Thursday, January 2, 2014
All-AFC East: New England Patriots
By Mike Reiss
The inaugural ESPN.com NFL Nation "All-AFC East Team" is finalized, and as one would expect, the Patriots are well represented as the division winner.
Makeup of the team: For context, it is important to note that the team is comprised of 12 defensive players. Instead of picking a 3-4 or 4-3, the choice was made to pick a 12th player so those worthy of recognition, regardless of scheme, had as fair a chance as possible. Also, the offensive makeup of the team was based on the three-receiver set because of the NFL's increasing emphasis on the passing game (e.g. the Patriots have run 57 percent of their snaps with three or more receivers on the field).
Patriots picks: QB Tom Brady, WR Julian Edelman, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, DE Chandler Jones, CB Aqib Talib, S Devin McCourty, K Stephen Gostkowski, PR Julian Edelman
Highlighting all those solid defensive ends: No arguments on any of the Patriots' selections. In fact, one could make a case that Jones, even with 11.5 sacks, is a generous pick based on the high level of competition at the position. It's hard for me to imagine this team being comprised without Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on it. That looks like our biggest omission. Should it be Jones and Wilkerson, with Mario Williams left out? Or is a Wilkerson-Williams combination the right choice, with Jones on the outside looking in? What about Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon in Miami? Rob Ninkovich in New England is also a top player. That's probably the biggest takeaway from this perspective -- a lot of good defensive ends in this division.
Edelman's fine season yields recognition: If there was one other takeaway from the team, it was Edelman earning two spots -- as a receiver and punt returner. And to think, in the offseason, any team could have signed him to a modest deal. Only the Patriots and Giants showed legitimate interest and Edelman returned to New England on a one-year deal. He's now in position to cash in in 2014.