Pass rushers: The two first teamers are obvious. This will be a huge year for both Anthony Spencer and Brian Orakpo, who are both in contract years, although Spencer is used to having to “prove it,” which he did last season. Ryan Kerrigan was up and down last year, but showed so much as a rookie that I know he can play. The jury is still out on Brandon Graham, who still has yet to play 500 snaps in any season, although he showed a lot of promise last year.
Interior D-Line: Fletcher Cox is probably already the best interior defensive lineman in the NFC East, and Barry Cofield is a player who flat out balled down the stretch last season. Linval Joseph had a little bit of a hiccup last year after a very promising rookie season, and Jason Hatcher is a nice starter. Jay Ratliff is definitely in decline at this point, but can still play. It’ll be interesting to see how he looks in a 4-3. Cullen Jenkins is a one-dimensional interior pass rusher at this point in his career, but still an effective role player if used properly. I hated leaving Mike Patterson off this list, but he has significant health concerns.
43 Linebackers / 34 ILB: Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are by far the most talented linebackers in this group. They are also by far the most injury prone. I took the two old heads for my second teamers (although I wonder how much Fletcher has left), and a pair of young guys I really like so far as my 3′s. Williams in particular is an interesting player. I really haven’t quite figured him out yet. Is he a S/LB tweener? Is he going to be a 3-down guy? What I do know is that he’s very talented, and in my opinion, he’s the best of the Giants linebackers. Mychal Kendricks needs to bounce back from a rookie season that didn’t wow anybody.
CB: The CB position is kind of a mess in the NFC East. The secondaries in general just aren’t very good. Brandon Carr was decent enough last season, but I wouldn’t say he has lived up to his massive contract just yet. Still, he’s probably the best CB in the division right now. Right behind him would be Prince Amukamara, who keeps getting better. Ditto that for Morris Claiborne, who should be better in year 2. And then it gets ugly. Josh Wilson is a solid starter, but in any other division he might struggle making a similar kind of list, much less make it to the 2nd team. Cary Williams is as physical as they come. To be determined how well he’ll cover in Philly. Corey Webster was so good in 2011, and so God awful in 2012. If he can be a player somewhere in the middle, I think the Giants would take that. And yes, I’m aware that DeAngelo Hall had a good game against Dez Bryant Week 17 last year.
Slot CBs: Brandon Boykin was the best player in the Eagles secondary last season, which isn’t saying much, although he still put together a good rookie season. And we’re referring to “Boykin the corner,” not “Boykin the kick returner.” Orlando Scandrick is thought to be one of the better slot corners in the NFL. I don’t see it. Solid role player, nothing more. Technically, E.J. Biggers will probably play on the outside when he comes in, and Hall will move inside, but since he’ll likely be the “3rd guy” we’ll lump him in here. Frankly, I’d give Biggers a hard look at a starting job with Hall coming off the bench, but that won’t happen. Jayron Hosley started off his rookie campaign very well, but had some really bad games as the season progressed.
S: Holy hell, what a disaster.