As part of its NFL preview, ESPN the Magazine asked "football scientist" KC Joyner to offer his "V-factor" players for each NFL team. Now, this ties into the NFC East at a conceptual level, first of all, because the term "V-factor" is named after Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, a player for whom it's impossible for other teams to plan for because of his unique skills. But he also picked a V-factor player for each NFC East team (and picked one other than Vick for the Eagles), so I'll let you know which they are, with KC's analysis included:
Jason Garrett is a master at disguising his plays. But he needs the right personnel to sell his subterfuge. Witten, coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, fits the part to a T. He can be used flexed out or in tight. The seven-time Pro Bowler even lines up as a wingback or RB on occasion.
The third-year receiver is eerily reminiscent of the retired Torry Holt. At the snap, he always lines up the same, whether it's a 40-yard go or a nine-yard hook. That ability to disguise routes drives corners mad -- they can't get a read on him. No wonder he burned them for more than 1,000 yards and 11 scores last season.
Obviously, our V-Factor namesake is the most difficult player to scheme against. But Maclin is nearly as tough. He is the team's best receiverat selling one route and then running another. After two seasons and 14 TDs, he has a bagful of stop-and-go tricks to keep corners' heads spinning.
Chris Cooley has a higher profile, but Davis causes more trouble for defenses. His go-to move: fake a block on a bootleg, sneak down the line and then shoot upfield (catches of 62 and 71 yards last season). It's a play that keeps opponents from clamping down on the slant run or bootleg pass.
I especially like the Nicks analysis, because it touches on what I consider to be the most important aspect of Nicks -- his skills as a technician. He's a relentless studier of film who obsesses over the details of his craft, and it shows on the field, where he consistently creates separation between defenders and recognizes the ball first in a crowd.
I also found the David one interesting, since I've long thought Davis was a guy who looked great to scouts but not as great to fans because his production hasn't seemed to match his physical abilities. I'm sure Davis could be a factor in the passing game for Washington in a number of ways. But I think they need him too much as a blocker to allow him to really show everything he can do.