2020 preseason All-NFC East Team: Dak, Zeke, Saquon, Amari, and Ertz lead explosive offense – CBS Sports

Over the next two weeks, we will unveil our preseason All-Division teams. They were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own. 

We’ll begin today with the NFC East, then move through the rest of the conference throughout the week. Next week, it’s on to the AFC. 

Offensive Skill Positions

QB: Dak Prescott (DAL)

RB: Ezekiel Elliott (DAL), Saquon Barkley (NYG)

WR: Amari Cooper (DAL), Michael Gallup (DAL), Terry McLaurin (WAS)

TE: Zach Ertz (PHI), Evan Engram (NYG)

Could you make an argument that Carson Wentz is the better overall player than Prescott? Sure. But can you make a serious argument that Wentz will be put in better position to succeed in 2020, or that he is as likely or more likely than Prescott to play all 16 games? I don’t think you can. Wentz might have the better offensive line (though if Joe Looney or Connor McGovern solidifies the center spot in Dallas, it becomes pretty close to even) but Prescott has significantly better weapons, especially at wide receiver. He is coming off a 4,902-yard, 30-touchdown season and he might have better weaponry and certainly has better coaching this year. 

Elliott and Barkley are two of the most complete backs in the league. They can each handle 300-plus touches fairly easily, though they do so in far different styles. Elliott rarely ever produces negative plays, which is probably his greatest strength. Barkley is more hit-and-miss on a carry-to-carry basis, but has one of the highest explosive-play rates in the league. Barkley is also a top-flight receiver out of the backfield, and Elliott is capable in that area as well. 

Dallas has the two best receivers in the division, with Cooper and Gallup each coming off 1,100-plus-yard campaigns. They work in different ways, with Cooper a route-running technician and Gallup a more of a physical force, but they have each shown excellent chemistry with Prescott. With Kellen Moore returning as Mike McCarthy’s offensive coordinator, they should be asked to do similar things as they were a year ago, and should see similar success. McLaurin, meanwhile, gets the nod over New York’s solid trio of wideouts because he’s the obvious No. 1 target and we don’t know which Giant will be Daniel Jones‘ preferred guy. McLaurin is coming off a really nice rookie season: only 15 rookie wideouts since the merger have matched or exceeded his 58-919-7 line. 

Ertz is arguably the most consistent tight ends in football. Over the past five years, he has gone for 75-853-2 (2015), 78-816-4 (2016), 74-824-8 (2017), 116-1163-8 (2018), and 88-916-6 (2019). He remains Wentz’s top target, and he’s a damn good one. Engram is the next most-talented tight end in the division, and having him in this slot (as opposed to Blake Jarwin, who was significantly better than Jason Witten on a per-snap and per-route basis last season) is a show of faith that he can finally stay healthy, and perhaps an attempt to will it into existence. 

Offensive Line

OT: Tyron Smith (DAL), Lane Johnson (PHI)

OG: Zack Martin (DAL), Brandon Scherff (WAS)

OC: Jason Kelce (PHI)

The tackles were easy. Smith has been one of the small handful of best left tackles in football for nearly a decade, and the same has been true of Johnson on the right side. You used to have to consider Jason Peters and/or Trent Williams for the tackle slots, but Peters is now a guard and Williams is on the 49ers. That made things very simple. 

The interior line choices were pretty easy as well. Martin is either the best or second-best guard in football along with Quenton Nelson, so his spot was guaranteed. Brandon Brooks had the other guard spot until he tore his Achilles, at which point Scherff became the obvious choice to replace him. Kelce used to have to compete with Frederick for the pivot spot on these types of teams, but with Frederick retiring, there’s no other center in the division that’s in Kelce’s class. 

Defensive Front

EDGE: Demarcus Lawrence (DAL), Brandon Graham (PHI)

IDL: Fletcher Cox (PHI), Dexter Lawrence (NYG)

LB: Leighton Vander Esch (DAL), Ryan Kerrigan (WAS), Thomas Davis (WAS)

Lawrence’s sack total dipped last year, but he was still a high-impact player on a defense desperately needing one. He’s a terrific run defender and excellent pass rusher, and nothing about that should change in 2020. Graham, meanwhile, continues to be one of the more underrated edge guys in the league. Ever since his snap rate ticked up into the 70 percent range several years ago, he’s been as solid as they come.

Cox has a good argument for being the best non-Aaron Donald interior defensive lineman in the game. He’s an absolute force penetrating from the interior, and he consistently makes plays in the backfield. Lawrence is coming off an effective rookie season where he mostly excelled as a run-stuffer but showed more pass-rush juice than expected considering his pre-draft profile. 

Vander Esch says he’s over the neck issues that plagued him last season, and if that’s true, there’s no reason to expect that he won’t be an absolute monster once again. He’s a fantastic coverage guy and with Dallas now employing Dontari Poe to eat up blockers along the defensive line, LVE should have more freedom to flow to the ball. We’ll cop to cheating a bit by having Kerrigan at linebacker. Sue me. He’s good. It came down to Thomas Davis, Blake Martinez, David Mayo, and Jaylon Smith for the final linebacker spot, and Davis’ coverage abilities won the day. 

Defensive Backfield

CB: Darius Slay (PHI), James Bradberry (NYG), Nickell Robey-Coleman (PHI)

SAF: Landon Collins (WAS), Xavier Woods (DAL)

This is not a strong division if you’re looking for defensive back talent. It gets thin really quickly, and the top-end stars aren’t necessarily as good as they are in some other divisions. 

Still, Slay has been a really good corner for quite a while now, and a change of scenery to a team that is A) actually good; and B) not coached by Matt Patricia (with whom he clearly did not get along) should do him well. I would say Bradberry is underrated, but he just got paid with one of the largest cornerback contracts in the league, so that might not be the case anymore. But he’s been working as a shadow corner in the NFC South for the past couple years, one of the toughest jobs in the NFL. Robey-Coleman is just a solid slot man. 

Collins is a prototype box safety, a wrecking ball coming downhill to make plays in the run game and solid if not spectacular in coverage against backs and tight ends. Woods has yet to fulfill the playmaking promise he showed during his collegiate career, but he’s been an average or better starter in Dallas for three years and should be freed up to make more plays within a defensive scheme that isn’t quite as vanilla as they one they’ve been using.