If you have been living under a rock, please check out the archives below to see how other positions have stacked up in the NFC East.
Archive: QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | OG | C
1. Malcolm Jenkins - Philadelphia Eagles
2018 Stats: 63 Tgts - 48 Recs | 481 yds - 3 TD - 1 INT | 106.6 Coverage Rating | 5 Pressures
PFF Grade: 79.2
Key Stat: Led NFL safeties with 230 coverage snaps taken from slot.
Seeing Jenkins at the top of this list should be a surprise to no one. Not only has he been a reliable veteran presence for the Philadelphia defense on the field, but he has been a community leader and vocal activist off the field. Jenkins is not only one of the best safeties in the division (148 snaps), but also one of the top slot cornerbacks (362 snaps), linebackers (513 snaps), and special teamers (157 snaps) in the division. He is the NFL version of a renaissance man and is truly a rare breed of player. With two more years left on his contract, Jenkins isn’t going anywhere soon.
2. Landon Collins - Washington
2018 Stats: 43 Tgts - 33 Recs | 397 yds - 3 TD - 0 INT | 127.8 Coverage Rating | 5 Pressures
PFF Grade: 70.4
Key Stat: Accounted for 7.2% of run stops when on the field (ranks 3rd among safeties).
When I first read that Collins was traded, my first thought was “well there goes a great talent from a divisional rival.” My second thought? Let’s just say it wasn’t a family-friendly word. While my opinions on the strategy of the Giants’ “rebuild” is likely worthy of its own article, let’s just say that I vehemently disagree with letting Collins walk. Him signing with a divisional rival is exactly what the Giants deserve.
With approximately 60% of his snaps taken from the box, I have always thought of Collins as a glorified linebacker. His presence is predominately seen by opposing offensive lineman, tight ends, and running backs as he generally a terror in the running game. His coverage skills are among the worst in the division, but his impact on the game is among the highest. While I wouldn’t take Collins over Jenkins, I’d probably start him over just about any other safety in this division.
3. Jabrill Peppers - New York Giants
2018 Stats: 35 Tgts - 24 Recs | 249 yds - 5 TD - 1 INT | 116.5 Coverage Rating | 12 Pressures
PFF Grade: 77.6
Key Stat: 67 Pass Rush Snaps were 2nd most by an NFL Safety last year
Speaking of dumb moves that the Giants made, a separate one resulted in Peppers joining up with the New York Giants. While I like Jabrill Peppers, I think of him as a poor mans Landon Collins of sorts. He was used as a pass rusher quite frequently by the Browns (15% of passing snaps) and was fairly effective in that area registering 12 QB pressures. His coverage could use some work, but at the age of just 23 years old, it’s safe to say Peppers has plenty of growing to do. If I was a Giants fan, I’d be excited about Peppers’ future, even if he will always be linked to the loss of Odell Beckham Jr.
4. Rodney McLeod - Philadelphia Eagles
2017 Stats: 16 Tgts - 13 Recs | 218 yds - 0 TD - 3 INT | 79.2 Coverage Rating | 2 Pressures
2017 PFF Grade: 74.0
Key Stat: Missed most of 2018 with a knee injury
When McLeod plays, he is usually a pretty solid player for the Eagles. He is infrequently targeted (approx. 1 reception for every 40 passing plays in 2017) and generally plays very well in coverage when he is thrown at. When I wrote about McLeod last year for the EaglesWire I commented on how his tackling abilities have been known to be suspect. If he can improve upon this, I think his potential as a traditional deep safety has a sky-high limit.
5. Xavier Woods - Dallas Cowboys
2018 Stats: 25 Tgts - 17 Recs | 144 yds - 1 TD - 2 INT | 62.8 Coverage Rating | 0 Pressures
PFF Grade: 70.5
Key Stat: 62.8 Coverage Rating ranked 4th among qualified NFC East defensive backs
If Peppers is a poor mans Collins, Xavier Woods is somewhat a poor mans Rodney McLeod. He also excels in coverage and needs improvement in his tackling ability. He is also used as a traditional free safety in Dallas and seems to be a solid young player who could develop into a pro bowl player for the Cowboys.
6. Antoine Bethea - New York Giants
2018 Stats: 47 Tgts - 35 Recs | 242 yds - 2 TD - 0 INT | 99.8 Coverage Rating | 12 Pressures
PFF Grade: 64.6
Key Stat: Led NFL safeties with 54 tackles in the running game.
The Giants appear to have taken a play from the Howie Roseman Guide to Team Management by signing Bethea this offseason. The (then) 33-year-old safety seemed to play much better than you’d think a 33-year-old safety could play last year for the Cardinals, however, that old age magic can only last so long (just ask your father). If I was a Giants fan, which I’m not, I’d be pretty concerned about the fact that Bethea and Peppers both play the same style as Landon Collins did. While generally speaking, the concept of replacing something of greater value with two things of lesser value is a plausible path to take, on an NFL roster where only 1 box safety should be on the field at a time, this mentality is not going to work very well. My guess is that Bethea and Peppers will rotate while the Giants draft someone to start opposite of them. Good stuff, New York. Good stuff.
7. Jeff Heath - Dallas Cowboys
2018 Stats: 49 Tgts - 38 Recs | 393 yds - 2 TD - 1 INT | 105.2 Coverage Rating | 2 Pressures
PFF Grade: 56.6
Key Stat: Led NFL safeties with 13 missed tackles in the running game.
Where the Giants have two box safeties rostered, the Cowboys have quite the opposite. Heath, like Xavier Woods, is a much better cover man than he is a quasi-linebacker. He is a terrible tackler and has generated just 9 quarterback pressures over 6 NFL seasons. His career Coverage Rating of 94.7 is decent, though not great, the fact that 75% of throws coming his way have been caught says a lot about his abilities. Heath is a fairly pedestrian player on a fairly pedestrian team.
8. Deshazor Everett - Washington Redskins
2018 Stats: 7 Tgts - 6 Recs | 52 yds - 0 TD - 1 INT | 58.0 Coverage Rating | 0 Pressures
PFF Grade: 64.4 (unqualified)
Key Stat: 72% of snaps taken on special teams plays in 2018.
Everett is about to be given his first real opportunity to be a starter in Washington, and fortunately for him, he’ll be playing alongside Landon Collins. With a 61% career reception percentage allowed and a career coverage rating of 78.4, I think it’s possible we see Everett slide up this list come 2020.
Safety has always been my favorite NFL position (thank you Brian Dawkins) and its always fun to evaluate the great safeties of the game. All in all, there is some very good talent on the back end of the NFC East secondaries and it should be fun to watch Dak Prescott, Eli Manning, and [insert starting Washington quarterback here] get embarrassed by them. Up next we will move along the outside of the field and cover the CBs of the NFC East. Thanks to Pro Football Focus for all statistics involved in this article.