The AFC East Future Landscape

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BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 30: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills calls an audible in the first quarter during NFL game action against the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field on December 30, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

When the Miami Dolphins traded for Josh Rosen, the landscape of the AFC East took a turn. Along with Sam Darnold of the New York Jets and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, the division is now host to three top young quarterbacks entering their second year in the NFL. All three young guns were taken in the top 10 of the 2018 NFL Draft and represent a potentially bright future for their teams. The AFC East still belongs to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. But having Darnold, Allen, and Rosen gives the AFC East future rivalry potential and storyline intrigue.

Analyzing the Landscape of the AFC East Future

Any good hero needs a good villain. Batman is awesome enough on his own, but he’s made even better and also partially defined by the Joker. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins all believe they have found their Batman. Which means each of those quarterbacks has the opportunity to be the Joker to one another. Peyton Manning had Brady, Dan Marino had Jim Kelly, the list can go on and on. Familiarity breeds contempt and rivalry breeds storylines and competition. The AFC East future sits on the precipice of feuds that could propel the division to the top of the NFL.

Sam Darnold and the New York Jets

Drafted third overall in last year’s draft, Sam Darnold fell into the lap of the Jets. Widely seen as the top quarterback prospect in the draft, the Jets rushed to the podium to grab Darnold after the Browns and Giants both passed on him. Surrounded with minimal talent during the 2018 season, Darnold put together a respectable rookie campaign while fighting through growing pains. He continues to be turnover prone, but it was easy to see the potential in his play last year. Armed with some high priced free agent additions, including the enigmatic but extremely talented Le’Veon Bell, the Jets and Darnold are synonymous with optimism coming into the new season.

Darnold and Rosen battled each other in college with Darnold at USC and Rosen at UCLA, so there already exists history and comparison links between them before they’ve even faced off. Darnold and Allen put on an entertaining duel in their first and only meeting last year, capped off with a Darnold comeback. The Jets come into the new year trending up. At the head of that upward trend, is Darnold.

Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills

Allen was the top-ranked quarterback on the Bills draft board last year and they traded up to seventh get him. He responded by doing stuff like this and like this. The Bills offensive line was terrible and aside from Robert Foster, Allen had no weapons to speak of. His inaccuracy reared its ugly head at times, but he made a lot out of nothing all things considered. Allen even broke Michael Vick‘s rookie quarterback rushing mark through the first eight games of a rookie season.

The Bills used free agency this off-season to give Allen some support on the line and in the weapon department. The signings the Bills made should combine to give Allen time in the pocket to throw and to actually have people to throw to. Drafting Cody Ford in the second round of this year’s draft also helps to solidify the offensive line now and going forward. Allen’s progression in his second year was already undoubtedly tied to Darnold’s, but now it will also be tied to Rosen’s. Jim Kelly versus Dan Marino defined the Bills-Dolphins rivalry that carries on to this day. Josh Allen versus Josh Rosen could be the next chapter in that rivalry.

Josh Rosen and the Miami Dolphins

The Arizona Cardinals traded up to draft Josh Rosen 10th overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Unfortunately for Rosen, The Cardinals were a dumpster fire last year and had problems all over the place. All of those problems culminated in the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as the new head coach this off-season. The combination of Kingsbury’s offensive system, Kyler Murray being perfect for that system, and Murray being available to the Cardinals at first overall is the reason Rosen is now a Dolphin.

Many believed the Miami Dolphins were all in for the 2020 NFL season and were in tank mode this season. However, the acquisition of Rosen may now change all that. Rosen was viewed as arguably the most pro-ready quarterback coming out of college last year. His footwork, knowledge of a “pro-style” NFL offensive system, accuracy, and intelligence all made him a day one starter. His belief in himself made him a polarizing figure. Now in Miami, he has the chance to uplift an NFL franchise known for great quarterback play. Having Darnold and Allen in his division and having to play each of them twice a year for the foreseeable future, means at the very least we can find out if Rosen really should have been taken ahead of both of them in the draft.

What It All Means for the Future of the AFC East

For better or for worse quarterbacks define teams, eras, generations, and moments. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins each have a quarterback capable of doing just that. The rivalries each of these teams have with one another didn’t need any gas to the flame, but they all have it now. Tom Brady has to retire eventually (or not), and with the youth and talent these three teams have the AFC East future crown could be up for grabs. Whichever team grabs it will be placing it on the head of their star young quarterback.

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