Our friends over at Bleeding Green Nation came up with their picks for the "All NFC East" team and we thought it'd be a cool exercise to come up with our own team as well. You'll find that many of the choices are similar, but I had my own thoughts on a few positions. You can find their team right here:
I'll be picking the defense for today, and I'm going to go out of nickel four-man front formation for my NFC East team, which means two safeties, three corners, and only two linebackers. Why nickel? According to ProFootballFocus, 57 percent of ALL defensive snaps last year were with five or more defensive backs on the field. This is the new base defense.
I'm going to base it on a projection of how players might do in the 2014 regular season. That means I take into account injury, past performance, and future upside. On top of that, I'm constructing a team that I think will mesh best together, so you might see some different choices in terms of where some players are positioned. Enjoy!
Left Defensive End: Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
There are quite a few options for the player going across from the right tackle. Jason Pierre-Paul, one could reasonably argue, does not deserve the spot based on last year's results. Fair. However, I'm projecting a big year from JPP. For those that believe that he's a one-year wonder, he actually had a damn good 2012 as well. You might look at the sack numbers and disagree, but PFF has Pierre-Paul pegged with the exact same number of quarterback pressures (56) as in his marquee year in 2011. His pass rush productivity in 2012, however, was actually higher because he played less pass rush snaps.
In any case, I think a fully healthy JPP (he most certainly was not last year) is better than anything competitors might offer. Dallas has George Selvie as their contribution, and the 3-4 teams have nice players in Cedric Thornton from the Eagles and Jason Hatcher from the Redskins, but I think both of those guys are better fits inside. One could argue placing Ryan Kerrigan or Connor Barwin in this spot, however, I think Pierre-Paul is a better player against the run on the right side, so I'll take him instead. Trent Cole is another option and probably a great pick for this slot, I just think Pierre-Paul is slotted for a better two-way performance with him fully healthy next year, whereas Cole is a year older.
Right Defensive End: Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins
An easy choice, despite coming off a season-ending surgery. Orakpo is one of the fiercest speed rushers in the division. He'd have to hold off Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham from the Eagles, declining Mathias Kiwanuka and rising Damontre Moore from the Giants, and newcomer Demarcus Lawrence from the Cowboys, but maintains this spot rather easily. He's got great bend and active hands, and would be a terror coming off the edge. He's listed as a defensive end, but I'd have no problems keeping him rushing on that side from a two-point stance.
3-Technique Defensive Tackle: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles
Well done, Mr. Cox. Probably tied for the best 3-technique in the division with Jason Hatcher and Henry Melton, Cox is the slimmest and thus gets the true 3-tech spot on this team. He's done well as a 3-4 DE for the Eagles, but I think he could truly wreak havoc going forwards and bursting through an interior offensive lineman instead of doubling inside or going up against a tackle. Like I said, I really like Jason Hatcher as well, but he's a bit bigger and Henry Melton is really good too, but he loses because he's all things equal, he's recovering from an ACL and Cox is not. The New York Giant representative would be Cullen Jenkins, who had a strong year in his own right, but likely does not make it over any of those guys.
1-Technique Defensive Tackle: Jason Hatcher, Washington Redskins
As I mentioned before, I really like Hatcher's game. He had 11 sacks from the defensive tackle position last year and has a very good burst. He light for a 1 tech at 305 pounds, but my plan is an all out attacking interior defense to place tremendous amounts of A gap pressure on the quarterback. Having Hatcher and Cox side by side will force that pass blockers will have to reckon with. I'm okay with losing a bit on run defense, because the speed more than makes up for it.
Non-Rush LB: Perry Riley, Washington Redskins
We've got a bevy of players to select here between Jon Beason, Demeco Ryans, Perry Riley, Bruce Carter, etc. Riley, I believe, is one of the most underrated players in the division. He racks up tackles and plays well against the run and the pass. If you remember, he ended the Cowboys' season in 2012 with a game-clinching interception of Tony Romo in the season finale.
Non-Rush LB: Connor Barwin, Philadelphia Eagles
I really like Connor Barwin, I think he's a very strong all-around player. There are faster players in Mychal Kendricks and Jacquian Williams, there's stronger players in Jon Beason or Demeco Ryans, but I think he's the most well-rounded. From what I've seen of him, he's very good against the run, which given the deficiencies of our defensive line, makes perfect sense for me.
LCB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants
DRC is a controversial player, because when he wants to play, he can be an elite top five corner in this league. It's just that nobody knows if he wants to play. Regardless, he was the natural choice here, as he's better than overpaid Brandon Carr, Cary Williams, or David Amerson.
RCB: Prince Amukamara, New York Giants
Again, Prince doesn't get as much credit as he really deserves. Can he be considered a "play-maker"? No, but he quietly has become a consistent, reliable player who won't really ever let you down and most certainly won't give up the big play. He's smart, secure, and plays the run very well as a bonus. Nolan Carroll is a decent player as a backup for this position. DeAngelo Hall will get some interceptions, but is hilariously overrated otherwise, and it was not that difficult to leave off bust Morris Claiborne.
SCB: Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia Eagles
Like many Eagles, Boykin loves to spout off on Twitter as he got into it with our own Walter Thurmond. He can back up his garbage, however, as he's one of the league's most underrated players and probably one of the top three or four slot corners in the NFL. He edges out Thurmond by the thinnest of margins simply because while I feel Thurmond is money when it comes to not giving up big plays, Boykin is a bigger play-maker. For a defense that's going to rely heavily on quarterback pressure, having slot corners that can pick off the ball helps tremendously. Poor Orlando Scandrick, he's the third-best slot corner in the division, but among the top 10 in the league as well.
FS: Antrel Rolle, New York Giants
The other available options include J.J. Wilcox, Barry Church, Brandon Meriweather, Ryan Clark, or Nate Allen. Yeah, this was a no-brainer picking the vocal leader of the New York Giant defense and had 98 tackles, two sacks, and six INTs. Easiest pick of this entire defensive group.
SS: Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles
This was a close battle between Jenkins and Stevie Brown. While Brown has a knack for the ball, he also showed inconsistency in pass coverage and is coming off an ACL tear. Malcolm Jenkins is decidedly unspectacular and really doesn't stand out in any one particular area, but he's a solid player and very narrowly gets the nod over Stevie. Nobody else was considered because, really, there isn't much there to consider.