- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The AFC East blog continues its positional rankings this week.
Next up, we will focus on the top safeties in the division:
Analysis: Byrd has developed into one of the best play-making safeties in the NFL. He doesn’t get much publicity because the Bills are a struggling team. However, Buffalo made it known how good Byrd is by using the franchise tag on him in 2013. Byrd has 18 interceptions in four seasons and is the best defensive player in Buffalo. The Bills will be wise to sign Byrd to a long-term contract. But money and the fact that Byrd wants to play for a winner are issues to be worked out.
Analysis: Jones is an up-and-coming safety who could become more of a household name this year. The former fifth-round draft pick has been a great find by Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland. Jones is a playmaker who has most of the tools you want in a safety. He had 94 tackles and four interceptions last season. But consistency will be the key in 2013 for Jones. Too often Miami’s secondary had mental lapses and allowed too many big passing plays. The responsibility is on Jones this year to become a leader and take over the back end of the defense.
Analysis: Wilson is a former five-time Pro Bowler who is out to prove that he still has some football left. New England added Wilson, because the team needed an enforcer in the back of the secondary. Wilson is an aggressive, big hitter who will put fear in opposing receivers. However, Wilson is not very strong in pass coverage. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick must come up with a scheme that utilizes Wilson’s strengths as an in-the-box safety and hides his weaknesses in deep coverage.
No. 4: Devin McCourty, Patriots
Analysis: It shows how much the AFC East lacks depth at safety when a converted cornerback makes the list. McCourty, after struggling at cornerback, made the move to safety and has been decent. He has the athleticism and smarts for the position. But there are times when it’s clear that McCourty still has a lot to learn. He recorded 60 tackles and five interceptions in 2012.