NFC East All-Preseason Team: The Defense

John McMullen

While the NFL and the Players Association continue to wrangle over what a potential 2020 season might look like, the rest of us can only move forward with the assumption that some type of framework will be worked out even if Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith come across a couple of college freshmen with a paper due trying to get one last game of “Call of Duty” in before getting to the real work.

Just in case everyone in this equation succeeds despite their best efforts we here at SI.com EagleMaven are pressing forward with our all-NFC East All-Preseason teams.

On Friday, we put out the first-team offense and that can be found here:

https://www.si.com/nfl/eagles/news/nfc-east-all-preseason-team-the-offense

Here is the defense:

NFC EAST ALL-PRESEASON TEAM

DEFENSE

Edge Rushers: DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys; Brandon Graham, Eagles

We’re not going to be a slave to the weak-side, strong-side mindset for two reasons: the Giants are planning on using a 3-4 front as their base unit and there is some uncertainty in Washington on how Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio will get Chase Young, the uber-talented No. 2 overall pick involved.

Lawrence and Graham both play left end but also move around with the former lining up on the opposite end occasionally and the latter often kicking inside for Jim Schwartz. They are clearly the two best edge players in the NFC East heading into the season, although Young figures to change that narrative sooner rather than later.

Interior defensive line: Fletcher Cox, Eagles; Jonathan Allen, Washington

Cox had a down year by his standards in 2019 but if you look closely, the struggles came early after no offseason while rehabbing from foot surgery. By late in the campaign, Cox was his usual destructive self and is in the conversation to be the best DT in the NFL not named Aaron Donald. Allen, meanwhile, is a gifted former first-round pick out of Alabama who only figures to be more productive as Young emerges.

Off-ball linebacker: Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys; Sean Lee Cowboys

Because the Cowboys seems to actually value the position, they have a leg up even though both Vander Esch and Lee have significant injury concerns and the latter seems to never stay on the field, From a traits standpoint, Vander Esch is among the best OLBs in the NFL and claims he is fully recovered from a neck injury that shut down his 2019 season prematurely.

Inside linebacker: Jaylon Smith, Cowboys

Things are a little bit better inside in the division with the Giants spending significant money to bring in Blake Martinez from Green Bay and Rivera reuniting with old stalwart Thomas Davis in D.C. However, the same injury-concern theme applies to Jaylon Smith and the Cowboys.

The athletic Smith suffered a catastrophic knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame and went from potential top-five pick to second-rounder. Dallas rolled the dice early in the second round of the 2016 draft and waited a year for Smith to turn into one of the better three-down LBs in the entire NFC.

Cornerback: Darius Slay, Eagles; James Bradberry, Giants; (Slot) Nickell Robey-Coleman, Eagles

A lot of upheaval here with all three projected All-NFC East corners new to the division in 2020 and the Eagles did the best job, acquiring proven Pro Bowl talent Darius Slay in a trade with Detroit and also signing natural slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman to a one-year, prove-it deal.

The other option outside is James Bradberry, a free-agent pickup for the Giants who excelled with the Carolina Panthers.

Safety: Landon Collins, Washington; Sean Davis, Washington

If you use the box and single-high construct, Collins would replace Malcolm Jenkins in the division as the constant closer to the line of scrimmage while Davis is the best deep-cover option even though the Cowboys’ Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix has the most range and playmaking ability. 

Clinton-Dix’s tackling is a major issue which is why he bounces around so much. The Eagles’ Rodney McLeod is also close and a more acceptable tackler than Clinton-Dix but doesn’t have nearly the range, so Davis is the best of the two worlds so to speak.

Other strong safeties in the division like Xavier Woods of the Cowboys and Jabrill Peppers of the Giants are better players than Davis but don’t belong in centerfield.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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