Around the AFC East: Ranking the division's linebackers

It's Friday.  If you're a veteran in this little corner of the Internet, you know that today is traditionally the day where we interview SB Nation's AFC East bloggers about their respective teams in an effort to better know the Buffalo Bills' biggest rivals.  You only have to be a veteran of a couple of weeks, however, to know that once those posts got a bit dry, we ramped things up with a healthy discussion on AFC East running back rankings.

To say those discussions brought out the best in rivalry-speak is an understatement.  Y'all represented yourselves and Buffalo Rumblings well in your travels to The Phinsider, Pats Pulpit and Gang Green Nation.  You'll get another opportunity to do a little talking on this lovely Friday morning.

Unfortunately, today's positional ranking may force you to consider discussing the weather.  Today's charge is to rank the four linebacker corps of the AFC East.  It should be noted before we get too into this that it's difficult to even make a comparison like this, considering the Bills run a completely different defensive scheme than their three divisional counterparts.  Even based on sheer talent, however, y'all probably realize that if we're doing this thing fairly, the Bills aren't going to fare that well.  Grit your teeth and head on in for our full rankings, and make sure to visit the three blogs linked above to view three more sets of rankings.

1. New York Jets
Honestly, I'm not a Jets fan, even though I ranked their running backs as the best in the division as well.  I feel gross doing it, but I'm giving the nod to the Jets in this linebacker ranking as well.

It's pretty easy to do, though - veteran Bart Scott and third-year man David Harris make up arguably the hardest-hitting and most intimidating set of inside linebackers in the NFL.  Seriously - those two playing behind Kris Jenkins is pretty formidable.  Even though he's suspended for the first four games of next season, Calvin Pace was a force for the Jets last season and should get even better under Rex Ryan.  Bryan Thomas is a solid rusher, and even if he falters, Vernon Gholston is waiting in the wings.  These guys are good, and the proposition of them receiving tutelage from Ryan isn't exactly encouraging.

2. Miami Dolphins
Miami and New England were essentially neck and neck for me, but I'm putting Miami second because of Joey Porter.  As much as I'd like to see him absolutely bulldozed by Eric Wood on a nice toss sweep next season, Porter can flat out play.  He's the playmaking presence in an otherwise solid but unspectacular trio of linebackers.

Channing Crowder can play, but he's hampered a bit by the fact that he's not a playmaker.  Akin Ayodele is solid, but again, unspectacular.  Matt Roth, who plays rush linebacker opposite Porter, could be due for a break-out season.  Don't forget about CFL pass-rushing import Cameron Wake, either.  Miami's linebackers are the lifeblood of a somewhat underrated defensive unit.  When there's that much young talent, adding Jason Taylor - even though he's closer to washed up than Dolphins legend - is just icing on the cake.

3. New England Patriots
It's tough ranking the Pats this low, simply because 2008 first-round pick Jerod Mayo has the potential to become one of the most feared linebackers in the league.  That young man is going to be good for a long, long time.

Adalius Thomas can play too, though he's coming off of a somewhat disappointing 2008 season in which he picked up 33 tackles and five sacks in just nine games.  Tully Banta-Cain returns after a one-year stint in San Francisco to line up opposite Thomas, and veteran Paris Lenon will push for playing time as well.  Though he's injured, third-round pick Tyrone McKenzie has a ton of promise under Bill Belichick as well.  And, of course, I would be a blasphemer if I were to avoid mentioning the greatest linebacker, professional football player, humanitarian and overall man in the history of mankind - Tedy Bruschi.

4. Buffalo Bills
As mentioned - it's tough to rank the Bills in this situation simply because in their zone-based 4-3 alignment, their responsibilities are vastly different than what the linebackers play in Miami, New England and New York.  It's therefore difficult to equate the players based on statistics alone since the opportunity to make plays is far less in Buffalo, particularly when considering the team's woeful pass rush.

I like Paul Posluszny - a lot.  I think he's going to play Mike linebacker in this league for quite a while, and he's a perfect fit in a city like Buffalo.  I like Kawika Mitchell, too - he's streaky, but he has the potential to make big plays, and he's probably the best blitzer on the team.  But the liking stops there, as the Bills have a hodgepodge class of players fighting for the strong-side role, led by the underappreciated yet underwhelming Keith Ellison.  Buffalo's linebacker set is the only one in the division that isn't yet complete - even while the Bills are the only team employing three starters at the position.  That ranks them last, unfortunately, even as much as I like Poz and Mitchell.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know - and if you've got a gripe about anyone else's AFC East linebacker rankings, we'd love to hear about it here, too.

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