A continuation of yesterday’s Preseason All-NFC East Offense, here are the best defenders in the division heading into the 2022 NFL season.
Interior Defensive Line
Jonathan Allen, Commanders: While Jonathan Allen’s 2021 season was highlighted by some unflattering sideline antics, the defensive tackle hit a career high in sacks. Allen has developed into a disruptive and key part of the Commanders’ talented defensive line and any success the unit has in 2022 will hinge on his play.
Leonard Williams, Giants: Leonard Williams’ NFL career has felt somewhat under the radar. After being a high draft pick for the Jets, Williams played solid, but unspectacular football for a few years before being shipped to the Giants where he thrived in Patrick Graham’s defense. Now under the tutelage of Don “Wink” Martindale, Williams should continue be a force in the Giants’ underrated defensive front.
Second Team: Javon Hargrave, Eagles and Daron Payne, Commanders
Haason Reddick, Eagles: Haason Reddick had an inauspicious start to his NFL career, being miscast in Arizona under two different coaching staffs before catching fire in his final year with the team. Reddick kept that momentum going in his single season with the Panthers in 2021. Reddick has sacked the quarterback 23.5 times in his last two seasons, finally fitting in on an NFL defense. Now on his third team and three years, Reddick will look to make an impact as a do-it-all defender on a defense loaded with versatile pieces in the front seven. He can help revitalize an Eagles pass rush that failed to consistently sack the quarterback last year.
Montez Sweat, Commanders: The NFC East is loaded with edge defenders who are solid now but could take huge leaps in 2022: Chase Young coming off of injury, Kayvon Thibodeaux having a huge rookie year, Josh Sweat continuing to improve as a full time starter…But of all the up and comers, Montez Sweat has put together a solid three years in the NFL as an impactful run defender and moments where he flashes brilliance rushing the passer. If he can put it all together in year four, he will be a force on the Washington defense.
Second Team: Josh Sweat, Eagles and Chase Young, Commanders
Micah Parsons, Cowboys: Micah Parsons would be First Team at Edge Defender too and that is a testament to how dominant and how unique a player he was for the Cowboys in his rookie year. Parsons was a legit DPOY candidate last year, wreaking havoc behind opposing offensive lines as a pass rusher and run defender. The Cowboys deploy him all over the place and his athleticism, physicality and feel for the game make him a dangerous force wherever he lines up.
Kyzir White, Eagles: The Eagles have been searching for a dependable coverage linebacker for a few years now and Kyzir White could finally be an answer to that question. A college safety, White was a really solid role player in the Chargers defense to start his career. White will continue to play that role in an Eagles defense that will most likely use him primarily in Nickel packages. He will combine with TJ Edwards and rookie Nakobe Dean to give the Eagles the best group of off-ball linebackers they have had in a while.
Second Team: TJ Edwards, Eagles and Blake Martinez, Giants
Darius Slay, Eagles: For all the heat Jonathan Gannon took in his first year calling shots for the Eagles defense, his scheme brought out the best in Darius Slay. Slay played the best football of his career in 2021, turning into a truly lockdown cornerback with a knack for game changing plays. On a much more talented defense this year, Slay could continue to be the X-Factor in the Eagles defensive backfield.
Trevon Diggs, Cowboys: Trevon Diggs has been much maligned over “allowed yardage,’ but that often misunderstands the role he is asked to play on the Cowboys defense. The whole unit is built around forcing turnovers and making big plays, creating a boom-or-bust dynamic. Diggs picked off 11 passes in 2021, leading the NFL. That sort of ballhawking ability goes a long way when you are giving the ball to a high powered offense like Dallas’. Diggs has grown into one of the NFL’s best playmakers.
Adoree Jackson, Giants: Adoree Jackson has had a huge career turnaround since joining the Giants. His athleticism and instincts make him an asset in the Giants secondary with the ability to run with anyone on an opposing defense. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain 2021’s high level of play with a new defensive coordinator in town and James Bradberry in Philly.
Second Team: Kendall Fuller, Commanders, James Bradberry, Eagles, and William Jackson III, Commanders
Xavier McKinney, Giants: Xavier McKinney took a huge step forward in his second season last year. The former Alabama star proved to be a playmaking coverage safety, picking off five passes in 2021. His instincts and athletic ability allow him to line up all over the Giants secondary and make an impact wherever.
Jaquiski Tartt, Eagles: Tartt has played solid, consistent football for much of his career. He is an athletic safety who thrives closer to the line of scrimmage. His late addition to the Eagles defense could prove pivotal in filling out their secondary. Tartt is just another versatile defensive chess piece for Jonathan Gannon to play with in 2022.
Second Team: Jayron Kearse, Cowboys and Landon Collins, Commanders
RELATED CONTENT: Brandon Lee Gowton and RJ Ochoa assemble their own division defensive all-stars for the NFC East Mixtape podcast.
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