NFC East defenses are not awesome. In fact, none of the NFC East defenses were in the top half of the NFL in points allowed last season, and two of them were in the bottom five in yards allowed.
As a result, the star power in my Preseason All NFC East defense is not quite as attractive as our All NFC East, offense edition. On the offensive edition of this series, it was difficult to choose at some positions because there were a bunch of very good players. On the defensive side of the ball, it was often difficult to make selections because there wasn't much to choose from. NFC East defenses are so bad, that...
• Four Redskins made the All NFC East defensive team.
• You could take the best players from all four teams and still not like your secondary.
• This starting lineup as a whole, which is made made up from four teams, is probably not as good as the Seahawks' starting lineup.
To note, I went with a 3-4 scheme. The Eagles and Redskins run a 3-4, and Dallas only converted to a 4-3 a year ago. Also, while the Giants probably have the best secondary in the division, their front seven is devoid of players who might be recognized in a post like this, with the exception of Jason Pierre-Paul. Therefore, a 3-4 seemed like the most logical way to go.
DE: Jason Hatcher, Redskins
Hatcher was probably the best player on the Cowboys defense last year. Jason Kelce called him 'tremendous,' and Todd Herremans had high praise for him as well. Hatcher led all NFL DT's last year with 11 sacks. It will be interesting to see how the Redskins use him in their 3-4 scheme. Will they allow him to attack upfield? If so, Hatcher should be similarly effective. Or will they load him up with a lot of other responsibilities that don't maximize his strengths?
NT: Barry Cofield, Redskins
Cofield is one of the most underrated players in the division. At "just" 318 pounds, he's not a massive space eater, but despite his smallish size for a NT he's stout against the run. His strength is his outstanding quickness which allows him to chase plays to the outside and read/react to screens.
DE: Fletcher Cox, Eagles
It would be interesting to see what Cox could do in a full season as a starter as a penetrating 1-gap DT, as opposed to playing the 2-gapping style that Billy Davis favors. Cox is good in both roles, but his numbers would be much better in the former. Either way, Cox is already a very good defensive lineman at the NFL level, and he's still only 23 years old.
OLB: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins
Kerrigan is a similar player to Connor Barwin, in that both players are at least competent pass rushers, run defenders, and cover linebackers. While Barwin has an edge in coverage, Kerrigan is a better pass rusher, which is the more important skill, in my opinion. Kerrigan also does a great job at creating turnovers. In three seasons in the NFL he has 10 forced fumbles. In four seasons, Barwin has two.
ILB: Mychal Kendricks, Eagles
The first four games of Mychal Kendricks' 2013 season were not good. Here's what I tweeted about him after the quarter pole of the season:
Mychal Kendricks leads NFL ILBs in missed tackles (8), rec allowed (24), & YAC (164). 2nd in rec yards allowed (231). No sacks, FF, or INT.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) October 4, 2013
From Week 5 on, Kendricks was a vastly improved player. He had 4 sacks, 3 INTs and 2 forced fumbles the rest of the way. He became a man crush of Cris Collinsworth, and then later, Rihanna. Kendricks has outstanding speed and athleticism, but often played out of control. As he continues to adapt to the NFL game and things begin to slow down for him, he could become a special player.
ILB: Bruce Carter, Cowboys
Sean Lee really messed up my Preseason All NFC East team by tearing his ACL a week ago. Without Lee, it was really difficult deciding on an ILB opposite Mychal Kendricks. I don't blame anyone for disagreeing with my selection of Carter. I'll bet some Cowboys fans would even disagree. I considered DeMeco Ryans and Jon Beason for their intangibles, but ultimately Carter is the most gifted of the remaining non-edge-rushing linebackers in the division. Here's Carter chasing down one of the fastest players in the league (Julio Jones) in 2012:
That's really impressive athleticism. Carter looked like he was going to be a really good player in 2012, but he took a step back in 2013. This choice is all about upside, and has little to do with what Carter did on the field last season.
Edge rusher: Brian Orakpo, Redskins
The NFC East used to be loaded with premier edge rushers. Now... not so much. The best pass rusher in the division is a player the Redskins weren't sure was worthy of the franchise tag, although they ultimately did opt to tag Orakpo. Osi Umenyiora, DeMarcus Ware, and Justin Tuck are all gone, Trent Cole is aging and in decline, while Jason Pierre-Paul and Anthony Spencer have health issues.
The only other player I considered here was Pierre-Paul. There's an argument to be made that JPP was the best defensive player in the entire NFL in 2011, but his play fell off sharply in 2012 and he was invisible in 2013. He needs to re-prove himself this season, but until he does, I'll take the guy I know will give me very good (although probably not great) production.
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Giants
I just threw up in my mouth.
S: Antrel Rolle, Giants
Rolle has always been an athletic player, entering the NFL as a CB. He was moved to S, and he initially struggled. However, after more than a half decade on the back end, Rolle has become savvy safety to go along with his athleticism. He can play either safety spot, and cover receivers in the slot, which is a valuable commodity.
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles
Jenkins is actually a lot like Rolle. He too entered the league as a CB, and was moved to S. Jenkins is not yet on Rolle's level, but he shares many of the same traits. Like Rolle, Jenkins can play both safety spots and cover slot receivers.
And yes, the safeties in the NFC East are a mess.
CB: Prince Amukamara, Giants
I make this choice with no conviction whatsoever. Amukamara is a solid, competent corner in terms of coverage and run support. However, to this point in his career, he has not been anything close to a feared playmaker. Through 3 season, Amukamara has 2 forced fumbles and 3 INTs. He's almost kind of like the bizarro DeAngelo Hall, who makes big plays, but also gives up more than his share of big plays.
I think I'd prefer my corners to be solid players first, then look to make plays when the opportunities arise. We'll see if that happens with Amukamara, who is now entering his 4th year and could be primed to take his game to the next level.
And yes, the corners in the NFC East are also kind of a mess.
Slot CB: Brandon Boykin, CB, Eagles
While the NFC East doesn't have good outside corners or safeties, they are loaded with quality slot corners. In many other divisions, the Giants' Walter Thurmond or the Cowboys' Orlando Scandrick might be the best of the bunch, but not in the NFCE. That honor goes to Brandon Boykin, who was 2nd in the NFL with 6 INTs, despite barely playing half his team's snaps.
Tale of the tape:
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski