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AFC East projected starters for 2023 NFL season: Bills, Dolphins, Jets all contenders in loaded division

With the 2023 NFL Draft and most of free agency in the rearview, Gregg Rosenthal will project starting lineups for all 32 teams, because that's his idea of fun. Check out the AFC East breakdowns below.

Table inside Article
QB Josh Allen Edge Von Miller
RB James Cook DT Ed Oliver
WR Stefon Diggs DT DaQuan Jones
WR Gabe Davis Edge Greg Rousseau
TE Dawson Knox OLB Matt Milano
TE Dalton Kincaid MLB Terrel Bernard
LT Dion Dawkins CB Tre'Davious White
LG Connor McGovern CB Kaiir Elam
C Mitch Morse CB Taron Johnson
RG O'Cyrus Torrence S Jordan Poyer
RT Spencer Brown S Micah Hyde
  • If the goal of this Bills offseason was to get Josh Allen more help, Buffalo's effort feels incomplete.
  • I love tight end Dalton Kincaid as a seam stretcher in this offense. Great pick. But Gabe Davis is stretched as a No. 2 wideout, and the Bills are still searching for a No. 3.
  • Kincaid was a great value late in the first round. But it's also worth wondering if his skills are duplicative with those of Dawson Knox. Expect plenty of two-TE sets, but it wouldn't surprise me if this is Knox's last year in Buffalo despite his big contract.
  • Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield and explosive returner Deonte Harty are the top options for WR3 snaps. Shakir has flashed enough to believe he could challenge Davis. Still, a veteran addition to this roster in camp (Jarvis Landry?) could make sense.
  • Running back is deeper. Damien Harris is one of the best pure power runners in football if he can stay healthy -- even if he plays less on passing downs. Latavius Murray and Nyheim Hines are quality reserves, too, if James Cook doesn't hold up.
  • The offensive line signed Connor McGovern from Dallas. Second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence will battle Ryan Bates for a right guard spot. Right tackle remains a concern, and the OL group overall is average.
  • Poona Ford was signed to add more beef to the defensive tackle position. He'll compete for snaps with DaQuan Jones.
  • The Bills need more pass-rushing juice on the edge when Greg Rousseau and/or Von Miller are not on the field. Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa were high picks who haven't been consistent.
  • Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds left for Chicago in free agency, but this defense (and roster, in general) has excellent continuity. The Bills ultimately may be better off having been outbid for Edmunds, who was erratic. This entire projected starting group was on the team last season.
  • Don't be surprised if third-round linebacker Dorian Williams eventually works his way into the starting lineup next to Matt Milano. For now, he's behind Milano on the weak side.
  • 2022 first-round cornerback Kaiir Elam emerged as a starter late last season, so the presumption is that he'll carry that role over. The cornerback group looks better only because the '22 rookies (Elam and Christian Benford) have more experience, and Tre’Davious White is another year removed from a torn ACL.
  • Damar Hamlin's expected return from his cardiac arrest makes safety the deepest position on the roster, with Jordan Poyer re-signed and Taylor Rapp brought in. Head coach Sean McDermott can mix and match his secondary with a lot of variety in coverages.
  • The best thing that could happen to McDermott and GM Brandon Beane would be to hit bigger on their draft picks, because it's been a while.
  • The entire Buffalo offseason felt like the team was trying to hold on to its position and build depth, rather than change its structure. It's a great test case of whether continuity or change is the best route to go when trying to get your team over the hump.
Table inside Article
QB Tua Tagovailoa Edge Jaelan Phillips
RB Raheem Mostert DE Emmanuel Ogbah
WR Tyreek Hill DT Christian Wilkins
WR Jaylen Waddle Edge Bradley Chubb
WR Braxton Berrios OLB David Long Jr.
TE Durham Smythe MLB Jerome Baker
LT Terron Armstead CB Jalen Ramsey
LG Liam Eichenberg CB Xavien Howard
C Connor Williams CB Kader Kohou
RG Robert Hunt S Jevon Holland
RT Isaiah Wynn S Brandon Jones
  • Everything was fast with the Dolphins' offense last year, including the time Tua Tagovailoa needed to adjust to Mike McDaniel's system. There's every reason to believe Tua can take a second-year leap in the offense.
  • Cedrick Wilson didn't work out as the team's slot receiver a year ago. Braxton Berrios should be a better fit. Chosen (formerly Robbie) Anderson is a wild card as a deep-threat No. 4 option, but he's no lock to even make the team.
  • Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle already overwhelmed opponents with speed. With third-round pick De'Von Achane -- who ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine -- in place to back up Raheem Mostert, this is unquestionably the fastest team in the NFL.
  • Isaiah Wynn was a worthy lottery ticket to buy in May. The 2018 first-round selection of the Patriots has some excellent tape in his career and will be an option at either tackle spot or left guard. The Dolphins needed depth. Terron Armstead has averaged missing over five games per season since 2016, and this group collapsed without him last season. Austin Jackson, another option at right tackle, played two games last year and got hurt in both of them.
  • McDaniel's coaching staff helped the Dolphins' run blocking last season. The pass protection was still suspect when Tagovailoa was forced to hold the ball.
  • There aren't many deeper defenses in the NFL. Like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dolphins have intriguing backups or rotational players throughout the roster -- like defensive tackle Zach Sieler, edge rusher Andrew Van Ginkel, linebacker Channing Tindall and rookie cornerback Cam Smith.
  • This is a defense built to survive injuries nearly everywhere. But the unit has a chance to be special under new coordinator Vic Fangio if the excellent defensive line and secondary can manage to stay healthy.
  • Miami handed out a first-round pick and a $100 million contract for Bradley Chubb, yet he may be the third- or fourth-best player on this defensive front. Jaelan Phillips turns 24 later this month, and Christian Wilkins has developed into a beast.
  • The David Long Jr. signing was one of my favorites this offseason. He is always around the ball.
  • Fangio can get creative using star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Jevon Holland together because their versatility allows them to mix a lot of coverages. A return to form from Xavien Howard would also boost the defense to another level.
  • This might be a top-five roster and a top-five coaching staff. The offensive line and Tua's health are the biggest obstacles to a boffo season.
Table inside Article
QB Mac Jones Edge Matthew Judon
RB Rhamondre Stevenson DT Christian Barmore
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster DT Davon Godchaux
WR DeVante Parker Edge Josh Uche
WR Kendrick Bourne Edge Deatrich Wise Jr.
TE Hunter Henry LB Ja'Whaun Bentley
LT Trent Brown CB Christian Gonzalez
LG Cole Strange CB Jack Jones
C David Andrews CB Jonathan Jones
RG Michael Onwenu S Kyle Dugger
RT Riley Reiff S Adrian Phillips
  • I could get cute and put two tight ends in the starting lineup with Mike Gesicki as the team's primary slot receiver. They'll use that formation plenty.
  • Kendrick Bourne was in the doghouse last year, but he's still on the roster because he's dynamic when in Bill Belichick's good graces. I trust him more than DeVante Parker or second-year wideout Tyquan Thornton, who showed flashes as a rookie.
  • This is both the worst offense in the division and possibly the best offensive group the Patriots have had in the post-Tom Brady era. The removal of Matt Patricia as offensive coordinator should help the attack get back to average. Mac Jones showed great promise as a timing thrower in 2021 that a coherent offense should help in 2023.
  • The Patriots drafted impressive interior offensive line depth, but this tackle pairing is rough. Trent Brown is better at right tackle and is an ever-present injury risk.
  • After a rough stretch of drafts, Belichick has stacked two good ones in a row. Can this group make it three? If first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez and second-round defensive lineman Keion White hit, this defense could be one of the league's best.
  • White figures to be Deatrich Wise Jr.'s replacement over time.
  • Christian Barmore could be the key to the D-line and the best overall player on the defense with improvement. He was sensational as a rookie, but struggled to stay on the field in his second year.
  • This secondary lacks in star power what it boasts in versatility and depth. Belichick loves to use three safeties. Jack Jones was terrific as a rookie, and Jonathan Jones would benefit from returning to the slot. The Patriots have all sorts of players not listed as starters with experience in the system including Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant, Jabrill Peppers and second-year pro Marcus Jones.
  • Belichick's hopeful recipe this year: good-enough offense supported by a great defense and improved special teams. This would have a better chance of working in a different division.
Table inside Article
QB Aaron Rodgers DE Carl Lawson
RB Breece Hall DT Quinnen Williams
WR Garrett Wilson DT Quinton Jefferson
WR Allen Lazard DE John Franklin-Myers
WR Corey Davis OLB Quincy Williams
TE Tyler Conklin MLB C.J. Mosley
LT Duane Brown CB Sauce Gardner
LG Laken Tomlinson CB D.J. Reed
C Joe Tippmann CB Michael Carter II
RG Alijah Vera-Tucker S Jordan Whitehead
RT Mekhi Becton S Chuck Clark
  • Is Aaron Rodgers still a playmaker? He played a bit more cautiously last season in Green Bay, although that may have been due to the talent around him. It's better overall in New York.
  • Drafting Joe Tippmann, bringing back center Connor McGovern and signing Billy Turner as tackle insurance made me feel a lot better about this offensive line. The tackle positions still feel boom-or-bust, but it could be an excellent group.
  • It's surprising the Jets were rumored to be interested in running back Jahmyr Gibbs because Breece Hall looked like a lead back as a rookie before his torn ACL. The backup situation (Zonovan Knight, Michael Carter and rookie fifth-rounder Israel Abanikanda) should be fine even if Hall is eased back into action.
  • I listed Corey Davis as a starter because he's proven in his career to be better than anything Mecole Hardman has shown. Davis may also be better than Allen Lazard, who hit a career-high (by far) 788 receiving yards last season. It's possible Davis will be trade bait in August, but I like Hardman better as a No. 4.
  • Rodgers loves to use his tight ends, so Tyler Conklin and especially C.J. Uzomah's production should tick up.
  • New York general manager Joe Douglas comes from Philadelphia, where they invest in line play. After four full offseasons, that vision can be seen with the Jets, too, on both sides of the ball.
  • Rookie first-round pick Will McDonald IV is a different flavor of pass rusher than last year's first-round edge, Jermaine Johnson II. McDonald could replace Carl Lawson as a starter next year.
  • I wouldn't be overly concerned with Quinnen Williams' public contract push. The Jets know what they have and figure to show it eventually. This shouldn't be a Jamal Adams situation.
  • It's a great defense on paper, especially at cornerback, where Sauce Gardner could already be the league's best. If there's a weakness, it's up the middle. The safety spots and linebackers could be attacked in coverage. Quincy Williams, Quinnen's brother, earned a handsome extension despite giving up some big plays.
  • This is a top-10 roster, possibly better. Even if the defense takes a slight step back, Rodgers should make up the difference. The margins, however, are slim in the league's best division.

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