Here is my preseason All NFC East team on offense. We'll do the defense tomorrow.
QB: Nick Foles, Eagles
Some people are dismissing Foles' 2013 season by saying that he is a product of Chip Kelly's potent offensive attack. I personally think that Kelly's system and a very strong rushing attack both helped Foles quite a bit, but Foles also legitimately played outstanding football last season. Whether you have reservations about Foles or not, by process of elimination, he's a pretty easy selection here, in my opinion.
• Without Tony Romo the Cowboys would not even be the mediocre team they've been over the last 5 years, but he's coming off serious back surgery.
Could LeSean McCoy be better than Brian Westbrook?
• Robert Griffin III had a brutal season in 2013, with his numbers regressing in almost every major QB statistical metric while leading the Skins to a 3-10 record. However, he'll be 2 years removed from his torn ACL and will have better offensive weapons in 2014. Still, by choosing RG3 here, you're betting on his knee allowing him to be the dual threat he was as a rookie, and I'd like to actually see it first.
• Meanwhile, Eli Manning threw 27 INTs and had a worse QB rating (69.4) than guys like Brandon Weeden, Chad Henne, Jason Campbell, Christian Ponder, Kellen Clemens, and Matt Cassel. He's likely to rebound on some level from last year, but by how much?
RB: LeSean McCoy, Eagles
Alfred Morris is a punishing sledgehammer down in Washington, and DeMarco Murray is a good player when healthy, but this is no contest. LeSean McCoy is clearly one of the to 5 RBs in the NFL, and some believe he's #1.
WR: Dez Bryant, Cowboys
93 catches, 1223 yards, 13 TD. Big bodied (6'2, 222) athletic beast who has managed to stay out of trouble (publicly anyway) over the last couple years. This is the best WR in the division, and probably will be for a while.
WR: DeSean Jackson, Redskins
Jackson remains as explosive a player as any in the NFL, evidenced by his 25 receptions of 20+ yards in 2013, which was second only to the Browns' Josh Gordon (30). Jackson is an outstanding fit for the personnel already in place in Washington. With Jackson stretching the field vertically, the Redskins should find some additional breathing room for guys like WR Pierre Garcon and TE Jordan Reed to make plays underneath after the catch. They could also see more favorable defensive fronts in the run game if opposing defenses opt to play their safeties back, which would be a huge benefit for a hard runner like Alfred Morris.
Slot WR: Victor Cruz, Giants
I initially struggled with this choice, debating between Cruz and Pierre Garcon, but ultimately settled on Cruz.
Pierre Garcon led the NFL in receptions last year, with 113. Obviously, that makes him a prime candidate for recognition on a list like this. However, he also led the league in targets, with 184. If you take the top 15 receivers in the NFL in receptions last year, and look at their yards per target, Garcon is near the bottom of the list:
When you factor in the number of receiving TDs coupled with his yards per target, Garcon is in the company of players like Julian Edelman and Kendall Wright. Garcon's numbers may have been a product of the Redskins playing from behind in so many games, as opposed to actual positive production. If he leads the league in receptions again, the Redskins are probably picking in the top 10 in the 2015 NFL draft.
Meanwhile, Victor Cruz's numbers have declined each of the last 2 years after breaking out in a huge way in 2011. But ultimately, he's a player opposing defenses specifically game plan for, while Garcon is not.
TE: Jason Witten, Cowboys
The NFC East has a pair of emerging young TEs in Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed, but for now we'll leave the future Hall of Famer in the top spot.
LT: Trent Williams, Redskins
Trent Williams isn't quite what Jason Peters was in his prime, but he's not far off. Williams has similar athleticism as Peters, but not the same size, at "just" 314 pounds. Williams is still only 25 years old, he made the last two Pro Bowls, and should only continue to get better, while Peters could be entering the down slope of his career. The Cowboys' Tyron Smith is also an emerging LT, but for now, Williams is ahead of him.
LG: Evan Mathis, Eagles
Evan Mathis has been Pro Football Focus' top rated guard the last 3 years running. Mathis of course bought Pro Football Focus prior to the 2011 season. I kid, I kid.
But clearly, among Mathis, the Cowboys' Mackenzy Bernadeau, the Redskins' Shawn Lauvao, and the Giants' Geoff Schwartz, Mathis is the no-brainer choice.
C: Jason Kelce, Eagles
As long as he can stay healthy, Kelce is soon to be a perennial Pro Bowl player.
RG: Chris Snee, Giants
Snee was a perennial Pro Bowl player, but his play has fallen off more recently. The player to watch who could be very good from *Day 1* is Cowboys rookie Zack Martin, but we'll hold off including a rookie here until they're actually played a down in the NFL.
(*Injuring the Cowboys' best defender in non-contact drills aside).
RT: Lane Johnson, Eagles
If we were choosing OTs in general, Jason Peters or Tyron Smith would be the choice here, but if we're only looking at RTs, it's basically between the Giants' Justin Pugh and the Eagles' Lane Johnson. I think Pugh had a marginally better season than Johnson last year, but I'll take Johnson and his enormous upside in year 2.
Tale of the tape:
• Eagles: 5
• Giants: 2
• Cowboys: 2
• Redskins: 2
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