In this series, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be selecting the best players in each division by position. Taking a look at the offenses in the AFC East for 2022, let’s take a look at the best of the best in the division…
2022 AFC East All-Division Team: The Offense
Quarterback: Josh Allen, Bills
This one is not even up for debate. Joshua Patrick Allen is far and away the AFC East’s top quarterback, and that is what one would expect with an MVP frontrunner. Allen has been a top five performer at the position the past two seasons and is the biggest reason why the Buffalo Bills are considered a Super Bowl contender. With an improved run game behind him and various pass catchers added to the fold, Allen will be hungry to take his team to the next level after an 11-6 campaign.
Since the start of 2020, Allen has 87 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns when including the playoffs. For any other team in the division, those are numbers they can only dream of from their current starter. As a matter of fact, the only other quarterback in the division to throw more than 25 touchdown passes in a single season is New York Jets backup Joe Flacco.
Only 26 years old, Allen is only getting better, and despite offensive coordinator Brian Daboll leaving for the New York Giants, the Bills stayed in-house promoting Ken Dorsey to the role. While the departure of Daboll is worth noting, Dorsey has been Allen’s quarterbacks coach since 2019.
Running Back: Damien Harris, Patriots
In the AFC East, every team utilizes a committee backfield. The Miami Dolphins just revamped their run-game with Chase Edmonds and Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, the New York Jets in adding Breece Hall to join Michael Carter, and the Buffalo Bills drafting James Cook. However, the best running back entering 2022 is a member of the New England Patriots.
Damien Harris quietly had a phenomenal breakout campaign in 2021. He posted numerous career-high marks, from 15 starts and 929 yards rushing to his 202 carries and 2.3 average yards after contact. The Alabama product also finished second in the league with 15 rushing touchdowns. Oh, and Harris proved to be a more than capable receiver, hauling in 18 passes for 132 yards. He is not the best blocker in the division, though, few backs in the AFC East came close to touching his production in 2021. As Damien Harris enters a contract year, expect him to be hungry to build off of his breakout season.
Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs, Bills
Like his quarterback, Stefon Diggs being a shoo-in for the top wide receiver spot on the team was not even up for debate. One of the elite route runners in the game is set up to once again land in the conversation for the top five receivers in the game. As long as both him and Allen are healthy, there is no reason why Diggs wouldn’t bring in 1,000 yards receiving and about 10 touchdowns. The Bills have a high-flying pass offense built around Diggs, who will see plenty of targets. Cole Beasley is out, and Jamison Crowder is in, with Gabriel Davis now playing opposite of him.
As he enters his third season in Buffalo, the 28-year-old wideout’s feel for the offense will only get better. What could stand in his way? Well, with Davis and Crowder stepping in, it may draw more attention to him at first. Nevertheless, this is Stefon Diggs. Over the past four seasons, he has at least 1,000 yards receiving with six touchdowns while missing just two games.
Wide Receiver: Tyreek Hill, Dolphins
Tyreek Hill enters the AFC East wide receiver picture after a fun run with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. Arguably the most explosive and fastest player in the NFL today, Hill brings an elite threat to the Miami Dolphins offense. Over the past two seasons (including playoffs), Hill has amassed nearly 250 receptions and over 3,000 yards receiving, with 27 touchdowns. Thus, making it obvious why the Dolphins paid such a premium to acquire him this past off-season.
The only thing holding back the 28-year-old quarterback could be his quarterback play. There are high hopes in Miami that Tua Tagovailoa will have a breakout season. If that doesn’t come to fruition, then Hill will surely miss Patrick Mahomes. Even so, it sounds like Hill is the most excited about Tagovailoa’s accuracy and how he is capable of taking that next step.
Slot Receiver: Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins
Staying in Florida, another one of the fastest players in the league will line up opposite Hill in Jaylen Waddle. The 2021 sixth overall pick displayed his speed and elusiveness this past season with Tagovailoa, flashing his ability to turn a short play into something more. His 9.8 yards per reception is not breathtaking, but taking a look deeper, he only saw 5.5 yards before the reception. In other words, Waddle often gained 4.2 yards after the reception. On the year, Waddle caught 104 of 140 targets for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns.
As a rookie, the former Crimson Tide wideout proved to be a big building block in a rising Dolphins offense. Now with Tyreek Hill opposite of him, there will be plenty more opportunities for Waddle to win in one-on-one coverage. That is though assuming the Dolphins revamped offensive line can hold up in pass protection. Should that happen, the Hill-Waddle pairing will be a matchup nightmare downfield.
Tight End: Hunter Henry, Patriots
This one was a tough call. Mike Gesicki saw a second-straight 700+ yard receiving season, becoming a big threat over the middle for Miami. Though, his blocking skills leave him as a runner-up for the selection. In Buffalo, Dawson Knox emerged as a go-to red zone threat for Josh Allen. Meanwhile, in New York, the Jets signed both C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to fix their tight ends woes. But Hunter Henry is the most well-rounded tight end in the AFC East entering 2022.
In his first season with the Patriots, Hunter Henry did exactly what he was signed to do. He remained healthy for a full season for the first time in his career, becoming one of the more consistent playmakers in New England’s offense. Henry is a reliable blocker and receiver, who posted a career-high nine touchdowns this past season. Still just 27 years old, a healthy Hunter Henry can continue to build chemistry with Mac Jones for years to come.
Left Tackle: Dion Dawkins, Bills
One of the most underrated tackles in the league, Dion Dawkins deserves a whole lot more credit than he receives. In an offense that relied on the passing game more than the run, Dawkins saw almost 800 pass-blocking snaps. Yet, somehow, he only gave up four sacks while earning an 81.6 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. Thus, justifying the four-year extension the Bills gave him last off-season.
After all, being Josh Allen’s left tackle is not an easy task. Between the high-pass rate and the fact Allen is one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the league, the game plan wouldn’t work without having a stud like Dawkins on the blindside. Dawkins is the top left tackle in the AFC East, which also features the likes of George Fant, Isaiah Wynn, and Terron Armstead.
Left Guard: Laken Tomlinson, Jets
As the New York Jets continue to fix their offensive line, Laken Tomlinson could be the final piece. Coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2021 with the San Francisco 49ers, he enters a similar scheme, as Offensive Coordinator, Mike LaFleur, hails from the 49ers. One of the most durable guards in recent years, Tomlinson has not missed a game since 2017 and gives the Jets a massive upgrade along the interior.
New York hopes to improve their run game to complement quarterback Zach Wilson in 2022. Luckily, Tomlinson is among the best run-blocking guards in the league. With Breece Hall and Michael Carter forming a one-two punch out of the backfield, Tomlinson will have a field day creating rushing lanes that the Jets have been lacking.
Center: David Andrews, Patriots
The Dolphins just brought in Connor Williams from the Dallas Cowboys, who is coming off a career year at guard. However, the Dolphins plan to move him to center, where a case for the top spot at the position remains. At the same time, now is not the time to de-throne David Andrews.
First off, David Andrews simply just does not allow sacks, giving up just one in 610 pass-blocking snaps in 2021. He holds down the fort along the inside as a pass blocker and paves way for whichever running back the Patriots have leading the way that week. Entering his seventh season at 30 years old, Andrews remains the rock of the Patriots offensive line.
Right Guard: Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets
The New England Patriots got an absolute steal in Michigan guard Michael Onwenu in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He has proven to be a phenomenal run blocker and one that New England can move around the offensive line to various positions. At the same time, he has a ways to go as a pass blocker and saw his snap count drastically decrease over the second half of the season.
Therefore, bringing us back to New York with Alijah Vera-Tucker. The 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the USC product only improved as his rookie year progressed. Widely regarded as the best interior offensive lineman in his draft class, he backed his praise with being a stout run blocker and built on his pass blocking as he settled into the pros. Only having just turned 23 years old, Vera-Tucker has legitimate Pro Bowl potential in his second season. It is worth noting he is switching to right guard from the left side due to Tomlinson’s arrival. Jets fans, in a matter of months this could very well become arguably the league’s best guard tandem.
Right Tackle: Mekhi Becton, Jets
Right tackle is the biggest debate when it comes to who is the best in the AFC East. For the Dolphins, Austin Jackson has left a lot to be desired in two years. Mekhi Becton remains a mammoth for the Jets, but he must remain healthy after missing most of last season. Spencer Brown showed a lot of promise for the Bills but needs to improve significantly as a pass blocker. Lastly, Trent Brown performed well for the Patriots last season, though missed the first half of the year.
That being said, this selection primarily came down to one thing – player upside in 2022. And nobody has more upside of this group than Jets tackle Mekhi Becton. Coming into training camp fully healthy and having hit his weight goal, people have seemed to have forgotten his performance as a rookie. Playing left tackle as a rookie, the Louisville product dominated opponents with his size and athleticism both as a pass and run blocker. Then again, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league, so Becton will have plenty of haters to silence this upcoming season. And from what early reports out of 1 Jets Drive indicate, he is ready to put in the work.
Be sure to check out the 2022 AFC East All-Divison Defensive Team.
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