AFC East burning questions for 2020 season: Quarterbacks become major storyline for Pats, Dolphins

The AFC East is going to look a whole lot different in 2020. After wreaking havoc on the division for two decades, Tom Brady left New England this offseason to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ending the Patriots dynasty as we’ve known it. The future for Bill Belichick’s team is murky at the moment and, for the rest of the teams in the AFC East, they now have an opportunity to stake a new claim for a division crown, that seems very much up for grabs. 

Still, each one of these teams has a few key questions that have yet to be addressed. Below, you’ll see the most pressing issue currently in front of each franchise in the division as we draw ever closer to the start of the 2020 regular season. 

Dolphins: When will Tua Tagovailoa actually start? 

Miami was able to finesse the 2020 draft and not trade up to select Tua Tagovailoa any higher than their original No. 5 slot. Now that Tagovailoa has been picked and signed to his rookie deal, the question moves to when he’ll actually suit up for the Dolphins as the starter under center. The quarterback is still returning to form from that devastating hip injury he suffered at Alabama last year and the Dolphins do have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started 13 games last year, on the roster. 

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Tagovailoa won’t be Miami’s Week 1 starter and they’ll instead roll with Fitzpatrick. That would not only give their young franchise quarterback more time to heal but would also simply ease him into the NFL rather than throw him out there to potentially get feasted on by opposing secondaries. At some point, however, Tagovailoa is going to throw meaningful passes for the Dolphins in 2020. When head coach Brian Flores and company actually pull the trigger on that decision is something that will be worth monitoring throughout the summer and likely into the regular season. 

What’s the best value bet in the AFC East? R.J. White joins Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to talk win total predictions, division odds and more; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.

Patriots: Can Jarrett Stidham become the next franchise QB?

Tom Brady is now a Buccaneer and the Patriots are left with a GOAT-sized question under center. Over the course of this offseason, New England had multiple opportunities to add either a highly-touted quarterback prospect or an experienced veteran to become the heir to Tom Brady’s throne, but the club decided to punt on the position entirely. Jordan Love, Jake Fromm, Jalen Hurts, and others were to be had by New England at the draft and veterans like Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston were attainable on the open market. 

Instead, it seems like Bill Belichick is going to roll the dice with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham in 2020. The former fourth-round pick did impress behind the scenes at practice as everyone from Belichick to Josh McDaniels to veterans on the team noted his talent and improvement over the course of the year. It looks like he’ll be given every chance to grab ahold of the starting job and, if he does, the Patriots could be skimming right along even as the greatest quarterback of all-time walked out the door. 

If Stidham doesn’t prove to be the next franchise quarterback, however, the Patriots would be looking down the barrel of possibly missing the playoffs for the first time in what would feel like forever. 

Bills: Can they finally win the division? 

The Buffalo Bills own the longest AFC East championship drought in the entire division. In fact, they haven’t been able to finish atop the AFC East this century with the last time they enjoyed a division title coming back in 1995. For even more context: franchise quarterback Josh Allen was born in ’96. 

With Tom Brady now gone from New England and the Patriots dynasty seemingly on its last breath, however, the door is open for Buffalo to end that drought in 2020. They are building off a playoff appearance in 2019 and added star receiver Stefon Diggs to their offense earlier this offseason. Landing defensive end A.J. Epenesa and placing him the already stout Buffalo defense could also be looked at as a major coup. If Allen can take a leap in his third season as the club’s starting quarterback, Buffalo is arguably in the best position to win the division, ending their near 25-year drought. Now it’s time to go out and take it. 

Jets: Will they trade Jamal Adams

With a large portion of the offseason spent addressing questions along the offensive line, the next thing on New York’s to-do list revolves around the status of safety Jamal Adams. The two-time Pro Bowler has made it apparent that he wants to remain in the Big Apple but also wants an extension that reflects his first-team All-Pro status in the league. New York did exercise the fifth-year option on Adams that keeps him in team control through the 2021 season, but as long a long-term deal is not reached, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Adams could possibly hold out. 

Leading into the 2020 draft, GM Joe Douglas admitted that the two sides had not yet connected to discuss Adam’s future with the team and even noted that he’d listen to trade offers for him. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that Douglas also listened to offers for Adams back in October around the trade deadline. 

The NFL Draft came and went and Adams is still here, albeit without a mint contract in hand. The question now for this franchise is whether or not they are comfortable handing him a lucrative deal and making him a part of their future in the secondary or elect to ship him off to the highest bidder. 

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