If One of Those Bottles Should Happen to Fall. AFC East Preview by Steel Drama
1.) Sam Adams Patriots
Stout: Every team wants one, the Patriots have two “hybrid” tight ends. Rob Gronkowski has 28 touchdowns the past two seasons. No other tight end has more than 17 over that span. This past season, Gronkowski caught 74% of the passes thrown his way for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns ( both NFL records). The Woodland Hills grad also led the NFL with 641 yards after the catch. Simply one of my favorite players to watch in the NFL, he and Aaron Hernandez combined for 2,237 receiving yards (has to be a record for yards by a tight end duo).
On the Hops: Giselle needs to do a better job of talking her husband into retirement. The most disliked player on SteelerFury isn’t going away anytime soon after throwing for 5,235 yards (2nd most in NFL history) en route to his record 5th Super Bowl start. Brady’s 105.6 passer rating would’ve been an NFL record but was bested by MVP Aaron Rodgers. Despite the gaudy stats, Brady didn’t challenge teams down field completing just 20 passes that went over 20 yards in the air (15th in the NFL).
Tap a Keg for the Big Boys: The Patriots started 4 different players at the center position leading to Brady getting sacked 32 times up from 25 in 2010. The retirement of Matt Light and the signing of Raider-bust Robert Gallery will not help improve that number.
Ice Cold Draft: Tavon who? The Patriots 2nd round pick Tavon Wilson wasn't invited to the combine, which means he wasn't considered among somebody's top 300 players in this draft, and there are a lot of people out there who thought he wouldn't be drafted. Nevertheless, the Patriots made the Illinois captain the 48th pick of the draft. In case you’d forgotten, Bill is a genius.
Stale Ale: Tom Brady’s security blanket led the league with 122 catches, 22 more than next closest receiver. However, with Wes Welker you know what you’re getting. He was only targeted on 11 passes over 20 yards all year.
Bitter Beer Face: The Patriots were 31st in total defense giving up 293.9 yards per game (2nd worst in NFL history). When wide receivers Matt Prater and Julian Edelman are needed to contribute, there’s some serious issues in the secondary.
Bartender: Since Bill Belichick took charge in 2000, the Patriots are an NFL best 139-53. However the only Patriots record NFL fans everywhere care about, 0-2 in Super Bowls after Spygate, remains safely intact.
Drinks are on Drama: A Sam Adams Summer Ale for Wes Welker and his less than clutch Super Bowl DROP. Cheers to you Wes!
The Hangover: Brady and Belichick have won 124 regular season games and 16 postseason games, as well as appearing in five Super Bowls, all NFL records. So long as they’re together, the Patriots won’t be going away anytime soon.
2.) Genesee Bills
Stout: While the Bills are hoping Mario Williams lives up to the billing of his record setting free agent contract, free safety Jarius Byrd emerged as the Bills' "best defensive player" in 2011. The 25-year-old Byrd recorded 98 tackles, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions while starting all 16 games for an injury riddled Bills team.
On the Hops: Stevie Johnson became the first Bills receiver in history with consecutive 1,000 yd seasons (Andre Reed never did that). Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller could make a great duo combining for nearly 1500 yds and 10 tds after Fred Jackson went down with a broken leg in November.
Tap a Keg: Despite the loss of stalwart center Eric Wood to a torn ACL, the Bills allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL with 23 and the teams 4.9 yards per rush was its best since 1975 when the Electric Company was paving the way for O.J. Simpson.
Ice Cold Draft: Bills GM Buddy Nix served as Southeastern regional scout for the late John Butler from 1993-2000. Since being named Bills GM in 2009, Nix has used 24 of his 35 draft selections on players from southern schools.
Stale Ale: Like the rest of the NFL, the Bills are trying to figure out how to stop the Patriots’ passing attack in particular the aforementioned Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Clearly, the Bills are determined to do just that by drafting big corners Aaron Williams (2011) and this years’ top pick Stephon Gilmore.
Bitter Beer Face: Did I read that right? The Bills hired Dave Wannstedt to fix a Bills’ defense that gave up 4.8 yds per carry, registered only 29 sacks, and allowed a team record 5,938 yards? The Bills did finish 5th in NFL with 20 interceptions, a number that could go up more with addition of 1st round draft pick Stephon Gilmore and an improved pass rush led by Mario Williams. But Dave Wannstedt? That’s the best you can do?
Bartender: Chan Gailey (speaking of surprising hires) went from 4-12 and scoring 17.7 points per game in 2010 to 6-10 and scoring 23.2 points per game in 2011. The Bills started a surprising 5-2 only to lose 8 of the last 9 as injuries mounted throughout the season.
Drinks Are On Drama: A round of Molson Exports for all the Bills fans that were at Ray’s bar up the hill from Casino Niagra who watched their Bills lose to the Titans in the Music City Miracle over a decade ago. Ray’s is generally known as a hockey bar, but that was an enjoyable afternoon of football. Salute Ray and Bills’ fans!
The Hangover: I know the Bills last playoff appearance was 1999, the longest drought in NFL. I know the Bills have finished last in the AFC East for four consecutive years and finished 1-5 this year against AFC East opponents. But I really like a lot of the young players on this team and applaud the improbable signings they made this offseason. The Bills are my AFC sleeper team.
“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” - Frank Zappa
3.) Hoptimus Prime Jets
Stout- Jets-At the time it was painful to watch the Jets trade up in front of the Steelers to draft Pitt’s Darrelle Revis but I didn’t think it would be THIS painful. Revis led the NFL with a passer rating of 45.6 on throws into his coverage last season. He allowed just 41.2 percent of all targets to be complete, including just 26.1 percent in the fourth quarter for a passer rating of 1.3. Revis also recorded 20 total pass breakups while allowing just one touchdown on 85 targets. A true shutdown corner, Revis has been arguably the NFL's most valuable defensive player since Rex Ryan took over the Jets three years ago.
On the Hops: David Harris is the best defensive player not named Darrelle Revis posting 5 sacks and 4 interceptions while proving to be the prototype 3-4 ILB.
Tap a Keg: Nick Mangold went to his 4th consecutive Pro Bowl and D’Brickashaw Ferguson his 3rd, but it was RG Brandon Moore that was the Jets’ best lineman not allowing a sack in 2011. However, Mr. Tebow might want to say a few Hail Mary’s for the human turnstile, Wayne Hunter, who allowed 8.5 sacks last year.
Ice Cold Draft: There have been 27 receivers who were 6-foot-3 or taller taken in the second round of the draft since the merger, and they averaged 18 catches, 262 yards, and two touchdowns as rookies. Only the legendary Chris Collinsworth managed to bust out a 1,000-yard season during his rookie campaign. So while Stephen Hill might eventually turn into a contributor, the win-now Jets really needed a player that would have helped them win now. Even Rich Eisen knows a boom or bust player when he sees one, “He’s either the next Calvin Johnson or the next Johnny Lam Jones.”
Stale Ale: The New York Daily News ran a 6,900 word back page story on Tim Tebow’s...wait for it…first practice at OTA’s. “"He's a born leader," Darrelle Revis said, "He really is. Very few athletes have the gift that he has. He tries to lead by example all the time and he tries to be positive, which is awesome.” No Pressure Tim.
Bitter Beer Face: Does anybody else think Mark Sanchez needed a few cervezas this offseason? Sanchez’s 26-10 td-int ratio was the best of his career, however he struggled to read defenses and his longest downfield pass was a 41 yd pass to Dustin Keller. Santonio Holmes only averaged 12.8 yds per catch and was criticized for running wrong routes all the while being a clubhouse cancer accusing Sanchez of not being able to get him the ball. That’s NOT how you be great Santonio.
Bartender: Rex Ryan is now 90 pounds less full of shit thanks to gastric bypass surgery. Two trips to the AFC Championship game in three years tells me Ryan can coach, but last season’s underachieving 8-8 campaign that saw the locker room come unraveled late in the year has what’s left of Ryan’ fat ass on the hot seat entering 2012.
Drinks Are On Drama: How about a shot of Diablo for Tim Tebow …oh wait…I’m guessing Tebow doesn’t drink…just make it an O’Douls. It’s ok Timmy, every team needs a good designated driver.
The Hangover: I see the Jets as the type of team that could finish first or worst. Despite Shonn Greene getting his first 1,000 season of his career the jets ranked 22nd in rushing offense after finishing 4th in 2010 and 1st in 2009. So the Jets traded for Tebow and drafted Stephen Hill from GA Tech’s option attack to help block for Tony Sporano’s new version of the ground and pound.
4.) Boca Blonde Dolphins:
Stout: Cameron Wake and his 81 combined sacks, hits, and hurries was the second-highest total of all defensive players.
On the Hops: Trent Dilfer told me that Miami is bringing in an up tempo, college style offense like Oregon where the Dolphins are going try to run at least 90 plays a game on offense. “ To do that you need young, fast, athletes with stamina. They’re going to dictate the terms, play peddle to the metal the whole time not shifting down to 3rd gear.”
Tap a Keg: Going to be tough running an up tempo attack with an offensive line that allowed 52 sacks last season, one away from the franchise record.
Ice Cold Draft: After the selection of Ryan Tannehill, Gruden opined, “Miami needs a quarterback to hit, it’s been a long time since Dan Marino threw a completion.”
Stale Ale: The Dolphins have had 16 starting quarterbacks since 2,000. Matt Moore is the Dolphins' starter ... for now. Get ready to move over, Matt. The Dolphins aren't going to wait long on Tannehill after making him the eighth pick of the draft. So he only had 19 starts at Texas A&M. Mark Sanchez had 16 at USC and stepped in immediately. Same goes for Cam Newton after he had 14 starts at Auburn. Not to mention his college coach Mike Sherman is now his offensive coordinator.
Bitter Beer Face: The lovely Rachel Nichols told me that Brandon Marshall accounted for nearly 40% of the Dolphins passing offense. Who did they acquire to fill that void?
Bartender: Allegheny College grads know the name Joe Philbin as he coached the 1990 National Championship team. More impressively, during his tenure as offensive coordinator (2007–2011), the Packers offense ranked in the top 10 in the NFL for points scored and total yards every year, including their Super Bowl season.
Drinks Are On Drama: A shot, a beer, and a pre-nup for Ryan Tannehill. I’m not a jealous man but your wife is smokin’ hot bro! Salute!
The Hangover: One of my least favorite organizations is the Miami Dolphins. Their owner Steven Ross and GM Jeff Ireland seemingly have no clue. Good idea to put your rookie head coach and rookie quarterback on Hard Knocks while trying to learn a new, gimmicky offense without the talent to run it.
“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” - Frank Sinatra