Let's pretend for a moment that the NFL hasn't ground to a halt like a train rusted to the tracks. Let's pretend as well that the season will start on time, that free agency will at some point get underway and that all these roster voids can at some point be addressed. Got it? Well, with those rose-colored glasses on, let's audit all the divisions in the NFL. Like last year, I'll hit on three things:
• Help added: What has the team done so far this offseason to improve its prospects. (Obviously, minus free agency, this is mainly limited to the draft.)
• Questions that remain: Consider it a guide to free agency (when it happens). What must still be addressed?
• Next year's help, now: With an eye toward next year's draft class, what player from 2012 could seemingly help the team in 2011? Meant to be extremely hypothetical.
Here is the version for the AFC East:
Help added: I think the Bills would have been thrilled had Von Miller been sitting there when they picked at No. 3, but in Marcell Dareus, they got quite a consolation prize. The Bills need to get to the quarterback, but they also had the worst rush defense in the NFL in 2010. Dareus provides immediate run-stuffing help there and can stay in and be a disruptive force against the pass because he also has great skills as a penetrator. Compounding this pick, getting Kelvin Sheppard in Round 3 made a lot of sense. Buffalo faces certain defections in the linebacking corps, and Sheppard can help early. And with an inconsistent and often dinged-up secondary, the Bills got good value in drafting Aaron Williams in Round 2.
They took some late fliers on defense, and I think overall, this is a draft in which the Bills said they simply had to start patching that unit and did about as well as they could early on. And keep an eye on Da'Norris Searcy, a safety who could help early (partly because he might have to).
Questions that remain: Hard to blame Buffalo for not jumping into the quarterback frenzy that took over the top half of Round 1. Of the teams picking in the top 10, they might have the most steady quarterback coming back with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Where the question remains is at outside linebacker, where Miller could have played, and along the offensive line. The Bills simply believe they have more at O-line than the results seem to bear out. If they can do some work in free agency, there's no reason this team can't be far more competitive.