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NFC East: Highs And Lows From An Unpredictable Division

Posted Jan 3, 2014


One NFC East team is still playing, but for the purposes of this blog, I’m winding the season to a close.

As usual, we’ve got plenty of Cowboys-centric material to focus on elsewhere on the site. So I thought I’d break down the season that was in the division. It was a forgettable year for just about everyone but the Eagles, but there were still plenty of memorable moments, plays and players.

So here’s a few arbitrary awards, decided solely by me.

MVP: Nick Foles, QB PHI.

It’s interesting, because LeSean McCoy just won the NFL rushing title on the Eagles’ way to winning the NFC East. But there’s no way to deny the impact Foles had once he was inserted as the starter in Philadelphia. McCoy was averaging 102 yards per game when Michael Vick was the quarterback, and yet the Eagles still struggled to a 2-3 record.

Enter Foles, and Philadelphia went 8-3 over its last 11 games. He completed 64 percent of his passes, and he averaged 258 yards per game. Most amazingly, as has been well documented, he threw 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. So, he threw roughly 13 touchdowns for every pick.

Not bad.

 

Most Fun to Watch: LeSean McCoy, RB PHI/Dez Bryant, WR DAL.

I have a tough time giving the nod to one over the other, so I’m just taking both.

McCoy won the rushing title, as I mentioned. He was second in the league, only to Washington tailback Alfred Morris, with nine plays of 20 or more yards. He has that lighting in a bottle quality to his play, meaning you can’t ever predict when he’s going to the end zone.

How’s this for a stat? The top four players in average yards per carry this season carried the ball 217 times or less – the leader, Andre Ellington, had 118 touches. McCoy took 314 carries and was fifth in the league with 5.1 yards per attempt.

What can I say about Dez that you all don’t already know? He was in the center of a few controversies, and he disappeared a few times. He dropped a few balls.

That’s countered pretty heavily, however, by 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was only held out of the end zone by six of 16 opponents, and he made circus catches in roughly 11 games – by my very unscientific calculations.

 

Best Rookie: Travis Frederick, C DAL

I think the Eagles might actually have had a better draft than the Cowboys, if we’re being honest.

Philadelphia added a rookie starter who was shaky but serviceable in offensive tackle Lane Johnson. Their second round pick, tight end Zach Ertz, had 469 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Third-rounder Bennie Logan played in all 16 games and notched 27 tackles and two sacks. Fifth-round pick Earl Wolff played in 11 games and managed 45 tackles with one pick.

Anyway, despite all of that, I’m taking Frederick. For all the hoopla that surrounded the Cowboys’ trade to the 31st pick, Frederick stepped into the starting lineup and excelled. That’s not to say he was deserving of a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie, but the Wisconsin product improved from the get-go, and I think you can see some of that in DeMarco Murray’s steady improvement of the second half of the season. 

In making the trade with San Francisco, the Cowboys added two reliable starters in Frederick and Terrance Williams. Again, not too bad.

 

Biggest Disappointment: Eli Manning, QB NYG.

Robert Griffin III probably has a case for this, but how do you pick against the flop of a season put up by the two-time Super Bowl MVP?

Manning’s 27 interceptions on the season were more than the other starting quarterbacks in the division – Tony Romo, Foles and Griffin – combined. The other three combined to throw 22 picks on the year.

A lot of that can be attributed to the Giants’ horrendous offensive line, which “paved the way” for the league’s No. 29 ground game and allowed 40 sacks. 

That’s not much of an excuse for a guy with Manning’s resume, though. His completion percentage of 57.5 percent is the worst since his second season. His quarterback rating of 69.4 is the worst of his career since he became the Giants’ starter.

It’s not the type of statline you expect from your franchise quarterback, regardless of the circumstances around him.

 

Unsung Hero: Jon Beason, LB NYG

This isn’t all that important, given the Giant’s lackluster finish, but I felt like shouting out a monstrous resurgence by Jon Beason.

Beason was a franchise-type linebacker in Carolina before injuries and declining play dropped him off the face of the map. The emergence of Luke Kuechly as one of the league’s best linebacker probably hastened that, and the Panthers traded Beason to New York in Week 4 – he had 11 tackles at the time.

Beason finished the season with 104 tackles – 93 of which came during his 12 weeks with New York. He drastically improved an awful Giants linebacking corps, and helped New York finish eighth overall in total defense.

 

Surprising Statline: Pierre Garcon, WR WAS

DeSean Jackson gets the big-play credit in Philadelphia, and we’ve documented Bryant’s monstrous season for the Cowboys. Victor Cruz, who signed a lucrative deal before the season, finished with a modest total for New York.

Raise your hand if you had Pierre Garcon besting all of the prior-named superstars in receptions and yards this season. As the only reliable threat in the Washington passing game, Garcon led the league in receptions with 113 – 20 more than Bryant and a whopping 31 more than Jackson.

He also led the division in receiving yards with 1,346 on the season. Of course, you could argue that his touchdown tally of just five was nearly doubled by Jackson’s nine, and it was nearly tripled by Bryant’s 13. But Garcon’s reliability was crucial to the Redskins’ offense, which didn’t see another receiver go over 500 yards on the season.

Garcon’s total on the year is double what he produced last season – his first with Washington. It’s also 400 yards better than his best season in Indianapolis. 

The Redskins probably need another playmaker or two to bolster their passing game, but Garcon’s production definitely came as an unlooked-for positive in a disappointing season.

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