The New England Patriots currently are without their starting quarterback for the first four weeks of the 2016 NFL season, which could be a problem. Then again, it could be worse. The New York Jets don’t really have a starting QB.
The Jets went 10-6 last season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm and have refused to pay him as a free agent this offseason. Considering how much money he wants, that’s not the worst idea, but their current quarterback depth chart leaves a lot to be desired.
Let’s look at the Patriots’ AFC East rivals’ biggest weaknesses as NFL teams head into organized team activities.
NEW YORK JETS: QUARTERBACK
The Jets’ current quarterback group consists of 2013 second-round pick Geno Smith, 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty and 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg.
Smith has an 11-18 record as a starter and attempted just 42 passes last season while sitting behind Fitzpatrick. He was highly regarded coming out of West Virginia, but he has failed to live up to his billing, completing just 57.9 percent of his passes with 27 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. Unless the Jets bring back Fitzpatrick, Smith is likely their starter in 2016.
Petty is an unknown commodity, but it’s probably not a great sign the Jets invested a second-round pick in Hackenberg this spring. Petty completed 27 of 45 passes for 260 yards with one touchdown last preseason.
Hackenberg received mixed reviews coming out of Penn State. He showed potential as a freshman, completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but he couldn’t duplicate that success, completing just 54.8 percent of his passes in 2014 and 2015 with 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. It seems Hackenberg is a long ways off from being starter-ready.
BUFFALO BILLS: PASS RUSHER
The Bills released Mario Williams this offseason after questions about his effort crept up in 2015, and they tried to replace him in the draft with first-round pick Shaq Lawson. The rookie hurt his already banged-up shoulder during rookie minicamp and underwent surgery that could knock him out for five to six months.
Jerry Hughes can rush the passer from the right side, but the Bills have little as far as depth behind him. It could be up to Manny Lawson, IK Enemkpali or Lavar Edwards to rush the passer on the left side, and teams typically like to have three effective rushers.
MIAMI DOLPHINS: CORNERBACK
The Dolphins certainly tried to fix their issue at cornerback, trading for Byron Maxwell and selecting Xavien Howard in the draft, but it remains to be seen how that will work out for Miami.
Maxwell was awful for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, and the Dolphins are banking on the big cornerback to rediscover the success he had with the Seahawks in 2014. Howard is another tall cornerback, and he came out of Baylor with mixed reviews. Based on pre-draft analysis, it would be best for him to sit for a year. The Dolphins also have Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett, Chimdi Chekwa, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jordan Lucas and Tyler Patmon at cornerback.
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