AFC East: Linebackers
Now we move to the linebackers, where some recent bad news shakes things up
4) The Buffalo Bills
On Tuesday the Bills suffered some bad news when The Legend of Kiko was injured with what looks to be a torn ACL. The one bright spot is that a normal knee injury takes 9-12 months to recover but for the Legend, it is whenever he decides recovery time is over. However missing Kiko will be a big blow as he was by far the best player on that Bills defense. Replacing him at Weakside Linebacker looks to be Nigel Bradham, who while no Kiko, is still legit. The rest of the linebacking corp is meh. Preston Brown looks promising but he is only a rookie and is big question marks. Brandon Spikes is great at the run and making people angry on Twitter but is godawful in coverage (a cardboard cutout is better at coverage than him) and Keith Rivers might be starting but even he is not good in coverage. The only other good cover guy on the linebacking corp is Manny Lawson who might spend more time at defensive end. Overall the Bills linebacker corp took a big hit when Kiko got hurt and now tight ends will dominate the middle of the field (even that Jets TE!). Hey, at least they still have their 1st round pick next year, oh wait…
3) New York Jets
Just like the defensive line, the linebackers are another position the Jets put a lot of effort in. The leader of the pack is Calvin Pace, who, despite being 33 years old, had a 10 sack season. A guy who is in a crucial third year is Quinton Coples, who last year took awhile to adjust to the change from the line to outside linebacker. Inside, the Jets are led by Demario Davis and David Harris, both guys who can play inside linebacker well enough. While the linebackers aren’t nearly as good as the defensive line, they are still good enough in Rex Ryan’s “Dave and Buster’s” defense.
1) New England Patriots
The best move the Patriots made was getting rid of Brandon Spikes, who although a good run stuffer, is horrible in coverage. Spikes being gone allows the Patriots to have the starting group of Jerod Mayo, Donte Hightower, and Jamie Collins. That is a pretty good starting group. If Mayo doesn’t get another case of the injury bug, this unit has the potential to be the best in the AFC. What hurts them is the lack of depth as outside the starting three, there is no one that is even serviceable. But when healthy, this unit is elite, and last year looks to be a fluke year when it comes to injuries. If they need depth, they can always call this guy.
1) Miami Dolphins
Last year the Dolphins shelled out big money on Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, both of whom failed to live up to their contracts. This year, with the salary cap figures both have, means that both players will be getting lots of playing time again. The good news is that they have a couple of young guys that show promise. Jelani Jenkins has some nice coverage skills, and Koa Misi is serviceable. The real breakout candidate is Jordie Tripp, who is a stud from Montana and is this year’s Kiko Alonso. The Dolphins have some guys with lots of talent, and if they play them instead of the big contract players, the linebacker corp can be good.