It's a good thing the Patriots re-signed cornerback Leigh Bodden in March because the AFC East aerial attack units have received quite a boost in April.
On Monday, the Jets snatched troubled wide receiver Santonio Holmes from the Steelers for a fifth-round draft pick. The 26-year-old Holmes will be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season and could face criminal charges stemming from a nightclub assault last month. That’s water under the bridge to GM Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan, considering that Holmes is coming off a 1,248-yard campaign during which he averaged a terrific 15.8 yards per catch.
On Wednesday, the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall from the Broncos for a pair of second-round picks, giving the talented wideout a sorely needed change of scenery. Marshall, also 26, has a lengthy history of off-field issues, many of them stemming from the murder of teammate Darrent Williams in October of 2008. Marshall has been immensely productive, catching at least 101 passes for 1,120 or more yards in each of the past three seasons.
With a pair of rapidly blossoming young quarterbacks throwing them the ball — Mark Sanchez in New York and Chad Henne in Miami — Holmes and Marshall should settle into their new clubhouses with relative ease. Both were brought in to give their signal-callers a true go-to receiver, and they offer immediate upgrades over the drop-prone Braylon Edwards and Ted Ginn Jr.
That’s bad news for the division’s top cornerbacks, who will really have to dig in against a dangerous trio of prolific duos. Tom Brady to Randy Moss. Mark Sanchez to Holmes. Chad Henne to Marshall. The AFC East had three teams ranked in the bottom 12 of the NFL in passing yards in 2009, but that’s unlikely to be the case again for a while.
The Jets, who surprised many with a run to the AFC championship game last season, will have the advantage again on defense thanks to the seemingly unbeatable Darrelle Revis. For the remaining AFC East teams, a lot will hinge on the health and effectiveness of Ashton Youboty (Bills), Vontae Davis (Dolphins) and Bodden.
Of the NFL’s 12 playoff teams from last season, only two — the Patriots and Vikings — allowed opposing receivers more than 7.0 yards per catch.
The offenses have upped the ante. The defenses now must find a way to keep up.
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