As we now come to a close on our AFC East positional rankings, we shift our attention to the edge rushers in the division.
The last two pieces on cornerbacks and safeties were stacked with names among the league's best. However, the edge rushers likely cannot make the same brag, as it is quite possible that this group could be among the league's worst at the position. While there are good players who serve their teams well, other divisions just seem leaps and bounds ahead of the AFC East.
Names such as Chase Winovich and John Simon from the New England Patriots, Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes from the Buffalo Bills, Shaq Lawson and Kyle Van Noy from the Miami Dolphins, and Jordan Jenkins and Henry Anderson from the New York Jets fill these rankings.
Without further ado, let's rank the aforementioned edge rushers in the AFC East from worst to first.
8. Henry Anderson
Anderson followed up an encouraging and solid 2018 with a mostly disappointing 2019 season. In fact, Anderson's most noteworthy contribution of 2019 came in the act of a late hit on Josh Allen, instead of tackles or sacks.
The defensive end is anunderrated presence on the Jets' largely terrible pass-rushing unit. He can very quietly find moments of dominance and wreak havoc in backfields. However, for Anderson, it's all about putting things together and finding consistency.
7. Jordan Jenkins
Jenkins will be the second and the last Jet you find on this list, as he and Anderson claim the bottom spots of this ranking. While both edge rushers are somewhat underrated players that do a good job, they both don't have enough juice to get them higher up on this list.
Jenkins is a guy I recommended the Patriots should have signed back in March, however, instead they took another suggestion of mine and signed former New York linebacker Brandon Copeland. I recommended signing Jenkins as a low risk, high reward opportunity as he does everything well and is still growing in many ways. He's posted 15 sacks over the last two seasons and has done that while facing a lot of double teams from opposing offensive lines.
While Jenkins has a long way to go before he can find himself higher on the totem pole, he has the biggest potential to really rise in the rankings over the next few seasons. Keep your eye on this edge defender as he continues to develop.
6. Mario Addison
Addison is still a very strong pass-rusher. He is coming off another great year in the league and he was another pass-rusher I recommended the Patriots sign this offseason. Instead, Addison chose the Bills and to team up with Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, A.J Epenesa, and others to form a very solid group of pass-rushers on the edges.
Addison is a pure pass rusher and not much more. He will get after the passer and put pressure on the quarterback. However, against the run is where he largely runs into issues. Even his pass-rushing skills at this point in his career are starting to teeter away. But that Addison can still provide some solid value as a pure pressure guy in Sean McDermott's defense (McDermott was Addison's defensive coordinator in Carolina from his rookie year in 2011 to 2016).
5. John Simon
Everyone, get on the John Simon bandwagon before it's too late. Simon could be poised for a breakout season with much more opportunity lying in front of him. He has largely been one of the most underrated players in New England over the last two seasons.
While Simon is a stronger run defender than he is a pass rusher, he still is one of the top pass rushers on the Patriots' squad. Just that mere fact alone will propel him into situations in which he will be relied on to get after the quarterback and will be put in favorable positions by the New England coaching staff to do so.
4. Chase Winovich
This is a great spot for Winovich right now. He will almost certainly grow and find himself even higher on the list, maybe by the end of this upcoming season. He has so much untapped potential that is just waiting to shine on game days.
As a PFF darling who was rated the second-best edge rusher of his rookie class last season, Winovich will be a force for many years to come. Right now, he stays at number four, which is still pretty fair after only one season.
3. Shaq Lawson
Lawson owns this spot as he could very well lead the division in sacks this season. While he was largely a disappointment to Buffalo fans, he gets a chance to change things around in Miami with Brian Flores.
Lawson showed flashes of real pass-rushing promise with the Bills in 2019. At only 25 years old, he turned in his best season pressure-wise to date. He pressured the quarterback 38 times last season and he also finished the season with 6.5 sacks.
While 6.5 sacks probably won't win the highest sack total in the division, it could come very close to it. All Lawson needs is a little more improvement this season to not only lead the division in sacks, but to also solidify himself as the top pass-rusher in the division as well.
2. Jerry Hughes
Hughes and Addison are an older duo, but both still have a good amount in the tank. Especially Hughes, who has a bunch in the tank, despite turning 32 in August. Hughes is still the leader in all-time pressures among Buffalo edge defenders (since the beginning of the PFF era in 2006).
Hughes is another pure pass rusher. A deadly force off the edge, winning one-on-one battles with blockers, using sound technique and great attack plans. Hughes will simply wreck plays.
After posting a rather measly 4.5 sacks last season, the question is whether Hughes can bounce back at this stage in his career. He certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise.
1. Kyle Van Noy
Yes, Patriots fans, this must be a little hard to read. After losing the best quarterback in the division this offseason, it doesn't help that the best edge rusher in the division is still in the division, but on another team.
It would be hard to imagine a world in which Van Noy does not flourish under former New England defensive coordinator Brian Flores in Miami. Not only is Van Noy coming off a strong season as one of the top linebackers in the league last year, but he now jumps into a system in which he can continue to thrive in.
The hopes should be high for Van Noy with the Dolphins. He fits the scheme perfectly and helps a pass-rushing group that was dead last in pressures last year.