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July 05, 2017

Preseason All-NFC East team: Offense edition

Eagles NFL

Last week, we rolled out our "NFC East Dumpster Fire" series. This week, we'll take a somewhat more positive look around at the NFC East, as we'll name our "Preseason All-NFC East Team," starting with the offense.

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Redskins

I can already hear you disagreeing with me, but here's a look at Cousins' first two full seasons as a starter in the NFL:

Kirk Cousins Comp-Att (Comp %) Yards (YPA) TD-INT Rating 
 2015379-543 (69.8%) 4166 (7.7) 29-11 101.6 
 2016406-606 (67.0%) 4917 (8.1) 25-12 97.2 
 TOTAL785-1149 (68.3%) 9083 (7.9) 54-23 99.3 

Cousins faces the very significant obstacle of heading into the 2017 season sans a pair of 1000-yards receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. There's also the fact that the combined winning percentage of the teams Cousins has beaten over his career is 0.397. Still, Cousins is heading into his sixth year in the league (his third as the unquestioned starter), and has proven he can play.

I think the popular choice here might be Dak Prescott, who was laughably named the 14th best player in the league by his peers. Prescott was great as a rookie last season under extraordinarily favorable circumstances, but in my view, he still has to show that he can be good over the long haul.

Running back: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Elliott led the NFL in rushing last season, and there's nobody in the NFC East even remotely close to him in ability. There is, however, the question of whether the NFL will impose discipline on him for off-field behavior.

Wide receiver: Odell Beckham Jr., Giants, Alshon Jeffery, Eagles, Dez Bryant, Cowboys

Beckham is arguably a top three receiver in the NFL, much less the NFC East, while Jeffery and Bryant are both very talented players coming off a pair of down years, statistically.

Tight end: Jordan Reed, Redskins

Reed is an extreme health risk, seeing as he is only 27 and has suffered a very alarming six concussions (!) over his football-playing career. Still, when healthy, he is a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, and difference maker for the Redskins' offense.

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins

I believe most people would take the Cowboys' Tyron Smith over Williams. Not me. In addition to being a stud both in pass protection and in the run game, Williams also doesn't commit many penalties. On the 2016 season, Williams committed just three penalties. Here's how that compares with the rest of the NFC East's left tackles:

 Trent Williams, Redskins3 (2 holding, 1 false starts) 
 Tyron Smith, Cowboys7 (5 holding, 2 false starts) 
 Jason Peters, Peters13 (3 holding, 10 false starts) 
 Ereck Flowers, Giants13 (9 holding, 3 false starts, 1 face mask) 

Williams is the best left tackle in the division, not Tyron Smith.

Left guard: Justin Pugh, Giants

Left guard is by far the weakest position along the OL in the NFC East. We'll give Pugh the nod here, I guess, although he would move to the bench in real life in favor of right guards Brandon Brooks (Eagles) and Brandon Scherff (Redskins) if we were forming an actual team.

Center: Travis Frederick, Cowboys

Travis Frederick and I have history. During the 2014 offseason, he read one of my "mean tweets" about him in a segment the Cowboys borrowed from Jimmy Kimmel. 

After that aired, I actually went back to look at the play in question, which occurred during a 2013 game, and determined that it was the Cowboys' left guard who got beaten badly on the play, not Frederick. Realizing my error, I issued a formal apology to him.

Anyway, he's the best center in the NFC East.

Right guard: Zack Martin, Cowboys

As noted above, right guards Brandon Scherff and Brandon Brooks are also very good players, but Martin might be the best guard in the NFL.

Right tackle: Lane Johnson, Eagles

Any Eagles observer can tell you how much better the offense looked when Johnson was playing last season, and when he wasn't. I really don't think that was much of a coincidence. As long as he can learn how to read supplement labels, Johnson is the best RT in the game.

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