FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — So, how do division rivals go about contending with the beasts of the East, a team that’s won the division title in 16 of the last 18 years?
By getting downright defensive.
Welcome to the world of the AFC East in the year 2019.
Witness Thursday night’s opening round of this year’s NFL Draft when the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins invested the third, ninth and 13th overall picks, respectively, in defensive tackles.
Here’s hoping Patriots center David Andrews and guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are enjoying a nice, relaxing offseason. They’re going to have their hands full this fall.
It all began with the Jets at No. 3.
Unable to trade down, in Quinnen Williams, the 2018 Outland Trophy winner (as the best college football interior lineman in the country) out of Alabama, the Jets got a player with a huge upside, one many actually considered the best prospect in the entire draft. “There was never an offer or a deal that we felt good enough to move back from,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters after selecting Williams. “Quite frankly, we’re very happy with the player that was available. We thought there was a good chance he would be up there.”
Called “the best ‘game wrecker’ as an inside rusher in the draft” by NFL.com’s Charles Davis, Williams was available after Kyler Murray, Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa came off the board at one and two, going to Arizona and San Francisco, respectively.
In Williams, the Jets got a defender that Lindy’s Pro Football Draft Report says “has the look of a longtime difference maker.”
He gives the Jets “twin powers,” a defensive lineman they can team up in a line with veteran Leonard Williams on a unit coached by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The 2017 Outland Trophy winner, Ed Oliver, the Bills’ first pick who played his college ball at Houston, is “going to be a nightmare for teams to deal with” according to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.
Thus begins life after Kyle Williams, who retired at the end of the 2018 season after spending 13 years and earning six Pro Bowl berths with the Bills.
The Dolphins’ top pick and the initial first-round choice in the head coaching era of former Patriots assistant Brian Flores, Christian Wilkins was a selection we probably should have seen coming for a team that literally got run over in 2018 (allowing 145.3 rushing yards per game, 31st in the league) that is now coached by a former linebackers coach-de facto defensive coordinator.
CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco touted the pick as “a good building block for Brian Flores and his staff” and gave it an A-plus grade.
Wilkins played to rave reviews in college as part of a talented defensive front on Clemson’s national championship team.
According to Lindy’s Pro Football Draft Report: “In a class full of freaky athletes at defensive tackle, Wilkins just might be the most gifted.”
He’s just wild about Harry: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took to Twitter on Friday to welcome N’Keal Harry, the Arizona State University wide receiver the team made its first-round pick at No. 32, to New England.
“Glad to have you N’Keal,” tweeted Brady. “Big things ahead, excited to work with you.”
Later in the day, Harry responded: “Thanks! I’m ready to get to work” with a flexed biceps emoji.