|Revis, Wake, Gronk, and Mario highlight the All-AFC East Team. (US Presswire)|
What if you could create a super team based on the players rostered in a particular division? Who would you choose? We're taking the freedom to do just that with each division in football over the next few weeks. And yeah, this might resemble a "Preseason All AFC East Division Team" were there such a thing.
First up, the AFC East, where the offense is absolutely filthy (read: full of Pats) and the defense is surprisingly good. Couple of notes: I went with a 4-3 defense because of the personnel available made it better, in my mind, to build the defense that way. It's obviously a group that could work in a hybrid concept too though. And there's no fullback, since we'll be using our backs as dual threats and primarly running out of single-back sets. Also: two tight ends are better than one and a fullback in this case.
Leave compliments, complaints or your team in the comments if you're so inclined.
RB: Fred Jackson, Bills -- The most underrated player at his position might be the most underrated player in the NFL. Jackson's a duel-threat who happens to be a great runner, and the rest of the AFC East would kill to have him in the backfield.
RB: Reggie Bush, Dolphins -- Bush's rep is bad, and I don't shy away from killing him for not being a "true" running back, but who needs one of those these days? Bush has gotten much better at finding the hole and busting for legit rushing yardage over the last year and he's one of the most dangerous running-back threats in the NFL when it comes to the passing game.
WR: Steve Johnson, Bills -- Johnson's talent gets lost amid the chatter about his end-zone antics, but the dude is a stud. He's the only guy who really gave a certain Jets cornerback trouble in 2011, and if he's focused there's no one better in the division.
WR: Wes Welker, Patriots -- The stats (110+ catches, 1,100 yards, six TDs on average over the past five years) speak for themselves. Welker's a stud, even if the Pats don't want to pay him like one.
WR: Brandon Lloyd, Patriots -- I'm not even sure if we're supposed to include three wideouts on this list, but I'm gonna do it anyway. After all, it's a passing league and this is a passing offense (AKA the Patriots) that I'm utilizing. Plus, Lloyd gets a bad rap because he's kind of a weird dude (but cool) and people think he's too smart for his own good. Doesn't matter when he can make the catches he does.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- When it comes to the ultimate combo of receiving, blocking and bro'ing out without a shirt on, there is literally no one better than Gronk. But, really, he's the best tight end in the NFL right now.
TE: Aaron Hernandez, Patriots -- And checking in as a top-five tight end is Hernandez, and they're on the same team. That's one of the many reasons you should be scared of New England this year.
LT: Jake Long, Dolphins -- Long doesn't get a ton of press, but why should he? There hasn't been a decent quarterback to protect in Miami since the Dolphins took him first overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. But that doesn't take away from the ability of long to protect a quarterback's blindside, and he's easily the best in the AFC East at doing just that.
LG: Logan Mankins, Patriots -- Mankins was a lockout poster boy because of his free-agent status, but have you seen how consistent he's been in terms of playing games in his career? Mankins missed one game last year and his holdout in 2010, otherwise he's perfect. There's a reason the Pats paid him to keep protecting Brady.
C: Nick Mangold, Jets -- He might be AWOL for Olympic reasons right now, and he might not be as strong as his own sister, but you're going to be hard pressed to find a better center in the NFL than Mangold. He's certainly the best one in his own division, although it's worth noting that with Dan Koppen and Eric Wood, this is a pretty good division for centers.
RG: Andy Levitre, Bills -- Levitre's status as a "right guard" might be up in the air, considering that he played all over the place during 2011. But he did his best work as a guard last year, and as such I'm going to include him here. The versatility is just a bonus.
RT: Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots -- Vollmer was limited to just six games in 2011, and he wouldn't be a guarantee to make this list if we're talking about "best tackles, period," especially since it would mean he'd be behind Nate Solder. But as far as right tackles go, he's the guy in the AFC East, provided the Pats don't decide to shift him to Brady's blindside and move Nate Solder to the right.
LE: Mario Williams, Bills -- The original temptation was to give the AFC East a 3-4 defense and make Super Mario an outside linebacker. But I think he's better in his natural position as a 4-3 end, and it didn't hurt that the personnel was better in that alignment anyway. If he's healthy, Williams is a top-five end in the NFL without question.
DT: Vince Wilfork, Patriots -- For all the issues with the Pats defense in 2011, Wilfork wasn't one. He dominated (as he has for all of his career) and saying that he served as the lynchpin for the Pats defense is a little unfair. It insinuates he was in charge of their poor play, and it doesn't properly represent how terrible they would've been without him last season.
DT: Kyle Williams, Bills -- There's an argument to be made for Paul Solai or even Marcell Dareus, but I like the underrated Williams here, particularly when you're talking about a guy who can both fill space and get after the passer. Alongside the trio he's with here, Williams would end up getting the recognition he deserves on a regular basis.
RE: Cameron Wake, Dolphins -- I mean, this line, you guys ... the easy assumption is that a conference like the NFC East will be the best when it comes to defensive-line play. But this is a pretty, pretty, pretty stout line. Wake's a beast, especially considering he's been constantly moving around in schemes lately.
OLB: David Harris, Jets -- Harris plays inside on the Jets defense, but I'm shifting him out for the purposes of what we're doing here, because we're talking about a 4-3 defense. Yes, it's a little awkward. No, not as awkward as the lack of Jets on this list.
ILB: Karlos Dansby, Dolphins -- Dansby's expectations for the Dolphins this season might be outrageous, period. But that doesn't make him a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he's quite stout both in coverage and against the run and absolutely deserves a spot here.
OLB: Jerod Mayo, Patriots --Mayo had a slightly down year compared to his All-Pro season in 2010, but he still was pretty productive, especially given that he missed a few games and the Patriots defense was so bad. Expect a nice bounce back from him in 2012, especially with the addition of pass-rushers like Chandler Jones to the defense.
CB: Darrelle Revis, Jets -- It feels a little pointless trying to explain why he's here. The gap between Revis and the next-best player at his position might be greater than anyone else in the NFL. That's not a slight to the rest of the cornerbacks, it's just simply a statement about the kind of level where Revis resides.
CB: Devin McCourty, Patriots -- Yes, it's weird to take a Patriot here. It makes no sense, given the way they played last year. And McCourty wasn't even that good last year. But he was good in 2010, so I'm banking on a bounceback season. If it doesn't happen, I'd happily take either Vontae Davis or Sean Smith from Miami.
SS: Jairus Byrd, Bills -- Byrd was a beast last year and one of the reason why Buffalo should be able to thrive with young but talented cornerbacks in their secondary.
FS: Patrick Chung, Patriots -- Man, surprisingly weak free-safety class, huh? Chung's probably the best run-stuffing safety in the division, so he's my pick here.
BREAKDOWN: The AFC offense list was pretty straightforward, and I don't really think that 8/13 players coming from the Patriots is a stretch. You can take Lloyd out if you want, but you'll thank me for including him when this season's over ... I said it above, but I'll say it again: that defensive line is ridiculous ... A surprising amount of Patriots included here, right? ... Maybe more surprising is the number of Bills defensive players here ...Who would you say is better at their position than Revis?
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