The first half of the 2012 season is in the books. We’ve had some outstanding performers so far who deserve recognition.
Here are a few notes to consider with our AFC East midseason team: We went with a traditional 4-3 defense. Three teams –- the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots –- have used a lot of 4-3 alignments this season. That’s enough to make it our base defense.
The strength of our defense is the defensive line. There were plenty of stud players to choose from. Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (8.5 sacks) has been terrific. His teammate, defensive tackle Paul Soliai, is a brick wall in the middle. Few teams have success running against Miami, and this duo is a big reason. Chandler Jones of the Patriots is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. The first-round pick has stayed healthy and leads New England with six sacks. Jones is benefiting a lot from veteran Vince Wilfork's play. Wilfork barely nudged Miami defensive tackle Randy Starks, who is having a great year and may be just as deserving.
Notoriously missing from the All-AFC East team is Bills defensive end Mario Williams. After signing a $100 million contract in the offseason, Williams has mostly been a disappointment. Defensive ends Wake and Jones have played better.
The offense is full of firepower. That’s not a surprise, considering the Patriots have the NFL’s No. 1 offense. Players like quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, receiver Wes Welker and running back Stevan Ridley are all tearing up the league this year. Buffalo's C.J. Spiller and Miami's Brian Hartline add depth to this dangerous group.
The special teams were pretty easy picks. Miami’s Brandon Fields might be the most underrated punter in the league, and kicker Nick Folk of the Jets is 12-for-13 on field goals. Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin is dangerous returning punts and kickoffs, and Miami rookie Olivier Vernon has been a terror on special teams. He has blocked two field goals and recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
With so many players, there is plenty of room for debate. On to the list: