AFC East

AFC East Defensive Position Rankings

After the surprising trade of star wideout Stefon Diggs, it was clear that the AFC East is up for grabs, especially on offense. However, the AFC East has not only seen changes on offense, there have also been moving parts defensively and some of the better units in the league reside in this division.

Today, let’s take a look at who has the best position groups on defense in the AFC East which similar to offense could provide a better idea of who may take home the division crown in 2024.

AFC East Defensive Position Rankings


Defensive Line: New York Jets

The New York Jets defense in 2023 implemented themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFL and a lot of that success started up front. New York finished third in overall defense last season only behind the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. Last year New York generated 48 sacks, 160 pressures, and 61 hurries. While this is impressive, what is even more eye-popping is they only blitzed 98 times which was the lowest amount in the NFL. The Jets can generate high-pressure rates on QBs while only rushing four consistently.

Despite losing Bryce Huff and Quinton Jefferson who made up 33% of their sack production Joe Douglas was able to strike a trade for star pass rusher Haason Reddick. Since 2020, Reddick’s 50.5 sacks rank fourth in football. He will join a defensive front that includes Quinnen Williams, Jermaine Johnson, John Franklin-Myers, Solomon Thomas, and others. There isn’t much debate here especially after it feels like the rich got richer when Reddick was brought in.

Linebacker: New York Jets

A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine the Jets having such a dynamic duo at linebacker like they do now. After signing with the Jets in 2019, C.J. Mosley played just two games in two years. On top of that, Quincy Williams was claimed off waivers shortly before the 2021 season after being cut from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even with all that against them, Mosley and Williams have put the league on notice, especially in 2023.

Last season, the two combined for 290 total tackles which ranked first in the AFC East. To add on, since 2022 Mosley himself has a 90.6 coverage grade which is first among linebackers, and an 80.3 overall grade which is seventh best during that time. He has also accumulated 283 solo tackles since 2021 which is best among linebackers. Quincy Williams is just as impressive he was voted First-Team All-Pro in 2023 where he tallied 10 passes defended and finished with an 88.7 overall grade. The veteran in Mosley and the younger Williams proved to be one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL week in and week out last season.

Cornerback: New York Jets

To put it simply the New York Jets cornerback trio of Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Michael Carter II is elite. It has become one of the best rooms in football and is the perfect balance of youth in Gardner and Carter and the veteran in Reed. The one who headlines the group is Sauce Gardner who was selected fourth overall in 2022. In just two seasons, Sauce has already made history when he became the first cornerback since the merger in 1970 to be named First-Team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons. On top of this, Gardner’s 92.1 overall grade ranks first among corners since 2022 and in 355 single coverage snaps since entering the league he has yet to give up a touchdown in that spot.

Carter has also implemented himself as one of the better slot corners in football. Last season he allowed a career low in targets and receptions. Additionally, over the last two seasons, the trio has combined for 71 passes defended. That on top of the fact that there have been subtractions at the corner position this offseason in the rest of the division makes it pretty clear this position belongs to The Big Apple.

Safety: Miami Dolphins

Despite losing Xavien Howard and Emmanuel Ogbah who were key pieces on defense, the Miami Dolphins were able to get a lot better at safety with a familiar face from the AFC East. Jordan Poyer found a new home in South Beach after he signed a one-year deal worth two million. Previously, Poyer spent the last seven seasons with the division rival Buffalo Bills playing alongside Micah Hyde whose future is still up in the air. The 2013 seventh-round pick took off in Buffalo after signing with the team in 2017. During his seven seasons, he had four with 100+ tackles and accumulated 22 interceptions and 48 passes defended.

While Poyer is entering his age 33 season and some have questions on how much longer he can produce, it is a low-risk high-reward move when you look at the contract. His tandem will be 2021 second-round pick Jevon Holland who in his 45 career games played has tallied 239 total tackles, five interceptions, and 21 passes defended. The veteran Poyer alongside the younger Holland has a lot of potential to become a problem for opposing offenses in 2024.

Main Image: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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