- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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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)
Fullback: Darrel Young, Washington Redskins (Young)
Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)
Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)
Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)
Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)
Kicker: Billy Cundiff, Redskins (Cundiff)
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?