1. Ravens. Ray Lewis and Bart Scott communicate well on the inside. Terrell Suggs always has been a force as an outside pass rusher, but now he plays the run well, too. Jarret Johnson is strong against the run.
1. Chargers. It's difficult to imagine two better outside pass rushers on the same team than Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. The inside is new, with Matt Wilhelm replacing Donnie Edwards and Stephen Cooper taking over for Randall Godfrey.
3. Dolphins. Joey Porter is a big addition on the outside, but the unit's strongest spot is the middle, where Zach Thomas continues to play at a Pro Bowl level. With Channing Crowder developing on the weak side, this group could be a huge difference-maker in the team's success.
In addition to being named one the best linebacker groups in the AFC, Shawne Merriman is recognized as the best linebacker individually in the AFC. But is Ray Lewis REALLY still a top 5 linebacker in the AFC? If you count Jason Taylor as a Linebacker, then he is obviously a better player than Lewis at this point. He was the Defensive Player Of The Year last season...over Merriman.
TOP 5 AFC LINEBACKERS
1. Shawne Merriman, Chargers. Merriman has outstanding speed and plays violently. He clearly is the most dominant pass rusher in the game.
2. Adalius Thomas, Patriots. Thomas is big and physical and has rare versatility. The Patriots will move him around to create mismatches all over the field.
3. Zach Thomas, Dolphins. Thomas is 33, but he has a nonstop motor and great instincts.
4. Ray Lewis, Ravens. He still can carry the defense at times, and he makes his teammates better with his rare leadership skills.
5. Keith Bulluck, Titans. His power, athleticism and mean streak give him the ability to take over a game