Bills’ trio recognized by ESPN.com
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • January 06, 2012 @ 12:26pm
ESPN.com’s AFC East blogger James Walker selected the All-AFC East team for the Worldwide Leader, and three Buffalo Bills made the cut. Fred Jackson was deemed the best running back despite missing the final six games of the season; versatile Andy Levitre made the squad at guard; and safety George Wilson was recognized as one of the division’s two best at his position. No Bills were selected to the Pro Bowl, but it’s possible that a few may be added as alternates if postseason injuries take their toll.
Of the 22-man ESPN.com team, three representatives from Buffalo is a pretty paltry number, even if the Bills finished 1-5 against the rest of the division. Was anyone snubbed? A case could be made for free safety Jairus Byrd who, while failing to match the interception total of his rookie year, made strides in defending the run and seemed more like a veteran than an overwhelmed youngster. Still, it would be tough to defend choosing both Bills safeties on the All-AFC East team, particularly for an NFL squad that finished 19th against the pass.
After the Jets’ David Harris and the Dolphins’ Karlos Dansby, there’s no AFC East middle linebacker I’d rather have than Nick Barnett. In fact, I’d probably rather have Barnett than Dansby. The former Packer star was incredibly durable and productive—he played in all 16 games and closed with 130 tackles to lead the team. New England’s Jerod Mayo may be more athletic, but he’s not as consistent as the Bills’ sturdy inside ‘backer.
Stevie Johnson, the controversial Bills’ receiver, is a tier below Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker, but he’s easily the division’s third best wideout in our eyes. Outside linebacker Chris Kelsay had an excellent, unheralded season, but he wasn’t noticed enough to unseat Calvin Pace, Cameron Wake, or even receive mention in the article—which Aaron Maybin succeeded in doing.
The trio of selections were solid, though, as Jackson was a dark-horse MVP candidate during the Bills’ 5-2 start, Levitre was valuable for his ability to play multiple positions soundly and Wilson was unquestionably the team’s vocal and emotional leader.