The postseason is still ongoing, and it’s too soon to really get into free agency. So how are we to amuse ourselves until we can get back to talking about ongoing games or discussing the moves to be made?
Well, in the first of eight installments to be released over the next two weeks, we’re going to be naming our All-Division Teams, and today we start with the AFC East. Now, as with all these teams, we’re being liberal in what type of personnel we use on offense or defense to create a lineup that involves the most talented players from each division where possible.
Will that disclaimer go down well? Does it matter? Here’s PFF’s All-AFC East Team for 2011:
Quarterback: Tom Brady, NE
Was there ever any doubt? Whisper it quietly, but his second half of the season wasn’t all that impressive. Brady still finished a comfortable third in our passer rankings for 2011.
Running Back: Fred Jackson, BUF
One of the best backs in the league, Jackson finally got his due for years of excellent display as the Bills caused some noise early in the season. A real shame his year ended prematurely, as his ability to elude tackles had him on course for a big season. Still, he finished second in our Elusive Rating for running backs.
Tight Ends: Ron Gronkowski, NE and Aaron Hernandez, NE
We’ve decided to omit a fullback from our AFC East starting lineup because there’s no way we’re missing out on the dynamic duo that the Patriots have at TE. Hernandez forced more missed tackles than any receiver or tight end showing how dangerous he is with the ball in hand, while Gronkowski dominated our TE rankings. He finished 12.3 points ahead of the competition, and ended up with positive grades for his receiving and blocking.
Wide Receivers: Wes Welker, NE and Brandon Marshall, MIA
Welker finished third in our rankings on the year and maintains his uncanny ability to just get open. Marshall had some serious competition from Stevie Johnson, and given his drops, it was touch-and-go whether he would make it. Close.
Offensive Tackles: Matt Light, NE and Nate Solder, NE
Another two New England players make the roster, one deserving and the other kind of by default. Light is our ninth-ranked left tackle on the year, giving up just the four sacks to show he can still get it done. His teammate Solder isn’t the best right tackle on his team, but given the excellent Sebastian Vollmer hasn’t played enough snaps to qualify, he’s the best of what remains.
Offensive Guards: Andy Levitre, BUF and Brian Waters, NE
What, no Logan Mankins? Well, the Patriots’ left guard may be as talented as any, but his performances this year have been largely average, being outshined by his aging teammate. Over in Buffalo, it was something of a travesty that Levitre had to play both center and tackle at times because of a spate of injuries. It disrupted the kind of year that was turning into something worthy of All-Pro consideration.
Center: Nick Mangold, NYJ
It took him a while to get going–and he was beaten about by Brodrick Bunkley in a way that you wouldn’t think possible–but he found his feet and was one Jet who didn’t let his team down. Mangold battled back from injury to finish second in our center rankings.
Defensive Ends: Andre Carter, NE and Cameron Wake, MIA
Wake would be the guy to make this hybrid work, switching between end and linebacker as he does in the Dolphins’ base and sub-package defenses and understandably so. Only Chris Long has picked up more pressure, and he’s needed more snaps to do it. Carter was showing everyone how good he is in a 4-3 in an incredible comeback year after a horrid 2010. It was unfair for his season to be cut short given his transformation back to a complete defensive end.
Defensive Tackles: Sione Pouha, NYJ and Randy Starks, MIA
Pouha would play over the nose in three-man fronts and given how disruptive he is, it’s not hard to see why. Only Bunkley had a higher percentage of defensive stops as a percentage of how many snaps he played. The Dolphins’ Starks was trade bait in the offseason, and he showed how foolish a move that would have been with another stellar campaign.
Linebackers: Jerod Mayo, NE, Karlos Dansby, MIA and Nick Barnett, BUF
Yes, the Jets are missing out here with Bart Scott not versatile enough and David Harris being too poor in run defense … yes, we said that and we’re sticking to it. Mayo has received some criticism in this, arguably his best year, where he seemed to excel in the Patriots new defense. While Nick Barnett hasn’t quite looked like the player he was in Green Bay, he’s still made plays, while Dansby was a key cog in the Dolphins second half of the season renaissance.
Cornerbacks: Darrelle Revis, NYJ and Vontae Davis, MIA
Revis was a no-brainer after topping our cornerback rankings with some rather exquisite play. It was tougher finding a partner for him with no cornerback really standing out. In the end, Davis got the nod, but it wasn’t something any of our team were particularly happy about it. It was a similar story when looking for a slot cornerback to play in our sub package defense. In the end, Will Allen was deemed the best of a bad bunch.
Safeties: Jairus Byrd, BUF and George Wilson, BUF
Byrd, our All-Pro Second Team Free Safety was always making this team as he put together his best season to date. He’s partnered by his Buffalo teammate Wilson, who never reached the levels of his breakout 2009, but did enough to hold off the challenge of … well, there wasn’t a serious challenge.
Kicker: Dan Carpenter, MIA – Edged out Stephen Gostkowski despite featuring in two fewer games.
Punter: Brandon Fields, MIA – Often overlooked, but consistently one of the top five punters in the league.
Returner: Joe McKnight, NYJ – Topped our kick returner rankings.
Special Teamer: Tracy White, NE – Finished the year with 11 special teams tackles.