Ryan Tannehill among AFC East, AFC North surprises


After five weeks of play, we've forgotten most of the things we thought we knew before the season. So what have been the biggest surprises?

Using my weekly raft of illegible notes that I take watching Game Rewind, here's something that surprised me about every team. Let's start with two of the AFC divisions.

AFC East:

The Buffalo Bills' defensive struggles overall shouldn't be that big of a shock, though. They change schemes and coaches every year. Still, it's surprising that a line featuring Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams can be struggling this much. This team lacks toughness in run defense ... The New York Jets run defense has been a big letdown. The lack of a pass rush makes sense -- the Jets lack players that can win one-on-one battles -- but it's strange to see a Rex Ryan team that isn't tough. Their recent draft picks, other than Muhammad Wilkerson, are not panning out. ... Anyone surprised the Jets don't have a running game were expecting too much. This just isn't that talented of a team. 

The New England Patriots' running game has been a revelation. Remember all those fantasy analysts that said you couldn't trust a Patriots back? Stevan Ridley is fifth in the league. He has a natural style and true primary running back skills. ... I never expected Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be this good, this fast. This is not a case of "steady progress." He's growing up quickly. He's already better than a lot of starters in the league. He has a chance to be a great one. Remember when he was better off sitting out a year? ... I've also been surprised how well the lines have played on both sides of the ball in Miami. It's another reminder to ignore the preseason.

AFC North:

Trent Richardson's weekly improvement with the Cleveland Browns has been something to see. He was fine when he initially came back from knee surgery, but he looks like a completely different guy now. His burst and ability to make people miss is incredible when combined with his effort and ability to run people over. He will help out Brandon Weeden a ton. Richardson is advanced as a receiver too. ... Andy Dalton's numbers are surprisingly good. He's third in yards-per-attempt, but his play for the Cincinnati Bengals has been a lot more uneven. He looked good against the three poor defenses he played, but struggled against Miami and Baltimore. There are streaks of wildness you wouldn't expect.

Andrew Hawkins is a bigger factor than anyone thought. There was a lot of talk this offseason he might not even make the team. He's a player that couldn't have existed in the NFL a decade ago, but he's perfect as a Darren Sproles/Percy Harvin/C.J. Spiller "space" player that can create all sorts of problems with his short-area quickness. He's a blast to watch. ... Mike Zimmer-led defenses don't usually have the breakdowns that are occurring in Cincinnati, but injuries have been a huge factor there. ... The Bengals use BenJarvus Green-Ellis as a "foundation" back, and he is not suited for the role.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the oldest defense in the league by a full season in average age. The young players, like Jason Worilds, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward and Keenan Lewis haven't stepped up like young guys of the Steelers' past. Some of the old players (Casey Hampton) don't look the same. Others just haven't been healthy. ... Torrey Smith is a true No. 1 receiver and faster than I expected. He's only going to get better, but he can already compete for a Pro Bowl spot. It took a while, but Ozzie Newsome finally hit on one. ... The loss of Terrell Suggs has been an even bigger problem than expected. The Baltimore Ravens don't really defend the run well and the pass rush is iffy. It's strange to see. Don't discount the departure of Chuck Pagano to the Indianapolis Colts, too.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.