Now that the 2011 regular season is in the books, decided to just take a retrospective look at individuals in the no-longer vaunted NFC East.
Wanted to give out the most valuable player at each position. Also the runner-up, and the least valuable player.
Criteria for judging was not only if the player was the overall best at the position, but also given equal weight was positive impact to the team, including intangibles, injuries and situational play. If that doesn't sound objective, it's because it isn't. It's my opinion, so lets consider that my disclaimer.
I love feedback and debates, so I suppose that's the point of the piece!
MVP: Eli Manning. Prior to the Week 17 game, it was honestly a toss up between Manning and Romo. The Giants became the NFC East champions, so Manning won. He has literally carried the Giants by himself at times. He was responsible in large part, for them having the only two 1,000 yard WRs in the East. He had the 32nd ranked rushing attack to work with, and a disastrous OL. He posted a line of 61.3% 29 TD 16 INT 4,933 yards. That, other years, is legitimate OPOY numbers.
Runner up: Tony Romo. He was not responsible for the Cowboy collapse. He cost the team the Detroit game, and had a hand in losing the Jets game, but beyond that, what he's done is nothing short of admirable. He's posted great numbers as usual, including an insane streak of something like 18 TDs and 2 INTs during the tail end of the year. He roughed it out through broken ribs, and that deserves props as well. Unfortunately he wasn't enough to carry the team, and so, in this awards section he suffers for it.
Goat: Rex Grossman. Why?
MVP: LeSean McCoy. A case could be made that he was the best running back in the entire league. 3rd most yards rushing and 17 TDs through only 15 weeks and nobody even comes close. Especially not in this division. His shifty style and the violence of his cuts reminds one of Barry Sanders, and if he continues on the pace he's had, that comparison is probably very fair. When Maclin and Vick were injured, and Desean was pouting, it was McCoy that was the constant in that Eagle offense.
Runner up: DeMarco Murray. He singlehandedly invigorated the Dallas offense in the middle of the season. There were a few weeks where he was simply unstoppable. He torched the Rams for 253 yards. 253. That's insane. His impact was obvious for the team, and definitely helped Romo onto the awesome stretch of games he had.
Goat: Brandon Jacobs. When the number of insults and trash talk you spit out each game is more than the amount of yards you gain, we have a problem. He got better when Ahmad Bradshaw came back, but for the first 10 or so games, he was a key part of the worst rushing attack in the league.
MVP: Victor Cruz. Not only did he completely annihilate the rest of the division in terms of yardage and YPC, he's in the top 5 in those categories amongst the entire league. He's become the bonafide big play WR for the Giants and has been responsible for several momentum shifting plays over the course of the season. He did all of this while initially being buried beneath the depth chart. His yards after the catch are on par with the top players in the league, and he's become a player that other DCs will now have to game plan for.
Runner up: Laurent Robinson. Not so much for his stats, but because of the spark he brought the offense when Miles Austin went down and Dez Bryant dealt with inconsistency and on/off injury problems. While Victor Cruz got much of the attention for his big play ability (and justifiably so), Laurent Robinson wasn't heralded as much and that's a mistake. He's become an integral part of the Cowboy attack and gashed opposing defenses just as many times as anybody in the league. What a weapon.
Goat: Desean Jackson. Didn't have a bad season by any means, but I think everyone knows why he's on here. Hasn't be the lightning bolt he's been in other seasons....not even close. He's played lethargic in several games and has been pouting quite a bit about his contract situation. When Jeremy Maclin went down, the Eagles needed Jackson to come up in a big way, and he didn't. Unfortunately for the Eagles, this could have also gone to Steve Smith.
MVP: Jake Ballard. Not because of the production, but because he's been such a surprise. Probably second in the division in terms of "completeness" (blocking and pass catching) to Jason Witten, he has far surpassed expectations of him. He got injured late in the season, and Eli Manning's struggles without him were palpable. Many thought the loss of Kevin Boss would be tough to swallow, but Ballard has made Giants fans forget about that. He's come up clutch several times this season, with his shining moment coming in the New England game.
Runner up: Brent Celek. Let me clear this up: Jason Witten is still the best TE in the division, but remember that disclaimer I threw up in the beginning? Celek is on here because he's had a renaissance of season. He's become a much more effective pass catcher since last year, where he was criminally underutilized. He's also better than Ballard. Only reason Ballard is rated higher is because Ballard came out of nowhere, without any expectations to become extremely clutch (see: NE game).
Goat: Fred Davis. He was supposed to step up in a big way and help lead the Washington receiving corps. He's so physically gifted that it was definitely possible for him to do just that. He didn't and smoked weed instead.
MVP: Jason Peters. I don't think this is even up for debate. Peters outclasses more or less any OT in the league this year. I've seen him get down the field faster than some TEs pancake people. Also stonewalled Osi for an entire game. Anybody that can do that needs to get their props.
Runner up: Tyron Smith. Something of a revelation to me. I didn't think he'd be this effective, but he's proven to be an even better tackle this year than his counterpart Doug Free. He has had one of the best rookie seasons this year, and it's insane to think that he's the youngest player in the NFL. He'll only get better, and while he's an impact player right now, its easy to see that he'll develop into a force. Probably the 2nd best OT in the division behind Peters.
Goat: Kareem McKenzie. Only reason for him being down here is the fact that just a year ago, he was regarded as the best RT in the league (or at least according to ProFootballFocus). The level of regression here is somewhat astonishing, and the Giants would be smart to make sure that a replacement is coming soon, be it James Brewer or someone else.
MVP: Has to be Evan Mathis. PFF rated him as the best guard in the league, and he's been by far the Eagles' best offseason acquisition. Together with Jason Peters, formed the best left side in football. There's a reason why LeSean McCoy has been one of the league's best running backs besides just his skill. What's crazy is that he was even better in pass protection, only allowing 1 sack, I believe.
Runner up: Kevin Boothe. Nobody outside of Giants fans really know how important this guy was to the OL. David Diehl was a swinging gate at LG. Probably the worst G in the league and a major, major reason why the Giants rushing attack was ranked at the bottom. Enter Kevin Boothe, who legitimized the position, and we concurrently saw a rise from 89.2 rush yards/game to 115 rush yards/game the last 5 or so weeks.
Goat: It's a tie between David Diehl and Phil Costa. Costa was consistently below average. He had some wild snaps and consistently lost at the point of attack. Diehl only spent about 9 or so games at the position, but his worthlessness was easily enough for an entire season.
Position: 4-3 DE
MVP: You down with JPP? I'd say only fans of one team would be. Still cannot deny the havoc that this guy caused game after game after game. 16.5 sacks don't even tell the whole story. As good as he was rushing the passer, he was an even better run defender. 86 tackles, 65 solo. Ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the fact that he is opening things up for Tuck and Osi rather than the other way around.
Runner up: Jason Babin. He was a nightmare for everyone. 18 sacks is disgusting, and he probably was second only to Jared Allen when it came to providing a consistent pass rush. He has his deficiencies in defending the run, no doubt about it, but anybody who comes even close to breaking the single-season sack record deserves mention.
Goat: This is a little difficult, but I have to go with Justin Tuck. This was simply based on the expectations and the results from the regular season. I don't blame him too much because he was hampered by injury, but there it is. Of course, thus far, he's been showing up big the last couple games of the regular season and was a force in the playoff game versus Atlanta, so that goes to show how much this really matters anyway.
Position: 4-3 DT
MVP: Cullen Jenkins. He was another great, great, FA pickup by the Philadelphia Eagles. Like Babin, I've rarely seen a player get such consistent pass rush on opposing QBs. He's been downright beastly. Another great characteristic of him is his hustle. Definitely has turned into a team leader as well.
Runner up: Chris Canty. After last year, people were wondering whether he was a terrible signing or not. An overpaid bust. Not really, and he proved it this year. He has been somewhat inconsistent this year, but he straightened out as the year has gone on, and like Jenkins, had started to apply consistent pressure. He's also come up incredibly clutch at times, like the sack on Sanchez to ice the football game against the NY Jets.
Goat: Again, couldn't come up with a real "Goat," so perhaps I'll go with Trevor Laws. Reasoning being, I had high expectations after the strong year he had last year, but it seems to me that he's 4th on the depth chart behind Jenkins, Patterson, and Landri.
Position: 3-4 DL
MVP: Barry Cofield. Didn't really know what to expect when Cofield signed up to be in the 3-4. I personally thought he'd fail, but lo and behold, he's actually done quite well. He's stood up at the point of attack and has made several plays. The Redskins have had a lot of problems in a lot of places, but that part of the DL is not one of those issues.
Runner up: Sean Lissemore. I don't think he's a starter, but I've been really, really impressed in the 6 Cowboy games that I've seen this year. He's definitely been a very good pass rusher from the DE spot, and has taken some of the heat off of Jay Ratliff. I look to see him develop even more next year.
Goat: I'm going to be honest, and say I'm not sure who deserves this. I'll go with Stephen Bowen, who started off really hot, but I'm not sure that he's really earned that contract. He doesn't provide the sort of pass rush that I'd expect from him, and hasn't helped Orakpo (I think Orakpo lines up behind him) out that much in terms of absorbing blockers.
Position: 3-4 OLB
MVP: Demarcus Ware. I'm not going to insult you, my dear reader, with an explanation why. I know you are smart enough to know why. Though, I will say this...he is not free from mistakes. He has had multiple offsides in key situations. That can't happen. Still, a monster in the pass rush, and still is one of the best defensive players in the game.
Runner up: Ryan Kerrigan. Probably a top 10 rookie in the NFL. Not only as a pass rusher, but his overall game is pretty damn good. Look at the stats. 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 4 FF, and one ridiculous INT Pick-6 against the Giants. He's going to be a force for quite some time if he continues to work on his pass rushing arsenal opposite to Brian Orakpo.
Goat: Anthony Spencer. As a starting pass rusher in a division that has Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Trent Cole, Jason Babin, and Demarcus Ware....you really can't afford to be a JAG.
Position: 3-4 ILB
MVP: London Fletcher. The dude is just a machine. He keeps producing year in and year out. Great in run defense. Great in pass defense. Great as a leader. Great tackler. Not much else to say. Future HOF, and this year does nothing but reinforce that notion.
Runner up: Sean Lee. One of the best coverage ILBs I've seen since Patrick Willis. Yeah, I said it. He's super athletic, along with great instinctual skills. He's tough, too, playing with that wrist. Any given team doesn't have too many obvious playmakers. The Cowboys have been blessed with two at the LB position alone. Not sure if he gets in the first team Pro Bowl starter anytime soon with Patrick Willis and London Fletcher there, but he's definitely up there as one of the young superstars of the league.
Goat: Keith Brooking. Even though he didn't play very much, I remember when Sean Lee came out against the first Eagles game, and Brooking went in, and everything went to hell. He's no longer an NFL caliber player, just someone who needs to retire after having a very, very strong career. I couldn't think of anybody else that might deserve this award, so there's also that.
Position: 4-3 LB
MVP: Mathias Kiwanuka. Michael Boley was the best LB for the NY Giants this season, but Kiwi is the story here. Nobody remembers that often, but just this past January, his entire NFL career was in jeopardy with a serious neck injury. And here he is, winner of the NFC DPOW twice, and has been just a playmaker. The stats don't tell the whole story (84 TKLs, 3.5 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT), because he's been great at run defense and has solidified the SAM position. His pass coverage has been somewhat suspect, but the dude has been versatile and a strong player for the Giants.
Runner up: Tie between Jacquain Williams and Brian Rolle. Too close to call, but gun to my head gives it to Brian Rolle. Both are rookies that stepped up BIG time for two teams with needs at LB. Jacquian Williams started out rough, but finished extremely strong. He is most certainly the future at WILL. Brian Rolle is the bigger story because he provided extremely strong play (would've probably won over JWill if he hadn't gotten playing time sort of late) for a LB corps that's been much, much maligned. He's definitely the future at WILL for the Eagles, and he's going to be a fiery, good one.
Goat: Casey Matthews. Expectations were surprisingly high for a 4th rounder as he was put in as the starter at MIKE. That experiment failed. Not sure what else to say, but he cost the Eagles.
MVP: Corey Webster. With all the glitz and glam that the Philadelphia CB corps got, Corey Webster was quietly one of the best corners in the league. He always shadowed the opponent's best WR, and was never really beaten when he was responsible for coverage. He has 6 INTs on the season and is a certified ball hawk. In a secondary that's been beaten down and ravaged with injury, he has been that one rock that's kept the team's backfield afloat. It can be argued that he is the most impactful player on the Giants defense.
Runner up: Asante Samuel. I would have expected Nnamdi Asomugha to have been the MVP this season, but he had a down year. And by down year, I mean, still a very good year, but not a normal Nnamdi year. Asante Samuel started out rough, especially in that game against the Bills, but he (quietly) had a very effective season. He may or may not be back, but that hasn't stopped him from still being a CB that a ton of QBs still avoid.
Goat: This was an easy one. Terrence Newman. He's been so bad, that he got hurdled by two different FBs. He's been torched with regularity, and BtBers have even resorted to calling him Terrence "Old"man. That basically says it all.
MVP: Kenny Phillips. No real surprises at this position, so my only choice was to go with the one that performed the best. He didn't give up very many big plays this season, and has been playing at a borderline Pro-Bowl level.
Runner up: Oshiomogho Atogwe. He's a solid player that we sometimes forget about. Couldn't justify putting anybody on the Cowboys or Eagles over him, and LaRon Landry has been injured for way too long.
Goat: Nate Allen. Been recovering from an injury, but he's been definitely been a liability in coverage. He ended up doing better as the year progressed, but he needs to step up in a big way next year.
MVP: Alex Henery. Best percentage kicker in the NFC East.
Runner up: Lawrence Tynes. Better percentage than Graham Gano.
Goat: Dan Bailey. Unfair or not, he'll be known as Ice-Ice Bailey. Sucks, but that's life, and that was a terrible two game stretch.
MVP: Sav Rocca. It was a toss up between him and Steve Weatherford. Net average between the two was 39.2 to 39.0 in favor of Steve. Inside 20, was 28 to 25 in favor of Rocca. Redskins don't have much to cheer about, so I'll give it to them.
Runner up: Weatherford.
Goat: Chas Henry, for that hilarious attempt to throw the ball to convert that 4th down.