NFL: Breaking down the weakest link on every AFC team

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August 14th, 2019

Following the first full week of the NFL preseason, we're left with plenty to break downthe good, the bad and the downright awful. Let's take a look at the AFC and the most glaring weakness on each team in the conference.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

The Bills need to improve their offensive line, but there hasn’t been much opportunity to create any element of cohesion or chemistry because of injuries.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins ranked 29th in total defense in 2018 and continued to look weak against the pass—particularly cornerback Nik Needham, who struggled in his rookie debut against Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub.

New England Patriots

Life without Rob Gronkowski will certainly be different, but not unfamiliar, considering the amount of times he got injured during his career. The problem is New England can’t seem to keep the current receiving corps healthy, either. In Week 1 of the preseason, Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas both sat out with injuries, and first-round pick N’Keal Harry joined them after he banged up his leg in Thursday’s game against the Lions.

New York Jets

Depth at cornerback is the largest concern, which became even more apparent after the Jets allowed the Giants’ quarterback collective to throw for 374 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Denver is far from adopting Vic Fangio’s principle of avoiding “death by inches.” The Broncos got called for eight penalties in the Hall of Fame Game and another 15 (11 enforced) Thursday against the Seahawks.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City ranked second to last in total defense last season and was awful at defending the pass. It doesn’t look like the Chiefs have done much to fix those issues. Luckily their offense should be just as explosive as last year, to once again compensate for a major weakness on defense.

Los Angeles Chargers

Running back is the major question, as Melvin Gordon continues to hold out on a contract negotiation. Gordon has missed all of training camp and the preseason, which leaves the Chargers to evaluate their depth in the run game and decide whether to cave to Gordon or move on from the Pro Bowl back.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders got called for 11 penalties in Saturday’s game against the Rams, with special teams penalties, in particular, hurting their field position. Oakland will need to develop more discipline moving forward.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson sat for most of the first preseason game, which gave sixth-round draft pick Trace McSorley a chance to prove his worth at the pro level. The Penn State product went 9-of-22 and threw an interception against the Jaguars. Injury-prone second-string quarterback Robert Griffin III is nursing a broken hand in the preseason, which means depth at backup quarterback could be  a concern in the future.

Cincinnati Bengals

Last year the Bengals boasted the worst defense in the league and one of the worst offenses to go along with it. As if the Bengals didn’t have enough issues heading into 2019, special teams looked pretty terrible in Week 1. On Saturday, Darius Phillips muffed a punt before Davontae Harris repeated the gaffe with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Chiefs capitalized both times for touchdowns.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns focused much more on passing during Thursday’s game against the Redskins, which left the run game somewhat of a mystery. Nick Chubb carried the ball just once for 12 yards, while D’Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard saw the most action. Johnson rushed five times for 23 yards, while Hilliard averaged just 2.1 yards on his nine carries. With Kareem Hunt suspended until Week 9, Cleveland will need to find a solid option behind Chubb.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers managed to beat the Buccaneers 30-28 Friday, despite giving up 390 passing yards. Backup Bucs quarterback Ryan Griffin tallied 330 of those yards against the Steelers’ second string. Depth in the secondary is an obvious concern.

AFC South

Houston Texans

Center Greg Mancz suffered a minor injury in the Texans’ 28-26 loss to Green Bay. His absence didn’t help an already weak offensive line. On top of Mancz having to sit, backup quarterback A.J. McCarron banged up his right thumb and receiver Keke Coutee got carted off in the second quarter with an ankle injury.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts ranked 22nd in rushing yards in 2018 and didn’t show any sign of improving during Week 1 of the preseason. Nyheim Hines couldn’t get much going against the Bills’ defensive line, while Jonathan Williams turned eight carries into 24 yards. He did add five catches, but overall the run game was lackluster at best. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will start for the Jaguars in 2019, but what sits behind him on the depth chart doesn’t leave much room for optimism. Gardner Minshew, the Jags’ sixth pick in the draft, went 7-of-14 for 46 yards in Thursday’s game against the Ravens. Alex McGough and Tanner Lee also took some snaps, but went a combined 3-of-11 for 19 yards, with an interception from each.

Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota didn’t see a ton of playing time in Week 1 against the Eagles, but he stayed out on the field just long enough to give Titans fans more cause for concern. The fifth-year quarterback went 4-of-8 for 24 yards against the Eagles’ backup defense. Mariota had limited talent to work with, as Derrick Henry, Corey Davis and Delanie Walker sat on the sideline, but the former No. 2 overall draft pick should’ve performed much better than he did Thursday.

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