Top-Ten Offensive Players in the NFC East
Courtesy of Jonathan Newton / Washington Post
As division opponents to some of the most obnoxious fans in football, arguing and debating why I believe the Redskins have somehow found their saving grace is an endless battle. Not only will the opposition bash Robert Griffin III and the new regime in Washington, but the Redskins haven’t necessarily given their fans any fire-power over the last 20 years to combat with the likes of the Cowboys, Eagles or reigning Super Bowl Champion Giants.
Instead of ranting and raving about how I think Robert Griffin III will eventually become one of the best and most electrifying players in the league (because he will), I thought it’d be a better idea to take it to the top-ten list. To rank the top-ten offensive players in the NFC East division, right now.
Sadly, the Redskins were the only team to have just one player make the cut. But no one should get used to that. Robert Griffin III is on his way!
Honorable Mention(s) — DeSean Jackson, Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Robert Griffin III…and maybe Fred Davis
10.) Michael Vick ( QB / PHI ) – Bring on the dog jokes! Even as a guy who doesn’t root for Michael Vick — and as a guy that thinks he’s way overpaid — I avoid ignorance by including Philadelphia’s quarterback on this list. Although Vick doesn’t rank anywhere near the names of Brady, Brees or Rodgers, he’s electric when he finds his groove. And when compared to an unproven rookie and Tony Choke-mo, there tends to be a decent argument for Vick as the best quarterback in the division behind Eli Manning.
9.) Evan Mathis ( G / PHI ) – Despite not having been in the division very long, Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis is one of the best guards in the NFL. Last season, many analysts considered Mathis to be the best guard in the league. After losing left tackle Jason Peters this summer to a ruptured Achilles tendon, it will be interesting to see if Mathis continues to dominate the way he did in 2011.
8.) Trent Williams ( T / WAS ) — Some will call me bias and crazy for this selection, but I beg those people to watch the latter part of Trent Williams’ game tape from last season. He not only has ideal size for the position, but also the athleticism and speed to strive in Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. And while the pressure continues to build on Williams as a No. 4-overall pick coming into his third season, I’d be willing to bet that the Silverback puts a lot of those whispers to rest this year. The only thing going against Williams and standing in the way of potential Pro Bowl-caliber success is himself. Williams was suspended at the end of last season for failing league drug tests, so his maturity remains a concern.
7.) Dez Bryant ( WR / DAL ) – In terms of on-the-field talent, Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in the division and one of the fastest-rising talents in the NFL. Off the field, however, is a completely different issue. Although Bryant’s latest run-in with the law last week led to his first arrest since being employed by the Cowboys, his record isn’t exactly squeaky clean. When/if Bryant can get his head on straight, he has the potential to be a top-ten receiver in the NFL. Gifted with everything from size, to speed, to physicality, to route-running, Bryant simply has it all. Fortunately for Redskins, Giants and Eagles fans, it appears as if Bryant’s off-field follies will eventually lead to his oust in Dallas before he reaches his peak.
6.) Victor Cruz ( WR / NYG ) – Entering just his third season in the NFL after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Giants, Victor Cruz is arguably the best receiver on this list. In just his second season as a pro (and first season when given a key role in the offense), Cruz hauled in 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns while toting a ridiculous 18.7 YPC average. Although it may be hard to comprehend a talent like Cruz after just one season, he has all the makings of an elite wide receiver in the NFL. He’s undoubtedly one of the top-two in the NFC East.
5.) Hakeem Nicks ( WR / NYG ) – With he and Victor Cruz on the same team, Hakeem Nicks and the New York Giants have one of the top-WR duos in the country. Nicks is a powerful and compact receiver that can perform as a possession guy just as well as he can a playmaker. He has great hands, deceitful speed and he’s a superb route-runner. As Nicks enters his fourth professional season, his only downfall is that he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule. If Nicks can stay healthy for an entire season, we can all expect even more production.
4.) LeSean McCoy ( RB / PHI ) – Flirting with becoming this decade’s Marshall Faulk, Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy proves just how dangerous dual-threat running backs can be. After finishing last season with 1,309 rushing yards and 315 receiving yards, McCoy also chipped in with 20 touchdowns (17 on the ground). As a coach — whether you lean pass or run — you’re forced to alter your scheme just so that McCoy touches the ball as much as possible. And when you’re an opposing coach or coordinator, you’re forced to alter your defensive scheme in hopes of containing him. As one of the best backs in the entire league, McCoy is miles ahead of any other running back in the division.
3.) Jason Witten ( TE / DAL ) – Not only one of the best tight ends in the league, but also one of the most reliable players in the league. Witten possesses all the skills you want in an NFL tight end. He’s fast off the line, he’s quickly engaged in blocking assignments, he’s physical with the opposition on every play and he has some of the best hands at the position. And perhaps the most deceiving part to Witten’s game is his ability to run after the catch — demonstrating some pretty impressive wheels for a guy that’s 6’6, 260 pounds. Witten is a top-five tight end in the NFL.
2.) Jason Peters ( T / PHI ) – If you’re not familiar with Jason Peters’ journey to the NFL, I highly recommend it. He was recruited out of high school as a defensive tackle and ultimately spent his freshman season at Arkansas as a reserve. In his sophomore season, Peters was switched to play tight end. At 6’4, 320 pounds, Peters was an obvious load on the line that performed well as a blocking tight end, while also hauling in around 60 passes between his sophomore and junior seasons. Peters then entered the draft as that haus tight end, but practiced offensive line drills in preparation. Some projected Peters as a fourth-rounder. He eventually went undrafted. Peters spent time in Buffalo — being cut and then re-signed to the practice squad before winning the job at right tackle. Line shuffling by the Bills eventually landed Peters as the starting left tackle. After petty contract disputes and holdouts, the Eagles eventually traded for Peters. Eagles head coach Andy Reid isn’t the only man in Peters’ corner, calling him one of the top tackles in the league. He still possesses that gift of athleticism, even at 360 pounds, and he has elite technique. Back in March, Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon and then re-ruptured it just two months later. Although physically unable to perform at this point, Peters is a top left tackle in the NFL when healthy and the very best in the NFC East.
1.) Eli Manning ( QB / NYG ) – As much as it pains me to say it, there’s not much denying that Eli Manning is the best offensive player in the NFC East. Playing for the Giants makes him an easy target for me, as I take pride in bashing him week in and week out. But after a while, I begin to realize that me being a hater can only go so far. At the end of the day, the guy has two Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVPs and two Pro Bowls. Although Manning’s career quarterback rating of 82.1 is only a hair better than Vick’s 80.9, and miles behind Tony Romo’s 96.9, the Giants quarterback has all the desired intangibles at the position. Aside from that masterful pass in last year’s Super Bowl victory, people seem to forget that Eli holds the record for most fourth-quarter touchdowns in a season with 15. Some seem to forget that his five road wins in a single postseason as a quarterback is an NFL record. He has tied the NFL record for most game-winning drives in a single season with eight. He holds the NFL record for most passing yards in a single postseason with 1,219. Eli Manning is a damn winner. And with quarterback being the most important position in football, Eli Manning is certainly the best offensive player in the NFC East.