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NFC East Dream Team: The division’s best offensive lineup

How many Giants make the NFC East dream team cut?

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The 2020 NFC East was one of the more inadequate divisions in recent NFL memory. The Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, and Football Team finished with a collective record of 23-40-1, with the Eagles tying the 4-11-1 Bengals. The Washington Football Team won the division with a 7-9 record after former Eagles head coach pulled promising rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts in a competitive week 17 game in favor of a journeyman quarterback named Nate Sudfeild.

Giants such as Xavier McKinney have recently criticized the Eagles organization for such moves - following the example that Joe Judge emphatically presented to the media after Philadelphia’s Week 17 debacle. It’s no secret - there is no love lost between any of these franchises.

New York’s collective score in the inter-division matchups was 148-134; the biggest point differential was ten in a Giants win over the Eagles in week 10, the next biggest was four points in the Giants week 17 win over the Cowboys. The games are close, competitive, and typically come down to a few clutch plays.

The NFC East may have been poor in 2020, but that doesn’t mean they’ll repeat the ineptitude in 2021. There’s still a lot of talent within the division. I want to assemble a super-team of sorts consisting of only NFC East players. I will do this in two separate articles; an offensive team of the best players from the NFC East and a defensive team. There will be 15 players on each roster because of varying personnel packages. Let’s dive into my NFC East dream team for the 2021 season.

Quarterback

Dak Prescott, Dallas

As much as I would love to select Daniel Jones to lead this team, it just wouldn’t be genuine because Prescott is currently a better quarterback than Jones. Prescott was on pace for just under 6,000 yards before his week five injury against the Giants. The game scripts led to a lot of Prescott throws because the team was dreadful on defense, but the 27-year-old was leading his offense back into games where the lead dwindled, and, at times, seemed insurmountable.

Prescott threw for 1,856 yards with 9 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. He had a completion percentage of 68% and, despite a poor record, was the reason for a competitive Dallas football team. Jones would be my second choice in this division, but he hasn’t found the consistency desired for a starting NFL quarterback. He can unlock this in year three, but Prescott has to be the selection, even though he’s returning from a serious injury.

Running back

Saquon Barkley, NYG

I don’t believe this is a homer selection, rather a selection based on the upside. There are few running backs, if any, in the NFL who have more home run ability than a healthy Saquon Barkley. His last two seasons were marred by injury, but he was phenomenal in his rookie of the year campaign. He may be slowly ingratiated back into the lineup, or he could be fully healthy by week one, but he’s certainly a player I want on this dream team because the upside outweighs the negative; especially with the presence of the next player listed.

Miles Sanders, PHI

The second choice on this team was a difficult one because I can easily see myself settling for either Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott or 2020 rookie Washington RB Antonio Gibson. I ended up going with Sanders who is an elusive back with a different skill-set than Barkley, albeit they have the same alma mater. Sanders has the best yards after contact per attempt, and, if he can clean up his ability to catch passes, then he can be a really solid spell back in third-down situations for Barkley. I debated Gibson over Sanders, but I settled with the Eagle over Gibson - just need to ensure that Sanders holds that football high and tight.

Wide receivers

X, Kenny Golladay, NYG

New to the NFC East, Golladay finds his way onto this dream team because of his prototypical size, catch radius, and ability to box out and win at the catch point with physicality, athletic ability, and spatial awareness. Golladay was hurt the majority of the season in 2020, but he is primed for a breakout year with the Giants. He would operate as the backside receiver in 3x1 sets on the line of scrimmage.

Z, Amari Cooper, DAL

Cooper is a smooth route runner who thrives with elite footwork, release, and nuance up his route stem. He saw 128 targets, catching 92 of them for 1,114 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2020; some of the games with quarterbacks like Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci. Nevertheless, Cooper remained a reliable receiving threat for the Cowboys down the stretch of the season with Andy Dalton; he’s a competent 27-year-old wide receiver who would be a great weapon next to Kenny Golladay and his current Cowboys’ teammate.

Slot, CeeDee Lamb, DAL

The Cowboys were fortunate to have the Oklahoma receiver slide in the draft right into their grasp. Lamb can legitimately play anywhere as a wide receiver, but he lined up 666 times in the slot, and only 61 times out wide in 2020. He picked on opposing slot cornerbacks all season and racked up 18 targets, 13 catches, for 167 yards in his two games against the Giants. He’s a true breakout candidate and, unfortunately, the Giants have to face him twice a year now.

Fourth WR, Terry McLaurin, WAS

McLaurin is an underrated player who now has reliable receiving threats surrounding him; the Football Team added Curtis Samuel and North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown this offseason. This will allow McLaurin to thrive in the intermediate parts of the field and operate as the Football Team’s Z receiver. He would make a great addition as the fourth receiver on this team. He’s coming off a 135-target, 93-catch, 1,193-yard, and 4- touchdown season while playing with several different quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick should help McLaurin’s value, but there are more mouths to feed in that offense.

Tight ends

Dallas Goedert, PHI

Goedert had some injuries to his foot in 2020, but he has continually shown why he’s a solid Y option, and why he can be split out in tight splits while occupying the slot. He saw 64 targets and caught 46 of them for 524 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He isn’t the best blocking tight end, but he is a mismatch receiver who does well to find voids in coverage. With Zach Ertz having one foot out the door, Goedert projects to be a focal point in an offense under Nick Sirianni that ran a lot of multiple tight end packages with the Colts.

Logan Thomas, WAS

I put serious thought into adding Kyle Rudolph to this list over Thomas, but the latter has more upside as a receiver and still does an adequate job as a blocker; plus the former is recovering from an injury. Thomas saw 114 targets and caught 77 of them for 744 yards, and 6 touchdowns - this will more than likely regress in 2021, but it doesn’t take away from his capabilities. He would be a really solid second tight end and would push Goedert for tight end No. 1 status on this fake dream team.

Tackles

LT, Tyron Smith, DAL

This was not an easy decision for me at all. Smith played in two games last season and he has now crept into his age 30 season. The injuries have always been an issue for Tyron Smith, but he is a far superior offensive lineman, when healthy than any of the other options. I put thought into Andrew Thomas because of his strong finish to the 2020 season, but Smith has the potential to be a top-five tackle in the NFL when he’s healthy.

Since 2018, Smith has only allowed two sacks; he’s the definition of a dancing bear. Adding Smith onto this roster makes me want to invest in the swing tackle position as my sixth offensive lineman, and that’s what I will do, but the upside is too great - imagine a healthy Tyron Smith with a healthy Saquon Barkley and a healthy Dak Prescott, but in blue - not Cowboys colors...it would be fun to watch.

RT, Lane Johnson, PHI

Johnson is one of the best right tackles in the league. He dealt with some injuries throughout last season, but he still found himself on the field for 405 snaps. He’s entering his age 31 season, which makes both of these tackles north of 20 - not something that I love, but both the players are arguably the best two tackles in the division. Johnson has been one of the most efficient linemen, according to Pro Football Focus, since Chip Kelly drafted him with the fourth pick out of Oklahoma in 2013.

Interior offensive line

LG, Zack Martin, DAL

Martin realistically can play all over the offensive line and the Cowboys asked him to play tackle in 2020 before he sustained an injury that restricted him to 397 snaps. Martin took the league by storm on a potent rushing attack in 2014, in an offense led by Tony Romo. He has been dinged up over the years, but he is still one of the better interior offensive linemen in the league, and he’s an easy selection for one of the two guard sports.

RB, Brandon Scherff, WAS

Brandon Brooks was hurt all of 2020; if that wasn’t the case, then I would have had a more difficult decision here for the two guard spots. Unfortunately for the Giants, they don’t have any of these top guards, yet their division foes have several. Scherff has re-signed with Washington and has been one of the better offensive linemen in the league since entering 2015. Two out of the last three seasons he surrendered single-digit pressures for Washington; for context, Lemieux and Hernandez gave up a collective 50 pressures between them in 2020 alone.

OC, Nick Gates, NYG

I went with a more proven, yet older, offensive lineman at tackle, so I wanted to infuse some youth into the interior offensive line. Jason Kelce, right now, is a better, more aware, offensive lineman than Gates, who only has one season starting at center. The transition he made in 2020 to center, from an undrafted 2018 tackle out of Nebraska, deserves praise. He had his faults in 2020, but he still showed many positive signs of progression that make me feel solid about his development. Because of this, I’m going with Gates over Dallas’ Tyler Biadasz and even the great Jason Kelce, albeit close.

Swing lineman

OT, Andrew Thomas, NYG

La’el Collins of the Cowboys didn’t play a snap in 2020, and I do believe that Thomas has some of the most intriguing upsides of any tackle in this division, in his age 22 season. Thomas struggled a lot in 2020; he was beaten often and frequently, mostly by similar moves, earlier in the season, but he was able to correct himself down the stretch and played well, sans the Arizona and Baltimore game where the Giants protection was just manipulated. Thomas will hopefully progress into a more reliable tackle in his second season, but I am fully confident that he would make a great swing tackle in this NFC East dream team.

Final thoughts

These are 15 players that would crack the offensive personnel for the all-NFC East team. There are only two tight ends, and two running backs, so technically the offense can only run 11, 10, 12, 22, 21, and 5 wide with a tight end personnel package - no 13 packages. Let’s just say that Kyle Rudolph would be the third tight end in that theoretical package, so, if Jason Garrett was the play-caller, he would have the personnel to fit his playbook.

The thought of Prescott throwing to these talented wide receivers in front of an offensive line that is stout, experienced, yet has dealt with injuries could pose a problem if the cards don’t align, but the upside of the team is vast. Out of the 15 players, only four are Giants: Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Nick Gates, and Andrew Thomas as a swing tackle. There are also five Cowboys, three Eagles, and three Washington players.

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