2020 AFC East Breakdown By Position: The Defense

East Breakdown

During the month of August, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a position-by-position breakdown of the AFC East defenses and special teams. This breakdown will contain “the best” at each position followed by “the rest” in descending order.

AFC East Breakdown By Position: The Offense

AFC East Breakdown By Position: The Defense

Defensive Line

The Best: Buffalo Bills

The Rest: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets

The Buffalo Bills are the clear frontrunners in this regard, although nobody in the division has an elite defensive line by any means. Jerry Hughes is still as effective as ever and has quietly been one of the team’s best acquisitions of the past decade. Mario Addison, meanwhile, is a fine starter while rookie defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa has the raw talent to step in and contribute right away.

The New England Patriots have a great interior duo in Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, but the edge is a major question. Chase Winovich looked good in a small sample last year, but only time will tell if he can handle starting duties. The Dolphins had perhaps the worst defensive line in the league last year, but free agent additions like Kyle Van Noy should improve the unit. The Jets, meanwhile, better hope that Quinnen Williams can start playing as he did back at Alabama.

Linebackers

The Best: Buffalo Bills

The Rest: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Despite the missed tackles, the Buffalo Bills still managed to have the best linebackers in the division. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are both above-average starters, with Edmunds showing notable growth during his second season. Milano, meanwhile, is one of the better coverage linebackers in the league, which is far more valuable than tackling.

The rest of the linebacker corps in the division are underwhelming, to say the least. Raekwon McMillan had a solid year, and the addition of Elandon Roberts should help the run defense in Miami. The Patriots won’t have Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, or Elandon Roberts in 2020. Ready or not, this is Ja’Whaun Bentley’s show. The Jets lost C.J. Mosley, but they made do without him for most of the 2019 season.

Cornerbacks

The Best: New England Patriots

The Rest: Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets

Top to bottom, the New England Patriots probably have the best group of cornerbacks in the league. Stephon Gilmore is the best in the league, while guys like J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, and Jonathan Jones are all above-average starters. Joejuan Williams looked good in limited playing time and provides valuable depth in case injury strikes.

Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are not better than Tre’Davious White. However, their combined skills, along with the promise of first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene, give them the second spot on this list. As previously mentioned, Tre’Davious White has a good case to be the second-best cornerback in football. Levi Wallace is a fine starter and Josh Norman is a worthy redemption project, if nothing else. The Jets don’t deserve to be included on this list.

Safeties

The Best: Buffalo Bills

The Rest: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins

The starting safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer is arguably the best in the league. These two excel in just about every type of coverage and are a key reason for Buffalo’s defensive success over the years.

The Patriots could’ve challenged for the top spot if Patrick Chung didn’t opt out. Devin McCourty is still a great player, but they’ll need to find someone to fill Chung’s role, especially with Duron Harmon in Detroit. Kyle Dugger profiles as a Chung replacement, but can the second-round pick make an impact that quickly?

Trading Jamal Adams is a good way to fall down this list. Fortunately for New York, Marcus Maye is still good and Bradley McDougald is a solid player. The Dolphins take last place again, as both Eric Rowe and Bobby McCain are nothing to write home about.

Special Teams

The Best: New England Patriots

The Rest: New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins

Nobody cares about special teams more than Bill Belichick. Even without Stephen Gostkowski, it’s hard to bet against his hand-chosen successor. Additionally, Jake Bailey looked like the real deal as a rookie, and Matthew Slater is still around to lead the coverage team.

The New York Jets have a solid kicker and punter and actually finished as the fourth-best special teams unit, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Ditto for the Bills and Dolphins, albeit their kick coverage units aren’t quite as reliable.

AFC East Breakdown By Position: The Offense

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