The NFC East All-Division Team debuted last week, but no one had played any real games yet. So the rankings were based on career accomplishments, preseason evaluations and a variety of the kinds of things that just don't mean as much as on-field performance in compiling lists like this one.
Now, with one regular-season week in the books, we do it again. And I struggled a little bit with how to handle this week's rankings. Initially, I thought it should be like a college football or basketball pool, in which we'd work off of the initial rankings, moving people up and down based on performance. But I had an epiphany and decided that the only fair way to do this would be to base it on actual 2011 game performance, which basically means last week's team is irrelevant and this week's will be based entirely on the way these guys played Sunday.
That means Justin Tuck, the best defensive end in the division, isn't on this week's All-Division Team, because he didn't play Sunday. If he comes back from his neck injury and tears it up the way he always does, he'll surely reclaim one of those two defensive end spots. But he can't have it this week because those spots are being awarded based solely on 2011 performance, and so far he doesn't have any.
Now, that said, here's current NFC East All-Division Team. Last week's team is listed, position-by-position, in parentheses, and I'll offer some explanations below:
Quarterback: Michael Vick, Eagles (Last week: Vick)
Running back: LeSean McCoy, Eagles (McCoy)
Wide receiver: Hakeem Nicks, Giants; DeSean Jackson, Eagles (Nicks, Jackson)
Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)
Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins (Mike Sellers)
Left tackle: Doug Free, Cowboys (Jason Peters)
Left guard: Kory Lichtensteiger, Redskins (David Diehl)
Center: Jason Kelce, Eagles (Kevin Baas)
Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)
Right tackle: Kareem McKenzie, Giants (McKenzie)
Defensive end: Trent Cole, Eagles; Jason Babin, Eagles (Justin Tuck, Cole)
Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Jay Ratliff)
Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys, Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins (Ware, Brian Orakpo)
Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; Greg Jones, Giants (London Fletcher, Bradie James)
Cornerback: Asante Samuel, Eagles; Mike Jenkins, Cowboys (Nnamdi Asomugha, Samuel)
Safety: Jarrad Page, Eagles; Kenny Phillips, Giants (Antrel Rolle, O.J. Atogwe)
Kicker: Alex Henery, Eagles (Lawrence Tynes)
Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Steve Weatherford)
Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Dez Bryant)
Okay, on quarterback, yes, Rex Grossman's passing numbers were better than Vick's. But Vick won the game with a couple of big throws and with his legs, and it's impossible to overlook the overall package here. I honestly wrestled with this (and truthfully, Tony Romo looked like the winner until... well, you know), but I gave it to Vick by a hair for the same reason I ranked him No. 1 in the division before the season began -- because he can and does make winning plays other quarterbacks can't. This doesn't mean he's got the spot for the year, but his overall game Sunday gave him the edge, for me, over Grossman even though Grossman was the better passer Sunday.
One of the things that really upset people last week was the selection of Weatherford over Mat McBriar at punter. While I love that people get so excited over punter, I don't think you guys really understand how good Weatherford is. As for this week, which is what this vote was about, the two were very close across the board. I thought it was more or less a tie between the two of them. And because of that, I would the spot to the guy who didn't have one blocked. But Rocca, with four punts inside the 20 and two fair catches, was better than both of them, even if he was a couple of yards per punt behind them.
Offensive line thoughts: I still think Peters is a monster, and that he played very well Sunday. I just think Free played an exceptional game, especially in pass protection... Truly remarkable was Kelce's performance, especially in light of the fact that the Eagles' first-round pick, Danny Watkins, struggled so much with the offensive line schemes that he was inactive for the first game. Kelce, the sixth-rounder, started at center and excelled, especially in the run game.
Strong honorable mention for Washington's Fred Davis at tight end, yes. No idea how the Giants kept letting him get that open.
Kerrigan snags an outside linebacker spot basically by virtue of the one play, but (a) it was an incredible play -- tipping the pass, intercepting the pass and running it back in for the touchdown and (b) I thought he looked better in coverage than he had in the preseason. If he's effective there and as good at rushing the passer as he clearly is on raw talent alone, my Rookie of the Year pick is looking good.
Banks gets both return spots because he's really the only one who returned anything. I do think DeSean Jackson is better at punts, yes, but since we're basing this on Sunday's games only, Jackson offered us nothing on which to grade him. There really wasn't much on which to base kicker either. Henery made his only chance. Some of these will obviously be helped by further results and evaluation.
Hit me up with questions, which I'm happy to take, and criticisms, which I know you're happy to offer!