Last season, three of the four teams in the NFC East were top ten in total offensive yardage and two, Philly and Dallas, were top five in points scored per game. Even Washington, in all of their dysfunction, were able to field an offense that was in the top half of the league in offensive output. Needless to say, the NFC East has some of the best offensive firepower in the league. The division is loaded with talented offensive linemen, stud receivers, versatile tight ends and a few game breaking running backs. Among all of the offensive players, who ranks among the best in the division?
Quarterback: Tony Romo
Love him or hate him, Romo is one of the best and most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL. His choker moniker is way overblown, if not completely ridiculous, and when finally assisted by the rest of his team, Romo turned in a damn near MVP level season in 2014. He is the most efficient quarterback in the NFL not named Aaron Rodgers and, in 2014, was one of the leagues most prolific deep passers, scoring the most touchdowns (14) on passes of over 20 yards or more (Per Pro Football Focus). Romo has always been tough as nails on the field and an absolute wizard in the pocket and I do not see that changing in 2015. Even with his health concern, there is a wide margin between Tony Romo and the next best quarterback in this division.
Runner Up: Eli Manning
Running Backs: DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Eagles offense heading into next season, but it is undeniable how talented their backfield is. Murray led the league in rushing last season by almost 500 hundred yards with almost 1000 of those yards coming after contact. A lot of arguments are made for his stellar offensive line in Dallas last season playing a big role in his production, and those are fair to an extent, but Murray's size and speed at the second level make him a dangerous running back in any offense.
There is legitimate concern regarding how he will rebound after nearly 500 total touches in 2014, but luckily he will be sharing the workload with two other talented backs so he will not wear down to quickly. Even with questions, the Eagles' own "Spray Tan" is the best back in the division.
Luckily for everyone in Philadelphia, the second best back in the division also happens to donning midnight green in 2015. Darren Sproles may have a greatly reduced role as a runner than he did last year, but he is still one of the most electric players in the league with the ball in his hands. Sproles is a threat to house a ball with every touch and he is absolutely impossible to deal with in the open field, even as he enters his 11th season. Sproles should be playing a big role as a receiver out of the backfield next season, so hopefully we get to see an even bigger sample size of his home run threat ability.
Runners Up: Alfred Morris and Ryan Mathews
Wide Receivers: Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Desean Jackson
A trio of names that I am sure makes every Eagles fan cringe, there is no doubt that these players are among some of the best receivers in the league. Dez Bryant, while he is not dropping clutch passes in playoff games, is usually scoring touchdowns. He had the most touchdowns in the league last year at 16 and only three receivers' quarterbacks had a a higher QB Rating when targeting them (one was Beckham Jr.). Bryant is a touchdown machine, as many Eagles fans can remember from his big, three touchdown game in Philly last season. There is some speculation onto when Bryant steps onto the field next season due to ongoing contract talks, but whenever he does, he will be an immediate threat.
Odell Beckham's rookie season got off to an inauspicious start as he missed the first four games of the season. However, as soon as he stepped onto the field, he was arguably the best receiver in the league in 2014 and turned in one of the most dominant receiver seasons of all time. Over 16 games, his rookie season projects to 1740 yards and 16 touchdowns. That is absurd! Like noted before, Eli Manning had a 127.6 QB Rating when targeting Beckham last year, which was the third best figure in the league (Per Pro Football Focus). Beckham is almost impossible to cover and with a healthy offseason under his belt, Beckham could be ready to have an even better 2015 season. This is helped by the fact that Manning has shown that he is willing to trust Beckham in almost any situation, so he will be getting plenty of looks early and often.
Though he does not compare to the previous two names in terms of talent, Desean Jackson's name is the sourest spot on this list for Eagles fans. The former Eagle had a nasty departure with the team and ended up signing with Washington after the 2013 season. Jackson then went on to have two of his best games against Philly, including one where he played a pivotal role in upsetting Philly late in the season, keeping the Eagles out of the playoffs. Even at this point in his career, Jackson is still one of the best deep threats in the league and is as dynamic as anyone with the ball in his hands. The oft disgruntled star is going to play as well as his quarterbacks let him play and if he gets any kind of stability at the position next year, which is in doubt, he could be in for another big season.
Runners Up: Rueben Randle, Jordan Matthews, Victor Cruz
Tight Ends: Zach Ertz
This may be a bit controversial, but tell Jason Witten to get his slow ass out of the way, because there is a new star at the position in the NFC East. Ertz turned in a tremendous season last year as a receiver, proving to be one of the more dynamic players at the position in the entire league. While he still needs to improve as a blocker, Ertz's size and athletic ability make him a dangerous player for the Eagles. Ertz had the fourth best drop rate among tight ends in the league and also scored the most touchdowns among tight ends on passes of 20 yards or more (Per Pro Football Focus). The coaching staff has been raving about him this offesason and we could see Ertz take the next step to become a star at the position.
Runner Up: Jason Witten
Left Tackle: Jason Peters
Even at the ripe age of 33, Peters is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. He ranked third in the league last year in pass blocking efficiency among offensive tackles (Per Pro Football Focus) and only gave up a disruption every 26.4 snaps. While he is a terrific pass protector, his best asset is his tremendous run blocking. His athletic ability and his strength allows him to abuse defensive players in the run game and he keys the success of the Eagles prolific rushing offense. When all said and done, Peters is going to be in the Hall of Fame, but we should all be thankful he can still dominate going into his twilight seasons.
Runner Up: Tyron Smith
Left Guard: La'el Collins
"What!" A collection of angry commenters scream. "How can a rookie be the best left guard in the division when we do not even know what he is like?!?!?!?!?!?" Fair question, but the truth is the left guard position is a bit dry in the division since Evan Mathis got cut *sad face*, and Collins stands out as the most talented player manning the position in the NFC East. As I have noted, Collins is a supremely talented player and was one of my top rated prospects in the 2015 draft. His size and strength make him a very dominating run blocker and pass protector and if he plays at even half his talent level, he will be the best left guard in the division.
Runner Up: Shawn Lavauo
Center: Jason Kelce
Ryan Mathews Is Ready To Thrive For The Eagles
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Though he was injured for a sizable portion of last season, Kelce was still the best center in the league when he saw the field. His athletic ability and intelligence at the position allows him to quarterback the Eagles offensive line. He is an awesome run blocker, which is hugely important to running the inside zone running game that Philly loves to operate from. If Kelce can turn in a healthy season, he should be the best center in the league.
Runner up: Travis Frederick
Right Guard: Zack Martin
A large part of the Cowboys' success last season was the tremendous play by their offensive line and rookie, Zack Martin, in particular. Martin was a huge part of the successful run game, but was an even bigger asset in pass protection, as he went the entire season without allowing a sack. Luckily for Philly fans, Martin had his two worst games against the Eagles last year, but it is hard to see Martin do anything but continue on his path as one of the best guards in the NFL.
Runner Up: Matt Tobin
Right Tackle: Lane Johnson
After a rough first few games of his rookie season, Johnson has elevated his game to be one of the best right tackles in the NFL. He had a very good sophomore season despite missing a few games to suspension and I would expect nothing but improvement from the third year player. Johnson is a fantastic athlete and his technique and consistency gets better every week. If last season is any indicator, we could be talking about Johnson as one of the elite linemen in the game a year from now.
Runner Up: Doug Free
It is a pretty even split between the Eagles (five) and the Cowboys (four) among the top ranked offensive players in the division. That is reflected pretty accurately in how each offense has performed recently.
***In the next edition, I will be taking a look at the best defensive players in the NFC East and people will be surprised at how Philly stacks up...***