We continue our spin around the league with 2013’s best at each position. Her is the NFC East.
In a division that nobody seemed to want to win for much of the season the Eagles eventually emerged as the team to beat late on and that is reflected with seven players appearing in this team. The Cowboys featuring 10 players on the team just goes to underline their overall failure to make the most of the talent they always appear to have.
No team was shut out of the selections, but the Redskins and Giants both find themselves staring up at the other two teams.
Quarterback: Tony Romo, DAL
You’ll have been expecting to see Nick Foles’ name here after putting up some eye-popping numbers once he finally earned the starting job in Philadelphia. Foles ended the year with a pretty ridiculous 27:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio leading to a league-leading 119.2 passer rating, but the truth is those numbers flatter his performances quite a lot. He threw a third pick that was nullified by a penalty and threw another pass straight to defenders against Green Bay who somehow conspired to turn it into a touchdown pass. There are rogue plays like that for every quarterback of course, but when you grade passers throw by throw, Foles doesn’t stack up to his numbers and was easily outgraded by Romo (+11.0 vs. +5.4). Romo yet again had a fine season but was undone by questionable playcalling and the Cowboys’ overall inability to get it done with the playoffs in sight.
Running Back: LeSean McCoy, PHI
No surprise to see our top ranked running back and the league’s rushing champion earn this spot. McCoy is the perfect back for Chip Kelly’s offense and found himself perfectly able to exploit the space it produces. He ended the season more than 250 yards clear of the next best rushing tally and added more than 500 receiving yards to his total. Only a sub-par performance as a blocker blots his otherwise excellent season.
Flex: DeMarco Murray, DAL
The extra spot came down to a battle between Dallas teammates with Murray edging out Jason Witten at tight end. Witten is as consistent as they come but there is no doubt the Dallas offense puts him in position to succeed and to rack up numbers with comparatively easy receptions which can be strung together to end up with some impressive looking totals by the end of the season. Murray is the player that makes that offense tick and it’s telling that their biggest struggles come when they stop feeding him the football.
Wide Receivers: Dez Bryant, DAL, DeSean Jackson, PHI, Pierre Garçon, WAS
This is an area of strength for the NFC East with this trio providing a matchup nightmare for any defense. Dez Bryant remains one of the most talented receivers in the game and if he could just nail down a little more consistency would be seen in similar light as guys like Calvin Johson, Andre Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. DeSean Jackson was the perfect deep threat for the Kelly offense in Philadelphia catching a league-leading eight touchdowns on deep balls (passes traveling 20+ in the air) and dropping none of those deep passes. Though the Washington passing game suffered with the troubled comeback of RGIII from injury, Pierre Garçon was quietly very effective this season, notching 113 receptions on 174 targets for over 1,300 yards.
Left Tackle: Trent Williams, WAS
Believe it or not the Washington O-line was not the root of all problems in the DC area this season, they actually played pretty well overall. Williams just might have been the best left tackle in football and earns the spot in a division that saw both Jason Peters and Tyron Smith finish the season inside the Top 5 of PFF’s tackle rankings overall. Williams had ups and downs in the season but his peaks were utterly dominant, blanking opponents and crushing them in the run game. When he was on, he was really on.
Left Guard: Evan Mathis, PHI
For a few seasons now Evan Mathis has been the best offensive guard in football. He doesn’t look like Larry Allen, but he controls his opponent on virtually every down in the run game, sealing him away from the point of attack and generating good holes for his running backs. He finally made All-Pro this season to go with his various PFF awards and retains his spot on the All-NFC East team.
Center: Jason Kelce, PHI
For the second season running the center position was a bit of a mess league-wide and the top four players at the position were separated by just a 1.1 spread in grading by the end of the year. Jason Kelce finished the year as the top ranked center in the league and, in truth, would have been well clear but for a total nightmare appearance against the Giants in Week 5. With or without that game he finds himself past of the rest of the division.
Right Guard: Mackenzy Bernadeau, DAL
Todd Herremans narrowly fails to complete a clean sweep for the Eagles on the interior of the offensive line in the NFC East. Herremans’ run blocking grade was second only to Mathis this year and you want your guards to be run blockers at heart, but his pass protection was prohibitively poor. His -19.2 pass blocking grade was better than only the trainwreck seasons of Lucas Nix and David Diehl, and he allowed more pressure than either player. Bernadeau was also a stronger run blocker than a pass protector, but his negative was much less severe.
Right Tackle: Doug Free, DAL
The Cowboys looked a little foolish last season for flipping their tackles after each had performed so well the year before, but this season that decision was justified. Free and Tyron Smith each had fine seasons and in a year that saw few standouts on the right, the Dallas man was actually in the Top 5 league-wide among right tackles.
Defensive Ends: Jason Hatcher, DAL and Fletcher Cox, PHI
For a while Jason Hatcher was our top ranked defensive tackle in the league. He slipped as the season went on but still finished inside the Top 10 and was the fourth ranked pass-rushing DT. Though the Cowboys now play in a four-man front the difference between a 4-3 under tackle and a 3-4 end in a one-gap scheme is minimal and the Cowboy teams with Fletcher Cox to make up our pair of ends. Cox may not be quite as dominant as the Eagles are hoping he can become, but he did grade positively across the board (penalties excepting) this season on a large workload of 910 snaps.
Nose Tackle: Barry Cofield, WAS
Our nose tackle spot is manned by Barry Cofield who completes the look of our pass-rushing 3-4 front. Cofield was able to generate some significant pressure from the inside but struggled a little against the run game. His +9.5 grade overall represents a fine season and one that saw him rank 23rd overall in our DT rankings.
Edge Defenders: Trent Cole, PHI and Brian Orapko, WAS
Two players used to being showered with accolades, Trent Cole and Brian Orakpo both make the All NFC East team but neither was the dominant force they have been in the past. Cole has in the past led the league in Pass Rushing Productivity but this season was only the 13th-ranked 3-4 OLB notching 51 total pressures. Orakpo fared better, ranking sixth as well as performing well against the run and making a few plays in coverage.
Linebackers: Sean Lee, DAL and Mychal Kendricks, PHI
Sean Lee just might be the best inside linebacker in football if he could only stay healthy. He’s the player everybody thinks Luke Kuechly is and despite playing just 717 snaps this season still comfortably makes the team ahead of any other linebacker in the division. Kendricks had far from a great season, but makes the team by virtue of being best of the rest and having a couple of fine games. In fact, if you take away his September, Kendricks’ season looks dramatically better, with that month alone accounting for -17.6 in grading while the rest of his year was +7.6 overall.
Cornerbacks: Orlando Scandrick, DAL and DeAngelo Hall, WAS
Anyone looking just at the PFF cornerback rankings overall will be wondering where Brandon Boykin and Prince Amukamara are. In Boykin’s case he is purely a slot corner and that is a significant departure to playing outside. Without seeing him play the perimeter we didn’t feel we could include him as one of our outside corners on this team. Amukamara finished ahead of Scandrick in the rankings, but his coverage grade is significantly lower (-3.7 vs. +4.9). Given that this is a passing league we want the guy who is better in coverage. Scandrick got his hands to more passes than his Giants counterpart and made more plays in coverage, preventing first downs and slowing opposing passing attacks more. Hall is similarly lower down in the rankings but is asked to track top receivers and man up against the league’s best in way the others aren’t.
Safeties: Will Hill and Antrel Rolle, NYG
The Giants’ duo makes up our pair of safeties for the NFC East team. Will Hill was second only to New England’s Devin McCourty in our overall safety rankings allowing just a single touchdown all season and only 186 passing yards. He wasn’t beaten for a completion longer than 25 yards all season long and graded well against the run too. Antrel Rolle finally lived up to much of the hype that has surrounded him for years. He graded inside the Top 10 of our safety rankings and is asked to do a lot more in terms of underneath coverage than a lot of other safeties across the league. Quarterbacks targeting Rolle this season had a passer rating of just 43.1
Kicker: Dan Bailey, DAL
Bailey missed just two kicks all year, one from over 50 yards, and averaged 66.6 yards on kickoffs to sit in the Top 5 of our kicker rankings.
Punter: Chris Jones, DAL
Chris Jones doesn’t have the best average yardage totals in the world, but punted well directionally this season, with 31 punts inside the 20, 27 fair caught and two out of bounds.
Returner: Dwayne Harris, DAL
Harris was one of only 16 players in the NFL to notch a return touchdown this season and also averaged 30.6 yards on his kick returns.
Special Teamer: Mark Herzlich, NYG
The Giant prevents a Dallas clean sweep of the special teamers, notching 10 special teams tackles and three assists for the season.
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