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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Best of NFL: AFC South players

By Paul Kuharsky

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As part of Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the AFC South:

Best nickname, “Pot Roast.” Jacksonville defensive tackle Terrance Knighton ordered it his rookie year in range of teammate Clint Ingram, and Ingram turned it into a nickname that stuck. Knighton’s gigantic to the point his weight has been an issue. But he’s a warm and funny guy who’s embraced the moniker rather than letting it bother him. It will become more widely known if and when he moves from lists of underrated players to lists of guys who are tops at their positions. He may also have the division’s best sack dance: he rubs his belly.

Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan
Andre Johnson (80) and Cortland Finnegan went toe-to-toe last season.
Best leader, Peyton Manning: No one does more to set a standard that teammates have to follow than Manning. His work ethic borders on ridiculous and his detailed one-on-one sessions with pass-catchers during the offseason pay dividends when games roll around. Young guys on the Colts step into serious expectations and know that if they can’t live up to them, they’ll be subject to a glare or worse from Manning, who wants everyone to be as prepared as he is and to execute as precisely as he does.

Best individual rivalry, Texans receiver Andre Johnson vs. Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan: They had some history before last season’s game in Houston when they had a big, well-documented and publicized fight. Finnegan got under the mild-mannered Johnson’s skin, provoking him. Johnson won the fight even as the Titans tried to play up and praise Finnegan’s restraint. Moving forward, every time the division rivals play, the matchup between one of the league’s best receivers and a cornerback who’s been a Pro Bowler and All Pro will be a story.

Best teammate, Titans fullback Ahmard Hall: Hall has a sense of the moment. He knows when to be funny and when to be serious. He’s a Marine who served in Kosovo, who made it into the league as a free agent after he wasn’t selected in the supplemental draft. The Titans lack leadership, and even though Hall is not on the field for all of the offensive snaps, he provides a follow-me work ethic and seems to get along with everyone in every situation.

Best tweeter, Jacksonville’s Austen Lane: Lane is the lone player in the NFL to appear on the first three versions of ESPN.com’s NFL Twindex, which rates the quality of recent Twitter activity of players. He’s consistently entertaining. “This is not an account...but a lifestyle,” reads his Twitter bio. “If you are not into hitting QB's or dropping Twitter Bombs from the skies then this lifestyle is not for you!” As of Monday afternoon, he had only 1,975 followers, which is too few for him to have a chance to get Taylor Swift’s attention, something he’s joked about wanting. Badly.