Welcome to the latest installment of the Seadog Report! In this segment, I’m going to take a look at the defenses of the AFC East, and, in particular, a brief analysis of the pertinent individual defensive players (IDPs) of this conference.
Buffalo Bills – Last year, the Bills were one of the most improved defenses in the league. An improved front four and a very good linebacker corps really dictated the success of this defense, and for 2004, it will be a very similar situation.
DL – The defensive linemen need to generate pressure up front in order to allow the rest of this defense to make plays. DE Aaron Schobel is the sparkplug of this unit. This guy has a motor that just doesn’t quit. On the other end of the line, there’s Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay. Both of them can do a good job – Denney has more experience, but Kelsay was drafted last year to take over this position. Right now Denney is penciled in as the starter. In the middle, there is big Sam Adams and Pat Williams. Williams has generated very consistent numbers over the years – good numbers for a DT and Adams is someone that fills the middle and is strong against the run.
LB – The starting linebackers for the Bills are as good as any in the league. Takeo Spikes has a tremendous pass rush and is lightening fast. London Fletcher is a smart, tough middle linebacker with a great nose for the ball. Jeff Posey is solid, although, unspectacular strongside-backer who does a great job of filling his role. By far the linebackers are the strength of this defense.
DB – Playing the corners are Troy Vincent and Nate Clemants – both of whom have the capability of shutting down their opponents wide-receivers. In the safety slots there is the veteran Lawyer Milloy at strong safety with Coy Wire, Izell Reese, and Pierson Prioleau battling for the free safety position. All of these guys, while unspectacular, are very dependable.
Seadog’s take on the Bills – I think the middle of the defensive front four (Adams, Williams) will break down this year, which will hurt the entire defense as a whole. Definite fantasy producers will be Schobel, Spikes, Fletcher, Clemants, Milloy, and Coy Wire who I think will win the spot at free safety. Williams, Denney, Kelsay, and Vincent will make good 2nd tier picks. Keep an eye on the battle for free safety and left defensive end.
Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins perennially have a very good defense. From a fantasy perspective, they are tough to figure out at times, but in reality, they are solid. It’ll be interesting to see how the defense shakes out once the season gets underway.
DL – Jason Taylor and Adewale Ogunleye are two of the premier pass-rushers in the league today. Tim Bowens and Larry Chester are “no-names” who play their DT roles very well.
LB– This unit, while not always spectacular, is extremely solid, when healthy. Zach Thomas is a force in the middle and he always seems to make the right play. Junior Seau has lost a few steps, but he’s still a stellar performer. Morlon Greenwood holds down the other LB spot, but he will be pushed for time by Eddie Moore.
DB – The Dolphin defensive backs kind of embody the persona of this defense, I think; not extremely flashy, but they get the job done. Sammy Knight is the rock at strong safety with Arturo Freeman penciled in as the starting free safety. There are two solid back-ups with Shawn Wooden and Antuan Edwards. The two cornerbacks, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison are not flashy, but dependable.
Seadog’s take on the Dolphins – Miami is tough to figure from an IDP perspective. They have some definite clear-cut studs (Taylor, Ogunleye, Thomas, and Knight), but the rest of the defense is not very consistent. Be careful with Ogunleye as he’s been holding out and has a contract situation going on. Thomas presently has an injured knee, but don’t hesitate to go after him. Eddie Moore may be getting some more playing time this year and for those in dynasty leagues, LB Tony Bua and DB Yeremiah Bell have very good potential.
N.E. Patriots – The reigning Superbowl champs. The Pats are definitely one of the best if not the best defenses in the league. Their ability to morph and adapt their defense to offset their opponents’ offensive schemes is just incredible.
DL – In general, the Pats play a 3-4 alignment and this season it looks like Keith Traylor will anchor the middle with Richard Seymour and Ty Warren on the ends. Warren may have some competition with Jarvis Green for playing time. All-in-all this is a very good defensive line.
LB – This is a difficult call here as the Patriot linebackers seem to play everywhere and do everything. Currently, the starters are Willie McGinest (and Rosevelt Colvin) on the outside left, Roman Phifer and Tedy Bruschi in the middle, and Mike Vrabel on the outside right. One of the most versatile groups of linebackers in the league
DB – The Patriots probably have the smartest defensive backfield in the league. CB Ty Law and strong safety Rodney Harrison have been playing so well for so long that they make plays happen. Although a little on the short side, Tyrone Poole holds his own on the other corner slot and the hard-hitting Eugene Wilson enters his second year at free safety. Another second-year guy, CB Asante Samuel provides great back-up and will play in the nickel-defense.
Seadog’s take on the Pats – While the defense as a whole is very good, from an IDP perspective, they are not tremendously huge stats producers. Seymour is one of the best DLs in the game today, but his numbers aren’t all that fantastic. I look for him to have better stats this year. The 3-4 really hurts the numbers on this defensive line. I don’t see much change in the production of the LBs this year, but I do think that Bruschi’s numbers will go down. His stats last year benefited from all the injuries that occurred to the other LBs. Harrison is a true IDP stud, and I really like Eugene Wilson this year. He had a great rookie season and I think he’ll only get better the more he plays.
N.Y. Jets – The J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! will have a very good defense this season if they don’t get hit with injuries like they did last year. Their defensive front four will be greatly improved, the linebacking corps will be younger and faster, and the DBs should provide adequate support.
DL – The defensive line should be a force this year. Shaun Ellis is coming off of a career year last season and with a healthy John Abraham on the other side; they should generate an awesome pass rush. Dewayne Robertson (having a season under his belt) and the underrated Jason Ferguson will clog up the middle.
LB – Time for a changing of the guard. All-world Sam Cowart will take over the MLB position with 2nd year player Victor Hobson moving to the strongside and new acquisition Eric Barton playing the weakside. This unit should be much quicker at getting to the ball this year. For those of you in dynasty leagues, don’t forget about rookie Jonathan Vilma.
DB – While not the most stellar defensive backfield in the league, they should hold their own. Jon McGraw and Reggie Tongue will man the safety slots, while Donnie Abraham and David Barrett should be on the corners. Their play will benefit most from a good pass rush from the front four. Barrett could be the weak link here.
Seadog’s take on the Jets – I’ve got the Jets penciled in as my most improved defense this year. As long as they stay healthy, they can’t help but be good. A very good pass rush coupled with more speed and quickness at linebacker translates to excellent IDP production. Ellis and Abraham are ‘must’ plays at DL along with Barton and Cowart at LB. I think for DBs I’d stick primarily to the safety slots (McGraw and Tongue). Hobson, Robertson and Ferguson will make good 2nd tier picks.
That’s it for this installment of the Seadog Report. Stay tuned for the next article on the NFC East. Thanks for reading!