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AFC East preseason player grades, Week 3

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Preseason football is here -- and while wins and losses mean nothing, individual performances can mean everything. As the preseason slate progresses, Bucky Brooks will be assessing the performances of notable players, handing out grades to provide context for the prior week's on-field action.

Below, find report cards for one key player from each AFC East team following Week 3's preseason action.

AFC EAST

BUFFALO BILLS: Jonathan Williams, running back. LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush are in line to carry the load as the team's top backfield weapons, but Williams is making a push for playing time as a rugged change-of-pace back. The rookie likely sealed his spot in the rotation with a 37-yard touchdown against the Redskins on Friday that showcased his balance, body control and vision. Although he finished the contest with just 42 yards on 11 carries, Williams' long run should be enough to encourage Bills' coaches about a long-term role as the RB3. GRADE: B-

MIAMI DOLPHINS: Jay Ajayi, running back. The second-year pro was at one point penciled in to be the Dolphins' workhorse back, but it'd be hard to justify his standing as the team's RB1 based on his preseason play. Ajayi is averaging only 2.4 yards per carry through three preseason games (15 attempts for 36 yards), including a seven-carry, 11-yard performance against the Falcons on Thursday that highlighted concerns about his effectiveness as a lead back. With an established runner like Arian Foster in the stable in Miami, Ajayi's measly production could open the door for the veteran to star in the lead role. GRADE: C-

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Jacoby Brissett, quarterback. Despite most of the preseason attention centering on backup Jimmy Garoppolo's development, the steady improvement of Brissett is something that should put Bill Belichick at ease heading into the regular season. The rookie has completed 71.4 percent of his passes and compiled a 99.1 passer rating in extensive action against second- and third-stringers (at Carolina on Friday, he completed all nine of his pass attempts for 85 yards and a score). Most impressively, he has shown the arm talent, poise and confidence to step in and lead an offense as a smart playmaker at the position. Considering the lack of quality backup quarterbacks on the open market, the Patriots could feel comfortable entrusting the QB2 job to Brissett while Tom Brady serves his four-game suspension to start the season. GRADE: A-

NEW YORK JETS: Christian Hackenberg, quarterback. The rookie's long-awaited debut in the fourth quarter against the Giants on Saturday showcased his immense talent and potential, but he also showed how much work he needs to do before he is ready to step onto the field as an NFL starter. Hackenberg settled down after a slow start to engineer a scoring drive that featured a handful of pinpoint throws, including a 10-yard dime to Robby Anderson on a corner route to finish it off. The QB couldn't sustain his momentum -- he later tossed an interception due to a poor decision -- but Hackenberg can build on the positives from this performance. GRADE: C+

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