AFC East preview: Jay Cutler, after coming out of retirement, gets uo to speed in Miami

It’s as if he’s a rookie, as opposed to a quarterback who spent the last 11 years in the NFL.

Jay Cutler is once again adjusting to the speed of the game.

With no offseason program or minicamps, he’s had to hit the ground running in Miami, coming out of retirement and dumping his plans to be an on-air football analyst to step in for the injured Ryan Tannehill.

“Coming from a place you’ve been for eight years, you kind of know everybody,” said Cutler, 34, who spent his first three seasons in Denver and the next eight in Chicago. “There’s a new influx of people from year to year, but for the majority, you know everybody.”

He said his first few days with the Dolphins were “a whirlwind,” and that it’s getting easier and more comfortable by the day.

Of course, Cutler is quite familiar with the offense of coach Adam Gase, who was his offensive coordinator with the Bears in 2015 when the quarterback threw for 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, and had a career-best passer rating of 92.3.

“He has the offense down pretty good,” Gase said. “He’s a quick study.

“It’s just really knowing what it is and seeing it in your head on paper and then all of the sudden you’ve got four guys rushing at you or they bring some kind of exotic blitz and the processing speed of all that. And then still trying to figure out the receivers’ body language or run courses and play-action fakes. There’s a lot of little things that go on just besides saying, ‘Hey I’m going to execute this like it’s on paper.’”

The Dolphins are looking to finally reshuffle the power structure in a division that has been dominated for so long by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Brady, who turned 40 this summer, is on the verge of all sorts of records. He led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes last season and is tied with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers with a record four seasons of at least 35 touchdown passes. Four more regular-season victories would move Brady past Manning (186) and Brett Favre (186) for the most in history by a starting quarterback.

What’s more, Brady and Manning are the only two players with 11 seasons of 12 or more wins. One more, and Brady would stand alone.

He’s not getting too far ahead of himself, though. He’s almost annoyed by all the 19-0 talk that’s buzzing around the powerhouse Patriots.

“This team is so far from where we need to be, and we have so far to go,” Brady told WEEI radio in Boston. “It’s really unfair to set expectations, to me in my mind. It’s really a setup, you know?”

At the opposite end of the quarterback spectrum are the New York Jets, who have the underwhelming trio of Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. There was much speculation this summer about why the Jets would pass on signing Colin Kaepernick, who is better than any of those three.

In Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor is missing two of his favorite targets, receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, both of whom are now playing for the Rams. He does have former Philadelphia receiver Jordan Matthews, but he is injured (sternum).

This is a critical juncture for Taylor. The Bills are committed financially to him through this season, and they have the option to pay him a $6-million roster bonus in March to keep him for 2018 at $18.08 million. Or, they could save $14 million by releasing him. His deal was restructured during the offseason and expires after the 2018 season.

Here is a capsulized look at each team in the AFC East in predicted order of finish:


2016 | 14-2, 1st in East

Last year in playoffs | 2016

Going all the way: With Tom Brady turning 40, the Patriots are clearly loading up for another Super Bowl run. They signed Buffalo corner Stephon Gilmore and traded for New Orleans receiver Brandin Cooks. They re-signed their defensive leader, Dont’a Hightower, and Super Bowl hero James White. Rob Gronkowski is healthy again. They are rolling.

They’re doomed: They’re thin on the defensive line after letting Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long go. Their top draft pick (a third-rounder), defensive end Derek Rivers, is already done for the year because of a torn ACL. They didn’t have much of a pass rush last season, but they didn’t play many top-notch quarterbacks. This year they face Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Derek Carr …

Now hear this: “This team is so far from where we need to be. We have so far to go. It’s really unfair to set expectations.” — Tom Brady.


2016 | 7-9, 3rd in East

Last year in playoffs | 1999

Going all the way: LeSean McCoy looks great in his third training camp with the Bills, and he might be the best running back in the NFL. He’s got a lot of mileage, but he’s not breaking down. Buffalo’s defensive line is intact with Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and second-year defensive end Shaq Lawson.

They’re doomed: They are light on receivers. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin left via free agency, Sammy Watkins was traded to the Rams and Anquan Boldin retired. The team picked up former Philadelphia receiver Jordan Matthews, but he suffered a chipped sternum in his first practice. It remains to be seen if Tyrod Taylor is the long-term answer at quarterback, and the odds are against him now that he’s been stripped of weapons.

Now hear this: “This is not a throw-in-the- towel thing at all. … You don’t know me if you think I’m throwing in the towel.” — Brandon Beane, general manager, on Buffalo’s big-name talent purge.


2016 | 10-6, 2nd in East

Last year in playoffs | 2016

Going all the way: Quarterback Jay Cutler had the best year of his career when he had Adam Gase as offensive coordinator in Chicago, so that bodes well for the Dolphins. Receiver DeVante Parker had a terrific summer, and this looks like it will be a breakout season for him. Running back Jay Ajayi is coming off a tremendous year. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons should help fortify a porous run defense.

They’re doomed: Cutler is who he’s been over his 11-year career — not a proven winner, and a difficult teammate. The offensive line is filled with health questions. The run defense was ranked 30th last season and probably didn’t do enough to make dramatic improvements. The Dolphins were 8-2 in one-score games last season, and the law of averages are due to catch up to them.

Now hear this: “Those are tough. They wear you down. But that wasn’t the sole reason. … I mean, they released me, so it was kind of end of the road at that point.” — Cutler, on all the losing in Chicago.


2016 | 5-11, 4th in East

Last year in playoffs | 2010

Going all the way: At this point, going all the way for the Jets would mean getting the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. The arrow is going up in a handful of spots, however. The team has some building blocks in defensive lineman Leonard Williams from USC, and rookie defensive backs Jamal Adams (first round) and Marcus Maye (second).

They’re doomed: The quarterback situation is a disaster with Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, and the situation at wide receiver isn’t much better. The Jets cut veterans Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Quincy Enunwa was going to be their No. 1, but he suffered a bulging disk in his neck at the start of camp and is out for the season. So now the top guys are a collection of unknowns from the class of 2016: undrafted free agents Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall, and Charone Peake, a seventh-round pick.

Now hear this: “I really don’t have time for a bunch of ... that happened a year ago.” — Todd Bowles, coach, on Sheldon Richardson criticizing former teammate Brandon Marshall.

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

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