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AFC East All-Time Best

Nikolai NabetContributor IJanuary 3, 2017

AFC East All-Time Best

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    I am compiling an eight-part series, starting with the AFC East, and I will be doing all respective teams in each division.

    On each team, I will show you the greatest quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive lineman, defensive lineman, cornerback and safety.

    I hope you all enjoy reading, and when your favorite team shows up, feel free to write your own opinion. Enjoy.

Patriots

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    First off, the New England Patriots.

Quarterback: Tom Brady

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    Where do I even begin? Arguably the greatest player in the history of the NFL, Tom Brady, holds three Lombardi Trophies, two Super Bowl MVPs, two League MVPs, an NFL record 50 touchdown passes in one season and a 77 percent win percentage.

    If Tom Brady would have won XLII, then he would have undoubtedly be the greatest football player in the history of time because he would have had the perfect season, but sometimes that just isn't the way it goes.

    Even though the last three games Tom Brady has had in the playoffs have ended badly for Brady and the Pats, they look to come back strong next season. S

    imply put, the sky is the limit for Brady, and look for him to win a fourth world title before all is said and done. Brady is clearly a first ballot Hall of Famer, and the Patriots will undoubtedly retire his number when the time comes.

Running Back: Kevin Faulk

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    While many may disagree with this selection, Kevin Faulk is the most prime example of the Patriot way, proving no player is more important than the team and that individual stats and fame take a back seat to the success of his team.

    While his stats won't warrant him a trip to Canton, he is one of the biggest unsung heroes in the NFL and is a favorite among Patriot fans.

Receiver: Stanley Morgan

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    The leading receiver in Patriots history for receptions (534), yards (10,352) and receiving touchdowns (67), Stanley Morgan, played 13 seasons in New England.

    In August of 2007, Morgan was elected to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.

Offensive Lineman: John Hannah

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    The greatest New England Patriot lineman in team history played 12 seasons with the team, was elected to nine Pro Bowls (eight were consecutive '78- '85), 10 All-Pro's ('77-'85), had his jersey No. 73 retired and in 1991, became the first Patriot to ever be elected into the Hall of Fame.

Defensive Lineman: Richard Seymour

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    While his 39 sacks in his Patriot career were by no means ground breaking, Seymour was one of the many leaders on the Patriots savvy veteran defense.

    He ended up winning three Super Bowls and was elected to six Pro Bowls during his eight years in New England.

Linebacker: Andre Tippett

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    The greatest New England Patriot defender in history recorded 100 sacks during his 11 years in the NFL and was elected to the Pro Bowl five times and in 2008 was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Corner Back: Ty Law

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    The best lockdown corner that the Patriots have ever had on the field, Law played 10 seasons in New England, won three Super Bowls, picked off 36 passes and returned six for touchdowns, not including the interception as shown here, in Super Bowl XXXV that swung the momentum in the Patriots favor.

    Ty Law was an integral part of the Super Bowl winning teams and absolutely owned Peyton in the playoffs. Ty Law will go down as one of the best Patriots of all time, and his one-day contract, to retire as a Patriot, is still pending.

Safety: Rodney Harrison

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    Once thought to be a cancer in the locker room and a dirty player (that is still up for debate), Rodney was brought to New England in 2003 and was elected team captain by his peers.

    Harrison lead the Patriots' hard-hitting defense and in Super Bowl XXXIX sealed the deal, intercepting Donovan McNabb during the last moments of the game.

    Harrison is now a commentator and his hard-nosed, brutally honest opinions are truly welcome in the world of sports.

Dolphins

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    Now, the Miami Dolphins.

Quarterback: Dan Marino

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    Arguably the greatest player to never win a Super Bowl, Dan Marino owned the NFL passing record books until Brett Favre broke them all.

    Marino owns 31 Miami Dolphin records, has his number retired and was elected to nine Pro Bowls.

    Before the 2000 season, Dan Marino decided that it was time to hang up his cleats and call it a career, and as it turns out, it was one of the greatest careers in NFL history.

Running Back: Larry Csonka

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    Part of the legendary 17-0 Miami Dolphin team, Csonka is the leading rusher in the history of the Miami Dolphins and has his No. 39, retired.

    Csonka was elected to five Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls.

Reciever: Mark Super Duper

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    Whenever you legally put “Super” in your name, you better be an all-time great, and Mark Super Duper (pictured on the right) is the greatest wideout in Miami Dolphin history.

    Duper had the benefit of being teamed up with another fantastic receiver, Mark Clayton and having the Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino passing to him didn't hurt either.

    In his 11 seasons, Duper caught 511 balls, gained 8,869 yards and hit the end zone 59 times.

Offensive Lineman: Larry Little

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    The Groveland, Georgia native, started off his NFL career without a job as we was one of the many undrafted players in the 1967 NFL draft but was signed by the San Diego Chargers.

    Little would later be traded to the Dolphins after one season and would go on to be the leading blocker of the Miami Dolphins and would pave the way for Larry Csonka to two Super Bowl titles.

Defensive Lineman: Jason Taylor

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    The six-time Pro Bowler would sack quarterbacks 124 times and pick off seven passes during his time in South Beach and is one of the most popular players in NFL history.

    Taylor's best season was in 2002 where he racked up 18.5 sacks. Sadly, Jason's time in the NFL seems to be coming to an end, but when he retires, he will be widely considered as one of the best pass-rushers to ever play the game.

Linebacker: Zach Thomas

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    Starting his career in 1996, Thomas would go on to play 12 seasons with the Dolphins. He would intercept 17 passes and get 18.5 sacks.

    After being released by the Fins, he would be signed by the Dallas Cowboys for one season, then would end up being released, signed by the Chiefs, then released again.

    On May 18th, 2010, Zach Thomas would retire as a Dolphin signing on the dotted line for a whopping $1 dollar contract, finally ending his career, where it started, in the sun and sand of Miami, the way it should be.

Corner Back: Sam Madison

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    The Dolphins have not had very many great corners playing for them but Sam Madison proved to be the best intercepting 31 passes.

    Madison was drafted in the second round of the 1997 NFL draft, and starting in 1999, he would make the Pro Bowl for four straight years. Out of 138 possible games, Madison played in 127, and at the end of his career, he would finally win a Super Bowl, but sadly, that was not in a Dolphins uniform.

Safety: Jake Scott

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    (Pictured on the right.)

    The greatest defensive back in Miami Dolphin history, Scott has 35 interceptions down in the books. Scott has two Super Bowl rings and was the MVP of Super Bowl VII.

Jets

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    Now, the New York Jets.

Quarterback: Joe Namath

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    While I personally believe Joe Namath is the most overrated player in NFL history, I have to put him as the greatest Jet quarterback of all time, solely because of his Super Bowl ring that he won in 1969.

    Namath would play 12 seasons in the Big Apple but only throw more touchdowns than interceptions twice during his entire career (173 TD's/ 220 INT's).

Running Back: Curtis Martin

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    In my opinion the greatest New York Jet of all time, Curtis Martin actually started his career with the rival New England Patriots until he was signed by the Jets in 1997.

    During his 11 seasons in the NFL, Martin would only fail to reach 1,000 yards once, and as a New York Jet, he would rush for 10, 302 yards and score 58 rushing touchdowns. Curtis currently ranks fourth in all time rushing yards (14,101) and will undoubtedly walk into Canton.

     

Reciever: Don Maynard

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    The greatest New York Jet receiver in team history, Maynard currently leads all major receiving categories (632 catches, 11816 yards, 88 touchdowns).

    Maynard is one of the only 20 players who played in the AFL during the 10 years that it existed and one of the only seven who stuck with the same team all the way through.

    In 1987, Don Maynard would be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Offensive Lineman: Winston Hill

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    The former Texas Southern standout was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1963 but signed with the Jets instead.

    Winston played left tackle and protected Joe Namath's blind side during his entire Jet career and Winston would be a member of the Super Bowl III winning team and would be a four-time Pro Bowler and AFL All-Star.

Defensive Lineman: Mark Gastineau

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    One of the best pass rushers in NFL history, Gastineau officially has 74 sacks, but due to sacks not being recorded in the earlier days, it is commonly believed that he has around 107 sacks all together.

    Gastineau played 10 seasons, 138 games, and in 1981 helped lead the Jets to their first playoff appearance since 1969 (the year they won the Super Bowl).

    While Gastineau was certainly a vicious defender, the “Gastineau Sack Dance” was certainly burned into the minds of all of those who saw it.

Linebacker: Mo Lewis

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    Forget the Jets Hall of Fame, Mo Lewis should be in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

    The reason I say this is that during Week 2 of the 2001 season, Mo Lewis collided with former Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe, putting him out of the game, forcing Tom Brady out onto the field and launching the Patriot dynasty, and for this Mr. Lewis, I thank you.

    But in all seriousness, Lewis was undoubtedly one of the greatest Jet defensive players ever. Lewis sacked opposing quarterbacks 52.5 times, intercepted 14 passes, scored five touchdowns, racked up over 1,000 tackles and earned three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.

    Lewis would play 200 games in the Green and White, which is third longest in franchise history. Lewis was a Jet captain for six seasons and retired after the 2003 season.

Corner Back: Aaron Glenn

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    Originally I wanted to put current cornerback Darrelle Revis on here, and after the next few seasons he probably will be the best Jet cornerback of all time, but for now, that title goes to Aaron Glenn from the University of Texas A&M.

    Aaron Glenn was drafted with the 12th pick of the 1994 NFL draft and spent his first eight seasons with the Jets and got 24 picks and is part of the New York Jets All-Time Four Decade Team.

Safety: Bill Baird

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    The best defensive back in New York Jet history, Bill Baird was the leading force on the defensive unit of the Super Bowl III winning team, shutting down the Baltimore Colts to under 200 yards passing and spent all seven of his seasons as a Jet and racked up 34 interceptions and brought back three for touchdowns.

Bills

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    And now finally, the Buffalo Bills.

Quarterback: Jim Kelly

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    What's better than appearing in four consecutive Super Bowls? Actually WINNING at least one of them.

    The most popular player in Buffalo Bill history went to college at the University of Miami and was drafted with the 14th pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft.

    However, Kelly's NFL career did not start until 1986. The reason for this was that in 1983 the Buffalo Bills had poor attendance, due to the extreme cold, and the Bills were just flat out not that successful.

    During his first season with the Bills, the team had a very mediocre start. The team went 2-14 and would have three more losing seasons. The Bills would later go onto the Super Bowl for four consecutive years ('90-'93) but bad fortune would follow as the Bills and Kelly would lose.

    Kelly owns the passing record book for the Bills and the Buffalo organization is still desperately searching for the next Jim Kelly, but realistically, he was a once in a lifetime player.

Running Back: Thurman Thomas

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    Currently ranked 14th on the NFL all-time leading rusher list with 12,074, Thurman Thomas was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

    Thomas went to Oklahoma State and was potentially going to be a first-round pick but a knee injury forced him back into the second round, and he was taken with the 40th pick of the 1988 NFL draft.

    Same as Jim Kelly, Thomas was in the Super Bowl for four years in a row with the Bills, and in the first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXV, Thomas had a solid game vs the New York Giants, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown, but sadly, the next three tries at the Super Bowl would be massively disappointing.

    Super Bowl XXVI started off with misfortune. Thurman lost his helmet and missed the first two offensive plays, and that sent the Bills into a tailspin, and Thomas would only gain 13 yards rushing. The next Super Bowl, he would only rushed for 19 yards and the final Super Bowl, he only rushed for 37.

    Despite his misfortune in the Super Bowl, Thomas is one of the best running backs of all time, and on Feb. 3rd, 2007, Thomas walked into Canton and is now a Hall of Famer.

Receiver: Andre Reed

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    Fifteen seasons in Buffalo, and 15 seasons of being the Bills best wide receiver.

    Andre racked up 941 catches, 13,095 yards and 86 touchdowns. Reed became eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2006, however, he has not yet been elected, and it appears as if it will be a while until that happens.

Offensive Lineman: Joe DeLamielleure

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    Five Pro Bowl appearances with the Buffalo Bills and a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Joe D. dominated the line of scrimmage in the passing and rushing game.

    In 1975, Joe D was elected as NFLPA Offensive Lineman of the Year, and upon further research I found a very interesting chart showing Joe D. vs “Mean” Joe Green, showing how good Joe D is, dominating one of the greatest defensive players of all time.

    Date of game― Solo tackles, Sacks by Joe Greene (Bills rushing yards, average, sacks allowed)

    • 12-22-1974― one solo tackle, zero sacks, (Bills gain 100 yards rushing with a 4.8 yard avg., allow no sacks)

    • 9-28-1975― three solo tackles, zero sacks, (Bills gain 310 yards with a 6.7 yard avg., allow one sack to Lambert)

    • 9-3-1978 ― one solo tackle, zero sacks, (Bills gain 100 yards on a 3.4 yard average. Allowed three sacks, Shell, White Greenwood)

    • 12-16-1979 ― four solo tackles, zero sacks, (Bills rush for 78 yards, 3.3 avg. Allow two sacks to Towes and White)

    • 10-26-1980 ― zero tackles, zero  sacks, (Browns rushed for 91 yards, passed for 348 allowed one sack for one yard)

    • 11-16-1980― three solo tackles, one sack, (Browns rushed for 95 yards, passed for 171 allowed one sack for seven yards -Greene)

    • 10-11-1981 ― three solo tackles, zero sacks, (Browns rushed for 166 yards, passed for 279, allowed one sack -Lambert)

    • 11-22-1981― zero tackles, zero sacks, (Browns rushed for 146, passed for 219, allowed one sack)

    Joe Greene's total: eight games― 15 solo tackles, one sack

Defensive Lineman: Bruce Smith

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    With the most sacks in NFL history (200), Bruce Smith terrorized offenses for 19 long seasons. Bruce Smith is clearly one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL, and his stats and awards prove so.

    Eleven-time Pro Bowler, 12-time All- Pro and a Hall of Famer. Quarterbacks were scared stiff to see this beast running at them at full speed, as they should.

    The only knock, Smith never won the Super Bowl but as we all know, is a four-time AFC champion and had four Super Bowl appearances and also he is a defensive lineman, so that's not a legit knock on him.

    The greatest defensive lineman of all time? Possibly. The greatest Buffalo Bill of all time? Definetley.

Linebacker: Cornelius Bennett

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    With the second pick in the 1987 NFL draft, the Bills selected Cornelius Bennett out of Alabama and never looked back.

    During his career, Bennett sacked quarterbacks 71.5 times, intercepted seven passes, five Pro Bowls and 1988 AFC Defensive Player of the Year.

    While I seriously doubt that Bennett will get his bust in Canton, Ohio, I do believe that he truly is a great player, and he certainly contributed to the Bills success in the early 1990s.

     

Corner Back: Nate Clements

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    Some may disagree with this, but I think that Nate Clements was and still is a great cornerback. Clements played for six seasons with the Buffalo Bills and racked up 23 interceptions and five touchdowns in those six years.

    You have to realize that while Clements is by no means an all-time great, the Buffalo Bills haven't had an elite cornerback and during Clements time in Buffalo he was clearly the best and practically only defensive weapon on that team.

    Clements plays now for the 49ers and in his entire career, has 33 interceptions.

Safety: Henry Jones

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    Henry Jones played 10 seasons for the Buffalo Bills, and he intercepted 18 passes, four returned for touchdowns, and was a member of the Buffalo Bills for each Super Bowl appearance.

Next Article on July 8th

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    The NFC East is the next division I will focus on. July 8th. Hope you enjoyed this enough to continue reading. Thank you for your time.

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