Wednesday, November 2, 2011
NFC East All-Division Team: Week 9 update
By Dan Graziano
Time once again for our weekly exercise in position-specific agitation: The NFC East All-Division Team.
First, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall 2011 performance to date. It is not, I repeat, not based solely on performance in the most recent games. And that, to answer your question, is why Brent Celek is not on it.
Who is on it are the usual suspects at quarterback and running back, as Eli Manning and LeSean McCoy easily held their spots with brilliant Week 8 performances. I made a change at wide receiver, moving Jeremy Maclin back in for Dez Bryant after Bryant's disappearing act against Maclin's Eagles. And I switched up at a couple of spots on defense and on the offensive line.
This week's team features eight Giants, seven Cowboys, six Eagles and six Redskins, and here it is:
Quarterback: Eli Manning, Giants (Last week: Manning)
Running back: LeSean McCoy, Eagles (McCoy)
Wide receivers: Hakeem Nicks, Giants; Jeremy Maclin, Eagles (Nicks, Dez Bryant)
Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)
Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins (Young)
Left tackle: Jason Peters, Eagles (William Beatty)
Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)
Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)
Right guard: Danny Watkins, Eagles (Chris Snee)
Right tackle: Tyron Smith, Cowboys (Smith)
Defensive end: Trent Cole, Eagles; Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants (Cole, Pierre-Paul)
Defensive tackle: Jay Ratliff, Cowboys; Rocky Bernard, Giants (Ratliff, Bernard)
Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Mathias Kiwanuka, Giants (Ware, Brian Orakpo)
Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; London Fletcher, Redskins (Lee, Fletcher)
Cornerback: Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Giants (Webster, Mike Jenkins)
Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; Abram Elam, Cowboys (Phillips, LaRon Landry)
Kicker: Dan Bailey, Cowboys (Bailey)
Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)
Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Devin Thomas)
Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
OK, first, on the offensive line: Watching Peters play left tackle Sunday night made you realize how important he is to what the Eagles do, especially as a run-blocking line, and how much they missed him when he was injured. Giving him his spot back over Beatty was a no-brainer. Peters is far and away the best left tackle in this division. Yes, I know Montgomery is playing left guard now for the Redskins, but he played center for their first five games and no other center in the division has a seven-game body of work that's more impressive than what Montgomery did in his five. And at right guard ... Snee is the most accomplished guard in the division, to be sure, but like the rest of the Giants' line he is not having a great year. Missing a game with a concussion didn't cost him his spot, but returning this week and playing a poor game did, especially with the rookie Watkins looking very good in Philadelphia. And yeah, the line could have been even more Eagles-heavy, as I took a long look at moving Todd Herremans into that right tackle spot over Smith, who hasn't been as awesome in the last three games as he was in his first four.
Tight end was a tough call for the first time. Fred Davis' numbers match up very well with Witten's, and if the Dallas passing game continues to struggle and Davis gets healthy and has another big game, you could see a change there soon. That was one of those spots that looked as though it might be unchallenged all year, but Davis is making it interesting.
People keep saying Jason Babin over Cole at defensive end, but they're just not comparable players. Babin is a sack artist, and a brilliant one, but that's literally all he is. He'd even admit to that, and credit Jim Washburn for identifying it last year in Tennessee and allowing him to focus on nothing else. Cole's return from injury made that line whole and flexible, and the way they played Sunday night showed you they'd been missing him as the offensive line had been missing Peters.
As I wrote last week, I've really been thinking for a while about putting one of the Giants' 4-3 outside linebackers on this team, even though the 3-4 outside linebackers in Washington had such a great start to the season. This week seemed like the week to do it. Kiwanuka's performance this year has been remarkable, considering he was asked to switch positions for the good of a team that was weak at linebacker. He and Michael Boley have both played very well, but I really think what Kiwanuka does has earned him the spot over Orakpo to this point.
Both Giants corners appear again this week after going back to the Mike Jenkins well last week. Thought about Terence Newman, who's played well since his return, but when I watch the Giants I really like what Ross is doing, and Webster had another big week against a No. 1 wideout, this time the Dolphins' Brandon Marshall.
Oh, and I made a change at safety, moving Landry out after a poor game and giving his spot to Elam. Might not have felt like the right week to elevate someone on the Cowboys' defense, but this is a year-to-date team, after all. The Cowboys' defense had been extremely good up until Sunday, and Elam deserves credit for his contribution as its leader in the secondary.
So that's it. What'd I mess up?