Hey guys, it's Eagle! I'm going to be starting a new blog for the SIFS. It will run up to, and hopefully through training camp (NFL, of course.)
Now since there isn't really much to report on yet, I figured that, in honor of the annual "Top 50 Players" list recently put out by The Sporting News, I would do something similar. So for the next 4 weeks, I'll be doing 2 blogs a week taking a division, breaking it down by team, ranking the top 5 players per team, and then the top 5 overall in the division. 2 blog, 1 division each, 4 weeks.
In that 5th week, I'll be taking the top 5 players from each division and ranking them overall, for a total of the top 40 players. Hopefully by then, camp will be well underway, and my blogs will shift back to once a week, each informing you about the recent happenings throughout the NFL.
So without further ado, I give to you Part 1 of my rankings: THE NFC EAST
Ah, the NFC East. Might as well be called the NFC Beast these days, because the division is THAT tough. The Cowboys went 13-3 last year and were clearly the class of the conference. And yet, the Giants came in and stole the Super Bowl. The Redskins even made the playoffs. The Eagles weren't bad, but not great. THis season, though, it could be very well that the 'Skins see a return to medicority, while the Iggles have made themselves serious playoff contenders. Anyway, ONTO THE RANKINGS!
The New York Giants
1- Osi Umenyiora
2- Plaxico Burress
3- David Diehl
4- Antonio Pierce
5- Chris Snee
Now, first things first, let's explain the rankings. Umenyiora is, let's face it, a beast. He may be inconsistent. He may struggle against larger tackles. But he can still be dominant. He is a top 5 pass rusher in the NFL, probably the 5th best. And yet, he plays the run well too. He is no Dwight Freeney-esque one trick pony. The man knows how to shove a tackle aside and knock down a back. His willingness to stuff the run and his ability to bring either speed or power in the passing game leads me to rank him #1 one the Super Bowl champs.
Burress has many strikes against him. He drops some balls. He complains. He isn't always the nicest guy, or a team player. But on the field, it usually happens. I'll overlook some of the drops he has because any receiver giving me 12 touchdowns on a gimpy ankle is worth it. Last year sealed the deal for me. Usually a good athletic specimen, his injury seemed to wake him up last year. He played harder than ever, and may have had his best season, all with a painful injury. That's points in my book.
Diehl is a great player. I'll put it as simple as that: he is a great player. For his entire career, Diehl played left guard. He was a very good player there. But this last year convinced me how good he was. Team management was, let's face it, ignorant. All their left tackles were gone from the roster and they didn't get a replacement. So they moved Diehl to left tackle. Hardest position on the line. And yet, he was great! He brought the run blocking prowess of a guard to the tackle slot. And yet, he had noticeable finesse and power in pass blocking. He wasn't perfect, but for a career guard making that switch? Anyone who is a very good guard and a good left tackle deserves this ranking. Diehl is just that.
Antonio Pierce- Ah, what to say about the man? He can be outspoken at times, even obnoxious perhaps in his occasional media commentaries. However, he is a leader on one of the NFL's most formidable defense. Now, granted, he does have some leeway many guys don't with so many good linemen in front of him. However, he is an all-around good player. His 240 tackles the last two years evidence an ability vs. the run. His 24 PDs and 4 INTs the last 3 years show something special in pass coverage. That earns him my #4 slot.
Chris Snee- An underrated guy. Very much so. Not much to say here, except he is a very good left guard. Arguably the most key of the 5 cogs to the Giants' prolific running game, and he really matured into a good player last year. Not bad in protection either. His talent, though, can perhaps best be evidenced by the massive extension he recently received.
I want to make a note of something here: The two players I will probably hear about for NOT putting on the list. AKA, Eli Manning and Jeremy Shockey. Well, maybe fans of the G-Men are fed up enough with Shockey not to care, but the way I see it is this. Shockey whines. Shockey complains. Shockey throws tantrums. And frankly, the team was just BETTER last year without Shockey, who is also a piss poor blocker. As for Eli: OVERRATED. One ABOVE AVERAGE playoff series doesn't make him a great player. Let's be honest, and realize those were the only 4 consistent weeks of Manning's career. Look at his regular season production and remember that he is still in one of the lower tiers of NFL QBs. I don't think he is even a top 10 player on this team.
1- DeMarcus Ware
2- Terrell Owens
3- Terence Newman
4- Tony Romo
5- (Tie) Jason Witten/ Leonard Davis
Well, I'll give my note here, first. This team, I think, will be the hardest to do in the NFL, outside maybe the Pats. The Colts could be hard too. And not because I love them- because this is, love it or hate it, the most talented team in the NFL (whether they can pull it together is debatable.) 13 Pro Bowlers... 8 guys who honestly deserved to be here. The top 4 were easy. I knew they had to be there. But for slot #5, there were 5 guys vying for positioning: Witten, Davis, Andre Gurode, and Flozell Adams. How could I eave Witten off? The best all-around TE in the game, he is a stellar blocker and an AMAZING receiver. But what about LD? Moving from LT to RG, he became DOMINANT. He is right behind Shawn Andrews as a top right guard in the NFL. A top-notch run blocker, and a pretty good pass blocker! And yet, how about Gurode? Sporting News had him as the best center in the NFL, and it is a title he probably deserves. And yet, what about Adams? A decent run blocker only, but also arguably the best pass blocking tackle in the NFL, shutting down countless top rushers.
Anyway, I quickly lopped off Gurode. His run blocking needs some work still and his long snapping skills make many fans uneasy. I knew Witten was a must, but I still loved the other two. I finally cut off Adams, because his run blocking has severely declined. Witten had an edge on LD, but I felt I was unfairly, then, shirking the best player on one of the best O-line's in the NFL for all skill players. SO there was a tie. ANYWAYS...
I guess I'll explain these picks now. DeMarcus Ware... anything need to be said about him? An unfair physical impossibility. He is a better athlete than many running backs. The man can run with any tight end, is one of the strongest guys on the team, and is an all around player. He is good in coverage because of his speed and instincts. And his rushing... what else needs to be said? An OLB in the base 3-4, and a DE in the rush packages, he is unstoppabel. Last year, he was the BEST PURE PASS RUSHER in the NFL. He didn't even blitz every down, and he still had more sacks than most of the NFL (14), not to mention at least two more that were nullified by incorrect offsides penalties. Yes, that is right. He is faster than the eyes of referees, as he was called offsides at least twice last year, and the calls were later corrected (albeit when it doesn't count anymore) to him just being faster off the ball than any of the offensive linemen.
Terrell Owens. You love him or hate him. Or rather, you hate him, or you love him if you're a Cowboys fan. You especially hate him after your team plays him. The man had over 80 catches for nearly 1400 yards and 15 TDs in only really 14 games last season (he was injured early in the Carolina game after only 1 catch), and with one of those games, playing with a hurt QB. Either way, the numbers speak for themselves. He has HoF numbers, and continues to post them, despite being well into his 30s. No top 15 list is complete without Owens.
Terence Newman, the cornerback of the Cowboys. The most underrated player in the NFL. He just made his first Pro Bowl, and only that as a backup, and yet he has consistently been one of the best corners in the NFL. He has hands of stone, and thus low INT counts. But he is a tough and gritty player. And most of all, consistent. To the average eye, the guy looks unspectacular at best. But when you look at a numbers chart, where someone actually counts how often receivers are successful against him, it is stunning. The man is a bona fide lockdown cornerback. He is one of the least targeted corners in the NFL, and once went a period of over a whole season without giving up a single touchdowns pass. He is also a pretty good support in the run.
Tony Romo- well, this is getting long, and I am sure you've all had enough of this man, so I'll keep it brief. But face the facts: He is a team leade. He has excellent numbers. He wins games. Simple as that.
I've said pretty much all I need to say about Witten in the notes already. He is kinda slow with the ball in his hands, but he blocks like a monster and can get open better than any tight end this side of Tony Gonzalez, as evidenced by his whopping 96 catches last year.
Same deal with LD- what else can be said? Davis went from one of the NFL's worst tackles in Arizona to one of its top guards in Dallas. The Cowboys averaged well over 5 yards per carry running behind, one of the highest averages in the league. He was also pretty good in protection, using his bulk to simply blot out oncoming tackles and linebackers.
1- Brian Westbrook
2- Shawn Andrews
3- Trent Cole
4- Asante Samuel
5- Jon Runyan
Brian Westbrook, what really has to be said about him? A fantasy football god. The most versatile back in the NFL. Now, he does get shut down at times, perhaps too often. That is why he isn't, and never will be, the best back in the NFL. But he also has to contend with a crappy supporting cast. However, a heady player with the most yards from scrimmage in the NFL? Pretty darn good, I'll say...
Andrews is one of the best guards in the NFL. Simple as that. This man is key to Westbrook, and the whole offense really. Leonard Davis has surpassed him as the best run blocking right guard in the NFL. However, Andrews is still the best pass blocker, IMO, at RG. Either way, he is a phuckin' phantastic player!
Trent Cole is frequently underlooked when we talk about great ends. And maybe that's because he isn't a great end. But he is a pretty darn good one. With 12.5 sacks last year, the end going into his 4th season is, at last, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with. His skills as a run suffer are maturing as well, as he has gone from being something of a liability to actually a decent player in that area, even garnering a career high 70 tackles last year.
Samuel was a great corner in NE. He got burnt occasionally with his gambling ways, though also had a copious amounts of INTs. I drop him being a newplayer in a new system, as he was something of a system player in NE. What I mean is, in Philly, he is boom or bust. No zone coverages like in New England. It's all man to man and blitz heavy. Therefore, his gambling will either make him an unbelievable monster of a player, or something of a bust.
Not much to say about Jon Runyan. Once a great player, he has kinda gone down hill, and is no longer dominant. Therefore, this is something of a career achievement award. I put him here because of what he used to do for the Eagles at tackle, and because I didn't really like anyone else in this slot. No one seemed to fit.
Some notes: Did I spell Philly wrong? It looks kinda weird to me... :P (sorry Eagle fans! Couldn't resist!) Anyway, I'm sure many will argue McNabb for that final slot. But he is injured too often for my tastes, and has yet to have a truly dominant season (well... that one with TO WAS pretty good... too bad McFagg helped fack it up.) And please, no one say Dawkins. He was embarassingly bad last year, is desperately overrated (has some mild coverage issues and is NOT that great of a hitter. He has his moments, but there are always plenty more with harder hits than him.
Washington Redskins (Let's be honest: No one is going to read this part)
1- Chris Samuels
2- Andre Carter
3- Chris Cooley
4- Clinton Portis
5- Jon Jansen
I'll be honest here, I don't know a lot about the Skins. Well, I mean, I DO, being a Cowboys fan. But I honestly don't know how to rank them. Frankly, none of them are really that good. Either way, there are like 2 'Skins fans on the site, so this'll be brief.
Samuels- an actual good player. Slipping a bit, but still a solid left tackle on a weak offense.
Andre Carter is a pretty good pass rusher. He had something of a breakout season last year, registering 10.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He also uses his size in the run game, where he is solid, but not great.
Chris Cooley is an athletic tight end. He puts up good production from his H-back position, and is integral to the Redskins offense, which is positively anemic through the air. He also has a gorgeous girlfriend.
Clinton Portis is a very good back- when healthy. He can run from 1300-1500 yards and 9 TDs with a high ypc all day long, He has, though, struggled with injuries his whole career, especially the last two years. Two years ago, they derailed his season, and last year they lowered his ypc to a slightly embarassing 3.9 yards.
Jon Jansen is a pretty good right tackle for the Skins. He is underrated, but is a key part of the Redskins' offensive line. He, unfortunately, missed basically all of last season with an ankle injury.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!....... The Top 5 Players in the NFC EAST, overall (with no Cowboys bias!)
1- DeMarcus Ware
2- (tie) Brian Westbrook/ Terrell Owens
4- Osi Umenyiora
5- Terence Newman
A quick explanation- first, I think everyone should be OK with DWare #1. At 2, a tie was imminent. Both are equally important to their offenses. I think TO is less liable to be shut down, but as an RB, Westbrook can be more productive. Both are probably #2 in the NFL at their positions. At #4, Umenyiora was an easy choice. Shawn Andrews and Terence Newman are great players, but Umenyiora can make a bigger impact on a game. At 5, I was between Burress, Newman, and Andrews. Burress was knocked out quickly- Newman shut down Burress in both of their matchups last season, and Newman is a clear cut ahead of Burress. Then it came to Andrews and Newman. Both are superb players. I don't like to knock down O-linemen for a supposed lack of production (I think that's bullsiht), but let's face it: A lockdown corner has a more viable effect on a game than a mauling right guard. Newman got the nod.
So there ya go... I doubt you read it all, but probably checked out your team. Hope y'all liked the first installment. See you soon!