Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb has nine years of experience, not one of which included a winning record. Will Buffalo be counting on Holcomb who started eight games last year? Will back up quarterback J.P. Losman come out ready in 2006 to become the leader he was drafted to be? Buffalo needs to resolve the problems at this key position or they will have a repeat of the 5-11 record of 2005.

The Bills lost veterans, safety Lawyer Milloy (Atlanta) and receiver Eric Moulds (Houston). Both were leaders of the team, if not verbally, then by example. Free agent receiver, Andre Davis (New England) signed on, but he didn't make a dent with the Patriots. Who is to say that Davis will do much for Buffalo?

Buffalo left those watching their Draft strategy the impression that they've never been through one before. It was apparent that as picks were being made and opportunities for trades slipped through their grasp, this organization was full of inexperience. Out of the nine picks Buffalo made, five were for the defense. It is the Buffalo offense that needs help initially to get things going. With all the experience that former Bills head coach and current General Manager Marv Levy has, the decisions he and the rest of the front office made in the Draft were surprising.

Like the Jets and Dolphins, the Bills do not look like they will be successful any time soon. The defense allowed 24 points or more in 8 of the 11 losses last year. Their decision to Draf defensive players to stop the opposition makes sense, but more importantly, the running game and the quarterback positions need to be addressed. Buffalo's special teams unit is working well in the eyes of some observers. However, the whole organization needs to be rebuilt from the inside to the outside. The hiring of seven new coaches this year shows they are on their way to making the key changes necessary to be competitive. It will take at least another year to rebuild this team before making it into the playoffs.

New England Patriots

The Patriots had some major changes due to free agency. Veterans such as kicker Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis), linebacker Willie McGinest (Cleveland) and receiver David Givens (Tennessee) departed for better opportunities elsewhere. Many fans questioned the decisions of head coach Bill Belichick to allow those veterans to leave.

Some excitement returned for fans after the team drafted kicker Stephen Gostkowski and running back Laurence Maroney. Although free agent kicker Martin Gramatica was already on the roster when the team drafted Goskowski, it is unclear if he is recovered from an injury that kept him out of football last year. Maroney has pressure to help the team's running game after the poor performance last season. The injuries to running back Corey Dillon, and Kevin Faulk were the biggest problems.

It is essential that any team with hopes of making a playoff run remain healthy throughout the entire season. The Patriots are no exception. The difference is, Belichick has a strong backup plan in place for any position affected by losses due to injury. That plan has worked amazingly well in the past, and there is no reason to think that won't be the case this season.

The Patriots have a clear advantage over teams like Miami, New York and Buffalo due to a more balanced offense and defense. It will be at least another season before competition for the AFC East division becomes competitive despite some of the transformations division rivals have already made. The Patriots face some challenging opponents in 2006 like the Indianapolis Colts, but the way it looks now, they will clinch the AFC East title again.

~ Patriots Chic

Patriots Chic is new to Patriots Insider but a long time Pats fan who shares her thoughts on the team via her blog. You can leave messages for Chic or other Pats bloggers in the forums. Patriots Chic's Bio can be found here

Patriots Insider will make Patriots fan blogs available from time to time as part of our fan appreciation effort. If you would like to be considered for publication on Patriots Insider and it's syndication partners, let us know here: or post your blog ( here )

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