Here is the second part of this series on players. It focuses on defensive players in the AFC East that will become great this season. It could be second-year players, players coming back from injury or players in a contract year. By the end of this season, you’ll know who these players are and wished they played for your team.
J.C. Jackson – New England Patriots – Defensive Back
Jackson was an unsung hero last season up until the AFC Championship. It was there when he showed the world his skills. He did a remarkable job in containing Tyreek Hill for the majority of the game. Before that, Jackson had played well throughout the season alongside Stephon Gilmore, tallying 24 tackles, 6 passes defended and 3 interceptions. This season, however, with more playing time, his good eye discipline and a year of NFL experience under his belt, I expect Jackson to flourish in the AFC East. He will make the Pro Bowl.
Matt Milano – Buffalo Bills – Linebacker
As the 163rd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, not much was expected of Matt Milano. But since then he’s come on leaps and bounds as a player and is one of the most underrated players in the league. In just 13 games last season before fracturing his fibula, Milano had 78 total tackles, 1 sack, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended. These stats highlight Milano’s swiss army knife like capabilities to tackle and cover anyone as the outside linebacker in Sean McDermott’s defence. If he can stay healthy this season expect a Pro Bowl appearance from him.
Henry Anderson – New York Jets – Defensive Lineman
In 3 years with the Colts, Henry Anderson failed to live up to the heights of his 3rd round selection. With injuries and inconsistency playing a key part in his lack of development. But last season the Jets took a swing on him by trading a 7th round pick for him to move to the AFC East. I think they’ve hit a home run. He played in all 16 games last season, accruing 7 sacks, 4 passes defended and 35 combined tackles. Anderson possess both the agility and the strength too across the defensive line, making him a nightmare for opposing teams. The Jets certainly agree with me, as this offseason they signed him to a 3 year $25.2m contract extension. Despite all the hype for the Jets being about them on offence, don’t forget about Anderson and co bringing the heat.
Minkah Fitzpatrick – Miami Dolphins – Defensive Back
Fitzpatrick’s first game of his career was the longest in NFL history. With 2 lightning delays in Miami, their game vs the Titans took 7 hours to complete. But I wished it would have been longer just to watch Fitzpatrick fly around the field. This guy is like a missile when the ball is in the air or coming up to tackle someone at the line of scrimmage. With his outstanding football IQ and athleticism, Fitzpatrick lined up in 5 different positions for the Dolphins last season. I think this season he will primarily play at free safety and form a powerful combination with Reshard Jones. By the end of the season, Fitzpatrick will be seen as one of the top 5 free safeties in the NFL.
Tre’Davious White – Buffalo Bills – Defensive Back
Tremaine Edmunds became the youngest person to be drafted in the first round since 2007 when the Bills selected him 16th overall in 2018. This lack of experience and getting to grips with the speed of the NFL was on show during the early part of last season. However, as he got more reps he got even better, finishing the season with 121 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions. Edmunds is the linebacker you create on Madden at 6ft 5inch and a 4.53 40 yard dash at 250lbs. So this year expect Edmunds to live up to that first round expectation and become the leader for the Bills defence.
Alex Riley is a 49ers fan who’s followed the game since 2010, He’s currently at the University of Leicester. You can find him on Twitter at @NFLRiley and his blog at www.rileynfl.wordpress.com
Image from www.nesn.com