AFC East Notes: Bills, Jets, Mangold, Fins, Gase

This season is only Rex Ryan‘s second with the Bills, but it might already be a make-or-break year for the head coach. With the Bills’ disappointing defense having been the primary cause of the team’s 8-8 finish in 2015, another year without a playoff berth could push Ryan out of Buffalo. But count receiver Sammy Watkins as one notable Bill who, regardless of what happens this year, wants Ryan back in 2017. “Honestly, I love Rex,” Watkins said Tuesday (via Mike Rodak of “It will be sad if somebody just got fired off of losses. And I know it’s a business, but that’s how things work.”

A full campaign from Watkins, who caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games last season, could help the Bills end their NFL-worst 16-year playoff drought and keep Ryan under their employ. Watkins suffered a minor foot fracture during the spring, though the third-year man should be ready for the start of training camp at the end of the month.

More regarding Buffalo and two of its AFC East rivals:

  • The Jets are at the beginning of a two-year evaluation period with center Nick Mangold, writes Brian Costello of the New York Post. A Jet since they selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft, Mangold remains effective, as Costello notes, but he’ll be 34 when his contract expires after the 2017 season. If the seven-time Pro Bowler doesn’t show signs of aging over the next two years, he could extend his career-long tenure in New York.
  • The presence of rookie head coach Adam Gase is one of the main reasons to expect the Dolphins to improve on their 6-10 mark and last-place finish from a year ago, opines Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. While opposing coaches often out-schemed Gase’s 2015 predecessors, Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell, Beasley doesn’t look for that to continue during the Gase era, citing his previous success as an offensive coordinator in both Denver and Chicago. Gase worked well with quarterbacks Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler in those cities, and he’ll now try to maximize Ryan Tannehill‘s potential with the Dolphins.
  • Of the Bills’ seven undrafted free agents, former Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker has the best chance to earn a roster spot this summer, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW explains. After Preston Brown, Reggie Ragland and possibly Zach Brown, the Bills don’t have any inside linebackers who are strong bets to make their roster. That could open the door for Striker, who totaled 45 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks with the Sooners from 2013-15.
  • At least in terms of name value, Miami made a significant move in signing free agent running back Arian Foster on Monday. Buffalo is also hoping to lure in a recognizable back, meanwhile, having made an offer to the unemployed Reggie Bush.
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