It was all about defense this season for the Buffalo Bills.
The arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his pressure-based scheme turned around a defense that had ranked 22nd in the NFL last season, allowing 5.57 yards per play. Pettine's group this season jumped up the charts to No. 6, allowing 4.9 yards per play. It was no surprise then that the Bills sent three defensive players to the Pro Bowl: defensive end Mario Williams, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and safety Jairus Byrd.
It's also no surprise that those three players were among the four who were voted to the All-AFC East team by ESPN.com's NFL Nation. The writers for each AFC East team recently nominated and voted for an all-division team, and four Bills made the cut. Linebacker Kiko Alonso joined Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Byrd as those making the cut for Buffalo. No offensive players were voted into the group.
It's tough to have any Bills honored as All-AFC East on offense, given Buffalo's performance this season. The Bills ranked 29th offensively, averaging 4.85 yards per play. However, there were still standout performers for Buffalo. Running back Fred Jackson leads that group, rushing for 896 yards, while adding 387 yards as a receiver. He had 10 total touchdowns. Making the cut in place of Jackson was New York Jets running back Chris Ivory, who ran for 833 yards. I think Jackson was more deserving.
Defensively, it was a tough break for Marcell Dareus, who had a strong season. He set a career high with 7.5 sacks but was edged out by two stronger candidates: Williams and Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who is a candidate for rookie of the year. A case could also be made that cornerback Leodis McKelvin was deserving of all-division honors, but it was tough to top New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib and the Miami Dolphins' Brent Grimes, who both had four interceptions.