The NFC East only sent one team to the playoffs in 2010 and didn’t win a game, but there were plenty of players showing the potential for bigger and better things in 2011.
Of course, there were some pretty big disappointments, guys that looked to be elite in 2009 only to take huge steps back — and in at least one case, practically cost their team a shot at real contention.
Who rose and fell in 2010? Read on.
Moving on up: SS Gerald Sensabaugh (+0.8 to +7.4)
Dallas’ secondary struggled big time this season but it would be wrong to place the blame for this on the shoulders of Sensabaugh. The former Jaguar safety improved in his second year with the Cowboys, a lot of it boiling down to him becoming a more consistent player. He had just three games graded negatively all season (with only one in the red). The primary improvement for Sensabaugh was in coverage where his completion percentage allowed dropped by 13%.
Had a bad year: CB Mike Jenkins (+10.2 to -10.8)
Jenkins does not share the same excuse as Terence Newman (age) for his huge dropoff in performance from 2009 to 2010. The young corner was our No. 12 at the position in 2009 then dropped all the way to 91st in 2010. His QB rating against doubled from one year to the next (60.2 to 122.6) and the 994 yards he allowed ranked worst in the NFL. You could argue that if Jenkins repeated his 2009 season, Dallas would have been in the playoff mix.
Give this guy more snaps: ILB Sean Lee (+9.4 in 167 snaps)
The knock on Lee coming out of college was his health, but there’s evidence he could be a dominant player for a long time if that doesn’t become an issue. His performance against the Colts (two INTs) is well-documented but he hit the green on three other occasions last year, all in games where he played less than 25 snaps. The inside linebacker is even better against the run, where he made 15 stops in his rookie year. Considering the age of Brooking and James and his extended play late in the year, and you can expect him to get more time in 2011.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Moving on up: DT Barry Cofield (-4.6 to +16.3)
This could also have gone to DT Chris Canty as both showed an impressive resurgence in 2010. But Cofield ended up ranked 12th in our interior defensive line rankings, a rise of 43 places.
Had a bad year: CB Terrell Thomas (+12.6 to -1.4)
What is it with NFC East CBs? Thomas showed top-level ability as a pass rusher and run defender, ranking in the top 10 in both departments but he really struggled in coverage. Teams generated big plays regularly when they targeted Thomas, and he proved susceptible to the deep ball. His 950 yards allowed and his seven TDs given up ranked 3rd and 2nd worst respectively.
Give this guy more snaps: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (+6.1 in 408 snaps)
Pierre-Paul really came into his own to end the year, getting snaps both in the rotation and in the nickel. After an inconsistent start, JPP really came on with a positive grade in each of his last six games. For a player touted as incredibly raw coming out of college, four sacks, four hits and 16 pressures represents solid production. With Osi Umenyiora on the wrong side of 30, the Giants will be expecting more from Pierre-Paul in the near future.
Moving on up: RB LeSean McCoy (-7.5 to +12.1)
Behind a far better offensive line in 2009, McCoy really struggled to transition to the NFL and it seemed he might not become a between-the-tackles runner considering his tendency to bounce everything outside. That all changed in 2010 as McCoy displayed a much improved ability to “press the hole” (attacking the LOS quickly to draw defenders towards him) before taking the ball to the edge where he could use his elusiveness in the open field. McCoy averaged 2.2 yards after contact in 2009 and improved that to 3.0 in his sophomore season.
Had a bad year: RG Nick Cole (+1.9 to -14.7)
Cole was never a great starter but he was at least adequate. He simply fell apart in 2010. Known as a solid pass protector, Cole gave up 28 combined pressures in 2009 compared to 17 in 2010 — and that was in nearly half as many snaps (1,037 to 570). Purely in pass pro, he ranked 3rd worst of 76 ranking OGs. This is a particular problem for the Eagles because Michael Vick struggles against interior pressure (largely due to his short stature). Cole remained below average as a run blocker, but that wasn’t so much of an issue considering how infrequently the Eagles run the ball.
More snaps please: OLB Akeem Jordan (+4.3 in 201 snaps)
We’re consistently puzzled by the Eagles’ decisions at the LB position. While Jordan rode the bench, Ernie Sims started in his place and played poorly. A free agent this offseason, Jordan will likely be given an opportunity at more playing time — in Philly or elsewhere. The UDFA has played well against both the run and the pass whenever given a chance, with only three games in the red over the past three seasons.
Moving on up: SS Laron Landry (-12.6 to +4.9)
Landry improved in every department. He was our fifth-worst ranked safety in pass coverage in 2009, and although he still isn’t good in that facet (-1.8 in 2010) he was no liability. Landry also improved significantly against the run and when rushing the passer. He had fewer tackles in 2010 but more stops and in considerably fewer snaps. He also had an impressive 13 overall pressures in 57 rushes. Landry can thank the coaching staff for his improvement to some extent, considering they recognized his struggles as a traditional free safety in 2009, promptly moving him into the box.
Had a bad year: TE Chris Cooley (-0.7 to -10.4)
Cooley has never been a good run blocker, but the rest of his game proved non-existent this season. Only 66% of passes intended for Cooley were complete and he dropped eight balls on the year. He also struggled in pass pro, allowing 8 pressures in 68 pass blocks. Not good for a guy playing with a QB who is renowned for his targeting of TEs.
More snaps please: DE Jeremy Jarmon (+1.3 in 65 snaps)
The transition to the 3-4 proved difficult for many of Washington’s defenders but one surprising exception was Jarmon. Taken for the loss of a 3rd-round pick in the 2009 supplemental draft, Jarmon showed surprising ability as a 3-4 DE considering he was expected to be a conventional 4-3 pass rusher. He displayed particular ability as a pass rusher generating 6 combined pressures in 48 rushes.