Dallas Cowboys: billy cundiff

All-NFC East Team: Week 3 Update

September, 26, 2012
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.

All-NFC East Team: Week 2 Update

September, 19, 2012
Eli Manning made it tough. I'm not going to deny that. His performance in the fourth quarter in Sunday's comeback victory against Tampa Bay was nearly enough to get him the starting quarterback spot on this week's edition of the All-Division Team. His yardage total of 510 for the game was the ninth-highest in league history, and is only 16 yards short of Robert Griffin III's two-game yardage total so far. When I sat down to make this week's team, I did so on the assumption that Manning would regain his 2011 season-ending spot as the quarterback.

But then I remembered the disclaimer that nobody reads: This All-Division Team is not simply a roundup of the best performances of the past week. It's an assessment of overall season performance to date. Griffin has a higher completion percentage, fewer interceptions and -- yes, this matters -- is the division's fourth-leading rusher with 124 yards on 20 carries. Manning has proven more over his career, obviously, and yes he's being asked to do more in the passing game than Griffin is in Washington. But it's not as though Griffin's being asked to play like Alex Smith. He's made big plays and protected the ball, and in the end this week's spot goes to the guy who's played eight good quarters so far this season, as opposed to one astoundingly brilliant one.

One of the results of this, I found when I tallied things up at the end, is what I believe to be a first. The Redskins have the most players (eight) on this week's All-NFC East team. The Giants and Eagles each have seven, and the Cowboys only have five for some reason, including their punter. Odd, since the Cowboys' Week 1 game was perhaps the best all-around game played by anyone in the division to this point. Strange how these things shake out sometimes.

Anyway here is the rest of the team, and then the explanations after:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (DeMarco Murray)

Wide receiver: Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, New York Giants (Kevin Ogletree and Jeremy Maclin)

Tight end: Brent Celek, Eagles (Martellus Bennett)

Fullback: Darrel Young, Washington Redskins (Young)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Jason Kelce)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Fletcher Cox, Eagles; Rocky Bernard, Giants (Bernard, Cox)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys (Kerrigan, Ware)

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Ryans, Lee)

Cornerback: Josh Wilson, Redskins; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles (Wilson, Rodgers-Cromartie)

Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys (Kurt Coleman, Antrel Rolle)

Kicker: Billy Cundiff, Redskins (Cundiff)

Punter: Chris Jones, Cowboys (Chas Henry)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Brandon Banks)

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
  • Pierre-Paul is a slam-dunk at one of the defensive end spots. He's a nightmare for opposing defenses, and Tampa Bay was clearly focused on his side almost all game. He needs help from his teammates on the other side, who have yet to do anything. For the second week in a row, I went with a 3-4 end along with Pierre-Paul, which was a little bit tougher this week given the way Jason Babin and Trent Cole played Sunday. But I really think Hatcher is bringing something special to the Cowboys' defensive front, and that he showed as much as anyone on the defense this week coming off his huge Week 1. The guy who nearly bumped him out, actually, was another 3-4 end -- Washington's Stephen Bowen, which would have made nine Redskins! Bowen is worthy of consideration. I think Hatcher's played a tick better.
  • And truth be told, it could have been 10 Redskins, as I very nearly gave the second outside linebacker spot to Brian Orakpo over Ware, who was invisible this week. But this is an all-year team, and sadly, Orakpo won't be making it this year, as this turns out to have been his last chance. He's out for the season with a chest muscle injury.
  • Cornerback is a place where Cowboys fans will complain, and I hear you. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have played very well. But I think Wilson and Rodgers-Cromartie, when you go back and watch the tape, are playing at a remarkably high level right now. In last season's cornerback competition on this weekly exercise, Dallas' guys would have been winning easily. This year the competition is tougher.
  • Switched up the safeties. Nate Allen of the Eagles came close to snagging Sensabaugh's spot, especially with Sensabaugh getting hurt. Phillips is the division's best safety and one of the best in the league.
  • I didn't think I'd put Mathis back in at left guard because of the penalties, and Nate Livings is the No. 2 guy on my list here. But what Mathis does in the run game is just ridiculous, and it keeps him at the very top.
  • Almost kept Bennett in at tight end because of the job he's doing as a blocker, but Celek is the third-leading receiver in the division right now, behind the Giants' studs.
  • Trent Williams is making it easy at his spot, as he's always had the ability to do. He's fun to watch.

Okay, that's it from me. Your thoughts?

All-NFC East Team: Week 1 Update

September, 12, 2012

One of the in-season features I really liked last year was our weekly, running All-Division Team, where we'd pick the best player at each starting position in the division and continue to update it as the weeks went along. Over the course of the year, some things changed from week to week (I could never seem to figure out cornerback, mainly because very few NFC East cornerbacks were having good years) and some players solidified their positions with consistent excellence (LeSean McCoy jumps to mind).

Anyway, it's back. We'll do this every Wednesday. And while it is meant to be an All-Star team based on cumulative season performance to date, each team has so far played only one game. So for this week only, yes, this All-Division Team is based only on the performances of the past week. This week's team includes nine Eagles (they did play very well on defense), seven Redskins, five Cowboys, five Giants, one DeMarco, one DeMarcus, one DeMeco and a Dominique.

I'll give you the team and then offer some comments at the end. Enjoy.

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Running back: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

Wide receiver: Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys; Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, New York Giants

Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles

Center: Jason Kelce, Eagles

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys

Defensive tackle: Rocky Bernard, Giants; Fletcher Cox, Eagles

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles; Josh Wilson, Redskins

Safety: Kurt Coleman, Eagles; Antrel Rolle, Giants

Kicker: Billy Cundiff, Redskins

Punter: Chas Henry, Eagles

Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins
  • Quarterback was obviously very close between Griffin and the Cowboys' Tony Romo, who both had excellent games in big road victories. Griffin edged out Romo because of his rushing yards and a little bit of added degree of difficulty for the venue in which he won. Both quarterbacks excelled at keeping plays alive and finding success downfield in difficult circumstances. Each handled the rush well. Could have flipped a coin.
  • Maclin was a close call over Washington's Pierre Garcon for that receiver spot, but Maclin played more and caught more passes, so he got the nod.
  • Bennett might or might not continue to catch passes for the Giants, but regardless of whether he does, he's going to merit a look here each week. That guy can seriously block.
  • Williams' and Kelce's were the only performances among the offensive linemen that I thought were particularly strong. The other three offensive linemen were kind of best-of-a-bad-bunch selections on a week in which none of the lines played very well. The Eagles' linemen do stand out at bit when you watch the games back, though. I wonder how much of that is the difference between Howard Mudd's blocking schemes, which require linemen to push upfield and establish new blocking points, and a more standard scheme. Washington's line played okay, and I thought about Will Montgomery at center over Kelce.
  • Defensive end was tricky. Pierre-Paul didn't get a sack, but he was clearly the most disruptive player among the 4-3 ends this week and required an overload of attention from the Cowboys. Hatcher gets the other spot over Jason Babin, which I admit is rare -- a 3-4 end beating out a 4-3 end on a team like this. But that word "disruptive" again is the best to describe Hatcher's night against the Giants.
  • Ditto Kerrigan at outside linebacker. What a game he had.
  • Rolle played the run very well, which is something the Dallas safeties didn't do in the same game. Now, maybe they weren't asked to. I understand that's possible. But Rolle's individual performance deserves the recognition.
  • Fine debut for Cundiff, who showed on kickoffs why they got him. Six of his nine kickoffs were touchbacks.

So that's the first one of these. I welcome your thoughts.