Wednesday, September 26, 2012
All-NFC East Team: Week 3 Update
By Dan Graziano
Yes, we have a change at the quarterback position this week, and that's the position about which everyone seems to get the most excited. But it wasn't that difficult a decision, really. Through three games, Eli Manning has 264 more passing yards, a marginally lower completion percentage and one more touchdown that Robert Griffin III. He's thrown three interceptions to Griffin's one, but these things happen when you actually throw the ball down the field. He has also taken five fewer sacks. It was close last week and remains close this week, but Manning has surpassed the rookie in terms of overall body of work in 2012.
The tougher call was actually at running back. By now you all should know about the disclaimer that no one ever reads: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply an All-Star team based on the previous week's performance. This is why Ramses Barden is not on it.
However, the team's running back is the Giants' Andre Brown, who has only played a game and a half. He won out over the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Redskins' Alfred Morris, each of whom has been a starter for all three games this season. Brown's addition to the team would seem to fly directly in the face of the aforementioned disclaimer, and in order for him to make the team I would have to be convinced that his six-quarter performance was more impressive than what Morris and McCoy have done in their 12. Fact is, I was.
Brown has 79 fewer rushing yards than Morris and 77 fewer than McCoy. But his yards-per-carry average of 5.6 is far better than their 4.3 and 4.5. He has three touchdowns, which ties Morris and is two more than McCoy. He has no fumbles, and neither does Morris, but McCoy has two. It was Morris, and not McCoy, who was Brown's closest competition for this week's honor, and the simple fact is that I think Brown has been the better runner this season. It was a difficult call, and with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw likely this week, I have to imagine this is Brown's only appearance on this list, but I thought he deserved it based on the overall performance of everyone in the division in the first three weeks of the season. Had either of the other two been performing at a standout level, it would have been impossible for Brown to overtake them after a game and a half. But neither is (and yes, I know you can argue that McCoy's issue is one of limited opportunity), so Brown gets the nod because he has.
Here's the team, which this week includes nine Giants, eight Eagles, five Redskins and five Cowboys, and I have some more observations down at the bottom:
Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York Giants (Last week: Robert Griffin III)
Running back: Andre Brown, Giants (LeSean McCoy)
Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, Giants; Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (Cruz, Hakeem Nicks)
Tight end: Martellus Bennett, Giants (Brent Celek)
Fullback: Darrel Young, Washington Redskins (Young)
Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)
Left guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (Mathis)
Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)
Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)
Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)
Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Babin, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Jason Hatcher)
Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Rocky Bernard, Giants (Bernard, Fletcher Cox)
Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; Mychal Kendricks, Eagles (Kerrigan, DeMarcus Ware)
Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Ryans, Lee)
Cornerback: Brandon Carr, Cowboys; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles (Rodgers-Cromartie, Josh Wilson)
Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys (Phillips, Sensabaugh)
Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Billy Cundiff)
Punter: Chris Jones, Cowboys (Jones)
Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (David Wilson)
Punt returner: Damaris Johnson, Eagles (Brandon Banks)
- Carr takes his place at cornerback, supplanting Wilson after Wilson's tough game against Cincinnati. Wilson is actually having a very good season overall, but Carr hasn't had one bad play that I've seen, and he gets good-teammate bonus points for moving over to safety once Barry Church went out. Carr has shut down opposing receivers in all three games, and his work against Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson on Sunday was his best yet.
- Sorry, Jason Hatcher. It might be unfair, but as a 3-4 defensive end you almost have to be over-the-top great to hold off the 4-3 sack artists. Hatcher barely beat out Babin (and fellow 3-4 end Stephen Bowen) last week, but Babin's three-game tape is simply more impressive. Could be because of the difference in the position they play, but dem's the breaks.
- On the flip side, Ware hasn't looked like his usual horrifying self yet this season, and while I imagine he'll come back and take his spot, Kendricks deserves this mention for the way he's played consistently as a 4-3 outside linebacker in all three Eagles' games. Along with Ryans, he's a huge part of the reason for this season's defensive improvements.
- Bennett has been a monster blocker and has caught a touchdown pass in all three games. Cowboys fans can scoff, and justifiably doubt whether it will continue. But through three games, he's been a difference-maker at tight end for the Giants.
- Trent Williams left Sunday's game with a knee injury in the first quarter, which would have opened up this team's left tackle spot if anybody had been close behind him. But no one has been, as tackle continues to be a huge problem division-wide. Will Beatty of the Giants played it the best this week, but that was only one game, and Williams was excellent in the first two.
- The kicker decision wasn't easy, as Cundiff continues to hammer touchback after touchback and has made every one of his field goal attempts inside 62 yards. But Tynes is 10-for-10 on field goals, and for me that's better by enough than Cundiff's 5-for-6 to overcome Cundiff's proficiency on kickoffs.
That's what I've got for this week. I welcome your thoughts, as always.