Part two of my series on each NFL division's top five defensive players takes us to what has been one of the most competitive divisions in football—the NFC East.
This division may be one of the strongest defensively, even more than the stifling defenses in the AFC North.
All of my selections are pass rushers—either lining up with their hand in the ground as a lineman, or as an outside linebacker. Interestingly enough, the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys all ranked within the top six in group sacks last season.
The Giants recently won a Super Bowl, and just last year they held the NFC’s best record. They were disappointingly bounced out of the playoffs in their first matchup against the division rival Eagles.
Their defense was dealt a huge blow by the departure of defensive draftsman Steve Spagnuolo, but their personnel still figures to be one of the most talented groups in football.
The Cowboys led the league last season in sacks, and actually gained a lot of ground once Wade Phillips took over the defensive play-calling duties. They still have plenty of room for improvement, but look to expand on their progress from last season and dominate the division.
The Eagles made it all the way to the NFC Championship game, only to lose in dramatic fashion to the Cardinals. Their defense was stifling against the run, allowing a paltry 3.5 yards per carry and a total of 1,476 yards on the ground all season.
The defense may be without the aide of its star signal caller, Jimmy Johnson, which could drastically effect a defense playing without the greatest talent in the league.
The Redskins acquired free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth after a huge skid ended their season at an unremarkable 8-8 record following a 6-2 start.
I’ve mentioned the dismal defensive stats down the stretch last season—they gave up more than 20 points in five of their last eight games, after allowing 20+ points only twice in their first eight.
Haynesworth figures to help the defense improve on last year’s totals, but he will need the help of the players around him to make an impact.
Here’s my rankings of the top five defensive pass-rushers in the NFC East.