- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's that time of year again!
The 2012 football season is in the books, and it was another year of ups and downs in the AFC East. For the second straight year only one team -- the New England Patriots -- made it to the playoffs. But that doesn't mean there is not plenty of talent throughout the division.
Here is our second annual "Walker's Fab 40" in the AFC East blog. We will rank the top players in the division throughout the week until we get to the very top.
Here are Nos. 37-40:
2012 stats: 95 tackles, one sack, four INTs
Analysis: Jones showed flashes of potential in the past. But he really came on strong and played consistent, quality football for the Dolphins in 2012. Jones was the best playmaker in Miami's inconsistent secondary. He showed the ability to make big tackles as well as read the quarterback's eyes and pick off four passes. Jones' arrow is pointing up and Miami appears to have a keeper on the back end. The Dolphins need to do a better job of surrounding Jones with more depth and talent in the secondary next season.
No. 39: Sean Smith, CB, Dolphins
2012 stats: 59 tackles, two INTs
Analysis: We saw the best of Sean Smith and the worst of Sean Smith in 2012. There were weeks when Smith looked like a potential Pro Bowler. He did masterful jobs defending Pro Bowl receivers Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. But there were also weeks when Smith couldn't get out of his own way, giving up too many big pass plays and committing penalties. Smith has the physical tools to be a No. 1 corner but has never put it together for 16 games. Now that Smith is an unrestricted free agent, I'm curious to see if Miami or other teams offer to pay Smith for his potential or the corner he currently is.
2012 stats: 46 tackles, five sacks
Analysis: The best part of Williams' season is he returned from an Achilles/foot injury and played all 16 games. The bad part of Williams' season is he wasn't the same dominant and explosive player we saw before the injury. Williams still made plays up the middle, as evident by his five sacks. However, Buffalo's run defense was horrendous and underachieved this past season. In my opinion, Williams did not have a Pro Bowl year, but he did make the team as an alternate. Perhaps Williams and Buffalo's entire defensive line will be more consistent next season under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
No. 37: Rob Ninkovich, DE, New England Patriots
2012 stats: 58 tackles, eight sacks, five forced fumbles
Analysis: Ninkovich is a quiet Patriot who usually shows up in big spots. He showed his versatility by playing both defensive end and outside linebacker. Ninkovich is a smart player with high effort and good technique. He is one of the best in the AFC East at stripping the ball once he gets to the quarterback. Ninkovich plays his role perfectly with the Patriots, and they know how valuable he is to the defense.