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Weak in review: How AFC teams improved 2010 problem areas

Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger/US Presswire
The Patriots' pass defense got shredded by the Jets' Santonio Holmes and other receivers last season.


Nobody was perfect in 2010, even the defending AFC champion Steelers. So how did teams improve themselves in the offseason? Let's examine every team's biggest weakness last year and how it was addressed, whether via a coaching change, the draft or free agency. This is a look at the AFC (for NFC, click here):

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Bills were awful in all aspects on defense, but their struggles against the run were their biggest issue. The team ranked dead last in rush yards allowed and surrendered a whopping 4.8 yards a carry.

How have they fixed it?
The team added beefy run-stopper Marcell Dareus in the draft to fortify the interior line. His ability to occupy multiple blockers at the point of attack will allow recent signee Nick Barnett to flow freely to the ball. Also, the addition of draft picks Kelvin Sheppard and Aaron Williams add more speed and athleticism to the defense.

Miami Dolphins

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
Chad Henne underperformed as the team's starting quarterback. He didn't show poise or confidence, and his conservative nature limited the offense.

How have they fixed it?
Tony Sparano hired new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to make the Dolphins' scheme more quarterback-friendly. In addition, the team upgraded the speed and talent at the skill positions with Reggie Bush and rookie Edmond Gates, and drafted a physical runner in Daniel Thomas.

New England Patriots

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Patriots' pass defense was among the worst in the league. The unit ranked 30th in pass yards allowed due to an ineffective front seven that only generated 36 sacks.

How have they fixed it?
The addition of Albert Haynesworth significantly upgrades the defensive line. He is potentially the most dominant interior rusher in the league, and his presence can transform the front seven into a devastating unit. If he decides he wants to play at a high level, the Patriots will re-emerge as a top defense.

New York Jets

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
Mark Sanchez was streaky as a passer. His inconsistency and decision-making forces the team to rely on the running game and restricts their ability to score.

How have they fixed it?
The Jets re-signed Santonio Holmes to ensure Sanchez has a No. 1 receiver to grow with over the next few years. The team also added Plaxico Burress as a big target in the red zone. With Dustin Keller in place as a complementary weapon, the Jets have surrounded Sanchez with talent.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The offense lacks explosiveness on the outside, and without a big-play element the unit struggled against elite defenses.

How have they fixed it?
The Ravens added explosive playmaker Torrey Smith in the draft. The team also parted ways with pedestrian pass catchers Todd Heap, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason to allow a young core (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson) to take over.

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Cincinnati Bengals

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Bengals imploded on offense after deviating from the hard-nosed, physical running game that propelled them to success in the past.

How have they fixed it?
Marvin Lewis dumped his long-time offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski in favor of Jay Gruden. He also changed the core of the offense by adding Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to go with intriguing young players like Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley and Jerome Simpson. With a young unit more apt to embrace a team-first culture, the Bengals hope success springs from their newfound chemistry.

Cleveland Browns

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Browns shed a lot of talent during the Eric Mangini era, and the lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball made it tough for Cleveland to consistently compete.

How have they fixed it?
Mike Holmgren added a few key components in the draft with Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little, but the trio will need time to grow into their roles. With Colt McCoy and most of the other top players only in their second or third seasons, the Browns can't restore the rowdiness in the Dawg Pound overnight.

Pittsburgh Steelers

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
Mike Tomlin didn't get great production from his offensive line. The unit surrendered the seventh-most sacks (43) in the league.

How have they fixed it?
The Steelers cut Max Starks and Flozell Adams, and re-signed Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott as their replacements. The team also drafted Marcus Gilbert to add youth and athleticism along the line.

AFC South

Houston Texans

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
In the words of Bart Scott, Houston's defense couldn't stop a nosebleed. The unit ranked last in pass defense and allowed a league-high 33 passing touchdowns.

How have they fixed it?
The Texans hired Wade Phillips to shore up the defense and gave him plenty of toys to make it happen. The team acquired Johnathan Joseph in free agency to serve as the No. 1 corner and used three draft picks on defensive backs -- Brandon Harris, Rashad Carmichael and Shiloh Keo -- to fortify the secondary.

Indianapolis Colts

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The offensive line struggled mightily. The unit didn't provide Peyton Manning with the time he's accustomed to in the pocket and failed to open holes in the running game.

How have they fixed it?
The team finally committed to upgrading the offensive line by drafting Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana with its first two picks. Although they lost Charlie Johnson in free agency, the team's commitment to the youth movement could yield big results down the road.

Jacksonville Jaguars

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Jaguars have been in position to secure playoff berths the past two seasons, but have failed to get it done down the stretch. Part of the issue could be attributed to David Garrard's inconsistent play in key moments.

How have they fixed it?
The team nabbed Blaine Gabbert as a potential franchise quarterback, and his presence creates immediate competition. If Garrard doesn't respond, the Jaguars could replace him during the season with Gabbert.

Tennessee Titans

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Titans lost their identity last season. The offense, in particular, didn't run effectively and the passing game was abysmal with the merry-go-round at quarterback.

How have they fixed it?
Vince Young was replaced by first-round pick Jake Locker. While Locker's not ready to fill the role on a full-time basis, the addition of veteran Matt Hasselbeck gives the team a proven leader to bridge the gap.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Broncos fielded the league's worst defense under Josh McDaniels. The unit surrendered 390.4 yards a game and finished last in scoring defense (29.4) due to an inept pass rush and aging secondary.

How have they fixed it?
New coach John Fox comes with a reputation for building strong defenses from the ground up. He immediately started the effort by retooling the front seven with the addition of rookie Von Miller and veterans Ty Warren, Jeremy Jarmon, Derrick Harvey and Broderick Bunkley. The Broncos also added safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter to eliminate the deep balls that tormented the secondary.

Kansas City Chiefs

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Chiefs surprisingly won the AFC West title despite lacking a proven pass catcher outside of Dwayne Bowe. The team used a host of receivers on the opposite side, but no one stepped up.

How have they fixed it?
Todd Haley reached back into his Arizona past to grab Steve Breaston in free agency, giving Matt Cassel an explosive option in the slot. The Chiefs also drafted Jonathan Baldwin in the first round.


The NFL free agency cycle is in full effect, with teams and players agreeing to terms fast as training camps open. Get the latest on all the news right here.

Oakland Raiders

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Raiders made tremendous improvements under Tom Cable, sweeping the division, but they inexplicably dropped some winnable games that cost them a postseason spot.

How have they fixed it?
Former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson replaces Cable as the head coach, and is poised to build off last year's momentum. Jackson worked wonders with the offense in his first season, and his attention to detail and high level of accountability could lead to more wins in close games.

San Diego Chargers

What was the biggest issue in 2010?
The Chargers led the league in total offense and defense, but failed to qualify for the postseason due to their woeful kicking units. From blocked punts to missed assignments that resulted in game-changing kick return touchdowns, the Chargers' special teams failed to perform.

How have they fixed it?
Norv Turner lured Rich Bisaccia away from Tampa Bay to rebuild the woeful kick units. The team has spent added time working on the fundamentals and details, and has also flipped some of its personnel to get better athletes on the field.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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