The NFC East: A division loaded with great history and numerous Super Bowls. Big cities that love to hate each other: New York, Philly. Great rivalries, steeped in Americana: Cowboys, Redskins. It’s where the big boys play. And, if you aren’t interested in the bright lights—or, if you can’t shine when those lights are illuminating you—well, then best go play ball elsewhere, son.
The players on the list you are about to read, revel in that bright light.
Top 10 lists will always be subjective. In my subjective opinion, stepping up in big moments counts – a lot. Consistency counts - a lot. I don’t care what you’ve got going on outside of football, but the locker room counts as well. You cannot be a complete and total knucklehead and be on a top player list. Sorry DeSean Jackson. No chance.
This is not a fantasy list. This is not a hype list. This is a list of the top 10 players, that when push comes to shove, are the true difference-makers in a division loaded with talent.
These are the guys that win football games.
– D-Ware = the man that made the “tweener” sexy. Ware is simply a beast. Nearly un-block-able, his ability to influence the game on the defensive side of the ball is second to none right now. His numbers are fantastic, with eye-popping sack totals since entering the league in 2005. But, to really understand Ware’s dominance, put on a Cowboys game and look how much attention the opposition places on him. Then contemplate about how much of the previous week’s practice was spent on just coming up with ways to control #94.
Before moving on, lets look at Ware’s 2008 season stats, one of the truly greatest seasons ever by a linebacker: 69 tackles, 15 assts, 27 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, 6 forced fumbles.
Take a minute and look at those last three numbers – on 53 plays
Ware either forced his opposition to either move backwards or give up the ball entirely. That, my football-loving friends, is pure dominance.
2. Eli Manning
– Eli Manning has been picked apart, exposed and analyzed ad nauseam. Never has a player this non-controversial been so polarizing. To this day, I know die hard Giants fans
that think he’s over-hyped. Personally, I think the world is just over-Manning-family exposed and Eli is catching the backlash.
Riddle me this Batman: If I described to you a QB who was an ultimate team guy, made everyone around him better, played his best in the biggest games, had an other-worldly “clutch” gene in big moments, had statistical success and was a two-time Super Bowl MVP half way through is career, what would you say? You would say that guy must be one of the best players of his generation. That indeed is what he is. Don’t believe me? Just ask Tom Brady. Twice.
3. Jason Pierre-Paul
– You down with JPP? Well, you better be as by next year he may well have firmly planted himself atop this list and stay there for the next decade. The hyper-athletic DE owns a non-stop motor and is just barely scratching the surface of his immense talent. Just ask teammate (and #6 on this list) Justin Tuck,
who said: "A man that big should not be allowed to do that. He's truly a freak. The sky is the limit for him and I know we use that cliché a lot, but it's really true with him because of his work ethic."
Three numbers to consider: 23, 12, 21. Those are his age, games started and his sack total, respectively. Scary.
4. LeSean McCoy –
Just about everything went wrong for the Eagles offense last year. However, amongst the heap of dashed hopes of the “Dream Team” (thank you Vince Young, thank you!) there was one spectacular silver lining. LeSean “Shady” McCoy exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations. He raised his game and made “the leap” from solid NFL RB to elite offensive weapon. Shady is the real deal. He has blazing speed and shiftiness combined with a fantastic work ethic, focus and a humble approach to the game, which come together to create a nightmare for defenses to contain. On a team with a lot of stars, it’s McCoy’s play that shines brightest.
5. Jason Peters
– I was torn with Peters as he is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. But, the dominant Tackle is the best O-Lineman in a division. If not for the injury, I’d have him at least one slot higher on the list. His combination of strength, size and speed are truly rare. Eagles fans know how much he means—as if they needed more reasons to worry about Michael Vick staying upright.
6. Justin Tuck
– There are so many Justin Tuck highlights in big games, that it feels like he must be at the tail end of an accomplished career. However, at just 29, he is still well in his prime. A player who plays big in the biggest games, if Tuck retired tomorrow he would be a Giants’ great for his contributions in the two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots. Unfortunately for NFC East QBs, Tuck has miles to go before he sleeps.
7. Trent Cole –
The third defensive player from the 2005 draft class (Ware, Tuck) to make the list. Drafted in the 5th
round, Cole has given the Eagles all they could have asked for. He has shown consistent improvement over his career, earning him multiple pro-bowl selections. While posting impressive sack numbers, he is also stout against the run, providing Philly with a versatile and dependable DE in those NFC East trench wars.
8. Michael Vick
– Michael Vick is one of the hardest guys to rank on this list. His upside places him right at the top. But, the inconsistency, injuries, baggage are too great to be ignored. Vick’s eye-popping talents changed the League as we know it. And, while these talents may no longer be singular in the NFL, he can still sling it and run with the best of them. His decision-making, while far from perfect, has greatly improved since his early years with the Falcons. Durability and leadership will always be a concern, but his arm and legs can still make elite defenses look silly.
– Yes, still. If you haven’t watched NFC East games the last few seasons you might have forgotten about him with all the Redskins woes. But, this 14-year veteran just keeps cranking out excellent seasons. In fact, one could argue that he has saved the best for last. Fletcher has been an eleven-time Pro Bowl alternate, but didn’t make the team until 2009. He made it again in 2010 and 2011, leading the league in total tackles in ’11.
- There will be arguments made for Victor Cruz
here, and I understand them. Cruz is a dynamic player, but much of the success he was allowed to have was because of all the focus defenses placed on stopping Nicks. When comparing the two elite Giant WR’s consider their 2011 Super Bowl run: Cruz posted 21 receptions for 269 yards and 1 TD, Nicks had 28/444/4. The powerful Nicks has amazing hands, great “feel” and toughness. He has the ability to be a top 5 WR in the entire league, but he will have to show he can shed his injury-prone label.
Just missed –
Jason Witten, Jason Babin, Victor Cruz, Tony Romo, Chris Snee, Miles Austin
Should be on 2013 list –
Dez Bryant, RGIII, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Maclin
That’s my list, what’s yours? Please leave your comments below, or as always you can hit me up on Twitter @TheDannyFreshwith any questions or comments.