What’s going on around the AFC East this week? As training camp gets heated, theNew England Patriots quarterback battle gets more dramatic, a New York Jets young star rises in the NFL Top 100 and what if Jonathan Taylor was traded to the Buffalo Bills?
Let’s start down in Foxborough with the Mac Jones vs Bailey Zappe quarterback battle. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took time this week to praise both quarterbacks adding to the competition of a job most believe is Mac’s to lose.
AFC East quarterback competition headlines Patriots buzz
With Bill O’Brien back as offensive coordinator, the 2021 first-round pick should get an opportunity to redeem himself in his third season in the NFL, but Zappe fever is expected to give him a push. Belichick is fueling the fire with his praise of both players making it apparent QB1 in New England is a job that must be won.
"“We’ll see how those guys do when the real football starts,” Belichick on an interview with Sirius XM’s NFL Radio. “Pads come on, there’s a little more pass rush and so forth, but they can all run the offense efficiently. They’re all smart. They all handle what we do so that everybody else can operate efficiently. So, we’ll give them a chance to compete and see how it goes.”"
By “they,” Belichick also threw in veteran quarterback Trace McSorley, but this QB battle comes down to Mac Jones and the progression of Zappe, who gave Patriots fans a bit of a fever while Jones was out in 2022.
But ultimately, it is Mac’s job to lose and he is showing more confidence with O’Brien running the offense. In Wednesday’s practice, the Patriots quarterback had his best day of the summer, completing 13 of 14 attempts and gaining chemistry with DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster. He keeps this up, the Patriots QB competition will be wrapped up quickly.
Then again, if he follows it up with a bad performance and Zappe is cooking, this AFC East drama will intensify.
AFC East hype: New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner debuts at No. 23
With Aaron Rodgers on board and the team looking solid on both sides of the ball, Jets fans should be pretty pumped up and even more so with one of their top young defenders getting some respect in the NFL Top 100.
Debuting at No. 23, Sauce Gardner is not only proving he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, he is also proving to be a defensive difference maker as NFL.com digital content producer Coral Smith lays down in her assessment of Smith.
In breaking down Gardner’s spot on the NFL Top 100 list, she writes:
"“Sauce brought his skills as a shutdown cornerback to the next level in his rookie year and earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for his impressive play. After never giving up a touchdown while at Cincinnati, Gardner was almost perfect in his first NFL season, giving up only one score while leading the league in passes defensed (20), making it all but assured by season’s end that he’d be named DROY.”"
Sauce Gardner will certainly terrorize quarterbacks in the AFC East in 2023 and help stabilize the Jets’ defense as one of the best in the NFL. After an impressive rookie season, this confident defender will only rise up this NFL Top 100 list .
AFC East rumors: Jonathan Taylor to the Buffalo Bills?
With all the Indianapolis Colts drama surrounding star running back Jonathan Taylor and his trade demands, a team surfacing as a potential landing spot is the Buffalo Bills.
Give this AFC East favorite a talent like Taylor and it’s a wrap. But how realistic is this potential trade. Colts owner Jim Irsay is doing nothing to repair the relationship between Taylor and the team. In fact, he is just making that situation more hostile so one would think a trade would be imminent.
Could the Bills be in prime position to add a running back like Taylor? With the loss of running back Nyheim Hines due to an ACL injury, the Bills have former Patriots running back Damien Harris, James Cook and Latavius Murray battling for the lead back role in Buffalo. Each of those players are capable, but a player like Jonathan Taylor could put his Super Bowl contender over the top.
Just imagine the AFC East with running backs like Taylor, Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott potentially joining teams in the division. Taylor to the Bills is an NFL storyline worth watching.