Tuesday, June 25, 2013
AFC East Power Rankings: Pass-rushers
By James Walker
With training camp starting next month, the AFC East blog continues its positional rankings heading into the 2013 season.
Next up, we take a look at the top pass-rushers in the division.
No. 1: Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
2012 stats: 53 tackles, 15 sacks
Analysis: Wake had a career year in 2012. He set a new personal mark of 15 sacks and also tied a personal best with three forced fumbles. The impressive thing is that Wake averaged nearly a sack per game despite facing plenty of double-teams. Miami didn't have another pass-rushing threat opposite Wake to take some of the pressure away, which is why the Dolphins drafted defensive end Dion Jordan No. 3 overall last April. With added talent like Jordan and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, Wake could be poised for another Pro Bowl season.
No. 2: Mario Williams, DE/OLB, Buffalo Bills
2012 stats: 46 tackles, 10.5 sacks
Analysis: Williams’ first season in Buffalo was mostly a disappointment, but he still finished with a solid total of 10.5 sacks. Williams was hot and cold last year and got most of his sacks in bunches. Williams also disappeared for long stretches when Buffalo’s defense needed him. The bar is high for Williams after he signed a $100 million contract in 2012, making him the richest player in Bills history. So it's natural for Buffalo to expect dominant, Pro Bowl-caliber seasons from Williams.
No. 3: Rob Ninkovich, LB, New England Patriots
2012 stats: 58 tackles, 8 sacks
Analysis: Ninkovich is not your typical pass-rusher. He doesn’t wow you with his size, strength or athletic gifts. Ninkovich is a smart, effort player who plays 100 percent all the time, and often it leads him to the quarterback for timely plays. Ninkovich registered a career-high eight sacks and five forced fumbles last season. He had two additional sacks in the AFC title game loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Ninkovich is a player Patriots coach Bill Belichick can count on every week.
No 4: Chandler Jones, DE, Patriots
2012 stats: 45 tackles, 6 sacks
Analysis: Jones got off to a fast start his rookie year. The 2012 first-round pick had all six of his sacks in the first eight games. But an ankle injury and teams adjusting hampered him during the second half. He didn't register a single sack for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Jones proved that he has a high ceiling, and I would not be surprised if he posted double-digit sacks in Year 2. First, Jones must prove that he can stay healthy and consistent.