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AFC East holes to fill: Will Mark Sanchez ever take next step?

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Michael Conroy/AP
Which Mark Sanchez will show up in 2012? And how quickly could Tim Tebow replace him behind center for the Jets?

With the 2012 NFL Draft and the bulk of free agency in the rearview mirror, NFL.com analyst Elliot Harrison is examining each team's offseason activity and identifying remaining holes to fill.

Buffalo Bills

Draft Grades & Team Holes
NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter graded the draft classes for each team from the 2012 NFL Draft, and analyst Elliot Harrison addressed what holes remain.

NFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes

Free agency: The Bills made a huge splash, and took a leap of faith in paying Mario Williams $50 million smackers guaranteed. Mark Anderson, the Patriots' second-best pass rusher in 2011, was also added to Buffalo's front four.

Draft: Buffalo obtained two immediate starters in need positions: CB Stephon Gilmore and OT/OG Cordy Glenn. Wide receiver was another void to fill and the Bills drafted T.J. Graham, although he probably won't start. LB Nigel Bradham, CB Ron Brooks and LB Tank Carder were necessary mid-round selections, providing defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt with some players in the back seven.

Holes to fill: While Glenn was a great pick, he can't play both guard and tackle at the same time. The right side of the line is suspect, and truthfully, the Bills' offense might only go as far as the line takes it. You can't catch all the porcelain in an earthquake, and Chan Gailey couldn't hit every need with a high pick. Thus, don't be surprised if a first- or second-round pick is spent on offensive line in the 2013 draft. Meanwhile, Graham had better be a helluva steal as the 69th overall pick, because Ryan Fitzpatrick needs more than Stevie Johnson. Wideout David Nelson and TE Scott Chandler did not scare secondaries in 2011.

Miami Dolphins

Free agency: Re-signing DT Paul Soliai was almost as awesome as getting Peyton Manning. Losing Brandon Marshall via trade was ... interesting ... to the Dolphins' fan base, as well. Let's just say that signing David Garrard, Richard Marshall and Legedu Naanee didn't exactly provide solace.

Draft: The Ryan Tannehill experiment starts now. And Miami added some protection for the eighth overall pick out of Texas A&M by drafting Jonathan Martin, who could start immediately at right tackle. The Dolphins spent their first third-round pick on a local guy, Miami's Olivier Vernon, who might end up starting at linebacker. It became clear Miami was going off its big board late, as another Hurricane, RB Lamar Miller, was not a team need, but a great value at 97th overall.

Holes to fill: The Dolphins drafted some wideouts late, but Tannehill has no marquee attractions on the outside. Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are serviceable, yes, but that's the extent of it. Tight end Anthony Fasano is OK, and the team added TE Michael Egnew with its second third-round pick, but at the end of the day, head coach Joe Philbin's air attack needs some starch in the collar. The defense looks pretty good, but the secondary could've used a lift when Egnew was taken, as there were some decent DBs available. Safety Reshad Jones will give Miami a big lift if he balls out this year. Like Chan Gailey in Buffalo, Philbin and the much-maligned Jeff Ireland couldn't do it all in one stroke, but some feel Ireland is the man who created this talent deficiency in the first place.

New England Patriots

Free agency: Bill Belichick chose not to re-sign either of his best pass rushers in Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. Instead, New England opted for a ton of role players: G Robert Gallery, TE Daniel Fells, DE Jonathan Fanene, S Steve Gregory and CB Will Allen, to name a few. But the biggest addition was Brandon Lloyd, who could be incredibly productive working with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels once again. Lloyd enjoyed a breakout season (1,448 receiving yards, 11 TDs) on McDaniels' Broncos back in 2010.

Draft: The Patriots traded up in the first round not once but twice, obtaining DE/OLB Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower. Belichick's new-look front seven also includes third-round DE Jake Bequette. Second-rounder Tavon Wilson could start immediately at safety. Oh, and by the way, CB Alfonzo Dennard was a steal in the seventh. Figures.

Holes to fill: Building a new front seven is great, in theory, but can these guys get to the quarterback? Carter might've been too old to re-sign (and coming off injury), but his 10 sacks were tied for the team lead (with the departed Anderson). Rookies don't often tear it up in this department. For every Jevon Kearse breakout, there are five guys who can't sniff six sacks in their first NFL season. The Patriots needed to pressure Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLVI, and now they'll have to try and create it again with a bunch of kids -- or else they won't be the last team standing come February. Offensively, no matter Tom Brady's greatness, this team sure could use a better running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is gone, leaving Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to share the load. The Patriots were most dominant when they had Corey Dillon rumbling around back in 2004. None of these dudes are Corey Dillon.

New York Jets

Free agency: GM Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan made one of the more underreported (surprisingly) moves of the offseason, signing a very good player in LaRon Landry. If healthy, he instantly makes Ryan's defense better. Tim Tebow was acquired via trade in an effort to create offensive diversity, push starter Mark Sanchez and basically disrupt all of our lives.

Draft: The Jets went pass rush right away, a smart move given Ryan's inability to win with the formula he grew up with in the NFL: constantly pressuring the opposing quarterback. Quinton Coples was the headliner in said area, but WR Stephen Hill should make an immediate impact by stretching the field. LB Demario Davis was a need pick in the third round, as Bryan Thomas is coming off injury and Bart Scott is coming off stinking up the joint.

Holes to fill: Landry's a fine addition at strong safety, but the other safety position is still a problem. Eric Smith hurt his team often last season, including letting new teammate Tim Tebow run right around him in a bad loss at Denver. If Coples falters like the ghost that was Vernon Gholston, Gang Green's in big trouble. The Jets failed to pick up anyone else via free agency, trade, or draft who could make hay as a pass rusher. The right side of the offensive line is still a problem. Firemen Ed is yet to junk his Bruce Harper "42" for a Wayne Hunter "78." A lot of Jets fans were unhappy with the Davis pick in the third round, as there were some quality offensive linemen there for the taking. Shonn Greene, who was at Radio City Music Hall, might want to re-enter the draft after he tries running right this season. And of course, issue No. 1 for this franchise is still quarterback -- specifically, which Mark Sanchez is going to show up to play? At what time does it become Tebow Time?

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL

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