Our sister site for the Philadelphia Eagles previously put together an “All-NFC East Team (Offense).” Personally, I felt they snubbed a couple New York Giants — namely Justin Pugh and Eli Manning.
This time we have their list of top defensive players at each position in the NFC East. As you might suspect, the Giants figure much more prominently this time around.
First Team: Ryan Kerrigan (Washington), Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)
Second Team: Jason Pierre-Paul (New York Giants), Oliver Vernon (Giants)
First Team: Fletcher Cox (Eagles), Damon Harrison (Giants)
Second Team: Timmy Jernigan (Eagles), Maliek Collins (Cowboys)
First Team: Jordan Hicks (Eagles), Nigel Bradham (Eagles), Sean Lee (Cowboys)
Second Team: Mychal Kendricks (Eagles), Devon Kennard (Giants), Mason Foster, (Washington)
First Team: Janoris Jenkins (Giants), Josh Norman (Washington)
Second Team: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants) and Eli Apple (Giants)
First Team: Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles), Landon Collins (Giants)
Second Team: Rodney McLeod (Eagles), Byron Jones (Cowboys)
My main quibble with this list is the form. Defenses today move freely between a base defensive scheme and a variety of sub-packages. This means that players who might not be “starters” are still playing “starter” snaps.
The slot corner falls into this category and is increasingly considered a “starter”. Likewise, in many defenses there is an “EDGE” rusher that is brought in sub-packages or moves between positions.
With that in mind, I would classify Ryan Kerrigan as that “EDGE” player, because he moves between outside linebacker and defensive end based down, distance, situation, and package. My second starting defensive end would be Olivier Vernon.
Likewise for me, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be on the “First Team” as a slot corner. Frankly, he out-performed Josh Norman, but if you want to dock him points for being a “part time” player, so be it.
My one major snub is Giants’ rookie safety Andrew Adams. Brought up from the practice squad in Week 3 following the loss of Darian Thomson and Nat Berhe, Andrews got off to a rocky start. But after becoming the starter in Week 4, he blossomed into a reliable player on the back of the Giants’ defense. Not only did he finish the season as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-ranked coverage safety (second-highest ranked rookie safety overall), but his steady presence in the back end of the defense allowed Steve Spagnuolo to keep his play-book open and scheme pressure after Jason Pierre-Paul was lost to injury. Rodney McLeod is a fine safety, and deserves mention, but Adams became the better player by the end of the season.