Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Your 2011 NFC East All-Division Team
By Dan Graziano
We have come to the end. I thought the idea of a weekly running All-NFC East Team would be a fun exercise for this blog, and I believe I was correct. I have had fun with it, at least. And I'd like to offer my personal thanks to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning for helping make it even more fun. Nothing gets the blood boiling around here like a good Romo-Eli debate, and the fact that they both had fantastic seasons and spent the year switching in and out of the All-Division quarterback spot added some juice to this weekly feature.
Who was the better quarterback for the NFC East in 2011? Tony Romo or Eli Manning?
But this is the final edition of the All-NFC East Team for this year, and there's only one spot for quarterback. The weekly disclaimer that no one ever reads is that this is a team based on overall performance for the whole year, not just the most recent week. So both Romo and Manning remain strong candidates. Romo has the better completion percentage, passer rating and Total QBR, all by pretty wide margins. He threw 31 touchdown passes to Manning's 29, 10 interceptions to Manning's 16. And while he was directly responsible for a couple of early losses that put the Cowboys in a hole, Romo played through broken ribs for a stretch and was brilliant through the second half of the season and in no way responsible for the 1-4 finish that did them in.
Manning had more yards -- 4,933 to Romo's 4,184 -- and took fewer sacks but can't claim this spot based on numbers. Manning's case rests on his five fourth-quarter comebacks, his 2-0 record in games against Romo's team and the fact of the Giants' division title by virtue of winning nine games while Romo won eight. Wins are an important stat for a quarterback. Some argue that they're the most important stat. Some argue that they're the only important stat. And the thing Manning did better than Romo in 2011 was win games.
And so, in an extremely close vote intended in no way to reflect even a little bit poorly on the loser, I have decided to give the 2011 All-Division quarterback spot to the guy who's still playing this week.
Quarterback: Eli Manning, Giants. I think if you asked both men, they'd agree Eli's year was better than Romo's.
Running back: LeSean McCoy. A wire-to-wire winner who never was challenged. Brilliant season lost in the Eagles' team flop.
Wide receiver:Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. The only two receivers in the division to crack 1,000 yards. Cruz finished third in the league with 1,536.
Tight end:Jason Witten, Cowboys. Seemed to get forgotten at times, but still caught 79 passes for 942 yards and five touchdowns.
Left tackle: Jason Peters, Eagles. Best left tackle in the league this year. Brilliant season lost in the Eagles' team flop.
Left guard:Evan Mathis, Eagles. Unheralded free-agent signing was key to the Philadelphia run game.
Center:Will Montgomery, Redskins. Kept playing well as the rest of the line crumbled around him.
Right guard: Kyle Kosier, Cowboys. Injuries hampered him, but he deserves some credit for this next line.
Right tackle:Tyron Smith, Cowboys. One of the best rookie performances in the NFL. Expect him to be left tackle next year.
Defensive end:Trent Cole, Eagles; Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants. I know how many sacks Jason Babin had, and no, I have nothing against him. Cole just played better. And Pierre-Paul carried the New York defense in stretches.
Defensive tackle:Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Jay Ratliff, Cowboys. Jenkins was one of the few real leaders in that locker room. Ratliff is Mr. Consistent.
Inside linebacker: London Fletcher, Redskins; Sean Lee, Cowboys. An old war horse who's still the best at what he does, and a youngster who's burst onto the scene.
Cornerback:Asante Samuel, Eagles; Corey Webster, Giants. For all of the grief he takes, Samuel had a very good year in coverage. Webster handled some of the league's toughest wide receivers one-on-one.
Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; O.J. Atogwe, Redskins. Injuries limited Atogwe, but he played well enough when in there to earn the spot over the Cowboys' disappointing guys. Phillips has emerged as one of the best in the game.
Kicker:Dan Bailey, Cowboys. He had a tough finish, as did the team, but he was one of the best in the league for most of the year.
Punter:Sav Rocca, Redskins. Real tough call here between him and the Giants' Steve Weatherford. Rocca had just one touchback all year. That's precision.
Kick returner:Brandon Banks, Redskins. Not one guy in this division ran a kick back for a touchdown all year.
Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins. Not one guy in this division ran a punt back for a touchdown all year.
So that's it. Thanks for following the All-Division Team this year. One final time: What did I get wrong?