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May 11, 2023

Preseason All-NFC East team: Defense edition

At this point in the offseason, NFL rosters are pretty much set, at least in terms of players expected to make any kind of reasonable impact. And so, let's take a look at the NFC East, and determine who has the best players at each position. Yesterday we started with the offense. Today we'll look at the defense.

Edge defenders: Haason Reddick, EaglesJosh Sweat, Eagles

Sweat's numbers have improved every year he has been in the NFL:

 Josh SweatTackles Sacks QB hits 
2019 21 10 
2020 38 12 
2021 45 7.5 13 
2022 48 11 23 

He edges out the Commanders' Montez Sweat for first-team honors, as well as Chase Young, whose career has been stalled by injuries. The Giants have a couple of talented young edge rushers in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari, but they're not there yet. The Cowboys' Demarcus Lawrence is a PFF fave, but he has had Derek Barnett-like sack production the last four seasons.

If you include the playoffs, Reddick was the best defensive player in the NFL last season.

Interior defensive line: Dexter Lawrence, GiantsJonathan Allen, Commanders

I probably would have still had Lawrence and Allen as my first-teamers even if Javon Hargrave hadn't left for San Francisco. With Hargrave gone, choosing these two beasts was that much easier.

I struggled a little trying to choose between the Eagles' Fletcher Cox and the Giants' Leonard Williams for second-team honors (at the bottom of the article), but ultimately Williams only had 2.5 sacks while playing next to a guy in Lawrence who commands a ton of extra attention.

Off-ball linebacker: Micah Parsons, Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys

I could have just as easily included Parsons among the edge rushers, but since the NFC East's linebackers aren't exactly awesome, let's put him here. Obviously, he is an elite, versatile player.

Again, I struggled with who to place on the second team. T.J. Edwards might have made the first team here if he hadn't departed for Chicago. The Giants signed Bobby Okereke to a four-year deal worth $40 million this offseason, which as probably an overpay, but he's still a decent enough starting linebacker. Thereafter, it was tough. I gave the nod to Commanders 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis, who improved substantially in 2022 after a bad rookie season and could be in for a quality Year 3. 

Cornerback: James Bradberry, EaglesTrevon Diggs, Cowboys, Darius Slay, Eagles

In our offensive edition, we did not include DeVonta Smith among the first-team wide receivers. There were four who were worthy of a spot, but someone had to be left out. That was DeVonta. There's a similar situation here with Bradberry, Diggs, Slay, and Stephon Gilmore, who the Cowboys traded for this offseason. Gilmore has been playing in relative anonymity the last two seasons on a couple of bad teams (Panthers in 2021, Colts in 2022), but he is still a top-level NFL cornerback at the age of 32 (he'll be 33 in September). 

Safety: Donovan Wilson, Cowboys, Kamren Curl, Commanders

There are no star safeties in the NFC East, but Wilson and Curl are a pair of underrated, good players.

Second-team All-NFC East

Edge defenders: Montez Sweat, Commanders, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Giants

Interior defensive line: DaRon Payne, Commanders, Fletcher Cox, Eagles

Linebacker: Bobby Okereke, Giants, Jamin Davis, Commanders

Cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, Cowboys, Adoree Jackson, Giants, Avonte Maddox, Eagles

Safety: Jayron Kearse Cowboys, Xavier McKinney, Giants

Defensive totals

We'll give two points for first-team nods, one point for second-team. Good? Good. I mean, who cares?

Team First-team Second-team Total 
Cowboys 10 
Eagles 10 

Overall (offense + defense) totals

Team Offense Defense Total 
Eagles 14 10 24 
Cowboys 10 18 
Giants 13 
Commanders 11 

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