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The New England Patriots have owned the AFC East for the last decade, but the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills all made splashes over the offseason to try and make their push toward taking the division.
Last season we saw Tom Brady regress a bit, forcing many to wonder how much more the future Hall of Famer has left in the tank. The Jets added Eric Decker, the top wide receiver in free agency. The Bills traded up in the draft to nab Sammy Watkins, arguably the best wide receiver available in this class. And Miami hired Bill Lazor away from the Philadelphia Eagles to try and give Ryan Tannehill an even greater chance to succeed in his third season.
Here are the top 10 burning questions for the AFC East entering 2014:
1. Will Brady be Brady?
Brady’s lack of offensive weapons last season led to a dud of a season, one in which he recorded his lowest touchdown total since 2006. The Pats are counting on Danny Amendola to remain healthy, Rob Gronkowski to be back in the mix, plus Kenbrell Thompkins or Aaron Dobson to step up.
2. Does Darrelle Revis return to the island?
It could be the robbery of the offseason, but Revis landing in New England made Pats fans quickly forget about losing Aqib Talib. Revis did not return to form right away last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but reportedly feels 100 percent healthy.
3. Will Geno Smith and EJ Manuel take a step forward?
Both Smith and Manuel received new weapons this offseason, and both second-year signal-callers are going to be expected to make major strides in 2014. Smith was wildly inconsistent as a rookie, but has been getting first-team reps over Michael Vick. Manuel is coming off injury, but has a boatload of offensive talent to work with.
4. Is this the Patriots’ division to lose?
New England has taken the division title 10 of the last 11 years, but if the rest of the pack improves faster than anticipated, could they legitimately be a threat to the Patriots? The Jets will be stout on defense but their offense is questionable. Miami appears on the cusp. Buffalo is young. But can someone surprise?
5. Does CJ2K bounce back?
The Jets lured the former 2,000-yard running back out of Tennessee to create a thunder-lightning tandem much like the team used to have with LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. What does Chris Johnson have left in the tank?
6. The Lazor Effect
Bill Lazor left Philly to be the Dolphins offensive coordinator, and he’ll be charged with helping Tannehill progress in Year 3. His major task: getting Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace more involved.
7. Brandon Spikes vs. New England
The linebacker was exiled from Foxborough in dramatic fashion and finds himself with a familiar foe. Spikes has called out Bill Belichick and wants revenge, but this almost never actually works out.
8. Miller time?
Lamar Miller was expected to make a big leap from a rookie to his sophomore campaigns, but all indications are that this offseason has been his best to date. Will Miami finally give Tannehill a running game to lean on?
9. What to expect out of Gronk
Injuries have plagued Gronk each of the past two seasons, and not coincidentally it has hurt the Pats offense. Gronk is reportedly getting back to full strength. He needs to prove he can stay on the field.
10. Better D: New York or New England?
Not only did the Pats add Revis to their secondary, but Brandon Browner as well. Plus Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are healthy, and last year we saw Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins continue to get better. The Jets are still stout up front, and added Calvin Pryor in the first round to join last year’s first-rounder Dee Milliner. Both of these units have the potential to be top-five caliber in the league.
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