Zach Wilson prepares to lead an improved NY Jets roster versus the AFC East.
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How does the New York Jets’ roster fare when comparing it against the rest of the AFC East, position-by-position?

Vitor Paiva

If the New York Jets hope to be relevant in December, winning their AFC East matchups is a must.

Before we know it, the summer will be nearing its end and the fall will be upon us. That means real football action is about to drop. All of the talk in the offseason about this brand-new Jets team will finally be put to the test.

The main question is: how much better is this team? Obviously, no one knows yet. Soon, the first signals to the response will start to appear.

Honestly, the Jets don’t need to improve from the second-worst team in the league to a top-five squad to compete for a playoff berth. All that New York needs is to be as good as Buffalo, Miami, and New England—or at least close to that.

Once the Jets level up against their own divisional rivals, things will look a lot better for them. (Sad reminder: the Jets are 2-10 in their last 12 divisional games.)

With that in mind, the question asks itself: How do the Jets stack up, position by position, against the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Buffalo Bills? Are the other three teams that much more talented than New York?

Let’s take a look at a unit-by-unit comparison for every team in the division.

Below, I will list the team’s presumed starters and main contributors at every spot and rank them from one to four. The goal is to see how close these teams are—not only talent-wise—but also when it relates to the depth of the football team.

Defense

Defensive Line

New York Jets (4-3 scheme): LDE Carl Lawson, DT Quinnen Williams, NT Folorunso Fatukasi, RDE Vinny Curry. Key contributors: John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins.

Buffalo Bills (4-3 scheme): LDE Jerry Hughes, DT Ed Oliver, DT Star Lotulelei, RDE Mario Addison. Key contributors: Carlos Basham, Vernon Butler, Greg Rousseau.

New England Patriots (3-4 scheme): LDE Lawrence Guy, NT Christian Barmore, RDE Henry Anderson, WLB Matt Judon. Key contributors: Davon Godchaux, Chase Winovich.

Miami Dolphins (3-4 scheme): LDE Christian Wilkins, NT Raekwon Davis, RDE Zach Sieler, WLB Jaelan Phillips. Key contributors: Emmanuel Ogbah, Sam Eguavoen.

This might be the deepest position group in the entire division. The Jets’ front four has tons of potential, but the Bills’ unit, when healthy, could be just as strong.

Things start to drop off when looking at Miami’s squad – although it still could be a good group, especially if Jaelan Phillips is healthy. New England got better with Barmore’s addition, but they still need Bill Belichick’s scheming to generate pressure.

The Jets’ interior rush here gives them the advantage over Buffalo. Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, and Sheldon Rankins could be a dominant trio on the inside.

Ranking:

  1. New York Jets
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. New England Patriots

Jets X-Factor Membership

Off-Ball Linebackers

New York Jets (4-3): WLB Blake Cashman, MLB C.J. Mosley, SLB Jarrad Davis. Key contributors: Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen.

Buffalo Bills (4-3): WLB Matt Milano, MLB Tremaine Edmunds, SLB A.J. Klein. Key contributor: Tyrell Dodson.

New England Patriots (3-4): ILB Dont’a Hightower, ILB Ja’Whaun Bentley, SLB Kyle Van Noy. Key contributor: Terez Hall.

Miami Dolphins (3-4): ILB Jerome Baker, ILB Benardrick McKinney, SLB Sam Eguavoen. Key contributors: Andrew Van Ginkel, Duke Riley.

For the Jets, the linebacker group’s success will heavily depend on the defensive line’s performance. It will be crucial for the defensive front to make the linebackers’ jobs as easy as possible since the position is filled with question marks. That includes C.J. Mosley, who is the primary key for the entire unit.

Buffalo has, hands down, the best unit in the division. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, when healthy, are an excellent linebacker duo – well complemented by A.J. Klein.

New England doesn’t have many spectacular names, but Dont’a Hightower and company usually get the job done. Every player is a good scheme fit. Miami is above New York, too, especially after Jerome Baker took a solid leap last season.

In an optimistic view, If Mosley and Jarrad Davis are as good as their career peaks, this unit could take a leap and match the Dolphins.

Ranking:

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. New York Jets

Safeties

New York Jets: FS Lamarcus Joyner, SS Marcus Maye. Key contributor: Ashtyn Davis.

Buffalo Bills: FS Micah Hyde, SS Jordan Poyer. Key contributor: Jaquan Johnson.

New England Patriots: FS Devin McCourty, SS Adrian Phillips. Key contributor: Kyle Dugger.

Miami Dolphins: FS Jevon Holland, SS Eric Rowe. Key contributor: Brandon Jones.

As much as there’s to like about the Jets’ safety group, Buffalo arguably has the best safety tandem in the league in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Both players are interchangeable and benefit from a strong cornerback group.

If Lamarcus Joyner can regain his Rams form, he could form a versatile and very strong group with Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis.

In New England, Devin McCourty is still solid, but he is in the back half of his career. The scheme will elevate him and Adrian Phillips.

The Dolphins’ duo is solid, but the strength of their secondary lies in the cornerback group.

Since the Jets are depending on a bounce back from an older player, Buffalo leads the ranking here. Maye’s top-10 ability is a strong reason the Jets are placed at number two.

Ranking:

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. New York Jets
  3. New England Patriots
  4. Miami Dolphins

Cornerbacks

New York Jets: CB Bryce Hall, CB Bless Austin, SLCB Michael Carter II. Key contributors: Jason Pinnock, Javelin Guidry.

Buffalo Bills: CB Tre’Davious White, CB Levi Wallace, SLCB Taron Johnson. Key contributor: Dane Jackson.

New England Patriots: CB Stephon Gilmore, CB J.C. Jackson, SLCB Jonathan Jones. Key contributor: Jalen Mills.

Miami Dolphins: CB Xavien Howard, CB Byron Jones, SLCB Justin Coleman. Key contributor: Jason McCourty.

It is a foregone conclusion that the Jets have the division’s worst cornerback group. The problem is that the talent dropoff from the other teams to the Jets is so big that second-stringers on the Patriots and Dolphins would be unquestioned starters in New York: Jalen Mills and Jason McCourty.

The Patriots and Dolphins’ scheme runs through their cornerbacks, so it makes sense they are deep there. The same applies to the Jets’ defensive line.

Many Jets fans were certain the team would add a veteran cornerback until Robert Saleh made a vow to trust the youngsters on the roster. That leaves this position as a massive hole until those aforementioned young players can prove themselves.

Ranking:

  1. Miami Dolphins
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Buffalo Bills
  4. New York Jets

Defensive Overview

The Jets are far behind their rivals at the defense’s most (or second-most) important position: cornerback.

New York has the best and deepest defensive line, but the dropoff between it and the other teams is not as huge as it is at the cornerback position. The hope is that the 4-3 attacking scheme generates a ton of pressure, allowing the cornerbacks to play with more freedom.

New England has a fantastic defense from a scheme-fit perspective. Bellichick knows what he wants to do and he finds the players to do it. Second-round defensive tackle Christian Barmore will be key on early downs, while Matt Judon could be the pass rusher New England has missed for a long time (although I don’t think he will be).

Miami’s defense has the highest ceiling of the four. If Jaelan Phillips stays healthy and Emmanuel Ogbah builds off of a strong 2020, this unit could have the best edge rushers and cornerbacks in the division. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones were fantastic in 2020, but it’s hard to replicate 10 interceptions. Some sort of regression to the mean is expected.

Buffalo is well built, boasting a sound safety duo, a strong linebacker group, and a solid cornerback unit led by Tre’Davious White. With the additions of Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham via the draft, their pass rush could reach the next level.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, Mekhi Becton
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Offense

Offensive Line

New York Jets: LT Mekhi Becton, LG Alijah Vera-Tucker, C Connor McGovern, RG Greg Van Roten, RT Morgan Moses. Key backups: T George Fant, G Alex Lewis.

Buffalo Bills: LT Dion Dawkins, LG Jon Feliciano, C Mitch Morse, RG Cody Ford, RT Daryl Williams. Key backups: T Spencer Brown, G/C Forrest Lamp.

New England Patriots: LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Michael Onwenu, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Trent Brown. Key backups: G Alex Redmond, C James Ferentz.

Miami Dolphins: LT Austin Jackson, LG Solomon Kindley, C Matt Skura, RG Robert Hunt, RT Jesse Davis. Key backups: G D.J. Fluker, T Liam Eichenberg.

It all starts upfront for the Jets, so they built their offense that way. Morgan Moses and Mekhi Becton are a great tackle duo, and Alijah Vera-Tucker has the talent to be a Pro Bowler early in his career.

New England’s OL is just as good – if not better. The question marks are at the tackle spots since Isaiah Wynn has been hurt a ton and Trent Brown is coming off of an injury-plagued season in Vegas. Buffalo follows with a handful of solid players who get the job done.

Miami’s unit is subpar but could improve if rookie Liam Eichenberg quickly develops into the solid tackle he can be.

Advantage New York, while betting on the potential of youngsters Becton and Vera-Tucker over everything else.

Ranking:

  1. New York Jets
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Buffalo Bills
  4. Miami Dolphins

Tight End

New York Jets: Chris Herndon, Tyler Kroft.

Buffalo Bills: Dawson Knox, Jacob Hollister.

New England Patriots: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith.

Miami Dolphins: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe.

New England is the unquestioned lead dog here after paying a lot of money to add both Henry and Smith to their squad. Their base offense will probably be in 12 personnel.

Buffalo, on the other hand, doesn’t use tight ends all that much, so their underwhelming depth is not a huge problem. Miami’s Mike Geisicki has proven to be a solid and reliable player.

The Jets enter the year with the eternally promising Chris Herndon and a veteran in Tyler Kroft. Kroft could end up being a steal in free agency thanks to his blocking ability. Staying healthy is the key for him.

Ranking:

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. New York Jets
  4. Buffalo Bills

Running backs

New York Jets: Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson.

Buffalo Bills: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Breida.

New England Patriots: Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White.

Miami Dolphins: Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, Salvon Ahmed.

Talent-wise, things are pretty much equal in between New York, Buffalo, and New England.

For their power scheme, Damien Harris proved to be a phenomenal fit for the Patriots, and James White is as reliable as they come. In Buffalo, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss are a good one-two punch with Matt Breida being a nice change-of-pace back.

The Jets have the most talented player in the division in Michael Carter and a proven veteran in Tevin Coleman. Ty Johnson could surprise a lot of people with his one-cut ability in the Jets’ wide-zone scheme. Miami has the least crowded room, with Myles Gaskin being the clear lead dog.

Scheme fit places the Jets at the top here.

Ranking:

  1. New York Jets
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Buffalo Bills
  4. Miami Dolphins

Wide Receivers

New York Jets: WR Corey Davis, WR Denzel Mims, SLWR Jamison Crowder. Key contributors: Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole.

Buffalo Bills: WR Stefon Diggs, WR Emmanuel Sanders, SLWR Cole Beasley. Key contributors: Isaiah McKenzie, Gabriel Davis.

New England Patriots: WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne, SLWR Jakobi Meyers. Key contributors: Marvin Hall, N’Keal Harry.

Miami Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker, WR Will Fuller, SLWR Jaylen Waddle. Key contributors: Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant Sr.

This has been the most controversial position of the offseason for Jets fans, who have been highly optimistic about the group – perhaps too much so, as they have been accused of saying the team’s unit was the best/deepest in the league.

That might be a stretch, but the unit is good and will be special as soon as Elijah Moore fulfills his potential.

Right now, Buffalo still has the advantage in the division. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders are a fantastic group to start the game at 11 personnel. Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie have delivered when called upon.

Miami also has a deep group, but DeVante Parker and Will Fuller come with question marks. The first struggles to separate and the second can’t stay healthy.

New England will play in 12 personnel in most of the downs, so I wouldn’t read much into their depth at WR, but Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are unimpressive.

Ranking:

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. New York Jets
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. New England Patriots

Quarterback

New York Jets: Zach Wilson, James Morgan.

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, Mitch Trubisky.

New England Patriots: Cam Newton, Mac Jones.

Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett.

Depth-wise, the Jets are in the worst shape of the division, but I will focus on ranking the starters.

As of now, the standard thing to do would be to rank the rookie at the bottom, giving Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa an advantage. However, I don’t see either of them having a better season than Zach Wilson. Newton was horrific last year, having trouble going through his reads. Tagovailoa, on the other hand, showed less promise than ideal in his rookie year.

Josh Allen is the clear-cut number one quarterback in the AFC East. The rest is up for grabs, and I’m betting on Wilson to take the number two spot.

Ranking:

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. New York Jets
  3. New England Patriots
  4. Miami Dolphins

Offensive Overview

For the first time in a long time, the Jets’ offense is, on paper, better than its defense. The offensive line should be one of the league’s best while the receiving core has a ton of potential and also a few reliable veterans. The running back group is solid.

Ultimately, the offense’s success depends on Wilson’s development. If he has an above-average rookie season, watch out.

If New England has success running their offense through 12 personnel, they will be good. I don’t think Cam Newton will be the starter for long, but Mac Jones should deliver when called. A heavy play-action offense will benefit the Alabama product. On the ground, Harris and White will benefit from a strong OL.

Miami, for me, will be this year’s biggest disappointment. I don’t see it in Tua – never have – and this offensive line doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. But if Tagovailoa takes the leap, Fuller and Jaylen Waddle are burners and could do a lot of damage. With Chan Gailey retiring, this offense should have a new look.

Josh Allen was nothing short of fantastic last season, and I expect he will remain at that level. Sanders gives the Bills a nice boost on the outside opposing Diggs. He’s a vet but still a very solid route runner. The offensive line is solid, and so are the running backs. Buffalo should crack the league’s top ten once again.

Final thoughts

The AFC East is a tough division. New York’s three rivals are strong defensively and have a significant amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball.

Robert Saleh’s squad will be depending heavily on youngsters to compete this year: particularly the cornerbacks and quarterback Zach Wilson. If they can perform above expectations, the team should compete for a playoff berth.

I always heard from my dad that young people will save the world. I’m not so sure about that, since things can’t seem to improve.

But I’m pretty certain that the Jets’ world will indeed be saved by young people.

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A former quarterback, Vitor Paiva wants to showcase a deep analysis of what's really happening on the field, showcasing what's really on the mind of a football player during a play, in his Sidearm Session. Email: vitorpaivagon@gmail.com

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Freedom1789
Member
Freedom1789

If I did it right, just adding up your scores (with no weights on position importance), Buffalo is the clear leader on Defense, but the rest of the division is “equal”. On Offense, the NYJ LEAD, followed by Buff = Pats, with the Phins trailing. In an offense dominated league, I’ll take it!!

Jimjets
Member
Jimjets

Well done – thorough and thoughtful analysis. We have hope. Optimism. A reason to believe and watch. We are in good hands – Douglas and s
Saleh – and heading in the right direction. There’s no doubt.