AFC East: #NFLRank 2014

Mario Williams latest in ESPN Top 100

August, 28, 2014
8/28/14
7:00
AM ET
ESPN.com is ranking NFL players and counting them down (follow on Twitter @ESPNNFL) from No. 100 to No. 1 on both offense and defense, 10 per day for 10 days. The top 10 on both sides of the ball will be revealed Friday, Aug. 29.

The rankings were based on votes from 90 ESPN NFL experts.

On Wednesday, Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams came in at No. 29 on the defensive ranking, an improvement from his place last season (No. 38).

It makes sense. Williams brushed off an injury-hampered 2012 season and recorded 13 sacks last season, one sack shy of his 2007 career high.

2014 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
LB Brandon Spikes -- No. 98 (defense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 89 (offense)
DT Marcell Dareus -- No. 49 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 44 (defense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 29 (defense)

2013 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
DT Dareus -- No. 100 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 82 (defense)
WR Stevie Johnson -- No. 76 (offense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 58 (offense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 38 (defense)
S Jairus Byrd -- No. 26 (defense)
Muhammad Wilkerson is serious and reserved, not always quick with a smile. Sheldon Richardson is funny and engaging, a yapper's delight. He could have a future in stand-up comedy.

Wilkerson
Richardson
They're different in so many ways, including their playing style, but Wilkerson and Richardson form one of the top young defensive duos in the NFL. With nose tackle Damon Harrison, they form the New York Jets' "Sons of Anarchy" defensive line.

"I hope the whole defensive line goes [to the Pro Bowl]," Richardson said.

For now, Richardson and Wilkerson are the big names. Wilkerson, coming off a 10.5-sack season, jumped 60 spots in the ESPN #NFLRank list of defensive players, moving up to No. 31. Richardson, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, debuts at No. 39.

Wilkerson and Richardson are only 24 and 23, and are still under contract for two and three years, respectively. If the front office doesn't mess it up, the Jets should have two defensive anchors for the next decade.

They're good friends, but there's a personal rivalry between them. When Richardson said last season that he considers himself the best defensive lineman on the team, it sparked something in Wilkerson, who responded with his best season.

"I consider myself an elite player," said Wilkerson, who somehow wasn't named to the Pro Bowl.

A first-round pick in 2011, Wilkerson is straight out of central casting. He's 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, with a 76-inch wing span. He can play any position on the defensive line, even nose tackle in certain packages. In the Jets' 3-4 base, he's not a true defensive end -- he rushes mostly against guards -- making his sack total more impressive.

His production faded late in the season, so his primary goal for 2014 is consistency. He expects big things. How big?

"I've got a personal goal, but I'm not telling you. I don't tell it out to people," he said, revealing a rare smile. "I've got a [sack] number in my head, and I'm going to do my best to get it and get past it."

Figure he's thinking 15, minimum.

Richardson recorded only 3.5 sacks as a rookie, but that total should double now that he's comfortable in the defensive scheme. He relied on instincts and athleticism last season, emerging as a force against the run. Line coach Karl Dunbar said the plan this year is to feature Richardson as a pass-rusher, calling plays designed to get him free.

Because of his rookie honor, Richardson's nickname is "D-ROY." He will be a marked man after a breakthrough season, which means more double-teams.

"Bring it on, man. I ain't worried about that," he said. "It's football. Only so many ways you can block a 3-technique. So bring it on."

Dareus, Kyle Williams on ESPN Top 100

August, 25, 2014
8/25/14
4:00
PM ET
ESPN.com is ranking NFL players and counting them down (follow on Twitter @ESPNNFL) from No. 100 to No. 1 on both offense and defense, 10 per day for 10 days. The top 10 on both sides of the ball will be revealed Friday, Aug. 29.

The rankings were based on votes from 90 ESPN NFL experts.

Dareus
Williams
On Monday, two more Buffalo Bills made the cut on the defensive top 100 list. Defensive tackles Kyle Williams (No. 44) and Marcell Dareus (No. 49) both landed higher on the rankings than they did last season.

Williams and Dareus were both elected to the Pro Bowl in January and together form one of the NFL's best duos of defensive tackles.

Their teammate, defensive end Mario Williams, has yet to appear on the list. With four days to go, expect Williams to land somewhere in the defensive top 40.

2014 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
LB Brandon Spikes -- No. 98 (defense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 89 (offense)
DT Dareus -- No. 49 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 44 (defense)

2013 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
DT Dareus -- No. 100 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 82 (defense)
WR Stevie Johnson -- No. 76 (offense)
RB Spiller -- No. 58 (offense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 38 (defense)
S Jairus Byrd -- No. 26 (defense)

C.J. Spiller latest on ESPN Top 100

August, 19, 2014
8/19/14
2:00
PM ET
ESPN.com is ranking NFL players and counting them down (follow on Twitter @ESPNNFL) from No. 100 to No. 1 on both offense and defense, 10 per day for 10 days. The top 10 on both sides of the ball will be revealed Friday, Aug. 29.

The rankings were based off votes from 90 ESPN NFL experts.

After linebacker Brandon Spikes was unveiled as the No. 98 overall player on defense Monday, another Buffalo Bills player made the cut Tuesday. Running back C.J. Spiller was ranked No. 89 on offense.

It's a bit of a drop for Spiller, who came in at No. 58 last season. His total yards dropped from 1,703 in 2012 to 1,118 last season, although part of that was tied to his early-season ankle injury.

2014 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
LB Brandon Spikes -- No. 98 (defense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 89 (offense)

2013 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
DT Marcell Dareus -- No. 100 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 82 (defense)
WR Stevie Johnson -- No. 76 (offense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 58 (offense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 38 (defense)
S Jairus Byrd -- No. 26 (defense)
ESPN.com's NFLRank project is in the process of being unveiled, and with players 81-90 in the spotlight on Tuesday, it's a chance to highlight New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones.

The Patriots' top draft choice from 2012 checks in at No. 85.

The arrow has been pointing up on Jones, who totaled six quarterback sacks as a rookie and followed up with 11.5 last season while playing a team-high 98 percent of the snaps. With cornerback Darrelle Revis joining the Patriots in a revamped secondary that has been clinging to receivers in training camp, one thought is that the player who could benefit most is Jones.

With a little extra time to get to the quarterback, could 15 or more sacks be in his future?

The personable Syracuse alumnus almost always deflects such a focus on personal statistics, but he has detailed how he tailored his offseason training to building more lower-body strength. The 6-foot-5 and long-armed Jones, who recently said that he's closer to 266 pounds than his listed 260, wanted to make his body more proportional to aid his pass-rushing and run-stopping skills.

"Without your legs, you're not anything," he said. "Stronger legs definitely generates more power and more speed."

That speed has actually shown up in a different area in training camp, as Jones has been dropping a bit more in coverage as part of outside linebacker responsibilities in the 3-4 alignment. On one play in joint practices last week against the Eagles, for example, Jones was chasing a running back down the left sideline.

"I really enjoy it. It shows a little versatility," Jones said of his coverage duties, while adding that playing 3-4 outside linebacker is similar to 4-3 defensive end, which has been his primary role in his first two NFL seasons.

But make no mistake, it's the pass rush where Jones' greatest value lies with the Patriots, and that isn't changing. Jones recently said that he feels he's grown in that area to the point that he now reacts to the way an offensive tackle blocks him and adjusts accordingly, instead of picking a move pre-snap and sticking with it.

We should get a chance to see a few more of those moves this season. As Jones moves up the NFL ranks, garnering more recognition, the trickle-down effect of Revis' arrival in New England could help him enter the ranks of the NFL's top pass-rushers.

Brandon Spikes lands on ESPN Top 100

August, 18, 2014
8/18/14
6:00
PM ET
Spikes
ESPN.com is ranking NFL players and counting them down (follow on Twitter @ESPNNFL) from No. 100 to No. 1 on both offense and defense, 10 per day for 10 days. The top 10 on both sides of the ball will be revealed Friday, Aug. 29.

The rankings were based off votes from 85 ESPN NFL experts.

The first Buffalo Bills player to land on the Top 100 list is linebacker Brandon Spikes, who came in at No. 98 on defense with an average score of 6.25 (on a scale from 1-to-10).

Spikes, a newcomer to the Bills this season, wasn't ranked last season.

2014 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
LB Brandon Spikes -- No. 98 (defense)

2013 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
DT Marcell Dareus -- No. 100 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 82 (defense)
WR Stevie Johnson -- No. 76 (offense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 58 (offense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 38 (defense)
S Jairus Byrd -- No. 26 (defense)

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