Yesterday I posted the rankings for the offensive units in the AFC East. This time around, I'll take a look at the defense. The defensive side is where Miami and New England will find themselves with more question marks while those other guys up north may be a little more happy. So let's take a look!
Mia NE NYJ Buf
DL: 3 1 2 4
LB: 2 3 1 4
CB: 3 4 1 2
S: 3 1 2 4
Now this one may not look as good as the offensive side did for Miami. There is a lot of potential in some positions for Miami and also in New England and Buffalo.
I went with Patriots because first of all, they have the best NT in the division. Ty Warren is also a suitable DE. I also think Ron Brace can be a good backup because I think he'd be able to man the NT spot if Vince Wilfork goes down, but they do have Myron Pryor as a backup as well. All of the AFC East squads have at least one unproven player or question mark at DE. The Jets went #2 because Ellis is a good player and Sione Pouha performed well when Kris Jenkins went down with an injury. I'm not sure how Jenkins will return, but I do expect him to lose playing time to Pouha. After this year even, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jenkins released so the Jets could sign other core players. Mike DeVito or Vernon Gholston at DE thoug? Sorry, I'm not buying that. I actually do think Buffalo's DL, while new to their positions, could surprise some people if they get a solid NT. I think Stroud can perform well as a 3-4 DE. He's big and physical, but athletic and fast enough to generate some pressure on a QB.
For the LBs, I have to go with the Jets. Though they have little to no depth, they're the only ones without question marks. Miami goes number two here, but it's only because none of the other AFC East squads have strong LB corps. While Miami has potential to get to the QB with Cameron Wake, 5.5 sacks and 20 QB pressures in 2009, both of their OLBs are new. If Wake lives up to the hype, Miami's LB corps climbs up the charts. Same goes for Misi, but I only take the term potential with a grain of salt. Miami is ranked number two because of Karlos Dansby and Channing Crowder. Both of them combine to form a formidable ILB corps. Tim Dobbins also provides good depth as he performed very well during while he was on the field with the San Diego Chargers. I go with NE thid because Jerod Mayo is a very good ILB and Gary Guyton is an average compliment. If Brandon Spikes does live up to his potential, NE would be set at ILB for many years. Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain are decent pass rushers, but they lack in other areas. Banta-Cain is more of a 3rd down specialist than a full-time OLB. They just need to generate constant pressure on the QB. Jermaine Cunningham will need to step in immediately if the Patriots want to improve their pass rush. Buffalo is trying to shift to a 3-4 and they're asking Chris Kelsay and Aaron Maybin to be their OLBs. Kelsay will have to adjust and Maybin may actually be better suited for this role. Maybin was a disappointment last year and will need to take a big step if he wants to be a starter. I think Buffalo's ILBs are good with Paul Posluszny and Andra Davis. Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor are serviceable backups.
For the CBs, this does go to New York. I don't agree with all the hype of Antonio Cromartie, but Revis is hands down the best CB in the division. Cromartie is good enough to give New York the edge with Kyle Wilson as a backup. This may be the surprise to people, but I give the Buffalo Bills the number two spot here. Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin are good, young CBs and Drayton Florence is average. Ashton Youboty has been a very good dime back. Miami would climb up the charts if Vontae Davis and Sean Smith live up to their potential, but again this post is not about potential. Will Allen would make it a strong push for the number two slot against Buffalo, but he is coming off an ACL tear. As it stands, Tyrone Culver will be Miami's nickel CB if Will Allen isn't ready or if he struggles early in the year. New England is at the bottom of this list because Darius Butler, like Davis and Smith, has shown potential. Again, similar to Davis and Smith, Butler has given up a lot of big plays. I actually believe his play was sub-par to Miami's CBs last year. Leigh Bodden is only a serviceable CB. The Patriots will need Devin McCourty to have an immediate impact to have a respectable secondary.
New England does get the top safety ranking. Brandon Meriweather is a great safety most of the time. He has his occasional brain farts and forgets where he is supposed to be, but he did earn his Pro Bowl nominations. The Patriots also have Patrick Chung, Chung started only one game in 2009, but during his time on the field, he played very well. He has shown is was good against the run and was even able to generate good pressure on the QB on blitzes. He came up with 1 pick and has good range, but he'll still need to show he can be a good defender against the pass. What he did show in limited snaps this year was enough for me to give New England the top spot. A good backup with James Sanders is just icing on the cake. New York gets number two with a pair of strong, but unspectacular, set of safeties with Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith. Brodney Pool may push Smith for the starting spot, but his own history with concussions makes it tough for him to last a full season. His career was almost at an end before coming to New York. With Smith starting though, Pool does become a good backup. Miami goes number three because Yeremiah Bell is a very good SS. Their problem is Chris Clemons and the FS position. Clemons has very good athletic ability and good centerfield range, but he had a lot of mental errors. His time at Clemson shows he is a solid tackler and likes the hits, but again I'm not going on potential. Tyrone Culver is a solid backup at both FS and SS. If Clemons does disappoint, Culver may find himself in the starting role. Buffalo falls number four with Jarius Byrd being their lone bright spot. He had a lot of interceptions last year and was a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but even he found himself out of position at times and he needs to prove himself against the run. Donte Whitner will be testing the strong safety side, but he's been a big disappointment thus far. George Wilson is only adequate depth.
There is my defensive rankings, though I'm sure many will disagree. I'll throw in the caveat again that I don't believe each ranking will determine which team has the better overall defense. There is a lot more that goes into that process. This just ranks the talent each team has at those positions. I'll post special teams rankings later on.