The 2012 NFL season is right around the corner (approximately 90 days, if anyone is counting), so it’s about that time to pick apart the rosters and predict the best and worst players in the NFC East.
The NFC East is one of the toughest divisions, with arguably the best rivalries. Of course, what makes the division particularly interesting this year is that the New York Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions. And to make things even sweeter, the 2012 season kicks off with the Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, September 5.
Last season, the Giants eliminated the Cowboys from advancing to the playoffs and then the Big Blue made it all the way to a Super Bowl victory. Now, that's going to be a good game to watch. The Cowboys are sure to play with a vengeance.
What else adds fire to the mix? The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins have had a long-standing, traditional rivalry. On top of that, the Washington fans never like it when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town. Eagles and Redskins fans have developed an intense, if not intimate, rivalry in the northeast.
Many of the players in the division were rookies last year and made quite an impact. They are expected to come into this season with team-leading statistics and explosive play.
The NFC East will be the division to watch this 2012 season.
Here’s a rundown of who will be each team’s best and worst players in 2012.
The strong linebacker boasts 19.5 sacks in the 2011 season. Entering his eighth season with the Cowboys, Ware is a consistent, veteran player who does not look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
He will be the best player for Dallas this season because of his ability to cut through the offensive line and distract, if not hold off, the quarterback. Ware has a quick attack that will cause the offense to stumble, forcing even the best quarterbacks to scramble outside the tackle box.
Ware is a reliable player for the Cowboys and will continue to be so in 2012.
Felix Jones suffered from injuries and was limited in practices and games last season. And with that, his numbers are fairly mediocre, averaging four to six yards per carry and less than 800 yards.
His underwhelming 2011 season is not expected to change in 2012, which makes him the worst player for the Cowboys as of now.
Quarterback Tony Romo needs a turnaround from their 8-8 record. And with Romo relying mostly on his passing game with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, Jones will have less to work with.
The once powerful and competitive Dallas franchise has been on a downward spiral; Felix Jones will follow suit.
This was an easy one. Last year, the young wide receiver led the team in receiving yards and completed nine touchdowns. His numbers surpassed those of veteran wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who is already a strong talent on the Giants offense.
Victor Cruz’s speed and agility make him an essential factor in Eli Manning’s success. And with an average of 18.7 yards per catch, he is a fundamental player in the Giants offense.
In the 2011 regular season, Cruz performed well against powerhouse teams like Green Bay and New Orleans. In the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers, Cruz had 10 total receptions for 142 yards, contributing significantly to the Giants’ advancement to the Super Bowl to topple the New England Patriots.
After offseason training, Cruz will be itching to get back on the field and run routes around the opposing defense. The 25-year-old’s best asset is his speed. After receiving a quick pass from Manning and pounding the field, Cruz is unstoppable.
There’s no stopping him now. Cruz will absolutely be the best player on the New York Giants this upcoming season.
The defending Super Bowl champions are not without flaws. The worst player prediction for 2012 is Ahmad Bradshaw. Despite leading the team in rushing yards, for a running back of his caliber, his numbers for 2011 are not that impressive, and with his recent foot injury (via CBSSports.com), a standout 2012 season is doubtful for the veteran running back.
It’s not unheard of for players to slip away from the game a bit after a big run to the playoffs, and that is what just might happen for Bradshaw.
Michael Vick is the Philadelphia Eagles' best player, and he will continue to be in 2012. Vick is an incredibly versatile player and remarkable to watch on the field. His passing and rushing abilities combine to make him a considerable threat as a quarterback.
Luckily for the Eagles, their best player happens to hold the most important position. If the opposing defense overpowers the play, Vick will follow through on his own and run the ball himself. He is ruthless and intimidating to any defense, especially in the NFC East.
With 18 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards in 2011, Vick is sure to build on top of that in 2012.
As quick as he is with his run game, Vick has also learned to stay tight in the pocket and look more to his receivers. His rushing yards have decreased over the years as he’s developed a much more controlled style of play.
We still have more to see from one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he'll display some of his best play on the field this upcoming season. Michael Vick will reconfirm his position as one of Philadelphia's most exceptional players, as well as the strongest leader out on the field.
Standing at a lean 6'0" and 198 pounds, the wide receiver is quick on his feet but overrated compared to fellow wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Maclin was injured this past season and only had three games where he covered at least 100 yards.
His receiving average is mediocre and due to his injury, he holds an underwhelming number of receiving yards. Maclin is barely scraping average numbers for wide receivers in the NFC East and will likely stumble for the Eagles in 2012.
At 6”4 and 260 pounds, Brian Orakpo is a defensive monster. He will be the Washington Redskins’ best player in 2012 because he presents a frustrating challenge to the opposing team’s offensive play.
Last season, Orakpo logged 59 tackles and nine sacks. Orakpo has the power and ability to steamroll an offensive play and make a quarterback sweat. He is confident and anxious for the 2012 season, as he told CBS Washington, "I’m going to try each and every time I stop out on the field to play hard and be relentless and try to make things happen."
The outside linebacker couldn’t have said it better.
Redskins fans will be expecting relentless defense from Orakpo, and he is sure to deliver.
The veteran wide receiver has played with the Redskins for the past seven seasons and displayed inconsistency throughout the years. Factoring in his age and injuries, Santana Moss is well out of his prime and seeing his career winding down.
And with the ‘Skins adding much needed depth to their offense by signing free-agent Pierre Garcon, it seems more likely that Moss will be outperformed by the younger wide receiver.
The Redskins didn’t see too much out of rookie Leonard Hankerson after his hip injury last season, but according to Mike Jones and Mark Maske from the Washington Post, he is expected to be fully recovered by the start of training camp in July.
Garcon will bring speed and efficiency to the Redskins offense. He joins the team with solid credentials: in 2011 he has 947 yards and six touchdowns. Both Hankerson and Garcon are younger and have more potential to reach their peak play in upcoming seasons, if not this year.
With this kind of competition, it won’t be surprising to see Moss have a less-than-mediocre season and be edged out of the Redskins roster.