2014 PFF All-AFC East Team
Continuing our efforts to recognize the players we saw stand out in 2014, we’ll be going division by division this week, starting today with the All-AFC East Team.
The division standings at the end of the regular season look all too familiar in the AFC East with the New England Patriots coming away with another division title. Buffalo showed strides while displaying one of the best defenses in the league, but ultimately came up short of a wild card spot. Unable to build upon last year, Miami faded down the stretch to finish at .500 for the second consecutive season and little went right for the Jets, their season ending with a complete overhaul of the front office and coaching staff.
The division continues to boast some of the league’s best players at their respective positions, and each of the non-division winners have at least a few building blocks going forward as they try to catch up to New England.
Here’s a look at the AFC East’s best players for 2014.
Quarterback: Tom Brady (NE)
Shouldn’t be a surprise here given the competition at the position. Brady started a bit slow this year, but he played as well as any quarterback over the middle part of the season and finished the regular season as our No. 5 quarterback overall.
Running Back: Lamar Miller (MIA)
With Knowshon Moreno missing nearly the entire year, Miller was given a full load as the primary back in Miami. The third-year pro set career-highs in most rushing categories, including a division-leading 11 runs of 15-plus yards.
Fullback: James Develin (NE)
Fullback usage continues to decline across the league, but Develin was the best blocker in the division when used.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
Gronkowski started slow this season as he recovered from multiple injuries last year. Once healthy, though, he showed just how important he is to the Patriots and how dominant he can be. Gronkowski has earned positive overall grades in 11 of his last 12 games heading into the Super Bowl.
Wide Receivers: Eric Decker (NYJ), Brandon LaFell (NE)
It wasn’t the caliber of season the Jets had hoped for from Decker when signing him as a free agent this past offseason, though the inconsistency at quarterback certainly did not help. However, he did finish the year with a string of solid performances that he can hopefully build upon heading into 2015. Also in his first year with a new team, LaFell had his best season as a pro, coming up just shy of 1,000 yards receiving on his 74 catches.
Slot Receiver: Jarvis Landry (MIA)
Don’t let the several other impressive rookie receivers overshadow Landry’s performance this season. Most of his damage done from the slot, ranking second among all primary slot receivers in Yards per Route Run.
Tackles: Branden Albert, LT (MIA) and Sebastian Vollmer, RT (NE)
The Albert signing in Miami turned out to be exactly what the team needed to help shore up their offensive line. Unfortunately for both, his season was over far too early. Vollmer has easily been the most consistent lineman for the Patriots and finished with the highest grade among right tackles.
Guards: Oday Aboushi, LG (NYJ) and Ryan Wendell, RG (NE)
Not a lot of great guard play in the division, but for the most part Aboushi held his own after moving to guard and taking over for the injured Brian Winters. Wendell also moved to guard part-way through the season and although he was suspect at times in pass protection, he was impressive as a run blocker.
Center: Nick Mangold (NYJ)
After a bit of a down year in 2013 by his standards, Mangold regained his elite form to make our All-Pro team while earning the highest overall grade among centers this season.
Edge Defenders: Cameron Wake (MIA) and Mario Williams (BUF)
Just another season for Wake who continues to be one of the premier edge pass rushers in the entire league. Williams benefitted by Buffalo switching back to a 4-3 and allowing him to play with his hand on the ground once again. He clearly still has a knack for getting to the quarterback, but his play in run defense was arguably the best of his career.
Defensive Interior – Ends: Sheldon Richardson (NYJ) and Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ)
The Jets boast arguably the two best 3-4 defensive ends not named J.J. Watt. In his second season, Richardson was just as stout against the run while improving considerably as a pass rusher. Wilkerson missed some time, but he earned at least a +4.0 overall grade in six of the 12 full games that he played.
Defensive Interior – Nose: Marcell Dareus (BUF)
Dareus continues to improve and has become more consistent on a week-to-week basis. His 10 sacks received the most attention, but his work in run defense is where he really flourished.
Linebackers: Dont’a Hightower (NE) and Jamie Collins (NE)
Hightower came on strong at the end of last season and continued that high level of play throughout 2014. Maybe most impressive is how well he plays in all three phases of defense. Collins has nearly been playing as well as one can play the position over the last half of the season and has become an integral part of the New England defense.
Cornerbacks: Darrelle Revis (NE), Corey Graham (BUF)
Unsurprisingly, Revis was again one of the best cornerbacks in football in his first year with the Patriots, making the PFF All-Pro team. Graham wasn’t even getting significant playing time in some games over the first half of the season, but he was easily the best in coverage for the Bills’ secondary. Opposing quarterbacks had a 57.0 QB Rating when targeting Graham, fifth-lowest among corners and only behind the likes of All-Pros Vontae Davis, Chris Harris Jr., and Richard Sherman.
Slot Cornerback: Kyle Arrington (NE)
Arrington shared duties in the slot, but was one of the best in the division. He allowed a reception once for every 12.6 snaps in coverage, the second-best rate in the division (Revis).
Safeties: Devin McCourty (NE) and Reshad Jones (MIA)
Only two safeties finished with higher overall grades than Jones despite him missing the first four games of the season. The former fifth-round pick is one of the better run defending safeties. McCourty didn’t grade quite as high as he has in the last couple years, but he arguably remains the best coverage safety in the division.
Kicker: Dan Carpenter (BUF)
Carpenter did not handle kickoff duties this year, but his work on field goals alone was enough to claim the spot. He hit on 34 of 38 field goals, including 6-of-8 from 50 and beyond.
Punter: Ryan Quigley (NYJ)
Quigley was a Top 10 punter this season and his 32.1% of punts returned was the third-lowest in the league.
Returner: Julian Edelman (NE)
Edelman led the division in punt return yards (294) and average (12.3) among those that played at least half the season.
Special Teamer: Nick Bellore (NYJ)
Bellore made our All-Pro Special Teams as one of the best special-teamers in the league, with his specialty being kickoff coverage.
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