By Lisa Johnson // @LJ1303
As we move forward toward the new 2021 NFL season, two AFC East teams look to renew a decades-old rivalry.
Some of you might be too young to remember those glory days of the late ’80s/early ’90s of the Miami Dolphins vs the Buffalo Bills. With two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Historic match-ups to last-minute shoot-outs.
After two decades of getting dominated by QB Tom Brady (who has moved on to the Tamp Bay Buccaneers) and the New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills took control of the AFC East last season behind quarterback Josh Allen and head coach Sean McDermott and came up one game shy of landing them in the Super Bowl.
The Bills are looking to make it back to the AFC Championship game next season. To help them get there, they signed free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to add some depth. Sanders should complement all-pro receiver, Stefon Diggs. Diggs, as you will remember, joined the team last season and helped the Bills get to the AFC Championship game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills drafted pass rusher Gregory Rousseau out of the University of Miami. Rousseau is athletic, explosive, and can really cause problems for opposing offensive linemen. Which the Bills will look to do with high-powered offenses like the defending AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs.
The Miami Dolphins who finished a respectable second in the AFC East last season will look to their second-year starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who many expect to make significant strides this year. When they released team leader and veteran quarterback mentor Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins went right to work to surround Tagovailoa with playmakers. The Dolphins drafted his wide receiver at Alabama, Jaylen Waddle, in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. Make no mistake about this, all eyes will be focused on Tagovailoa. With rumors flying about Miami trying to make a trade for a disgruntled Texans QB Deshaun Watson, there is no question that Tagovailoa will have to have a strong start to show that Miami made the right decision taking him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins have to find a pass rusher. We all remember defensive end, Jason Taylor. With every snap of the ball, Taylor could make magic happen. Okay, maybe not every single play, but teams always had to know where Taylor was. The Dolphins need to find a guy similar to Taylor. Someone who can make magic happen on any given snap. Even if it’s flushing a quarterback out of the pocket and making him uncomfortable. Dolphins are hoping Jaelan Phillips is that guy. Phillips was taken by the Dolphins at 18 in the first round of this year’s draft. This edge rusher out of the University of Miami should give Miami instant dividends at getting after the quarterback. Many NFL analysts had him rated number one in his pass-rush ability. This could prove huge in the chase for the East.
Right now, the Bills seem to be the team to beat in the AFC East. If Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa can find some second-year magic and match the talent of Buffalo’s strong-armed quarterback in Allen, there could be some great games on the horizon. Seeing these two teams on the rise could bring fans some fantastic match-ups and get Dolphins-Bills back to must-see status.
Beating hearts, sweaty palms, and last-minute panic attacks. Just like the good ole days. Except we didn’t have Bills fans busting through tables back then. I could only imagine how many tables would have suffered during those days.
Follow Lisa on Twitter // @LJ103