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A Look at Miami's Divisional Rivals
Updated 02-25-02
   Any Dolphin fan worth his salt realizes the challenges facing the Dolphins. Salary cap concerns, problems with the offensive line, and finding a primary RB are just a few of the tasks facing Dave Wannstedt and company. But this is just a piece of the whole picture. What about our divisional foes? They will make up almost a 1/3 of Miami's schedule, and their improvement or decline will have a direct impact on the Dolphins. What kind of problems will they be facing? Who will they take in the draft? Here is a brief summation of each team....

The Bills -
   Last season Buffalo finished last in the AFC East with a 3-13 record, and were swept by Miami during the regular season. Their only divisional win; a victory over the Jets on the road. The Bills have a long way to go to challenge in the East.

Free Agents
CB Lance Brown
OL Billy Conaty
LB Sam Cowart
DT Shawn Price
OL Morris Unutoa

Possible Cuts *
QB Rob Johnson
CB Ken Irvin
DE Phil Hansen (retired)
LT John Fina

Needs
QB - Rob Johnson is all but gone, but is Alex Van-Pelt the answer?
OL - This group was horrible in 2000, and certainly did not improve in 2001. John Fina could find himself a free agent should the Bills cut him as rumored. This group needs help in the worst way!
LB - Sam Cowart may not be resigned, and the Bills don't have much depth at this position as it is.

Draft
   After searching several different mock drafts, the consensus pick for the Bills (who have the number #4 pick in the draft) is OT Bryant McKinnie from Miami. He would solidify the left side of the Bills line for years to come. In the second round, a few mocks have the Bills taking QB Patrick Ramsey from Tulane, while several others have them selecting DT Larry Triplett from Washington.

Overall
The Bills have no where to go but up. Selecting McKinnie in the first round would be a huge step in the right direction.


The Jets -  
   The bane of the Dolphins, the Jets finished 3rd in the AFC East (10-6), and sneaked into the playoffs. They were promptly shown the door the very next week by the Raiders. The Jets swept the Dolphins in the regular season, but split with the other 3 teams in the division.

Free Agents
LB James Farrior
OL Kerry Jenkins
DE Rick Lyle
DT Steve Martin
DE Eric Ogbogu

Possible Cuts *
LB Marvin Jones
FS Chris Hayes
DT Shane Burton
WR Matthew Hatchette

Needs
DL - Free agency and possible salary cap casualities weaken this group.
DB - The Texans took Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman, leaving a big hole to fill.
QB - Vinny Testaverde is on his last legs. Is Pennington the answer?
LB - If Farrior leaves via free agency and the Jets jettison Jones, then New York will have to replace 2/3 of their LB corp.

Draft
   Most mock drafts have the Jets taking a DB in round 1. But as to who that DB will be is still being debated. Some have the Jets taking Miami safety Ed Reed with the 22nd pick in the draft, while others predict Lito Sheppard, a cornerback out of Florida, as the Jet's first pick. I did notice that two mock drafts had the Jets taking Albert Haynesworth, a DT from Tennessee with the 22nd pick.

Overall   
The Texans solved some of the Jets salary cap woes. But there could be more cuts to come. Will this hurt the Jets in the long run?


The Patriots -
   The Patriots shocked the world as they upset the heavily favored Rams in the Superbowl. New England won the AFC East (11-5). They split with the Jets and Dolphins, and swept the Bills and Colts. However, the Patriots will be hard pressed to repeat their "Super" miracle a second time.

Free Agents
CB Terrell Buckley
LB Bryan Cox
CB Ray Hill
DT Brandon Mitchell
DT Riddick Parker
LB Roman Phifer
TE Rod Rutledge
RB Antowain Smith
OL Grant Williams

Possible Cuts *
LB Ted Johnson
DE Willie McGinest
CB Terrance Shaw

Needs
LB - This group isn't getting any younger. Add to that the possible loss of Cox and Johnson.
TE - The Patriots have never found a suitable replacement for Ben Coates.
DT - Richard Seymour could use some help. Another solid tackle to take the pressure off of the upstart rookie would go a long way.

Draft
   The opinions as to who the Patriots will take with the last pick in the 1st round vary widely. Some mock drafts have New England selecting a wide receiver like Hawaii's Ashley Leslie or Michigan's Marquis Walker, while other's have them taking a DL like Dennis Johnson out of Kentucky.

Overall
The Patriots overachived this year and won the Superbowl. But for some reason, I just don't think they are going to repeat.

* - These lists came from John Clayton's ESPN report. Click HERE to view it in its entirety.