The AFC East was flipped on its head in 2020, with the long-suffering Bills winning their first division title since 1995 (when the Colts were also in the division) and the Patriots finishing third for the first time since 1988. While both Josh Allen and Cam Newton are back, the Jets have moved on from Sam Darnold and the Dolphins have ended the Ryan Fitzpatrick-Tua Tagovailoa timeshare. Although Buffalo is rightfully the gaming favorite entering 2021, Miami has been fast improving and the unknown of a rookie QB makes the Jets anybody’s guess. Of course, you can never count out Bill Belichick and his returning opt-outs, either.
Offensive Snaps Retained: 83.91% (9th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 87.68% (5th in NFL)
Behind Stefon Diggs’ otherworldly season and Josh Allen’s improvement, the Bills threw their window to contend wide open and their players know it. The veterans have bought in, taking pay cuts to be on a contending team as the front office adds more and more pieces. There are only so many spots on a roster, however, and OG Brian Winters (56.62% of snaps), WR John Brown (41.64%) and TE Tyler Kroft (27.39%) are going elsewhere. A few rotational and situational players like OG Quinton Spain (16.27%) and TE Lee Smith (15.72%) are also moving on, but this offense figures to be just as scary next year. Defensively, it’s much of the same story. As the entire core returns but DE Quinton Jefferson (49.86%), CB Josh Norman (32.12%), DE Trent Murphy (32.03%) and S Dean Marlowe (21.48%) aren’t currently on the roster. If GM Brandon Beane can find an impact pass rusher in the draft, this team will be terrifying.
Offensive Snaps Retained: 80.22% (14th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 84.09% (6th in NFL)
This is Tua’s team now. Ryan Fitzpatrick (46.49% of snaps) was allowed to leave for Washington and the Dolphins decided not to add a veteran or top draft pick at the position. Tagovailoa will have to do without every-snap C Ted Karras (100%) or rotational skill players in WR Isaiah Ford (35.05%) or RB Matt Breida (14.15%), but he’s got strong weaponry behind free agent signings Matt Skura and Will Fuller. The defense is in a similar spot, losing a high-snaps stud in LB Kyle Van Noy (78.43%) and trading away DE Shaq Lawson (55.32%), but the powerhouse secondary will return. LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (20.02%) and DT Davon Godchaux (16.63%) got more money elsewhere, but the play behind center will dictate how high this team can go in 2021.
New England Patriots
Offensive Snaps Retained: 69.96% (25th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 79.92% (11th in NFL)
After a disappointing 2020 campaign, the Patriots have added free agents like it’s Belichick’s final year. However, they have done fairly well in bringing back their defense. Although DE John Simon (69.03% of snaps) and CB Jason McCourty (65.39%) remain unsigned, LB Dont’a Hightower is set to return and DB Jalen Mills can fortify the secondary. The bottom of the defensive front will still need to be replaced, with DT Adam Butler (47.30%), LB Shilique Calhoun (25.17%), and four other defenders under 10% of snaps (Derek Rivers, Brandon Copeland, Carl Davis and Xavier Williams) all moving on. The offense has seen large losses and will sport an almost-unrecognizable unit in 2021. OG Joe Thuney (96.83%) and WR Julian Edelman (26.21%) have spent a combined 17 years in New England, but neither will return. Joining them are WR Damiere Byrd (89.12%), TE Ryan Izzo (61.92%), OG Jermaine Eluemunor (41.44%), RB Rex Burkhead (26.61%) and C James Ferentz (15.92%), not to mention QB Brian Hoyer (4.95%). Whether it’s Cam Newton or another face at quarterback, this is going to be a different offense in 2021.
New York Jets
Offensive Snaps Retained: 70.60% (22nd in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 52.27% (31st in NFL)
The rebuild is on in East Rutherford. QB Sam Darnold (74.72% of snaps) may be the most recent and notable of the transactions, but he is by no means the only valuable player leaving. The defense has been gutted, with the LB room losing Neville Hewitt (99.21%), Tarell Basham (64.44%), Jordan Jenkins (46.44%), Harvey Langi (45.04%) and Avery Williamson (31.17%). The defensive line released Henry Anderson (48.20%), but the secondary is more depleted without CBs Pierre Desir (45.13%), Brian Poole (42.41%) and Arthur Maulet (35.47%) or safeties Bradley McDougald (37.93%) and Matthias Farley (17.56%). The defense was arguably better than the offense last season, but this is drastic. Offensively the team has dealt the aforementioned Darnold, but the skill groups have also let WR Breshad Perriman (65.82%), TE Ryan Griffin (39.53%) and RB Frank Gore (38.42%) sit on the market, without QB Joe Flacco (25.28%) as valuable insurance. Two linemen also left in C Pat Elflein (37.11%) and OG Josh Andrews (31.45%), but all eyes are on the QB room as the draft gets closer. The Jets are already planning for 2022.
SEE ALSO: Snaps Lost archive