Here at TexasHSFootball, we aim to bring you everything and anything surrounding the great game of football and the great state of Texas. According to a Sporting News article from 2013, 184 NFL players hailed from the Lone Star State. That statistic is still not a great indication of the impact the state of Texas has had on the game of football.
We wanted to find a way to bridge the gap for those who are diehard NFL fans and proud Texans who love football.
This series will break down each division in the AFC and NFC, list the teams in the division and highlight some of the native Texans on their respective rosters.
We’ll showcase the star players whose roots started in Texas, but we’ll also break down the division power rankings, star players and key matchups.
To kick off the series, we will take a look at the AFC East, a division that is for the taking. New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, will serve a four-game suspension for “Deflate Gate”. Who will capitalize on this? Will the perennial AFC East favorites finally fall from the top? Let’s take a look.
AFC EAST POWER RANKINGS
1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, NOTABLE FORMER TEXAS HS PLAYERS: WR Danny Amendola, TE Martellus Bennett, DT Malcolm Brown
Analysis: Despite losing their leader for four games, the Patriots shouldn’t slip up. Their week one matchup against the Cardinals will be a test, given that the Cardinals finished in the top five in yardage allowed in 2015. Jimmy Garoppolo, 24, will get the start in this opening matchup and he’ll have big shoes to fill. With weapons around him like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, he should be just fine. Hopefully both will stay healthy during the season.
Danny Amendola stole the show during his tenure at Texas Tech, but his career has been less than memorable in New England. Currently he’s on the PUP list for the Pats. He’s been nursing a knee/ankle injury.
Martellus Bennett will be a great insurance policy for the Patriots, if Gronkowski goes down with an injury.
On the defense, Bill Belichick’s team has shined thanks to some rookies in the pre-season. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be the leader for this unit. Malcolm Butler will lead the secondary, and up front the Patriots will rely on former Texas Longhorn Malcolm Brown to stuff the run. Brown finished his rookie season with 48 tackles and three sacks. He is the replacement for former Patriot – and current Texans – defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork.
After Arizona, New England will face Miami, Houston and Buffalo. The only game I can see them losing without Brady is the one against Buffalo. Once Brady returns, I expect the unit to be sitting at 3-1. They should finish somewhere around 12-4, or 11-5.
2. BUFFALO BILLS, NOTABLE FORMER TEXAS HS FOOTBALL PLAYERS: WR Marquise Goodwin, LB David Hawthorne, DE Jerry Hughes, DT Casey Walker
Analysis: It may be the pre-season, but the Bills look good… really good. Tyrod Taylor solidified his role as a starter last season, and rightfully so. He’s electric. Ohio State rookie, Cardale Jones, has also showed off his strong arm.
The Bills added Reggie Bush, and the 31-year-old has shown signs of returning to his past form. He may be a useful weapon for Rex Ryan’s squad. After releasing Karlos Williams, it should be expected that Bush’s role in the offense will only increase.
The pre-season hasn’t been all that great for the Bills. Second round draft pick, Reggie Ragland, suffered a season ending ACL injury. As stated in the previous paragraph, the Bills released Karlos Williams, who underperformed and showed up overweight.
But, those are just minor setbacks. Why are the Bills going to do well in the AFC East? Well, there will be no sign of Tom Brady for four games. And as I said, they have the best shot to beat their hated rivals in a week four showdown in Foxboro, Mass. If they can win that game, it’ll make it easier to take down the Patriots in Orchard Park, NY in Oct.
Outside of the conference, the Bills play Arizona, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland and Jacksonville. Those are all very winnable games for the Bills, except for Arizona and Seattle (Oakland can be a tough game as well).
Marquise Goodwin is currently under watch for a concussion. He has had a mediocre career at best, but his name is more known throughout the track and field world, thanks to a participation in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Jerry Hughes finished 2015 with five sacks, and will look to continue improve his game. He has shifted to more of an OLB role, instead of playing defensive end.
Ultimately, the Bills should finish somewhere in between nine or 10 wins, possibly fighting for a wildcard.
3. NEW YORK JETS, NOTABLE FORMER TEXAS HS FOOTBALL PLAYERS: TE Jace Amaro, G Jarvis Harrison, QB Bryce Petty, RB Lache Seastrunk
Analysis: On paper, the Jets look competitive. This roster is almost identical to last year’s team that finished 10-6. But, the Jets will take a step back this year.
For starters, the Jets draft was mediocre. It still is baffling to think they drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round when they have Bryce Petty.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a Harvard graduate. He is smart. He finally got the money he wanted, and now he will return to being a below average player. He shined at times last year, because he was playing for a contract. Well, he got one. Former Jets linebacker Bart Scott wasn’t too far off when he said that Fitzpatrick would be a backup on about 20 other teams in the league.
Brandon Marshall has seemed to reinvent himself in New York. Let’s see how long that lasts. The loss of Chris Ivory will hurt the Jets, but Matt Forte was a great pickup.
At it’s core, this team lacks discipline. Now, Todd Bowles is far more disciplined than Rex Ryan, but the leadership isn’t there.
That could change if Fitzpatrick actually performs with consistency. He dropped two major divisional games to the Bills. In the first loss, he threw two interceptions. In a game against Buffalo at the end of the season, he threw three interceptions. The Jets were on the cusp of a playoff run and he fell flat on his face.
Bryce Petty’s career has not really taken off in New York. Geno Smith is still the backup QB, and that’s hurting Petty’s development. If you ever ask a Jets fan why Ryan Fitzpatrick is good, all they tend to say is that he is better than Geno Smith. That doesn’t take much.
Jace Amaro has been working on his blocking.The 6-foot-6 tight end is looking to finally have a breakout year in East Rutherford, NJ. Maybe this will be his time to shine.
4. MIAMI DOLPHINS, NOTABLE FORMER TEXAS HS FOOTBALL PLAYERS: WR Jakeem Grant, DE Cedric Reed, QB Ryan Tannehill
Analysis: The Dolphins finished last season at 6-10, and if they’re lucky they’ll fall somewhere around that same record.
The real issue with this team is leadership, similar to the Jets. Is Ryan Tannehill really a leader? Could you see him taking this team deep in the playoffs? He is missing that “X” factor.
From a coaching standpoint, Joe Philbin is more of a chess piece. He is easy to move around and can be replaced at some point. He doesn’t seem to have the control over the team they need to win.
As a team, there is a load of talent on the roster for the Dolphins. But chemistry is low, and that is apparent on Sundays. A defense with Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams and Cameron Wake sounds terrifying. But, will they really play well together?
DeVante Parker was a great pickup in the draft, and he could develop into a talented receiver. Mike Pouncey needs to find a way to stay healthy at center to develop chemistry with Tannehill. Anthony Steen will start Week 1, that is if Pouncey is still out by then, and he’s never even played a snap in the regular season.
On the bright side, the Dolphins will benefit from playing in a brand new stadium. Hopefully, this will draw large crowds to support a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs in 15 years.