What AFC teams need at NFL trade deadline
The NFL trade deadline never quite stirs up the interest seen at that time of year in other professional sports.
“I never even know when the trade deadline is. You’re never going to see those blockbuster trades like you would see in the NBA or baseball. That’s just not the nature of football,” Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. Why’s that? “In the NFL, it’s almost like a coach gets his guy, and that’s who he wants to grow and mature . ... ‘I drafted this guy; I know what I drafted him for.’ Guys get brought in based on pure style, as opposed to pure talent, in some cases,” Williams said. “That has a lot to do with why there are fewer trades in this sport.” Even if moves are few and far between, every NFL team — some more than others — could use help ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for making deals. So AP reporters took on the role of general manager to offer thoughts on what each club’s most pressing need is.
Here’s a look at the AFC:
AFC EAST NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
DL — The Patriots are getting especially thin on the defensive line, with backup tackles Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) and Vincent Valentine (back) both sitting out recently. That forced the Patriots to elevate Anthony Johnson from the practice squad in order to have an extra body to rotate with Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch.
WR — The Bills are desperate for receiving help, which was reflected in their recent decision to promote undrafted rookie Ed Eagan off the practice squad. Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Greg Salas have all dealt with injuries (and two are on IR).
DB — The secondary has been in flux all season. Miami’s best DB, S Reshad Jones, is out for the season with a shoulder injury, and rookie starting CB Xavien Howard is recovering from a knee injury.
NEW YORK JETS
QB — The Jets were the only team with four QBs on their active roster until Geno Smith went on IR with a torn knee ligament. And yet their QB situation has been unsettled as can be: They benched turnover-prone Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of Smith. Now they’re forced to turn back to Fitzpatrick, because neither Bryce Petty nor Christian Hackenberg is ready to start.
AFC SOUTH HOUSTON TEXANS
OL — They need help along the line thanks to injuries. The Texans thought they found a starter in Nick Martin when they drafted him in the second round, but his year ended with a preseason ankle injury. Then veteran RG Derek Newton went on IR after hurting both knees.
WR — Some speed on the outside could help QB Marcus Mariota, especially when you consider the Titans’ receiving corps consists of a rookie who was a fifth-round draft pick from Massachusetts (Tajae Sharpe), a guy on his third team in three seasons (Andre Johnson) and a pair of nondescript veterans (Harry Douglas — a healthy scratch lately — and Rishard Matthews).
A bit of everything, other than QB — Indy has allowed a league-high 25 sacks, two of their top three WRs and their No. 1 tight end are all out with injuries, the pass rush is lacking, and the linebackers and secondary keep missing tackles.
OL — The Jaguars have been downright awful up front, with the offensive line failing to do much of anything to create holes for the run game. The team is on pace to set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards in a season and has to play the rest of the year without starting left guard Luke Joeckel (knee).
AFC NORTH PITTSBURGH STEELERS
WR — Sure, the Steelers have Antonio Brown, but otherwise receiver is a real position of need. Martavis Bryant is suspended; Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton have injury issues.
DB — Every team could use a cover guy, but few more so than the Ravens, who don’t have a decent DB to go with S Eric Weddell. Jimmy Smith is a solid CB, but he’s been slowed by a concussion. The other starting CB, Shareece Wright, has already missed two games with injuries, while FS Lardarius Webb is still learning the position after moving from CB.
S — The Bengals had to choose between their two starting safeties in free agency, and they kept George Iloka and let Reggie Nelson leave. They’ve missed Nelson’s physical play. A defense that allowed the second-fewest points in the league last season has been middle-ofthe-pack.
QB — Still in search of an elusive franchise QB, the Browns could be enticed to make a deal, even if their plan seems to be to try to find an elite QB in next year’s draft (will there be one?). Robert Griffin III’s injury complicated matters; this season was supposed to be devoted to his comeback.
AFC WEST OAKLAND RAIDERS
Pass rusher — The Raiders have struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing QBs, a big reason why the defense has allowed so many big plays. With offenses using extra protection to slow down Khalil Mack, Oakland could use a more consistent outside rusher on the other side to complement Bruce Irvin.
OL — If there’s a weak link on the reigning Super Bowl champions, it’s the offensive line, where tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson are committing too many costly penalties, and guards Max Garcia and Michael Schofield take turns making their share of mistakes.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
OLB — The Chiefs have just eight sacks, tied with Pittsburgh for fewest in the NFL. They should be buoyed by the eventual return of Justin Houston from ACL surgery, but just how effective will he be?
And when? The Chiefs need someone to provide a consistent pass rush, because OLB Tamba Hali is aging before their eyes and former first-round pick Dee Ford has been a disappointment.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
RB — Melvin Gordon is having a dynamite second NFL season, but the Chargers could use some RB depth with Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver out for the season with injuries.